Microsoft will not distribute GPLv3

July 10, 2007

Apparently Microsoft has stated that it’s cross-licensing and distribution deal with SUSE Linux will end. Sort-of. Microsoft will continue to sell the support coupons (and provide source) for SUSE while it remains GPLv2. Microsoft further said that they will not sell or distribute GPLv3 software.

Read it here. 

What’s the problem? Well, Microsft has been selling to some heavy hitters like WalMart and Credit Suisse. These customers may have purchased the coupons with the intent of coverage for future versions (I understand the coupons to be good for 3 years), but if future versions of SUSE go GPLv3 these customers will be left high and dry, at least on taking advantage of emerging technologies and advances in the Linux kernel.
Here’s the real problem: Samba (the highly popular Linux file/print networking stack) has decided that future releases will be under GPLv3 starting with 3.2.0.

To be clear, all versions of Samba numbered 3.2 and later will be under the GPLv3, all versions of Samba numbered 3.0.x and before remain under the GPLv2.
The Samba Team would like to thank Richard Stallman, Eben Moglen and the Free Software Foundation for updating the GPL license, and also all the individuals and corporations involved in helping to create the GPLv3. We feel this is an important change to help promote the interests of Samba and other Free Software.

Without Samba there is no interoperability between Linux and Windows – or more specifically, SUSE Linux and Windows Server 2003, the very relationship that Microsoft was trying to leverage with the distribution plan it started earlier this year.

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Is Microsoft really “conveying” GPL software?

July 6, 2007

First – the basic history – Microsoft claims that Linux code is in violation of over 200 patents owned by Microsoft. Microsoft developed a technology partnership with Novell (Suse Linux) in which it would distribute Suse Linux support coupons to Microsoft customers.

Many pundits claim that this was Microsoft’s way of sheltering its Linux users (including powerhouses like Credit Suisse…) from potential Microsoft patent infringement suits. The further claim is that this was Microsoft’s way of paying over $300 million USD to Novell for the partnership (er license?).

This was all under GPLv2. Now that GPLv3 is out, the talk in the FOSS crowd is that if Microsoft¬† continues to distribute Suse Support Certificates then it is effectually “conveying” a GPLv3 work which (a GPLv3 distributor) which means that it would be suing itself for distributing patent protected works. Microsoft disagrees with this statement citing

[Microsoft is] “not a party to the GPLv3 license, and none of its actions are to be misinterpreted as accepting status as a contracting party of GPLv3 or assuming any legal obligations under such license,”
“In fact, we do not believe that Microsoft needs a license under GPL to carry out any aspect of its collaboration with Novell, including its distribution of support certificates, even if Novell chooses to distribute GPLv3 code in the future.
  -Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft VP of Intellectual Property and Licensing

Here’s the rub, as I see it:

Is Microsoft distributing GPL software? I don’t understand how they are. They are selling support coupons to their customers. They are not selling or distributing code of any sort. THey are literally mailing their customer little slips of paper with a 10 digit number that they can redeem with Novell for new or continuing support of their Linux servers.

This is like holding the Girl Scout responsible for selling you The Coupon Book 2007, you tearing out a coupon for a free side salad at Red Lobster and subsequently suing the Girl Scouts because you got sick on some improperly prepared shellfish while you were there.

Now I’m no fan of Microsoft, but I don’t really see it. Maybe one of the readers here can enlighten me. What am I not seeing that the Free Software Foundation is seeing about Microsoft being in voiolation of the GPLv3?


GPLv3 versus Tivoization – will it prevent this in the future?

June 30, 2007

So I sat down yesterday and tried to read the GPLv3 to make some sense of the ongoing furor over it and whether or not it is better or worse than GPLv2. To be fair, I am a relative newcomer to GPL, FOSS and the whole free software movement. I think that this actually may give me a little more insight into the GPLv3 debacle because I am not generally biased for or against free software.

Read the entire piece on my Opinions page