back to article Think again, FSF tells Microsoft on GPL3

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) appears to be polishing up its legal sabers over possible violations of the General Public License (GPL) by Microsoft. In a statement released today the FSF told Microsoft it's prepared to use its "resources" directly or indirectly to protect Linux copyrights and to ensure continued …


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  1. Andy Pellew

    Ironic ...

    Isn't it ironic that the company that states that you've agreed to it's licensing terms, despite not having signed anything, as soon as you've opened the software box doesn't want anyone else to have similar "rights"?

  2. Scott Harrsion

    Cry "Fowl" and let slip the dogs of war

    This is my party and you are not invited, so there :oP


    Mr Gates ;o)

  3. Dr. Mouse


    There is a difference here between the GPL and MS's license.

    MS's licenses are generaly End User licenses, which means it is the person who uses the product which muct adhere to its conditions.

    The GPL is all about distribution. This means that if MS Distributes anything containing GPL3 software, it must adhere to the license. In selling the support voucher thingys, it is effectively getting Novell etc... to distribute on it's behalf (it could be argued, I havent seen the exact wording of GPL3 or the agreement between Novell etc. & MS). This means that MS is bound by the terms of GPL2 already, and if Novel etc include any GPL3 then, as it doesn't specify any versions, restrictions or expiration on the voucher, then it becomes bound by GPL3. Basicaly, MS will suffer from it's own short-sighted wording.

    Problem is that this would have to be backed up in court. But I think the FSF is doing this the wrong way. Best way to do it would be to get GPL3 into a product which is covered by the support ticket thingy, then somehow force MS's hand. It offers basicaly a patent license, which would be transfered to all users of the software. Then do something which explicitly uses a MS-patented technology. MS would be forced to court, then it would be tested.

    The only way that either MS's claims of patent violations or the GPL3's patent clauses will be tested is in court. So we need to get it out of the way, and find out where everyone stands.

  4. Geoff Mackenzie

    Novell / SuSE already GPL3, surely?

    I'm thinking of the phrase "either version 2 of that license, or, at your option, any later version," which surely appears in several places in the SuSE distribution. If it is at the end user's option whether 2 or 3 apply, then we have to assume 3 in at least some cases.

  5. Adrian Midgley

    Precedents for GPL enforcement

    There have been in Germany, I think.

  6. Morely Dotes

    @ Geoff Mackenzie

    If the software *author* has chosen GPL3 (and so specified in his/her license statement), then all users and distributors are bound by GPL3. Full stop.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I must be missing something.

    if Microsoft (or any other company) offers support on a GPL product then GPL should apply to all of their products?

    I don't get it...

  8. adnim


    everyone should just ignore any licencing that m$ imparts on it's products.

    If you don't do so already, perhaps now is the time to start. Even better still, ignore micro$oft completely and go linux or OSX.

  9. Doug

    add GPL'ed Virtual Fuzzy Dice to screensaver in Suse

    and for fun, give it motion based on WAP's around the computer(ie move it forward on number of open APs, swing amount to the right based on WEP AP's, to the left based on WPA AP's.

    Seems like fun, GPL v3 it, Microsoft just patened the virtual fuzzy die concept, and if you do it in Mono, Novell will be all over it. Next, see if Microsoft bites.

  10. Bob Boblowski

    re: Precedents for GPL enforcement

    Indeed. There has been at least one confirmation that I know of:

  11. Steve Browne

    Dont undestand the fuss

    In this article though, it doesn't quite say what Microsoft are alleged to have done, other than state its position vis a vis the GPL 3. If they are not using any GPL 3 code, then they have no need for a license to use it. If Microsoft choose to issue bits of paper to some people, then fine, keep on doing whatever makes you happy.

    Whatever license applies only applies to the software product that has been licensed. If a derivative work is created then the original license applies to that too, at least to the originally licensed product and possibly to new code if it constitutes a derivative work.

    So far as I am aware, a derivative work is well defined in the copyright act, any lawyers about who could clarify this, so if there are no changes in the product being distributed, then no change to licensing is required. Any additional product may be distributed with it as the licensee sees fit.

    Therefore, I can create proprietary software using open source tools, without violating any license as a result of the tools being licensed under whichever license you prefer. Just because my product uses an open source library does not make it a derivative work and so the GPL (V?) does not attach itself to my product.

  12. Stephen B Streater

    To the guy who's missing something above

    To the guy who must be missing something.

    The GPL only applies to code derived from GPLd code, not to everything MS write.

    The FSF seem to be quite active at the moment. Here's their executive director in a video I made of their recent demonstration against the proprietory Microsoft nature of the BBC iPlayer:

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Isn't it ironic that the company that states that you've agreed to it's licensing terms, despite not having signed anything, as soon as you've opened the software box doesn't want anyone else to have similar "rights"?"

