Microsoft establishes more anti-GPLv3 precautions

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 ("

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


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Blog title misleading

    Why, oh why, Mary Jo, do you insist on calling your blog an "unbiased eye" on Microsoft when all it is is a "jaundiced eye" on Microsoft.

    Microsoft takes steps to clarify their agreements with Linux vendors after GPLv3 is released suddenly becomes Microsoft scrambling/running/the sky is falling?

    I know blogs are opinion pieces at best but labelling yours as you do is putting lipstick on a pig (pun intended.)
    Confused by religion
    • It is unblinking eye

      and the story is about Microsoft, clarifying it's Linux deals. I enjoy watching the symantics game that MS is playing, and have learned some (not all talkbacks are useful) on the whole deal. I think MS wanted to bring enough pressure to bear through these deals to stop GPL3, they failed, and now would actually like to not have these deals in the first place.

    • Not misleading at all

      You are mistaken. I think overall her blog is quite unbiased.
    • Blog title accurate

      You can be critical of a company and not be biased. However, to a fanboy/fangirl, anyone who is critical must be biased no matter what.

      When you select certain facts that have occurred, and report on them as they are-that's just reporting. When you select certain facts, and then try to embed your opinion into it time and time again, that's bias.

      Mary Jo Foley tends to provide insightful articles, time and time again.
    • Message has been deleted.

    • Message has been deleted.

      • Message has been deleted.

        • Message has been deleted.

    • "lipstick on a pig"

      That would be Vista.

      I doubt if MJ is using Vista.

      Ole Man
    • Richard Stallman must have done a good seeing all the deleted messages.

      If it was not such a good license, so well written, to cause problems for Microsoft, we would not see all of this. People would just ignore it.
  • Putting the horse back in the barn ...

    At the perception level, which is what counts at the enterprise level, MS is pretty much reversing their IP protection deals by these moves. The typical IP sensitive, risk averse IT professional is going to simply pass on Novell Linux, etc. just like they would have done before these deals where initially announced. Who, knowing that one little piece of stray GPL3 code could blow their legal security, would want to take the risk? Thus, in a practical sense, things are going to 'role back' pretty much to the state they were at prior to the announcement of the Novell deal. The only real change will be the amount of ill will all of the players involved will have generated in the free software community and among those of their larger customers that don't happen to be Microsoft fans, and the fact that certain interoperability advantages will remain sans the global IP guarantee. And all of this is pretty much exactly what the FSF had hoped to accomplish with the GPL3. In the end it will be the customers who will decide who has gotten the better of whom in this little spat, but it certainly appears that, love 'em or hate 'em, the FSF hasn't done too badly.
    George Mitchell
    • Nicely spotted

      [i]"Who, knowing that one little piece of stray GPL3 code could blow their legal security, would want to take the risk?"[/i]

      This is the true point that deserves consideration. Also how will those who have taken out Linux licences via MS be affected? Can MS wriggle out of this one? GPL3 has been on the horizon for a couple of years now. Everyone - Microsoft included - knew what its provisions were when MS sold the Novell licences and even had a fair idea of when it would take effect. In spite of this, large corps (with plenty of lawyers) bought the licences.

      ISTM that the GPL3 will only have an effect if the source of the app/OS is modified and recompiled. The mere purchase and use of a GPL3 application would not force any company to put all its IP into hock. As a result, I think that the net effect of GPL3 [b]to end users[/b] will be nil.

      MS, OTOH, is a software developer and for them the risks are higher.
  • GPLv3 will kill M$

    M$ being unable to steal software or extort money from other vendors looks like the end of the road for them.
    The GPLv3 is the foundation of a new era for the software industry and the end of the M$ tirany.
    Linux Geek
    • Does M$ pay you to post here?

      And don't waste your time calling me an MS-shill. Most posters here know that ALL my kit is Linux.
      • dang MS Shill;)

        Had to B, couldn't resist.

        I'm thinking it's probably easier to just ignore his banter, as we do others like him from the other side.
      • is M$ paying you with dope...?

        Why the heck would M$ pay me when I stay the corse exposing their dirty deeds and plots?
        Linux Geek
        • Because you are backfire meat.

          You make linux look bad when you type up all that crap in your Waco compound. So you are a shrilling linux advocate, or a paid stooge from pro MS sources mocking linux with no where near the talent of Mike Cox or the Colbert Report. Either way, your handlers are not getting their money's worth. Not humorous either. Go away.
        • You should have stayed

          in school and learned to f***ing spell! At least use the god***n spell check! ]:)
          Linux User 147560
    • So this is the latest "last nail" in the M$ coffin then? <NT>

      • Must be going on his 7th Stanley claw hammer by now.