Novell promises protection to Linux users worried by Microsoft’s GPLv3 stand

Novell will continue to ship the complete version of its Linux enterprise server even though Microsoft is attempting to distance itself legally from the new General Public License (GPL) v3 open source license.

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Novell will continue to ship the complete version of its Linux enterprise server even though Microsoft is attempting to distance itself legally from the new General Public License (GPL) v3 open source license.

Novell also assured customers that they would continue to be protected from Microsoft patent claims regarding any open source software, including components licensed under the open source GPLv3 license.

Novell said Friday on its public relations blog that it would "continue to distribute SUSE Linux Enterprise Server with its full set of functionality and features, including those components that are licensed under GPLv3."

Currently, there is no software licensed under the GPLv3 in the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES).

"But we expect that there will be various packages included in SLES in the future that will be licensed under GPLv3," said Bruce Lowery, director of global public relations for Novell. SLES is licensed under a Novell End User License Agreement (EULA), which state that components of the software may be accompanied by other license terms, such as GPLv2.

On July 5, Microsoft issued a statement saying it had no legal obligation under GPLv3 and was not a contracting party to the open source license that was released June 29.

The software giant also said that coupons it has issued for Novell SUSE Linux support will not be honored for any code licensed under GPLv3, which includes language to prevent the type of patent deals Microsoft has signed with Linux vendors Novell, Xandros and Linspire.

Microsoft said in its statement, "While there have been some claims that Microsoft's distribution of certificates for Novell support services, under our interoperability collaboration with Novell, constitutes acceptance of the GPLv3 license, we do not believe that such claims have a valid legal basis under contract, intellectual property, or any other law."

Microsoft and Novell in November 2006 entered into a business and technology partnership that included an agreement not to assert patent and intellectual property rights against each others customers. The agreement runs through 2012.

Microsoft went on to say in its statement, "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. We will closely study the situation and decide whether to expand the scope of the certificates in the future."

The statement also said, "We do not believe that Microsoft needs a license under GPL to carry out any aspect of its collaboration with Novell, including its distribution of support certificates, even if Novell chooses to distribute GPLv3 code in the future."

But to avoid any debate, Microsoft said it was putting restrictions on the Novell support coupons it has issued, which were distributed without an expiration date.

Novell's Lowry said users who obtain their Linux via a certificate from Microsoft will get a regular SUSE Linux Enterprise Server subscription, regardless of the terms of the certificate provided by Microsoft. Users who have already received SUSE Linux Enterprise certificates from Microsoft are not affected, he said.

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