Microsoft establishes more anti-GPLv3 precautions

Summary:Microsoft is running as fast as it can to patch up its patent agreements with Linux vendors to thwart any possible impact from the GPLv3. On the heels of repudiating any Novell Linux products covered by the GPLv3, Microsoft is taking a similar tack with Linspire.

Microsoft is running as fast as it can to patch up its patent agreements with Linux vendors to thwart any possible impact from the GPLv3.

On the heels of repudiating any Novell Linux products covered by the GPLv3, Microsoft is taking a similar tack with Linspire, another of the Linux distribution vendors which inked a patent-protection/interoperability contract with Microsoft.

Microsoft announced the signing of a patent-protection deal with Linspire on June 13. The deal also went beyond patent-protection to include various interoperability provisions. But like all of Microsoft's agreements with Linux distro vendors, the crux of the Linspire deal was/is patent protection.

On July 5, Microsoft posted to its Web site a "Covenant to Customers" document. (Thanks to Information Week for unearthing the link.) That document details terms of what is and isn't protected by the Linspire-Microsoft deal. On the "isn't" side are any client offerings covered by the GPL v3. From Microsoft's Covenant document:

"'Client Offerings' means any software products of Linspire that include the Linux operating system, including Linspire Five-0 and successor offerings. However, Client Offerings do not include (i) any portions of products that comprise or include Foundry Products, Clone Products, GPLv3 Software or Other Excluded Products, (ii) Freespire and any other software offerings that include the Linux operating system for which Linspire receives no Revenue, (iii) any products running on a server, or (iv) any Linspire CNR applications distributed separately from the Linux operating system."

In case you want the footnotes, "GPLv3 software" means:

"those portions of software products of Linspire, if any, that are distributed by Linspire under Version 3 or later of the GNU General Public License (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html)."

And "Other Excluded Products" refer to:

"(a) any applications (e.g. office productivity applications, word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software) to the extent they are hosted by or running on a computer acting as a server for a connected client device, (b) any software embedded in, or otherwise running on, any servers or other devices (printers, cameras, game consoles, set-top boxes, phones, handheld devices, TVs, etc.) other than personal computers, laptops or workstation computers, and (c) new features and functions in the following categories of products: (i) video game consoles (e.g., Xbox video game consoles), console games, video game applications designed to run on a computer, and on-line video gaming services (e.g., Xbox live); (ii) business applications designed, marketed and used to meet the data processing requirements of particular business functions, such as but not limited to accounting, payroll, human resources, project management, personnel performance management, sales management, financial forecasting, financial reporting, customer relationship management, and supply chain management; and (iii) unified communications."

In other words, if Linspire adopts the GPLv3, customers won't get a whole lot of protection from Microsoft at all.

I'm betting there's another Covenant in the works for Xandros. (So far, I can't find one if it exists.)

The Free Software Foundation released the GPLv3 on June 29. Some Linux vendors have given the new license their full backing; others have yet to do so. Prior to the final GPLv3 release, Linspire CEO Kevin Carmony was critical of some of its terms.

If all of the Microsoft patent-protection deals attempt to disclude GPLv3 software, do they really have any merit, as far as "protecting" users?

Topics: Microsoft, Linux, Open Source

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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