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"Novell Could Be Banned From Selling Linux" - huh?

All I can say is WOW! The Free Software Foundation (FSF) sure has a lot of nerve. How can this end any way but badly for the FSF?

http://www.informationweek.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=197003063

"BOSTON - The Free Software Foundation is reviewing Novell Inc.'s right to sell new versions of Linux operating system software after the open-source community criticized Novell for teaming up with Microsoft Corp.

"The community of people wants to do anything they can to interfere with this deal and all deals like it. They have every reason to be deeply concerned that this is the beginning of a significant patent aggression by Microsoft," Eben Moglen, the Foundation's general counsel, said Friday.

The foundation controls intellectual property rights to key parts of the open-source Linux operating system.

Novell angered members of the open-source community that develops Linux and other free software programs in November when it entered a wide-ranging business deal with Microsoft.

Critics called on the board to punish Novell by banning it from distributing new versions of Linux software, said Moglen."

...
dood mcdoogle
Monday, February 05, 2007
 
 
From the same bunch of freaks that brought you http://badvista.fsf.org/ . Can anyone say "zealots?"

"Free" from the FSF only means free if it is anti-MS. It seems hypocritical for them to run off trying to restrict how Novell runs its Linux business. All pigs are created equal, but some are more equal than others?
Ryan Smyth Send private email
Monday, February 05, 2007
 
 
"Critics called on the board to punish Novell by banning it from distributing new versions of Linux software, said Moglen."

FUD.

This one has already been dealt with by Moglen, et al.  His quote was in response to a different question than the one described in the original AP story.

Regardless, this one has annoyed me to the point that I have a series starting tomorrow which describes the difference between the "free software" types and the "open source" types.
KC Send private email
Monday, February 05, 2007
 
 
Im interested that you dont seem to belive in the right of the copyright owners to control who uses their content?

are you equally annoyed when some writer refuses permission to a publisher to reprint their works?


seriously, as a business that 'ownership' over the software we create and relicense, I fully expect to control who can use it. 
My main criteria when filtering out prospective customers is money, but I dont see why others shouldn't be able to use other criteria if they want?

anyway, lets explore this further.  so if you dont believe peple who hold copyright over content should be able to control who is allowed to make copies of it....what control _do_ you believe they should hold?

do you at least grant them the right to restrict the _numbers_ of copies made?
workingHard
Monday, February 05, 2007
 
 
Ha, 'brillant' move by Stallman there.

Obviously this will steer the rudder of the large corporations that are the ones that have FINANCED the development of almost all progress made in bread and butter free software. GPL - it just doesn't make sense any more.
Meghraj Reddy
Monday, February 05, 2007
 
 
"Im interested that you dont seem to belive in the right of the copyright owners to control who uses their content?"

In this particular case, I don't believe that your argument applies. The FSF is not, by and large, the copyright owner. They own the rights to most of the Gnu utilities, which make up a sizeable minority of the code in your average Linux install, but not much else. In particular, the FSF has copyright to only those parts of the Linux kernel whose authors have assigned copyright to them, which is probably little or none of it.

Furthermore, to the extent that the FSF holds copyright, they have already granted Novell a license (directly or indirectly). Even if they hadn't, the terms of the GPL allow anyone who has a copy of the code to convey that license to Novell. In short, there is no way for the FSF to "revoke" Novell's rights to Linux. What they *can* do is sue to enforce the terms of the license if Novell has violated it.

That's the crux of the matter: has Novell violated the GPL or not? Unfortunately the author of the article didn't take 5 minutes off from writing that scare piece to gather any actual facts, so we don't really know what the issue is. All we have is some vague hand-wavey talk about "intellectual property rights", a term with no legal meaning whose use generally means that the speaker either has confused patents, copyrights, and trademarks; or wants the audience to do so.

Wild, unfounded speculation: The FSF might be concerned that Novell plans to license patents from MS under terms that aren't compatible with the GPL, then use those patents in GPL-covered code.

If anyone knows of an article on the subject written by actual competent reporters, a link would be appreciated.
clcr
Monday, February 05, 2007
 
 
Well I can certainly believe that this is all pure FUD. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised at all to find that Microsoft is somehow behind it. ;)

If it is real then it has to shake the faith of businesses who want to choose Linux. If the FSF really can ban Novell (which I think is highly doubtful) then what is to keep them from banning SuSE, RedHat, or any other Linux vendor? If you've just installed 20,000 SuSE desktops and then find out that the FSF is banning vendors then you are going to be pretty nervous.

