GPL3 authors to sabotage Novell-Microsoft patent pact

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GPL3 authors to sabotage Novell-Microsoft patent pact

Upcoming licence to add a clause to prevent indirect patent licence fees.

The authors of the forthcoming General Public Licence version 3 (GPL3) plan to add a provision that blocks the Novell-Microsoft patent agreement.

Eben Moglen, one of the co-authors of the upcoming licence, is an outspoken critic of the partnership that Microsoft and Novell unveiled earlier this month. The two companies signed interoperability and distribution agreements as well as a patent covenant that protects users of Novell's Suse Linux distribution against intellectual property claims from Microsoft.

The patent agreement goes against the ideals of the free software movement to which Moglen subscribes. Headed up by GPL creator Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation, its supporters believe that all software should be available free of charge and without any patent threat. By charging Novell a fee for its intellectual property, Microsoft is effectively forcing Novell Linux users to pay Microsoft for the software.

Novell has provided Moglen with confidential access to the legal details of the deal between the two companies. A spokesperson from the Software Freedom Law Center said that the audit had been completed, but couldn't comment on its findings.

According to a report by Reuters, Moglen is now planning to close the loophole that allows Microsoft to charge Novell for distributing the software in the forthcoming version 3 of the GPL.

The kernel of the Linux operating system today is governed by the GPL2, and the project plans to stay under that licence. Other open source projects however are expected to switch to the GPL3 once it comes out.

Novell's Suse Linux distribution bundles multiple GPL applications. The Linux vendor will no longer be able to distribute those if any of they switch to the GPL3 licence.
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