23 Nov 2006

Strong words on solidarity

Bruce Perens posted an open letter to
Novell’s CEO Ron Hovsepian
that contains some strong
words on how we should all show solidarity in the face of
patent threats against our community.

The covenant of the GPL is that in the face of a software
patent aggressor we must all hang together, lest we each
hang separately. Novell accepted that covenant when you
chose to include the Linux kernel, the GNU C library, and
hundreds of additional works created at no charge to Novell
by individuals in the Free Software community and licensed
under the GPL.

It is abundantly clear that Novell and Microsoft took the
time to engineer a circuitous legal path of issuing
covenants to each other’s customers, rather than licenses to
each other, in order to circumvent Novell’s earlier
agreement with the community of GPL software developers.


This is unacceptable. If Novell is to benefit from the Free
Software community, Novell should be working to make it safe
for everyone to write and use software.

There are serious questions regarding how Novell intends to
go on with its business. Developers are jumping ship. The
very software that you sell is owned by parties who are now
hostile to your company. The C library, essential to run
every program on your system, is the property of the Free
Software Foundation, which will surely relicense that
library to LGPL 3. The leading developer of that library is
a Red Hat employee. It’s already been announced that GPL and
LGPL 3 will contain terms that make it untenable to use
while your patent agreement with Microsoft stands.

The Samba software and hundreds of other programs will
probably go a similar path. The Novell-Microsoft agreement
has even had the power to make the Linux kernel developers
and the large companies that support them take a fresh look
at GPL 3. In the face of these changes, Novell will probably
be stuck with old versions of the software, under old
licenses, with Novell sustaining the entire cost and burden
of maintaining that software. Novell will have to maintain
its customers on old versions while the community takes GPL
3 versions of the same software into the future.

In short, now that Novell has chosen not to hang together
with the Free Software community, we’ve chosen not to do so
with you.

There is really only one path out of this corner for Novell.
Go on with your technical collaboration, and keep the money.
But Novell must now direct Microsoft to refrain from
granting covenants to Novell’s users unless they will apply
to everyone equally. Hang together with the Free Software
community by changing your software patent stance from one
of monopoly rights for Novell to one of support for
legislation that will make it safe for all of us to create,
distribute, and use software.

Your Signature