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FSF: Microsoft cannot dodge the GPL3

FSF: Microsoft cannot dodge the GPL3

Boston (USA) – In early July, Microsoft released a note distancing itself from the fledgling GPL3 license, pointing out that selling support coupons for SUSE Linux does not subject it to the terms contained in the new GNU license. The response of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) was made to wait until last Tuesday, when the famous non-profit organization asserted, in this statement, that “Microsoft cannot declare itself exempt from the obligations of the GPL3”.

“If Microsoft distributes works covered by the GPL3 license, or pays others to distribute them on its behalf, it is therefore obligated to do so under the terms of this license,” the FSF note reads.

Therefore, if Microsoft claims that reselling SUSE Linux coupons to its customers does not place it under the GPL3 regime, FSF believes instead that what BigM is doing falls within the definitions “propagated” and “convey” the two methods of dissemination of the software envisaged and regulated by the GPL3.

The dispute rests on a quibble as subtle as it is of crucial importance: the new FSF license provides that when a software covered by the GPL3 is distributed and, at the same time, a patent license is granted to some of the parties who receive the software, such license is automatically extended to all recipients of the software and any derivative works. By the term “granting a patent license” the GPL3 means an explicit permission for the use of the patent or an agreement to renounce the persecution for infringement of the patent. For Microsoft this would mean forfeiting any right of recourse on its alleged patents contained in GPL3 software that is or will be distributed alongside SUSE Linux, such as Samba.

It follows that the legal protection agreements entered into by Microsoft to date with Novell and other companies in the sector they would prove worthless . “We will make sure (…) that Microsoft respects our copyrights and our license,” the FSF’s note ominously concludes.

If Microsoft were to remain perched on its own positions, it is therefore not excluded that the FSF may decide to take the matter to court .

“Unless Microsoft changes its position, legal action seems the only possible ending to this latest chapter in the war between Microsoft and open source,” writes The Register. “As far as we know, there is no legal precedent that can be used (..) to compel Microsoft to comply with the GPL.”