Bruce Perens Microsoft-Novell Protest

Xavi Drudis Ferran xdrudis at
Fri Nov 24 12:39:07 UTC 2006

> Is it a good idea to sign the protest letter at
> ?
> (Slightly surprised I've only seen 'Cutting Free' discussing this so
> far.  Scratching around, I see it in slashdot comments, but wow!)

IMVHO, because I seem to think different to anyone else so I possibly
don't get the notion:

What Mr. Perens says is (mostly?) true . Yet the title and content
puts the enfasis in isolating Novell or compelling them to retract
their pact with MS. Fighting the patent system is mentioned but does
not seem so important.

I fear that the agreement is FUD addressed to stop collaboration among the
diverse but so far sinergic movements on free sfotware (open source vs
free software, or commercial vs voluntary, or any other divide). So
Novell may be counter productive. I don't believe Novell is against swpats,
from what I hear and the weak statements they make. That's the thing I don't
like about them.

But I think the agreement essentially changes nothing:

If you are a Novell customer then you won't be sued by MS but you can be
sued by any other, so your threat is nearly as large as before. On the
other hand the bad feelings this have arisen might make it slightly more
likely that you are sued but others and not Novell. Luckily IBM seems not
to be one likely litigator.

If you are a free software user not customer of Novell, you can be sued
by the same litigators before or after the agreement, so your risk stays
the same. Ballmer has barked but it was already barking before, not so
long ago to heads of asian states.

If you are a MS user you won't be sued by Novell but can be sued by anyone
else. Your risk decreases very slightly but the bad feelings against MS
might increase it a little. OIN is threatening back more or less like
Ballmer. Btw, Novell might sue MS and cause them to
discontinue or modify the soft they supply you, even if not suing you

You may be more than one option at once. And I'm speaking of places where
there are swpats. Of course it is worse were swpats exist and are valid.

MS is not as likely to sue anyone as patent trolls are. The patent troll
business model is more rentable than MS business model in a market with
swpats (until it takes all money in the market and kills the market).
So any lawsuit is more likely to come from parasites (controlled or not by
MS). And it is not more likely now than before the agreement.
FUD is much more cheaper than lawsuits, more certain to work its magic and
enough to give customers seeking excuses to buy Vista some air. On the
other hand, if MS gets all the hate towards them addressed to Novell they
will divide the free software community and make it weaker, giving
MS a little rest. They must dream of getting people not to accept Novell
and IBM patches and so on.

So isolating Novell solves nothing, whatever your feelings.

Some ways of isolating Novell might even be counterproductive. Care for some
business-fiction thought experiment?:
Assume GPL3 is adopted today with some clause like "you lose your rights to
use the GPLd work if your customers get patent protection not available to
other users". Evryone jumps to GPL3 and after a few months there's a lot
of interesting free softwar underGPL3. Six months from now Oracle wants to
kill RedHat who competes in gnu/linux support. Oracle issues a promise
not to sue RedHat users for infringing Oracle's patents. RedHat
automatically loses the right to distribute GPL3d soft without having done
any harm. It is not easy to prove whether or not Oracle and RedHat had a
deal if they don't admit it themselves. RedHat may continue to distribute
free software hoping that no GPL3 copyright holder will sue them for GPL
violation but mere hopes are not business friends. What if Oracle had
contributed something under GPL3 that RedHat distributes, or anyone that
now Oracle adquires or controls somehow ?. What if any copyright holder
to seze the chance to get money from Redhat. What if nobody actually
sues them but Oracle has enough FUD with RedHat's possibility get sued to
divert their customers.

Of course I picked Oracle and RedHat just for spice, those companies have
nothing particular to be in this story.

I think it is good to retire rights to people who use swpats, or even
those who acquire them if you want to realy stretch it, but trying to go
those who just indirectly benefit from patenlitigation or lack of it is
dangerous, and doing so with an instrument as a copyright license is
difficult too.

More importantly. The current rage should be addressed to reform laws and
institutions, not to address any patent holders or partners. It is not
honest to complain for legal uses of inmoral legal instruments that
shouldn't be there in the first place.

That's because I'm not too inclined to sign Mr. Perens action, although
I don't thing it is 100% wrong, and I suspect I'm not aware of the
situation, since I see people who know better than I react differently.

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