So unless this is pure FUD, the FSF would be shooting themselves in the foot by banning Novell. I tend to believe that the further OSS can distance itself from the FSF the better off it's going to be in the long run.
dood mcdoogle
Monday, February 05, 2007
 
 
"The FSF is not, by and large, the copyright owner."

right, so wherever they are not the copyright owner, clearly they have no power to ban anyone from doing anything.  right?

 "In particular, the FSF has copyright to only those parts of the Linux kernel whose authors have assigned copyright to them, which is probably little or none of it."

<shrug> in that case, what is the problem exactly?  if thats true who gives a shit what they ban?  all novell will have to do is write their own versions of the very small amount of code that the FSF has ownership over and bang, suddenly the FSF is out pf the picture.

" In short, there is no way for the FSF to "revoke" Novell's rights to Linux. What they *can* do is sue to enforce the terms of the license if Novell has violated it."

great. so there is no problem whatsoever. 

oh, unless novell has actually violated the GPL, right?  so HANDS UP EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES THE FSF SHOULD BE UNABLE TO DEFEND THEIR IP AGAINST PEOPLE WHO BREAK  THE LICENSE IT IS DISTRIBUTED UNDER?
workingHard
Monday, February 05, 2007
 
 
This line of reasoning might work better for you back at CoT with all your friends.
Meghraj Reddy
Monday, February 05, 2007
 
 
>> all novell will have to do is write their own versions of the very small amount of code that the FSF has ownership over and bang, suddenly the FSF is out pf the picture.


Remember, while the FSF probably owns none of the kernel it owns a lot of the userland utilities and tools that are bundled with most Linux operating systems (including the C/C++/Fortran/... compiler - the GCC).


Evidently, however, the Reuters story takes quotes from the FSF and combines them to get a bogus news story.  Linux-watch evidently has an interview with Eben Moglen, a FSF director, explaining how Reuters hacked together the story.  I can't get to Linux-watch right now, by Groklaw has an article about it at http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20070203135052317


I usually don't like the FSF's holier-then-thou attitude, but this does look like just a bad case of journalism. 

OTOH, I'm sure a lot of the MS fanboys wouldn't have anything negative to say if this was Microsoft yanking the licenses for Windows from a company that broke its license.
RocketJeff Send private email
Monday, February 05, 2007
 
 
workingHard:

1. You have been trolled by the article writer. You have lost.
2. In your second comment, you're screaming about something which is not in dispute here and may or may not have anything to do with the Novell issue.
3. Calm down, and read before replying in the future. Failing that, go back to Slashdot where your mode of debate will be more appreciated.
clcr
Monday, February 05, 2007
 
 
If they (Novell or anyone else) breaks the GPL, the relevant copyright holders can work to sue them and seek compliance with the license, damages, etc, etc.  Since the right to distribute is in the license already, it cannot be removed.

If the terms of the license have not been broken, then FSF can't do anything.
KC Send private email
Monday, February 05, 2007
 
 
"Since the right to distribute is in the license already, it cannot be removed."

That is interesting.

I would have thought that breaking the licence terms immediately removes all the privileges the licence was supposed to allow?
Andrew Brehm Send private email
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
 
 
The concern from the FSF is actually to protect big business customers!

If Novell add patented MS code to Linux and distribute it MS have agreed not to sue Novell's customers - they can of course sue any other customers.

What the FSF is saying is that if the code contains MS patents then it cannot safely be redistributed by Novell's customers and so cannot under the GPL be distributed by Novell.

The GPL is really quite clear and striaghtforward on this. You can distribute GPL code if and only if you also pass on that right to redistribute it. If you don't allow others to redistribute it because of your own additions or patents then you don't have a right to distribute it yourself in the first place.
Martin Send private email
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
 
 
I'm normally a big pro-FSF guy but lately they've been very wacky.
TravisO Send private email
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
 
 
"The concern from the FSF is actually to protect big business customers!"