    Actually no. Irony is a contrast or an incongruity between what is stated and what is really meant, or between what is expected to happen and what actually does happen. Seems Microsoft is being anything but ironic and doing exactly what is expected of them :)

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. Adrian Midgley

    Microsoft has distributed GPL'd software for years

    Microsoft has been distributing GNU GPL'd software in the Interix (now Services for Unix package) -- in particular the gcc compiler.

    The download includes GPLv1 and GPLv2 text; some of the tools are licensed "GPLv2 and later". The source code, or where to find it, is not apparent.

    Perhaps Microsoft has felt itself above copyright law these past few years already?


  16. Orv Silver badge

    Probably not the best place to start

    Microsoft has some of the best lawyers in the industry. Going after them and losing would set a very bad precedent. Wouldn't it be better to go after some smaller players first and get some good legal precedents established?

  17. Brad Hutchings

    Computer people take things so literally

    Geez guys, this is just FSF fundraising. 1. Say you're gonna take on Microsoft. 2. Get open source community's collective tit in a ringer. 3. ??? 4. Profit.

  18. David Webb

    FSF Sucks

    Previously the UK government brought in a law specifically to target one person who demonstrated outside Whitehall constantly. They brought in the law so the person went to court on won simply on the grounds his protesting was prior to the law coming into effect so it did not effect him.

    Microsoft could use the same tactics, their agreement with Novell was before GPL so anything written into GPL3 comes after the contract so MS shouldnt be held by anything written into the GPL3.

  19. Tim Bates

    Re: FSF Sucks

    "Microsoft could use the same tactics, their agreement with Novell was before GPL so anything written into GPL3 comes after the contract so MS shouldnt be held by anything written into the GPL3."

    Uh... So you think if MS release an update that has a new EULA, I can just ignore the new license because I bought the product (ie, did my deal with them) a while back?

    There is already some core software coming out under GPL3. Samba will be a kicker. Most servers run it. Most people *buying* distros can't live without it. So what do Novell do?? Stay with the last GPL2 version, or include the new features of new versions under GPL3?

    MS is screwed.... They might know how to drag court cases on for years, and they might have a huge lawyer budget... But FSF has the backing of many major companies who wouldn't think twice about backing the legal expenses.

  20. Paul Mitchell

    No sucking involved

    If MS distributes SuSE Linux, and that contains some GPL3 code, then MS is bound by the GPL3 for that code. There is no loophole.

    Code distributed under GPL2 or earlier is indeed unaffected, but as was pointed out above, many open source licences state GPL2 or later. So MS could be in trouble with them too.

    MS only have a problem if they don't want to follow the licence conditions of the software they're distributing. The GPL is very fair in this respect as it grants the same right to the recipient as to the distributor. Of course this doesn't fit in very with with MS's business model of End User Licences and retaining control even after you think you've bought the software from them.

    Also, as pointed out above, MS already distributes GPL2 code (gcc etc) in violation of GPL2 because it doesn't make the source code available, and that's just the stuff we know about. In their closed-proprietory model in is almost impossible to say what other violations may be going on unseen. This is why there is a fuss about SuSE Linux and GPL3, because we can see it. Microsoft don't like this. What does that tell us about their motives?

  21. Matt Thornton

    Totally off-topic...

    But how sad it is that that in the link to the Harper Collins website about Paddington Bear's illustrator, a website with a presumably target audience of kids, by a publisher where proofreading and accuracy should be #1 priority, has a massive and blatant spelling error as the very first thing you see?

  22. Enric Martinez

    Enforced in Germany

    Many readers already stated it:

    The GPL has been actually enforced at least in Germany. This means that a transgression can be legally pursued in this EU country and surely on many others.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    eh?? Still missing something.

    So if all they have done is not provided code re gpl2 all they need to do is send people CD's of code when they request it (re the case about the phone that had GPL in it and no source that went through the courts at some point) and I'm sure MS will just say "yadda yadda yadda you can get it if you request it and no one has yadda yadda yadda" *send disk to sad folks with no life who do bother requesting* jobs done.

    All it sounds like to me is that FSF has decided it's in the mood to scare off any real corporate interest in the product so only geeks with beards will want it. I'd love to see how "major corporate backers" will perceive this "threat" sounds like SCO to me.

    Correct me if I'm wrong here, but what's the violation?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: eh?? Still missing something.

    You've missed a point. That is only *one* of their violations.


    "Suppose GPL3 says something like, 'if you distribute (or procure the distribution), of a program (or parts of a program) - and if you make patent promises partially to some subset of the distributees of the program - then under this license you have given the same promise or license at no cost in royalties or other obligations to all persons to whom the program is distributed'."

    Now, GPLv3 is out, and it *does* say that. Microsoft refuses to extend the deal to all other linux users, and is therefore in breach of GPLv3.

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