CyberTech Rambler

March 19, 2007

“Novell’s Steinman: Novell Wants a GPLv3 that Enables Patent Deal” [Updated]

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 8:23 pm

This is not my choice of title, rather, I nicked it from Groklaw’s News Pick. (Hence, the quotation). Exaggeration, no doubt, since the news item it refers to simply says Novell is trying to steer FSF into “helping develop a version of the GPL that enables that [Microsoft-Noevell] agreement to continue”.

Nevermind the impossibility of the task. Getting Richard Stallman to change his mind on anything is already difficult, let alone “Freedom ZERO”. Eber Morgan, the framer for GPL v3, did not like the way that agreement workaround Novell’s GPL responsibilities, … and that are just two alpha males around GPL v3 creation. Their herds, like me, are happy with the way FSF is going about to negate the irresponsibility of Novell. Nevertheless, Novell can do whatever it can to influence the GPL v3 process and good luck to them.

This article obviously got PJ of Groklaw fuming. She gone the extra length by getting FSF to deliver the final insult: FSF is unlikely to renew their membership even if they asked. And, … surprise surprise, GPL v3 will not permit the deal Novell had signed. As a side note: Novell haven’t keep up with their membership of FSF. Their last donation was about a year before the MS-Novell deal. It was for $5K, hardly a “significant” contributor to FSF by any measure.

It is difficult to “work around” GPL’s provisions. Microsoft only manage to pull the rabbit out of the hat after so many years of trying. (SCO’s endeavor is downright ricdiculous and not worth mentioning.) Nevertheless, occasionally, we get workaround like this. That is what happen when people start playing the “word game”. That is part of the reason why the license must continue to evolve. Matt Assay points out rightly that FSF should not lose sight of the thousands of people complying and supporting GPL. Until US or other legislation recognize and give weights to the “moral rights” of a licensing, not only the “wording” of the license, there will be people who try to defeat GPL through careful semantic exercise.

One is in no doubt that Novell/Microsoft will scrutinize GPL v3 in an attempt to workaround it again. Let’s not forget that it is entirely in their discretion to rework their agreement to “satisfy GPL v3”. Novell will have the biggest incentives to do this, unless of course it is getting out of SuSE and decide to “dine on scraps” from the Microsoft table.

As for crystal-ball prediction, my money is on Novell having significant problem in a few years time over GPL v3. While it will still maintains its rights to redistribute Linux because it is practically impossible for Linux to switch to GPL v3, the emergence of “GPLv3 or later” GNU tools are hard to replace. Can Novell do it? Yes, but that will increase SUSE’s cost and affect its competitiveness.

[Updated 23 March 2007. I had been bashing him in this post, so I am duty bound to report his apology to FSF when I saw his apology] Novell’s Steinman apologize for this guff.

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