I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to find Linux code that contains patents by other companies, companies that have *not* agreed not to sue in case of patent infrigement. Is that code not safe to redistribute as well, or is it not safe to redistribute only if the patent owner is Microsoft? Has the FSF done any patent search at all?
...
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
 
 
"If Novell add patented MS code to Linux and distribute it MS have agreed not to sue Novell's customers - they can of course sue any other customers."

But Novell would be adding patented code only to THEIR version of Linux. Any other Linux distributor who borrowed the same code from the Novell product would obviously be violating patents/copyrights. So why does the FSF feel the need to stop this? Isn't this a common scenario for ANY patented extensions provided by Linux distributors?

"The GPL is really quite clear and striaghtforward on this. You can distribute GPL code if and only if you also pass on that right to redistribute it. "

But can't you pass on the right to distribute the "GPL portions" and not be required to pass on the right to distribute non-GPL'd additions? I really don't know the answer. 

The problem is that the FSF wants all code to be free. Period. They want to make the GPL so darned viral that no one can include any copyrighted or patented components Period. And they are willing to do this even if it amounts to shooting themselves and Linux in the foot. Period.
dood mcdoogle
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
 
 
"But can't you pass on the right to distribute the "GPL portions" and not be required to pass on the right to distribute non-GPL'd additions? I really don't know the answer. "

Yes if Novell wanted to write their own MS-word reader which used MS patents and distribute that under their own licence - no problem.

What Novell can't do is take other peoples GPL work add their own stuff and distribute that saying - here you can use this stuff which someone else worked on and gave away but you can't give it away.

Yes patented and stolen technolgy almost certainly exists in the Linux codebase - it exists in the Windows and every other codebase as well. What is making people nervous is that this looks like a deliberate attempt by MS to damage FOSS now that the SCO attempt has failed.
Martin Send private email
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
 
 
"The problem is that the FSF wants all code to be free. Period."

That's their preference, yes.


"They want to make the GPL so darned viral that no one can include any copyrighted or patented components Period."

No, they want all the components *on which they hold the copyrights* to be *protected* by those copyrights.  And they want those components to be freely available to anyone who agrees to make their modifications available under the same terms.

You can't modify and distribute Microsoft's code without permission.  You can't modify and distribute GPL code without permission.

The way you get permission to distribute Microsoft's code is to pay them a lot of money, or cross-license your own code.  They way you get permission to distribute GPL code is to release your modifications under the GPL.

Microsoft can destroy your business model by bundling a version of what you make.  GPL-using authors code can destroy your business model releasing a free version of what you make.

If you don't want to be bound by Microsoft's terms, write your own code.  If you don't want to be bound by the GPL, write your own code.

How is GPL viral while Microsoft is business?
Drew K
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
 
 
"How is GPL viral while Microsoft is business?"

Because when I license something from Microsoft (say Visual Studio) their licensing terms do not specify that I must use a certain type of license on my own software creations.

But that's not really a good example because GPL only pertains to derivative works. And that's what bugs me about this whole topic. How can the FSF "ban" Novel from selling "Linux" when Linux itself is not wholely licensed under the GPL and not wholely owned by FSF? Sure, there are many GPL components within the typical Linux distro, but not all of them have to be. Am I not free to add my own components to a Linux distro that contain proprietary technologies not licensed under the GPL? And who is FSF to try and tell me that I can't do it if I haven't violated any GPL licensing restrictions? Or is the GPL so viral that it is impossible to do what I've just said without violating it? I really don't know the answer to this and many other people don't either. And that's why the "GPL is viral" FUD will continue to spread.
dood mcdoogle
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
 
 
>> How can the FSF "ban" Novel from selling "Linux" when Linux itself is not wholely licensed under the GPL and not wholely owned by FSF?

As has been repeatedly stated, ***they can't nor do they want to***.  The idiotic story that started this mess was just bad reporting from Reuters that mashed together quotes about the Novell/Microsoft agreement with the pending release of new version of the GPL.

Linux.com has an article about this mess: http://enterprise.linux.com/article.pl?sid=07/02/05/181235


People do seem to be using the original article to spread a lot of FUD about the GPL - especially Microsoft fanboys.  MS fanboys are getting to be almost as irritating as FSF fanboys.
RocketJeff Send private email
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
 
 
"How can the FSF "ban" Novel from selling "Linux" when Linux itself is not wholely licensed under the GPL and not wholely owned by FSF? Sure, there are many GPL components within the typical Linux distro, but not all of them have to be."

