Microsoft cannot escape from GPLv3: FSF

Microsoft cannot escape from GPLv3: FSF

Summary: The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has dismissed claims by Microsoft that it is exempt from provisions of GPLv3 and has vowed to make sure the Redmond giant "respects our copyrights and complies with our licences".

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TOPICS: Open Source, Linux
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The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has dismissed claims by Microsoft that it is exempt from provisions of GPLv3 and has vowed to make sure the Redmond giant "respects our copyrights and complies with our licences".

The FSF announcement comes in response to a statement issued last month by Microsoft, which said the company was "not a party to the GPLv3 licence ... Microsoft has decided that the Novell support certificates that we distribute to customers will not entitle the recipient to receive from Novell, or any other party, any subscription for support and updates relating to any code licensed under GPLv3".

According to the FSF, Microsoft cannot ignore the terms of GPLv3.

"Microsoft cannot by any act of anticipatory repudiation divest itself of its obligation to respect others' copyrights. If Microsoft distributes our works licensed under GPLv3, or pays others to distribute them on its behalf, it is bound to do so under the terms of that licence.

"It may not do so under any other terms; it cannot declare itself exempt from the requirements of GPLv3," the FSF said.

However, last month Australian legal expert Kay Lam-Beattie, principal with intellectual property lawyers Idealaw, told ZDNet Australia that it was unlikely that Microsoft would be bound by GPLv3 because parties have to willingly enter contracts, and contracts can't be retrospective.

"An easy analogy is a car park with a sign that says you are bound to a given contract if you enter into that car park," she said. "Anybody can enter, but you have to accept the terms, and the signal of you accepting those terms is when you enter. You have to do something positive to accept the terms -- you have to act."

In this case, said Lam-Beattie, Microsoft never acted -- never "entered" into the agreement, and the terms and conditions can only apply to new actions by Microsoft, not older ones. "Their actions so far are not enough to say that they are bound," she added.

Regardless of the arguments, the FSF said it is determined to ensure Microsoft complies fully with the GPLv3.

"We will ensure -- and, to the extent of our resources, assist other GPLv3 licensors in ensuring -- that Microsoft respects our copyrights and complies with our licences," the FSF statement said.

Topics: Open Source, Linux

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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