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Re: Novell-MS Pact: "FSF Corrects Novell's Steinman and a Request to End

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: Novell-MS Pact: "FSF Corrects Novell's Steinman and a Request to End the Mystery" from PJ
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2007 15:57:40 +0100


FSF Corrects Novell's Steinman and a Request to End the Mystery 
Monday, March 19 2007 @ 02:41 PM EDT  

I couldn't believe my eyes when I read this interview with Novell's
Director of Marketing, Justin Steinman. He is quoted in IT Business Edge
as saying the following:

I do want to tell you that Novell is a significant financial contributor
to the Free Software Foundation, as are all of the leading Linux
distributors around the world....As part of that, we are one of the
vendors on Committee B of the GPL v3 development community. ... 
We have lawyers in the room contributing to the GPL v3 draft process, so
we are in active discussions with Eben Moglen and other members of the
FSF around what GPL v3 will look like. I want to make it extremely clear
that Novell is committed to our Microsoft agreement, and we're committed
to helping develop a version of the GPL that enables that agreement to

Well. He has achieved his goal of being extremely clear. But in doing
so, I would have to say he has stooped to a new low of
Not-Really-Part-of-the-FOSS-Community awful. It's not the only offensive
statement in that interview, but it is the most serious. Perhaps he was
misquoted. Let's give him the benefit of that one doubt. 

But, what matters is, is it true? Has Novell bought FSF into going along
with the Novell-Microsoft patent agreement? I asked Peter Brown of FSF
for a reaction and here is his statement: 

Novell last gave funds to the FSF in October 2005, when they donated $5K
as part of FSF Corporate Patron program. Since their deal with Microsoft
was announced we have not asked them to renew as a patron, nor would we.
Novell is not "a significant financial contributor to the Free Software
Foundation", but what's a little exaggeration compared to their deal
with Microsoft? 
We remain determined to make sure that GPLv3 does not permit deals of
this kind. We are now studying how to achieve this without causing
unintended trouble for other industry practices. 

You can verify it for yourself by going to the FSF's list of corporate
patrons. Do you see Novell on the list on that page? No, you don't.
Because they aren't a corporate patron currently. 

Here's what I know: even if Novell gave FSF $5 million, it couldn't get
what it wants. Some people are not for sale. Marketing guys might not
get that concept. But there you are. Now for my request...

My Request:

May I remind Novell that it has yet to make public the full terms of the
patent agreement it entered into with Microsoft? Why is Novell
continuing to keep the terms secret? 

Exactly what are all the exceptions, for example, referenced in the
agreement but not listed or defined? After all, the fiction is that this
is a patent agreement between Microsoft and Novell's paying SUSE
customers, and Novell with Microsoft's customers, no? (From Novell's
November 7, 2006 8K: "Under the Patent Cooperation Agreement, Microsoft
commits to a covenant not to assert its patents against Novell's
end-user customers for their use of Novell products and services for
which Novell receives revenue directly or indirectly from such
customers, with certain exceptions, while Novell commits to a covenant
not to assert its patents against Microsoft's end-user customers for
their use of Microsoft products and services for which Microsoft
receives revenue directly or indirectly from such customers, with
certain exceptions.")

Those are allegedly the parties to the agreement. My understanding is
that there can be no contract without a meeting of the minds. So both
sides have to know the exact terms of the contract prior to entering
into it, or it's not valid. So, if I am thinking of buying SUSE, what
are the terms? When do we get to know them fully? It seems to me that it
isn't enough for Novell to know, if customers don't know, if they are
allegedly parties to this agreement. 

For that matter, doesn't Novell have to file this information with the
SEC at some point? All it would take is an 8K or a correction to the one
it already filed back when the deal was announced. Don't shareholders
have a right to understand this agreement? 

As another example, exactly what do customers receive when they get one
of those vouchers from Microsoft? I've read a number of things, support,
updates, but what is the truth? What do you get? What are the terms? If
any of you have one or have seen one of the vouchers, please scan it in
and send it to me or email me and tell me what you've read. Why should
this all be so mysterious and secretive? 

How about it, Novell? When do we get to read it all, both the full
patent agreements -- with the exceptions -- and the vouchers' terms? 


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