Bonum Certa Men Certa

Novell May Be Violating the GNU GPL

GNU meditatesCompliance guide leaves room for doubt

Yesterday in the links, we included a couple about the SFLC's new guide to GPL compliance. Soon after the dispatch of a comprehensive document and accompanying announcement, press coverage came as well. Some articles about it include this one from Heise.

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) has published A Practical Guide to GPL Compliance. The guide provides a basic legal overview of the GNU General Public Licence and related licences and gives practical advice to businesses on how they can comply with the licence.


Here is a personal perspective.

For years people have suggested that open-source adoption would go even faster if only open-source licenses like the GNU General Public License (GPL) were easier to understand. My personal belief is that "It's so hard to understand!" tends to be an euphemism for "I really want to pilfer this open-source software but its terms don't let me!" After all, the terms of the GPL have been explained repeatedly, including by the Free Software Foundation itself, which authored the GPL.


More coverage came from:



What's most interesting and reverent to us, however, was this. Someone in the IRC channel brought it up.

IANAL, but the GPL Compliance Guide I cited from is prepared for the Software Freedom Law Center by Bradley M. Kuhn, Aaron Williamson, and Karen M. Sandler, the last two of them being lawyers. I suppose they know what they mean.

Unless I am unable to understand the intricacies of the American legal system, SFLC's GPL Compliance Guide just proves Novell guilty for not making available ALL the sources to ANYONE who might own the corresponding binaries.

You can't build a "community enterprise Linux" out of SLED/SLED the same way you can build it out of RHEL's sources, because you can't have security updates. This being said, SLED/SLED is open-source... only on paper. As an acknowledgment of this hypocritical behavior of Novell, Microsoft has now agreed to buy $100m more worth of SLES coupons. Do you still wonder why?


This seems like a deja vu because Novell lives on the very edge or beyond it [1, 2, 3]. The new picture your can find here says a lot about Novell's attitude towards the GNU GPL. If only it was funny...

Bad Novell

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