by CIO Staff

Microsoft to Face Linux Licensing Challenge

Nov 21, 20063 mins
Open Source

A number of Linux advocates are getting ready to challenge a recent pact between software behemoth Microsoft and Linux provider Novell, which for the first time raises the possibility of having to pay Microsoft for the use of the open-source Linux operating system (OS), Reuters reports.

The GNU General Public License—under which Linux is licensed—requires that the OS be free, according to Reuters.

As part of the deal between the two firms, Novell paid Microsoft for assurance that its clients using Linux would not be sued for employing technology within the OS that Microsoft claims is its patented property, Reuters reports. Microsoft in return paid Novell for a guarantee that it wouldn’t sue its clients for violations of patents, according to Reuters.

The pact in effect gives Novell clients protection from possible litigation in the future, and it leaves the clients of additional Linux service providers, like Red Hat, with the option of switching over to Novell or facing the possibility of a Microsoft lawsuit.

Linux is free; however, firms like Red Hat offer packaging, documentation and support services for a fee, so any clients it loses to Novell will result in a decrease in associated cash taken in, Reuters reports.

Columbia Law School professor and founding director of New York’s Software Freedom Law Center, Eban Moglen, says the deal between Microsoft and Novell exploits a loophole in the GNU General Public License, according to Reuters.

Moglen and a number of other Linux supporters are already working on updating the license to stipulate that if Microsoft makes a promise to one Linux provider not to sue for patent infringement, then all additional providers would be covered, Reuters reports.

Microsoft claims to have patent rights to some technology employed within Linux, but it has never specified the technologies or its associated rights to them, according to Reuters.

In a recent interview, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said individuals or enterprises running any form of the Linux OS other than SUSE Linux—offered by Novell—could be in violation of Microsoft patents, Reuters reports.

Related Links:

  • Microsoft Will Offer Linux Sales Perk Only to Novell

  • Microsoft, Novell Team in Linux Deal

  • Novell Deal to Cost Microsoft Hundreds of Millions

  • Microsoft: Door Open to Open-Source Pacts

  • Linux Advocates Wary of Novell-Microsoft Tie

This article is posted on our Microsoft Informer page. For more news on the Redmond, Wash.-based powerhouse, keep checking in.

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