CyberTech Rambler

July 6, 2007

Microsoft and Novell responds to GPL v3

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:57 am

In a move I am sure Eben Moglen had anticipated when he allowed “grandfather”-in MS-Novell agreement, MS and Novell has announced modification of their voucher scheme.

Now the voucher will not entitle you to any support whatsoever for GPLv3 software. To workaround it, Novell will issue voucher holder with SLES subscription instead for your GPLv3 needs. The aim is to get Microsoft out of the (potential) pickle with GPLv3. Can it?

As expected, Microsoft is going to argue that it is not a party to the GPL v3 action and that what it had done so far does not constitute it to be a contracting party to GPLv3. I am rather sure FSF begs to differ. As I see it, whether one party is a party to “something” (social/legal/moral issue) depends on two criteria on action by the party in question: One, it must initiate the action and not being drawn in involuntarily, and two, it must be related directly or indirectly (but not too remotely) to the “something” in question. Thus, in my view, Microsoft is not a party to GPLv3 until someone made cash the coupon it gets for GPLv3 stuff, and the beat-about-the-bush way you get GPLv3 stuff from Novell does constitutes indirect relationship with GPLv3. Thus, Microsoft definitely lose the moral argument that it is not a party but legally it may be an issue for the jury.

If I were the jury I will say Microsoft is a party. My rule in deciding whether someone is a party is what is advertised, what the customer is expecting and what the customers get. They can change the wording etc etc and etc. MS advertise the vouchers as covering Novell’s GPLv3 products, the customers expects and get, with the MS vouchers, GPLv3 products from Novell. That means MS is a party.

The current situation resemble very closely my purchase of Symantec product (MS vouchers) from PC World (MS) . I received a box standard Symantec product (Novell’s SLES subscription). Now, nobody will accept that PC World is not a party to the arguement. Lets take another example. This time something that is established, at least in UK. You can sue your credit card company if you buy something on credit card, and the goods turn out to be not fit for purpose. In this case, one can argue the credit card company does not enjoy as close a relationship to the vendor as MS to Novell.

Does Microsoft really believe it is not a party? There must be at least some doubt in their mind as they decided to, In PR terms, play safe, by deploying this workaround. IBM really believe it is innocent of SCO’s chargers and had not altered its behavior when it comes to contribution to Linux. This is the real show of believe in one’s word.

The bottom line, it is still about dancing around Novell’s and Microsoft’s GPL obligations. PJ’s final word says it all: It is Microsoft and Novell disrespecting other’s intellectual property.

Finally, Dear Novell, you are still trying to screw your suppliers, and it is not a good business practice.


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