Free Software Foundation Says Microsoft Bound By GPLv3 - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications

Free Software Foundation Says Microsoft Bound By GPLv3

The Free Software Foundation says Microsoft's deal to resell Novell's open source software stack makes it a party to the GPLv3, and extends patent protection automatically to all open source users.

The group behind a controversial new software license designed to fend off lawsuits against open source users insists that Microsoft is bound by the license through its marketing alliance with Linux distributor Novell.

Microsoft "cannot declare itself exempt from the requirements of GPLv3," the Free Software Foundation said in a statement issued Tuesday.

The FSF published the General Public License, version 3, in June. Among other things, it states that companies that distribute open-source software licensed under GPLv3 cannot extend patent protection to some users of the software and not others, regardless of how or from whom the user received it.

Microsoft, which claims that Linux and other open source software programs violate its intellectual property rights, has pledged not to sue customers of open source distributors with which it has formal agreements. Those distributors include Novell and Xandros.

On Tuesday, however, the FSF said that Microsoft's deal to resell Novell's open source software stack makes it a party to the GPLv3. As a result, the patent protection Microsoft has promised to Novell customers automatically extends to all open source users, the FSF claimed.

"If any user receives a discriminatory patent promise from Microsoft as a result of purchasing a copy of a GPLv3 program from a Microsoft fulfillment agent, Microsoft would be bound by GPLv3 to extend that promise of safety to all downstream users of that software," the FSF said in its statement.

The FSF also said that it will "ensure" that Microsoft "respects our copyrights and complies with our licenses."

Linux itself is not licensed under GPLv3, but other parts of Novell's distribution are covered by the new license. In July, Microsoft said it would exclude software covered by GPLv3 from its alliance with Novell. The company has also said it believes that the anti-lawsuit provisions in GPLv3 have no legal standing.

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