February 5, 2007

Is Novell losing Linux? No, it's just bad reporting

Author: Joe Barr

Commentary: Blame Jim Finkle at Reuters, I suppose. His story is the one that started this large dung-ball of misinformation rolling around the Internet. You know the one, about Novell losing the right to distribute Linux.

The Reuters story quotes Eben Moglen, general counsel for the Free Software Foundation, as saying, "The community of people wants to do anything they can to interfere with this deal and all deals like it. They have every reason to be deeply concerned that this is the beginning of a significant patent aggression by Microsoft."

Finkle goes on to say, "Novell angered members of the open-source community that develops Linux and other free software programs in November when it entered a wide-ranging business deal with Microsoft."

An observation: conflating the open source and Free Software communities -- as Finkle has done -- shows about as much familiarity with the subject matter as I have with quantum physics. My guess is that open source folks, a group that leaves Stallman and Moglen largely unimpressed, are pretty much OK with the Microsoft/Novell deal. But not so the FSF, which has been considering as yet unpublished changes to the draft of GPLv3 to effectively block such deals in the future.

As an illustration of how far and how quickly misinformation can spread on the Internet, Geek.com published a story this morning entitled "Novell may lose access to new Linux versions."

According to Brian Osborne, the author of the Geek.com piece, "The Free Software Foundation may ban Novell from selling new versions of the Linux operating system due to concerns over the close partnership with Microsoft."

In the face of such towering ignorance, it may be worthwhile to note:

1. The FSF has absolutely no control over Novell's distribution of Linux. None at all. Zero. It doesn't matter a whit how much Stallman hates the Microsoft/Novell deal. It's legal. It's legit. It's in full compliance with the GPL.

2. GPLv3 is still on the drawing board. Jumping to conclusions about the consequences of its impact on Novell is insanely irresponsible. Any changes to the current draft version of GPLv3 will go through the same public debate and discussion as have the previous drafts.

3. The odds of the Linux kernel ever moving to GPLv3 -- so long as its current anti-DRM and other restrictive clauses remain in place -- is about the same as mine being crowned Miss America. And I don't even know Donald Trump.

This story -- the meme about Novell not being allowed to sell Linux -- is too stupid to even be considered FUD. Both Novell and Eben Moglen have declined our invitation to comment on it.

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