The real reason why the Novell/Microsoft deal is worse than useless….
So more information emerges… According to this FAQ, the trick which Novell/Microsoft used to sidestep the section 7 of the GPLv2 was that covenant not to sue was not given to Novell, but rather directly to Novell’s customers. Very clever…. of course, that means that if you are a Novell customer, and you rely on this pledge (which hasn’t triggered yet since Microsoft hasn’t sued anyone over any patents which MS might (or might not) have covering Linux), then you won’t be able to share Linux with any of your friends; once it happened, you would be violating the GPL if you did so.
But the real reason why this deal is worse than useless is it was always going to be highly unlikely for Microsoft to sue any of Novell’s customers in any case, so it didn’t cost them a single past, present, or future penny to make this promise. Companies rarely sue end-customers, because (a) that’s not where the money is, and (b) except for patent-trolls, who have no customers, most of the end-customers of the alleged infringer of the patent are probably also customers of the patent owner — and it’s generally a really bad idea to piss off your own customers by sueing them. Even the patent-troll NTP didn’t sue any of the millions and millions of Blackberry users. Instead, it used Research in Motion, the company that produced the Blackberry.
So, if Novell didn’t receive a covenant not to sue from Microsoft but only a promise to deliver a covenant not to sue its customers, then what it’s paying for is a load of hot air; Microsoft won’t sue Novell’s customers, it will sue Novell instead! And if Novell did receive such a covenant not to sue, then the moment Microsoft attempts to assert any hypothetical patents it might (or might not) have that allegedly covers Linux, then Novell loses its right to distribute Linux, and with it, its business model. So if what Novell wrote in its FAQ here is true, what it purchased was a pure 100% unadulterated load of bullsh*t.
Like all postings in this blog, the opinions stated here are my personal ones, and in no way other than coincidence reflects the opinions of my employer. I’m not important enough to make opinions for my employer. 🙂