CyberTech Rambler

July 2, 2007

Interesting thought from Brian Profitt

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:10 pm

I like LinuxToday’s Editor’s Note because it is very thoughtfully written. This post by Brian Profitt is one good example.

Microsoft positioning itself to confront GPL v3 not inside the patent arena (where no party can win) but in the business arena where perception matters more than actual deeds and words? That is possible.

There is certainly possible to argue that GPL v3 is trying to impose some responsibility on anyone who distribute it which touches on third party software. I had that argument some time ago. GPL v2 requires you to distribute GPLed software yourself to trigger your responsibility under GPL. GPLv3’s provision in effect says if you have responsibility to GPLv3 software if you yourself is merely involved in procuring GPL v3 software, even if it is done by a third party and especially if you play an active role, and this slightly troublesome even for me.

I like the idea in GPL v2 that says you need to be distributing to trigger your GPL responsibility. It is also true that Microsoft made the first move here. It is  an effort to remove itself from its GPL responsibility by attempting to use a third party. In retaliation, FSF giving it the responsibility under GPLv3 should it even touch GPL v3 with a barge pole.

The problem here I have is imposing responsibility on “third party”, which I define as any party not a signatory to an agreement/license/social contract.  The truth is any agreement between any two parties will affect the third party. For example, an agreement to promote each other product will necessarily be decremental to third party competitors. However, there is no “responsibility” placed on the third party competitors.

With the current GPLv3 wording, if Novell distribute GPL software, then it will be fair and square to say that Novell is a signatory (with GPL authors). The GPL authors have all the rights to restrict Novell in entering into agreement that they do not like (provided it is in writing). Hence, if they choose to, they can stop Novell from using GPLv3 software completely.

Even under GPL v2, law courts might actually agree that Microsoft is a distributor. With Microsoft, the argument here is whether Microsoft is a GPL v3 distributor or a third party to the distributor/GPL author, if it gets a third party to distribute GPLv3 software on its behalf. The question is, does this make Microsoft a signatory with GPL authors? That is getting tricky. For example, if Mathworks has a reseller network that allows reseller to sell to reseller, most people will say I have a legal responsibility and relationship with Mathworks if Mathworks create a reseller network, even if I do not have a written contract with Mathworks and actually bought Matlab license to resell not from Mathworks but from its reseller. Conversely, I can say I have no obligation coz I did not deal with Mathworks at all.

Interesting question.

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