A shameful sellout of Linux to Microsoft by Novell? I tend to say "Yes"

Meanwhile I read a bit more about the Microsoft <--> Novell cooperation deal. Hell, what an utterly shameful sell-out!

In essence, Novell (and the guys leading it, Ron Hovespian & Co.) have defacto acknowledged that Linux violates Microsoft patents. They bought themselves (as a company) some exclusive "peaceful co-existence" (limited to 5 years from now) with the Evil Empire of Global Software Monopoly.

Novell's FAQ says, they worked out the details "with the principles and obligations of the GPL in mind". Right...., riiiiiight! Yes, with the "GPL principles in mind" -- but not in order to advance these. Rather in order to work around them. Get this, readers!

Microsoft in turn now is free to go after all the rest of Linux vendors (Novell's competitors in the Linux market). They'll just deal with Novell last. In 5 years... Meanwhile, MS even has some "legal credibility" (more so than SCO) -- it can show to judges and courts that Novell (the holder of the Unix Copyright, yes?) in fact has acknowledged in writing its basic claims about its software patents.

Part of the deal is that Microsoft and Novell will cross-promote and support one another's products to their respective customers. Hello?! Microsoft now selling SUSE Linux Enterprise Servers?! Hell freezing over?? White flags flying over their Redmond campus???

Surely not. Never forget what sort of company Microsoft is to its adversaries on the market: rich, powerful, adamant, extremely persistent, without mercy. And it combines these assets with enormous cleverness in persuing its (natural) goals.

Or has Microsoft suddenly given up its strive for bigger sales, more stranglehold on the markets, stomping down all competitors, holding on to its monopolies? Has it turned into a "we-are-nice-guys-now" charity that wants to help Linux and Free Software? Bet your arse they've not.

Microsoft's little proxy war on Linux, fought via SCO, is reaching endgame phase. And they're not exactly looking like winning this one. A new strategy is needed. And quick they are to execute it now (and smart they were to prepare it since more than a year).

Novell CEO Ron Hovespian (and his other guys) have nicely fallen into a well-prepared trap. (Or.... was this CEO even "planted" into Novell to lead exactly to that end??)

In all of its history (ever since they were a very, very tiny software company when they out-smarted and a*se-f+++ked even almighty IBM at the time) Microsoft never, ever made such an interoperability deal to "help" its new "partner", but always to defeat them. This one is not different. (It will just look a bit different for one or two years.). You've been warned.

(Update: I've received 2 anonymous emails concerning my last blog entry. They were drooling from blindful hate -- I assume, penned by Novell employees?, who else would have a motive? -- accusing me of various things. One said, I was "jumping the gun" with my (rather harmless, IMHO) last blog, and asked me to "shut the f*ck up with [your] posturing as a KDE spokesperson on all matters SUSE". *LOL*... Dudes -- I am not shutting up, for once. Should I ever be silent on a matter, I just am too lazy about it. Or too busy. Or have no opinion at all on it. But sure, what I publish in my blog (or in any signed article I choose to write), is my own personal opinion, and of course in no way a statement for any group or project I may have contributed to. Capito?!? -- And really, just so you know: What does bother me much more that this sad Novell "Yes, MS patents are in Linux"-affair right now, is the continuous buildup of a huge naval force of US battle ships in proximity of the Iranian coast... just 4 days away from the US mid-term elections. I'm more worried what false aces Bush's macchiavellian chief strategist Karl Rove will conjuringly produce from inside his pants.... Really!)


Spot on Kurt. Worse, Novell have either knowingly or unknowingly endorsed Microsoft's position. Brilliant. What a brilliant bunch of buffoons our Novell friends are.

By segedunum at Sat, 11/04/2006 - 01:44

Well, "our Novell friends" are not all the same people.

It's Novell management (are these "our friends" any longer? have they ever been?) who think they are smart, and they could outsmart all the rest of the world.

By Kurt Pf. at Sun, 11/05/2006 - 05:24

Well, "our Novell friends" are not all the same people.

They're certainly not. You know who I mean - and I mean especially the Novell management, who are not only screwing up the Linux and open source side of things but where I see them screwing over the Netware-using people as well.

By segedunum at Sun, 11/05/2006 - 13:46

I just think its very funny that Novell was strangled by MS some years ago and barely got away with its life. And now gets into bed with the same company. Its such a nice strong man, ehh, company, afterall...

