Open sourcers call on Novell to ditch MS patent deal

Open Source luminary Bruce Perens has launched a petition, calling on Novell to push Microsoft to rework the patent covenant so that such protection is offered to all users of the GPL software used by Novell.

The petition has already clocked up in excess of 2,000 signatures, including resellers of Novell’s products. In airing their frustration and disappointment with Novell’s deal with Microsoft, many say they will be taking their business elsewhere and recommending that others take the same path.

‘We are a Novell authorised reseller. Our immediate responses upon hearing of this deal were, “Novell’s legal team should be fired”, and, “we can no longer recommend Novell products”. On a personal note, I have been a Novell proponent since Netware v2.15 but this is the end of the line for me,’ reads one signature.

Many recommend either Red Hat or Ubuntu, whose founder Mark Shuttleworth, also signed the petition. ‘The Novell-Microsoft agreement has profound long-term consequences for the ability of free software to present a technical and economic alternative to Microsoft’s offerings. I hope this petition goes some way to convincing Novell to repudiate the deal,’ he wrote.

Perens plea is unlikely to be answered by Novell, however. The company has already indicated that it signed the patent covenant, which stipulates that neither party will sue the other’s customers for patent infringements, at Microsoft’s behest. Reopening negotiations on that may throw into doubt the entire technical and marketing arrangements that accompanied it.

Perens suggests in his petition that the ultimate outcome will be to drive momentum for the adoption of version 3 of the GPL, which is likely to contain terms that specifically outlaw the kind of exclusive agreement Novell has taken out with Microsoft.

‘There are serious questions regarding how Novell intends to go on with its business. Developers are jumping ship. The very software that you sell is owned by parties who are now hostile to your company. The C library, essential to run every program on your system, is the property of the Free Software Foundation, which will surely relicense that library to LGPL 3…

‘The Samba software and hundreds of other programs will probably go a similar path. The Novell-Microsoft agreement has even had the power to make the Linux kernel developers and the large companies that support them take a fresh look at GPL 3. In the face of these changes, Novell will probably be stuck with old versions of the software, under old licenses, with Novell sustaining the entire cost and burden of maintaining that software. Novell will have to maintain its customers on old versions while the community takes GPL 3 versions of the same software into the future,’ writes Perens.

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