According to http://www.answers.com/topic/linux

"More Than a Gigabuck: Estimating GNU/Linux's Size, a 2001 study of Red Hat Linux 7.1, found that this distribution contained 30 million source lines of code. ... Slightly over half of all lines of code were licensed under the GPL. The Linux kernel was 2.4 million lines of code, or 8% of the total."

So the first point is that no, the FSF can not ban Novell from selling a GNU/Linux-based distribution, as long as all the current license terms are followed.

However, the holder of the Linux trademark, Linux Torvalds, *could* choose to prohibit them from using that mark to describe what they're selling.  (See Micosoft / Sun / Java[tm])  Though I haven't seen anything suggesting he plans to do so.

Next, the Linux kernel *is* covered under the GPL, so even if the the FSF doesn't hold the copyright it's entirely possible the kernel authors could ask the FSF to pursue any violations on their behalf.  And I suspect Stallman and Moglen would be more than happy to do so.

The bottom line, I think, is that business people who don't understand the technicalities will either see a deal with Microsoft as a reason to choose Novell for any Linux plans, or they will see the controversy as a reason to avoid Linux plans altogether.  Either conclusion benefits Microsoft.

People who *do* understand the details will see that Novell offers them a conditional, time-limited right to use a version of Linux, which may or may not interoperate better with Windows systems, which can be effectively "end-of-lifed" at any time by Microsoft.
Drew K
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
 
 
"MS fanboys are getting to be almost as irritating as FSF fanboys. "

Case in point.... ME!  ;)
dood mcdoogle
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
 
 
"I must use a certain type of license on my own software creations."


yes, they do.  have you ever licensed code from Microsoft before?  they are very clear indeed about what you are, and are not, licensing.

You are most definitely _not_ allowed to redistribute the source code that you license from Microsoft in any way whatsoever, aside from the runtime/binary.


seriously, have you ever _actually_ licensed code from Microsoft?  their terms and conditions make the gpl restraints look like a gentle horsewhipping by comparison.
workingHard
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
 
 
He's talking about licensing Visual Studio. I don't think that it comes with a proviso that anything you write using it has to use a certain license.
New SE
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
 
 
"But Novell would be adding patented code only to THEIR version of Linux. Any other Linux distributor who borrowed the same code from the Novell product would obviously be violating patents/copyrights. So why does the FSF feel the need to stop this?"

Because the *purpose* of the GPL is to allow Alice to create a derived work from Bob's derived work of Charlie's  original work. People choose the GPL for their software  *because* of that goal.

I'm *supposed* to be able to "borrow" that code from Novell, just like they borrowed the original code that they extended with patent-encumbered IP in your hypothetical. If Novell (playing the role of Bob in my silly explanation above) has found a loophole which allows them to create derived works of GPLd software that other people can't further modify, the FSF wants to close that loophole.
Adam Fitzpatrick
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
 
 
Guys, please, you need not read far into the article to see the author is brain dead.

"The foundation controls intellectual property rights to key parts of the open-source Linux operating system."

Um, no they don't!  Linux kernel is not an operating system by itself.  An operating system consists of a kernel and other things.  Linux, itself, the kernel, is not controlled by FSF.

On that note, how can FSF hold one entity (Novell) to a higher standard than other entities using the same legal document? (FUD)

"Novell angered members of the open-source community that develops Linux and other free software programs in November when it entered a wide-ranging business deal with Microsoft."

How can the "open-source community that develops Linux" also be controlled by FSF?  That's the problem with the article.  They are severely confused here because FSF != "open-source community".
~Eric
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
 
 
> "The foundation controls intellectual property rights to key parts of the open-source Linux operating system."

> Um, no they don't!  Linux kernel is not an operating system by itself.  An operating system consists of a kernel and other things.  Linux, itself, the kernel, is not controlled by FSF.


You answer your own question.  While the FSF does not control the kernel, the OS is more than just the kernel.  And the FSF *does* control a lot of the pieces that make up a typical distribution.
Drew K
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
 
 

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