The details released so far show this is a really bad thing for free software everywhere.
Novell is encouraged to add features to open source software which MS has a patent on. And Novell can sell those items, no problems. Unfortunately all the other distros can not sell that same open source software without getting a license at MS as well.
Having a royalty payment on each and every box of linux sold must sound great to them. Seems like MS indeed embraced open source.

If anyone needs good open source developers, I'm sure there are various people at Novell/SuSE that are keeping their eyes open.

By Thomas Zander at Sat, 11/04/2006 - 11:13

> Novell is encouraged to add features to open source software which
> MS has a patent on. And Novell can sell those items, no problems.
> Unfortunately all the other distros can not sell that same open
> source software without getting a license at MS as well.

No, if it is about GPL or LGPL software then Novell would not be
allowed to distribute it. They can pay MS whatever they want,
they wouldn't be allowed to ship it under the GPL/LGPL(*).

But it's up to the authors who hold copyrights to the stuff Novell
ships to hold them to it. Novell must not get away with *trying*
anyway what you have described or things would get messy.
So, everyone sue Novell when they add MS-patent-encumbered code to
*your* GPL/LGPL code and ship it. They'd be infringing on *your+

(*): From :
"For example, if a patent license would not permit royalty-free
redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies
directly or indirectly through you, then the only way you could
satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from
distribution of the Program."

The very same clause is in the LGPL.

By christian mueller at Sun, 11/05/2006 - 10:26

You are absolutely right that this goes against the intent of the GPL. However, I am afraid the community and the FSF may have been outsmarted by Novell/MS this time.

The problem is that only Microsoft, the patent holder, can trigger the enforcement of section 7 of the GPL, by "a court judgment or allegation of patent infringement". As long as they just sit and wait, SUSE/Novell can claim that they don't see any problems with whatever code they add to your GPL'd program. Thus, they can keep poisoning their code base for years, forcing the community to either ignore any code coming from Novell (leading to a fork) or to include it anyway (leading to disaster).

Novell will claim that they are distributing pure GPL code with no additional restrictions, so you can't sue them for copyright violation. Their code does not come with a patent license or any other strings attached, you see. Sure, there is the "covenant", but since no patents are really infringed anyway in their opinion, how is that relevant again?

Meanwhile, all of the above has zero relevance the day Microsoft decides to finally sue, say, Red Hat. Obviously the covenant offers no protection for Red Hat and any GPL violation that Novell may have engaged in is surely no excuse for Red Hat to infringe Microsoft's patents.

Only after Red Hat has finally been destroyed in a lengthy legal process, lasting for years and scaring everyone else away from anything open source, there might be some legal ground for surviving KDE developers to sue Novell. But don't count on winning.

IMHO Novell and Microsoft have very cleverly found a hole in the GPL by this shady covenant construct. The good news is that the hole may still be plugged in time for GPL v3. The FSF now has an opportunity, if they can think of nothing else, to specifically forbid the very type of agreement that Novell entered with Microsoft, thus denying the partners in crime any software that switches over to GPL v3.

By martin at Sun, 11/05/2006 - 12:14

Hm, I think you have a point there, the situation is already more ugly than I thought.
Whether any patents are actually infringed is often not that clear.

Still, the patent agreement won't help Novell (except as a marketing tool).
In the end they would lose the right to distribute their product and
the only winner would be MS. :-(

By christian mueller at Sun, 11/05/2006 - 15:30

The good news is that the hole may still be plugged in time for GPL v3.

Here we go!

By martin at Thu, 11/16/2006 - 14:46

I just think its very funny that Novell was strangled by MS some years ago and barely got away with its life. And now gets into bed with the same company.

Look at it from a different point of view: this time they know on which side their bread is buttered... Selling their (relatively small) linux division down the river will help them in keeping Microsoft happy; and what they really want is to keep MS happy, that's where the money is, they learnt that lesson the hard way a few years ago.

SUSE was lost when they were bought by a company for which linux is not the core business.

By Giacomo Lacava at Wed, 11/15/2006 - 13:03

It's Caldera all over again... funnily enough a lot of the developers that used to work for Caldera are still at SUSE. I wonder if they wake up a bit earlier this time around, I have my doubts.

By Waldo Bastian at Sat, 11/04/2006 - 19:01