Stallman Comments on Legality of Microsoft Novell Patent Agreement

As promised, here's an update on the official word regarding the FSF's opinion on the legality of the patent portion of the recent Microsoft Novell deal.
However, there's another way of using software patents to threaten the users which we have just seen an example of. That is, the Novell-Microsoft deal. What has happened is, Microsoft has not given Novell a patent licence, and thus, section 7 of GPL version 2 does not come into play. Instead, Microsoft offered a patent licence that is rather limited to Novell's customers alone.
It turns out that perhaps it's a good thing that Microsoft did this now, because we discovered that the text we had written for GPL version 3 would not have blocked this, but it's not too late and we're going to make sure that when GPL version 3 really comes out it will block such deals. We were already concerned about possibilities like this, namely, the possibility that a distributor might receive a patent licence which did not explicitly impose limits on downstream recipients but simply failed to protect them.
Well, now that we have seen this possibility, we're not going to have trouble drafting the language that will block it off. We're going to say not just that if you receive the patent licence, but if you have arranged any sort of patent licensing that is prejudicial among the downstream recipients, that that's not allowed. That you have to make sure that the downstream recipients fully get the freedoms that they're supposed to have. The precise words, we haven't figured out yet. That's what Eben Moglen is working on now.

So there you have it: definitely legal under the GPLv2 and they'll do everything they can to make sure it's not legal under the GPLv3. How this will impact GPLv3 uptake remains to be seen.
–jeremy
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