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04.10.07

Novell: Really, We Don’t Have a Patent Cross-License

Posted in Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Novell at 4:11 pm by Shane Coyle

Unless you’re using the definition explicitly included in GPLv3, anyhow.

Bruce Lowry has posted an update on the Novell PR Blog regarding the furor over OpenSUSE and the disabling of Cleartype.

In this specific case, the ClearType font is supplied as part of the freetype2 package; last summer the upstream maintainer changed the package’s default settings to disable Clear Type and thereby avoid possibly relevant Microsoft patents. So, consistent with Novell’s preexisting practices and current policy, Novell is using the default settings established by the upstream maintainer. Distributions such as Fedora made the same choice. This issue only came up in the summer of 2006 and therefore older distributions are using the previous default (enabled ClearType).

We hope this clears up any confusion over the issue.

So, here is a clear indication that Novell indeed does not have a patent cross-license, but rather – as they have stated all along (and is their loophole in GPLv2) they have agreed to pay Microsoft a running royalty on open-source software shipped under the agreement for a promise from them not to sue Novell’s customers over unspecified potential IP infringement.

I still say it isn’t GPLv2 compliant.

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3 Comments

  1. Stephen Holmes said,

    April 10, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    Gravatar

    Then technically you’d be wrong and should probably reclarify your last remark to say that perhaps it’s not in the spirit of the license (not wanting to put words in your mouth) . If there’s a patent violation of MS’s in lLinux’s font handling code, then it’s right to disable it in upstream for all distributions that consume it.

  2. shane said,

    April 10, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    Gravatar

    should probably reclarify your last remark to say that that perhaps it’s not in the spirit of the license

    I have made that characterization as well, even in the linked article:

    By entering into this deal with MS, Novell is in effect limiting recipient’s rights to redistribute GPL’ed code using MS as a proxy. As I have said before, whether or not Novell is violating the letter of the GPL, it is certainly violating its spirit.

    But, the GPLv2 preamble clearly defines the purpose and intent of the license:

    Finally, any free program is threatened constantly by software patents. We wish to avoid the danger that redistributors of a free program will individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making the program proprietary. To prevent this, we have made it clear that any patent must be licensed for everyone’s free use or not licensed at all.

    By making this discriminatory patent deal in which Microsoft has agreed to not enforce their patent rights for a royalty payment, I believe Novell is not complying with the license’s intent.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    April 11, 2007 at 7:42 am

    Gravatar

    I quite liked the funny criticism in the source of our original post. In reference to Bruce’s rebuttal:

    Not quite. I mean, thanks for the consistency, but please, could you have somebody who knows what everything is about to rewrite the post? There isn’t anything like a ClearType font, but a sub-pixel hinting algorithm for any displayed fonts!

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