Samba Blasts Novell

by on November 13, 2006 · 16 comments

The Samba team is not happy about the Microsoft-Novell deal:

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.

The GPL, at its heart, is about reciprocity: you’re permitted to distribute the software, without restrictions, provided you respect the equal freedom of others to do the same. Although Novell itself hasn’t done anything to directly restrict users’ freedom under the GPL, this agreement is clearly a step in the direction of making non-Novell users of GPL’ed software second class citizens under patent law.

It’s debatable whether the Microsoft-Novell agreement violates the letter of the GPL, and it seems unlikely that anyone will be able to prevail against Novell in court. But I think it’s pretty clear that Novell’s actions violate the spirit of the GPL. It will be interesting to see if the free software community is able to effectively punish Novell through ostracism.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: