Open source group voices Linux licensing fears over Microsoft deal


Open source group voices Linux licensing fears over Microsoft deal

Arif Mohamed

An open source group has voiced concern that Microsoft's Linux agreement signed earlier this month with Novell could damage open source software development.

Linux developer Samba said in an open letter that Microsoft and Novell's plans to improve the ability of their respective operating systems to work together could restrict open source development.

It suggested the move could divide users by forcing them to agree to "coercive" licensing agreements that restricted their rights to share with each other.

"The patent agreement 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," Samba said.

But Novell and Microsoft are adamant that the agreement will not affect patents and cross-licensing.

Bill Hilf, Microsoft's general manager of platform strategy, said, "Many of our customers say they know there is an issue here with patents and intellectual property and they do not want to find themselves in a legal situation. They want to get that peace of mind through the software supplier, and not have to buy separate insurance policies."

Roger Levy, vice-president open platform solutions at Novell, said, "There is absolutely nothing in this agreement that would push us towards incorporating patented Micro­soft technology into SuSE Linux Enterprise.

"It is important to keep in mind that we did not sign any cross-licensing deal with Micro­soft. We simply provided mutual covenants not to use our patents against each others' customers. So Microsoft could sue Novell if it felt we had infringed on its intellectual property. We will not be putting Microsoft patents in SuSE Linux Enterprise."

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