Novell-Microsoft pact not about interoperability, says Open Source leader

Don Marti recently posted an outstanding interview with Jeremy Allison. One item covered in the article was rumors that some companies have been paying Microsoft for patent licensing to cover their use of Open Source, even previous to the recent Novell deal. From the interview:
LinuxWorld: One of the persistent rumors that’s going around is that certain large IT customers have already been paying Microsoft for patent licensing to cover their use of Linux, Samba and other free software projects. And the Novell deal — isn’t it just taking that and doing the same kind of thing wholesale?
Allison: Yes, that’s true, actually. I mean I have had people come up to me and essentially off the record admit that they had been threatened by Microsoft and had got patent cross license and had essentially taken out a license for Microsoft patents on the free software that they were using, which they then cannot redistribute. I think that would be the restriction. I would have to look quite carefully. So, essentially that’s not allowed. But they’re not telling anyone about it. They’re completely doing it off the record.
The problem with the Novell deal is — Novell gave Microsoft what Microsoft dearly wanted, which is a public admission that they think that Linux violates the Microsoft patent. So, that’s the difference between this and the sort of off-the-record quiet deals. This one is public. This one is Novell admitting, “yes, we think that Linux violates Microsoft patents.” Now, of course, Novell has come out and said, “no, that’s not what we said at all. We don’t think that.” To which, of course, Microsoft publicly humiliated them and said, “oh, yes, that’s really what you were saying.” It’s kind of funny. They couldn’t even wait until the press conference was over to start threatening users with a Linux system.
LinuxWorld: Watching Novell management being subjected to this was like watching a child eating a bug for money. It’s embarrassing.
Allison: It is humiliating. I was horrified to say. It was humiliating. Yes. It really is like, “Go on. Eat a bug. Go on. Go on. Here’s some money. Eat a bug.” Yes, sad but true.

This isn't something I've heard a lot about, but you have to hope it's untrue. If we're talking about public companies, I don't think shareholders would look too kindly on paying potentially large sums of money to Microsoft under the table for highly questionable reasons. We'll have to see if any concrete evidence of this surfaces. If it does, I'd expect a lawsuit.
The interview covers a variety of topics including Jeremy stepping down from Novell, his recent work on CIFS, some patent talk, additional Microsoft coverage and even some talk on burritos. Additionally there is also some really good GPLv3 commentary including some common misconceptions (one of which I had fallen prey to). The interview concludes with:
Allison: No problem. I’m looking forward to seeing you in New York.
Of course, he's talking about the LinuxWorld OpenSolutions Summit where I'll be in the “Ask the Experts” segment along with Jeremy Allison and a host of other great people including Donald Becker and Evan Prodromou. If you'll be near NYC on Feb 14-15 make sure to stop in. I'm looking forward to the Summit and it's really an honor to have my name associated with each and every person on the “Ask the Experts” panel. See you all in a couple days.
–jeremy

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