November 21, 2006

Irresponsible freedom

19 days after the Novell-Microsoft agreement was announced and the media is still very active.

It is interesting to see, that most of the noise comes from outside the openSUSE community. There were some noise and activity in the mailing lists for a while, but most of it it still cames from outside communities, zealot clubs, or people with just too much time. Most of the people haven’t yet read [all the information] available. It is easy to tell, as you still find wrong facts like Microsoft not being able to sue Novell, and Novell being able to use Microsoft patents (or even code!) in its products.

Today, Novell had to react, because, as expected by some people, Steve Ballmer started to confuse the people. First he invited other Linux vendors to do similar deals and focusing the agreement only in the patent covenants, when Novell’s contract has exclusivity for some years, and the agreement is not only about customer protection but lot about interoperability cooperation. The problem is, Ballmer is not afraid of contradictions and he does strange things (already used to) like inviting Linux vendors when he actually can’t, but his objective is not to inform but to create a sensation of insecurity. But those are the rules of playing with Microsoft: here is Novell answer.

Some quotes:

Since our announcement, some parties have spoken about this patent agreement in a damaging way, and with a perspective that we do not share. We strongly challenge those statements here.

We disagree with the recent statements made by Microsoft on the topic of Linux and patents. Importantly, our agreement with Microsoft is in no way an acknowledgment that Linux infringes upon any Microsoft intellectual property. When we entered the patent cooperation agreement with Microsoft, Novell did not agree or admit that Linux or any other Novell offering violates Microsoft patents.

Our stance on software patents is unchanged by the agreement with Microsoft. We want to remind the community of Novell’s commitment to, and prior actions in support of, furthering the interests of Linux and open source, and creating an environment of free and open innovation. We have a strong patent portfolio and we have leveraged that portfolio for the benefit of the open source community. Specifically, we have taken the following actions:

* We have stated our commitment to use our own software patents to protect open source technologies. more +
* We have spoken out against EU legislation that would liberalize the standards for granting software patents. more +
* We offer indemnification to our Linux customers accused of intellectual property infringement. more +
* We have teamed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and other industry leaders to reduce the issuance of “bad patents” in the software area. more +
* In 2005, we co-founded Open Invention Network (“OIN”), “an intellectual property company that was formed to promote Linux by using patents to create a collaborative environment.” Novell’s substantial contributions to OIN were made to benefit not only ourselves, but also other Linux vendors, distributors and developers, and anyone else willing to commit not to assert their patents against Linux. more +

I hope the valuable people stays next to Novell helping it to satisfy customers needs while still having the community support. Don’t forget Novell is a GPL software author, contributor, distributor and packager, so the strategy always be to work upstream with the community. Boycott anonymous cowards and people lying without references or spreading false information, they aren’t doing any different than Mr. Ballmer. You are welcome to disagree with Novell actions, even fight them. There is research being done in respect with GPLv2 and GPLv3 compliance, based on discussions and interaction. But please don’t join the zealot clubs which just move information from blogs to media and start all kind of rumors.

Free speech also means responsibility.