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Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- InformationWeek: "Pick Your Open Source Po

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- InformationWeek: "Pick Your Open Source Poison: Microsoft's Patent Claims Or GPLv3"
Date: Sat, 09 Jun 2007 14:47:00 +0200
Pick Your Open Source Poison: Microsoft's Patent Claims Or GPLv3 

Controversy swirls around the revised General Public License, and
Microsoft keeps the heat on. 

By Charles Babcock 

Jun 9, 2007 12:00 AM (From the Juni 11, 2007 issue) 

After months of debate, the release of the next version of the General
Public License, under which most open source products are issued, is
imminent. The Free Software Foundation plans to issue GPL version 3 in
its final form June 29. As the revised license nears completion,
however, new doubts are being raised over whether it's headed in the
right direction. 

On one front, Microsoft continues to challenge the legitimacy of Linux
and other open source products, claiming they violate hundreds of
Microsoft patents. Microsoft is offering patent-protection deals to
Linux distributors to shield them from any future lawsuits it might
file. Last week, it disclosed pacts with Linux distributor Xandros,
which represents less than 1% of the market, and Korean manufacturer LG
Electronics, which embeds Linux in some of its devices. The deals have
the same "we won't sue your customers" provision of an earlier
arrangement with Novell.

Mark Radcliffe, an intellectual property attorney with DLA Piper,
portrays such arrangements as relatively meaningless. If Microsoft's
patents had teeth, he says, more major Linux vendors would be forced to
the table.

As if to reinforce that point, Red Hat last week reaffirmed its
resistance to any such agreement. Open source software "should not be
subject to an unsubstantiated tax that lacks transparency," a company
spokesman said by e-mail. 


Microsoft may continue to leverage its patent portfolio at open source's
expense, but an equally serious challenge may spring from disagreements
within the open source ranks over just what the GPL should accomplish
going forward. Doubts over the GPL's future are to be expected, argues
Eben Moglen, legal adviser to the Free Software Foundation's Richard
Stallman on GPL drafts. Indeed, Microsoft is encouraging bloggers and
writers to take potshots at GPLv3, Moglen said last month in an address
at the Open Source Business Conference. 

Last week, new doubts were voiced not by Microsoft, but by William
Hurley, chief architect of open source strategy at BMC Software and
chairman of the Open Management Consortium, a group committed to
producing open source IT infrastructure management software. GPLv3 is
designed to forestall Microsoft's patent deals, restrict digital rights
management, and ban restrictions that sometimes get placed on open
source embedded in hardware. Maybe GPLv3--intended as a license that
grants freedom to developers--is trying to do too much, suggests Hurley.


License Complexity 

>> Digital rights management isn't allowed under GPLv3 

>> Patent ambiguities could complicate cross-licensing agreements when GPL 
>> software is involved 

>> GPLv3 bans restrictions on open source that's embedded in hardware appliances
>> Revised license tries to anticipate scenarios in which a GPL issuer might 
>> bring patent claims against users 


In a blog posting titled "The Death Of A Software License," Hurley
argues that the Free Software Foundation is moving away from developers'
core interests and getting bogged down in its own political agenda. "The
FSF should realize by now their influence is waning," Hurley wrote.
"They're really hamstringing themselves with version 3, taking the
license further and further from where industry developers are heading." 

Not everyone agrees that the Free Software Foundation's efforts are at
odds with developers. Barry Klawans, CTO at JasperSoft, a supplier of
open source business intelligence software, says companies that want to
commercialize their open source code still like the protections of the
GPL. "I think the GPL will continue to be used in infrastructure
projects, where the developers agree with the FSF's philosophy," he
writes via e-mail.

Even though Microsoft asserts it has patents that cover some open source
functionality, it will think twice before targeting users, many of whom
are its customers. Underscoring the user community's clout, Robert J.
Carey, CIO of the Navy, last week issued a memo mandating that open
source be considered in all Navy software acquisitions. Notably, Carey
expressed no interest in whether open source vendors have Microsoft's
patent protection or which version of the GPL should apply. 


"Moglen had remarked: 'Anything that is worth copying is worth sharing.'
He also argued: 'The more we give away, the richer we become.' "

     -- Free Software's Moglen Canvasses His Sharing Message In India

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