CyberTech Rambler

April 10, 2007

I’ll love to see test ACT’s GPL v3 interpretation tested in court one day

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 5:00 pm

OK. Big assumption disclosure: GPL v3, as it presently stand, is just a draft. But for the purpose of discussion, let’s assume the points raised by Association for Competative Technology (ACT) in their paper “GPLv3: The Legal Risks of Overreaching for Third-Party Patent Rights” are still valid when GPL v3 is adopted. If so, let us test it in court.

Let’s not take Bruce Peren’s approach of bashing ACT as a front for Microsoft. Its history already suggested it is. However, simply because it is the opponent does not mean its view is invalid, just tainted. Let’s ignore this fact for the moment.

I did mention before that despite Novell’s claim of not wanting to comment in public about GPL v3, it did. Its understandable. People knows that there are paragraphs in the current draft that is aimed at it. Even then, it did limits it comment to several sentences. I cannot understand why ACT, who choose to be a non-party in the GPL v3 discussion, choose indeed to publish a “legal opinion” on GPL v3, which is a huge leap from a normal comment. Parties closely involved in the GPLv3 discussion do give opinions to the public , but they are simply comments here and there, may be a PR release, but none of them find it necessary (nor appropriate) to release a fully commission “legal opinion”. Again, let’s ignore this for the moment

Finally, lets put into perspective free advice. They are cheap. I am not impartial to one or two free advice where I can get it. However, one must evaluate the source, particularly for the case of free and unsolicited opinion. One need to understand the creator’s motive. Moreover, unfortunately, there is no free legal opinion. Why? its is NOT a binding opinion. You want legal opinion? you need to get a legally-binding one! After reading it, I doubt it is a legal opinion. Rather I see it as a information sheet written in a “legal opinion” style.

The first strange thing I find is that the Microsoft-Novell’s deal is not simply an introduction to the information sheet, but is the main theme. Why is somebody so interested in that deal with respect to GPLv3 beside the two parties involved? Then rather than telling business how to react to GPLv3, it, in a rather perverse way, actually suggests businesses to use GPLv3 by offering ways for business to defend itself. Any information about GPLv3 is very likely to be wrong and without merits. But hey, there are rotten lawyers will say whatever you want it to say if you pay.

Strip away the ACT-related header/footer/logo and replace it with CTRamBler Law Firm Inc and one may actually mistaken this as a leak legal opinion by Novell’s counsel to Novell. Strange isn’t it? ACT giving Novell free legal advice but post it to the net? May be this is Microsoft giving Novell free legal advice on how to save itself from GPL v3 threat to Novell. After all, Microsoft likes to hide behind third parties when giving its view. It just does not have the guts to say that “I said it” and prefer to get a parrot to say it, then say it agrees with the parrot.

Novell’s lawyer is more than capable in defending Novell’s interest. If Novell really need the advice, I strongly suggest that Novell get it in a “legally binding” fashion from ACT.

Not to metion that, if I read the header in the paper correctly, ACT is about “Protecting Small Business Innovation”. That’s belittling Novell by giving it legal advice.

OK, enough of ACT bashing. To err is human. I am not a lawyer, nor am I someone who can really read any license properly. As such, they might be right about GPLv3 draft. ACT’s interpretation, if true, does indeed mean it is extremely difficult for commercial companies to embrace GPLv3. If its true, other companies involved in the process might had raise the issue quitely and privately in committees surrounding the GPL, leaving only ACT the lone voice who brave critics (including me). Fortunately, if ACT’s interpretation is true, we will definitely see a radical redrafting of the relevent section in the final GPLv3 draft, due in less than 60 days time. The only conclusion therefore, is ACT’s interpretation will never be the correct interpretation of the final GPLv3.

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