GPLv3 Sabers Rattle

Bar fights are as nasty as they are predictable.  I won’t discuss the
carnage aspect, leaving it to say that in my youth I saw a few and escaped the
raging insanity with my skin in tact and a whiskey in hand.

Bar fights are as predictable as a politicians broken promise. They typically
start with a slowly heating argument, originating from something as inane as
baseball statistics or an inebriated glance at the wrong woman.  Words get
louder and more personal, with the parties escalating bravado to save face and
intimidate rivals.  When one party reaches a certain level of anger, they
drop their voice a couple of octaves, and utter a poorly masked threat. 
Inevitably the challenged party will do something stupid, like stick their chin
out another inch, and the fight begins.

Such is the dance between Open Source, Microsoft, and SAMBA.  Microsoft
has made the threat, and SAMBA is the Open Source chin target practice for
Microsoft’s right-hook legal team.

The Open Source community released the third version of the GNU General
Public License ( GPLv3 ).  Development of GPLv3 was delayed as the community
responded to the Microsoft/Novell deal, fearing how Microsoft might co-opt Open
Source and seeing an opportunity to kick Steve Ballmer in the economic crotch. 

When Microsoft and Novell consummated their relationship, many feared that
Microsoft would use the arrangement to stifle Open Source.  The theory was
that Microsoft would use their alleged patent claims against one or more Open
Source packages to ensure that Open Source distributors entered into licensing
agreements and thus would pay a "Microsoft tax" for Open Source software.

"To prevent this, the GPL assures that patents cannot be used to render the
program non-free," according to the GNU web site. GPLv3 tosses a wrench into Microsoft supposed plans by removing the right to distribute a GPLv3-based package if it is tied to a patent, or forces the
distributor to turn the patent into an open license ( i.e., give up the right to
profit from the patent ).  So, if Microsoft passes along a Novell Linux
distribution that contains a GPLv3-based package, and Microsoft claims they have
patents that covers some or all of that technology, they surrender their patent
rights over that piece of software.

In other words, the Open Source community just told Microsoft to stick it.

Microsoft just spoke in a deep baritone and clinched their legal fist. In response to GPLv3 Microsoft growled "At this point in time, in order to
avoid any doubt or legal debate on this issue, 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
," ( emphasis mine ) It is a narrow threat, saying that their paper
certificates are immune from GPLv3.  But the subtlety is they intend to
apply this edict to Novell and any other party.  This is a corporate
version of the poorly masked threat in a bar fight.  Microsoft is preparing
to throw the first punch in the great 21st Century GPL Barroom Brawl.

And SAMBA developers are saying "Go ahead.  Take a poke."

For those who slept through the last 10 years, SAMBA provides a variety of
file and print services, allowing PC users to share storage and printers across
a network.  This includes some reversed engineered ( or "revenged" ) mimicry
of Microsoft file and print services.  Businesses can toss a Linux server
into a remote office and for a fraction of the cost of using a Microsoft
operating system let Windows-based PCs share disc space and attached printers. 
I have even interviewed some firms that put Linux/SAMBA in mainframe partitions
to server their entire enterprises from a single box.  SAMBA and Linux
pretty much stalled aggressive growth of Windows in the file and print server
market.

And that has annoyed Microsoft greatly.  So when the SAMBA crew decided to adopt GPLv3, they threaten the patent claims
Microsoft might have in their file and print technologies.  GPLv3 would in
effect force Microsoft ( and possibly Novell ) to either not distribute SAMBA as
part of a Linux distribution ( which is unthinkable as it is considered an
intrinsic package and in high demand ) or release their patent claims that cover
SAMBA.

Barstools are toppled, the drunks are on their feet, and one has called the
other’s bluff.  Now we’ll see if Microsoft breaks it’s legal beer bottle
over SAMBA’s head, or walks out of the bar to get a breath of fresh air. 
Me, I’m expecting a bar fight and will take wagers on the winner.


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