Thursday, July 18, 2024

Microsoft Heeds Stallman’s GPLv3 Warning

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It’s official. Microsoft is not in favor of the GPL version 3 and will not distribute software that is issued under that license.

The new license was officially released last week and was accompanied by a warning from Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation. The argument: it could be used to help undermine the Novell Microsoft patent deal. Microsoft is taking Stallman’s warning very seriously.

“While there have been some claims that Microsoft’s distribution of certificates for Novell support services, under our interoperability collaboration with Novell, constitutes acceptance of the GPLv3 license, we do not believe that such claims have a valid legal basis under contract, intellectual property, or any other law,” Microsoft said in a statement.

“In fact, we do not believe that Microsoft needs a license under GPL to carry out any aspect of its collaboration with Novell, including its distribution of support certificates, even if Novell chooses to distribute GPLv3 code in the future. Furthermore, Microsoft does not grant any implied or express patent rights under or as a result of GPLv3, and GPLv3 licensors have no authority to represent or bind Microsoft in any way.”

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In a Webcast that accompanied the release of the GPLv3 on June 29th, Stallman said the GPLv3 could be directly turned against Microsoft.

“When Novell upgrades to versions of software covered by the GPLv3, GPLv3 will extend this patent protection from the customers of Novell to everybody who uses those programs,” Stallman said. “Effectively, we found a way to turn the deal against Microsoft and make it backfire.”

As part of the November Novel Microsoft deal, Microsoft acquired SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) certificates for software subscriptions that Microsoft has been distributing to its customers. According to the publicly disclosed terms of the deal, Novell will receive $240 million from Microsoft for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) “certificates” that Microsoft may use itself, distribute or resell.

As of today, Novell does not officially distribute any GPLv3 licensed software and hence by extension neither does Microsoft. As such, Stallman’s threat does not yet apply and Microsoft is taking steps to make sure that it never does.

“At this point in time, in order to avoid any doubt or legal debate on this issue, Microsoft has decided that the Novell support certificates that we distribute to customers will not entitle the recipient to receive from Novell, or any other party, any subscription for support and updates relating to any code licensed under GPLv3,” Microsoft’s statement on GPLv3 reads. “We will closely study the situation and decide whether to expand the scope of the certificates in the future.”

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