GPL legal controversy running on spin

Summary:When an analyst trying to build a business gets calls from the press, it's normal to "give good quote," to try and go along with the reporter's assumptions in hopes of getting called back. The danger is you wind up stringing along controversies that don't exist, and causing havoc in a market that needs sagacity, not self-promotion.

When a reporter calls with an angle, the temptation of an analyst to go along and get their name in the paper can be irresistible.

That's how I read Red Monk analyst James Governor's comments to VNUNet this week, implying that the General Public License remains under legal threat.

The quote came in answer to a question about Harald Welte's move to enforce the GPL terms against Fortinet, a British company Welte said was using GPL code in its products without releasing its additions to it.

After Welte won an injunction from a German court a reporter gave Governor his angle and he ran with it. "This will make Microsoft very happy as it adds to fears over the GPL being unworkable," he told Iain Thomson.  "If Fortinet has to cease trading that's a good result for the GPL. As for the court case the GPL should be tested in the courts around the world." (The italics are mine.)

That quote, under the headline Fears grow over 'unworkable' GPL, Fortinet case 'good news for Microsoft', claims analyst, has since become a big story.

But does Governor believe it, or was he just playing spin the media?

Governor has not previously been known as an anti-Linux hothead. He has written on his corporate blog "There is more to open source than GNU/Linux" (agreed) and that there is no unified Open Source community. (Again, agreed.) But Governor has not responded to my request for clarification of his VNU quote, he hasn't mentioned it on his blog and his company, RedMonk, has not issued a press release.

In fact just last month, asked by another reporter about open source community demands that Microsoft make its license compatible with the GPL, Governor seemed to take an opposite view "They're already dragging their heels. If you want to talk about 'good faith', the indications for me are that Microsoft has not shown that," he told Matthew Broersma of eWeek.

When an analyst trying to build a business gets calls from the press, it's normal to "give good quote," to try and go along with the reporter's assumptions in hopes of getting called back. The danger is you wind up stringing along controversies that don't exist, and causing havoc in a market that needs sagacity, not self-promotion.

I have been on both sides. I've done hundreds of stories, and I've been called as an analyst by other reporters. So maybe I'm being a little harsh here. What do you think? Let me know in TalkBack.

Topics: Open Source

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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