Samba Team Asks Novell to Reconsider
November 12, 2006 Leave a comment
More on a story I have been closely watching, it looks like the Samba team has officially requested that Novell reconsider the recent patent agreement they made with Microsoft. From the Samba site:
The Samba Team disapproves strongly of the actions taken by Novell on November 2nd.
One of the fundamental differences between the proprietary software world and the free software world is that the proprietary software world divides users by forcing them to agree to coercive licensing agreements which restrict their rights to share with each other, whereas the free software world encourages users to unite and share the benefits of the software.
The patent agreement struck between Novell and Microsoft is a divisive agreement. It deals with users and creators of free software differently depending on their “commercial” versus “non-commercial” status, and deals with them differently depending on whether they obtained their free software directly from Novell or from someone else.
The goals of the Free Software community and the GNU GPL allow for no such distinctions.
Furthermore, the GPL makes it clear that all distributors of GPL'd software must stand together in the fight against software patents. Only by standing together do we stand a chance of defending against the peril represented by software patents. With this agreement Novell is attempting to destroy that unified defense, exchanging the long term interests of the entire Free Software community for a short term advantage for Novell over their competitors.
For Novell to make this deal shows a profound disregard for the relationship that they have with the Free Software community. We are, in essence, their suppliers, and Novell should know that they have no right to make self serving deals on behalf of others which run contrary to the goals and ideals of the Free Software community.
Using patents as competitive tools in the free software world is not acceptable. Novell, as a participant in numerous debates, discussions and conferences on the topic knew this to be the case. We call upon Novell to work with the Software Freedom Law Center to undo the patent agreement and acknowledge its obligations as a beneficiary of the Free Software community.
I've also seen multiple sites around the net requesting a full boycott of Novell products. Novell had to see this (or at least some level of community dissent) coming. The question to them may have been whether they'd lose enough business to prevent the deal from being profitable on the whole. Regardless of the legality of the patent deal (I've still seen no official word from the FSF of the Section 7 issue, but Eben Moglen has been granted confidential access to the legal terms of the agreement, in order to scrutinize it and ensure its compliance with the GPL), Novell has clearly gone against the sentiment of the community here and the spirit of the GPL. What long term implications that will have remains to be seen. One shouldn't forget that Novell really isn't an Open Source company in the same way that a company like Red Hat is. Novell still has a lot of proprietary software, sure; but the issue goes much deeper than that. They have a long history as a closed source company and a lot of long time employees who aren't necessarily Open Source people. It comes down to being a systemic cultural thing. While they have many people who really get it, that's not necessarily the case for the average employee. Coupled with the fact that Novell has a long history with Microsoft and I don't find this deal as surprising as some. Do I think Novell will back out of the deal at this point? Unlikely, but it will be interesting to see their response if Eben decides they've violated the GPL. I'd guess we'll know soon.
Novell, Microsoft, MSFT, Linux, GPL, Red Hat, Open Source,