Linux kernel developers unfazed by Microsoft


— 3:35 PM on June 14, 2007

In the wake of Microsoft's patent cross-licensing agreement with Novell last year, the Free Software Foundation announced that it would include language to thwart similar agreements in the next version of the GNU General Public License. Free Software Foundation Executive Director Peter Brown summed up the FSF's plans earlier this year when he said, "[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." The latest draft of the GPL 3.0 includes the following mention as a countermeasure:

You may not convey a covered work if you are a party to an arrangement with a third party that is in the business of distributing software, under which you make payment to the third party based on the extent of your activity of conveying the work, and under which the third party grants, to any of the parties who would receive the covered work from you, a discriminatory patent license.
However, the FSF's plan has met unexpected resistance—not from Microsoft, but from the heart of the free software community. As eWeek reports, five leading Linux kernel developers say they don't have any plans to switch to the new license. Moving the Linux kernel over to GPL v3.0 would be "too much trouble for not enough advantage," according to kernel developer Ted T'so.

On the very same day, and in what might appear to be an act of defiance, Microsoft announced an agreement with Linux vendor Linspire that mirrors the Novell deal. Microsoft describes the agreement as a "broad interoperability [and] technical collaboration that also includes intellectual property assurances." Via the agreement, Linspire will give its customers the ability to acquire "patent covenants" from Microsoft. These patent covenants will "provide customers with confidence that the Linspire technologies they use come with rights to relevant Microsoft patents."

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