FSF seeks to undermine Microsoft-Novell deal

— 2:43 PM on March 27, 2007

In November last year, Microsoft and Novell entered an agreement whereby both companies said they would collaborate on Linux-Windows interoperability, open a joint research facility, and enter a six-year patent cooperation agreement. However, Free Software Foundation Executive Director Peter Brown has told PC Magazine that version 3.0 of the GNU General Public License will incorporate language that will undermine the agreement. "[Microsoft] found a way to effectively proprietize free software by offering patent promises to Novell. . . . We need to make sure such deals don't make a mockery of the goals of free software."

Brown doesn't give details about the GPL 3.0 license's contents, but Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman told eWeek a couple of months ago that the upcoming license would include a patent retaliation clause. Stallman described the clause as, "If person A makes a modified version of a GPL-covered program and then gets a patent on that and says if anyone else makes such a modified version, they will be sued, he then loses the right to make any modifications, meaning he can't commercially use his software."

Much of Linux, including the kernel itself, is licensed under the existing version 2.0 of the GPL. Novell's current software won't be subject to the license update, but the company will in all likelihood need to eventually adopt GPL 3.0-licensed software as it updates its SuSE distribution in order to keep up with competitors. The Free Software Foundation plans to finalize the GPL 3.0 license on June 26.

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