The development team behind the open source Samba technology has called on Novell Inc to reconsider its interoperability and patent peace deal with Microsoft Corp, calling the partnership ‘divisive.’
The Samba development team, which includes lead developer and Novell employee, Jeremy Allison, appears to have taken offence at the way Novell’s deal excluded a significant proportion of the open source business fraternity.
The patent agreement struck between Novell and Microsoft is a divisive agreement, the team stated in an open letter. It deals with users and creators of free software differently depending on their ‘commercial’ versus ‘non-commercial’ status, and deals with them differently depending on whether they obtained their free software directly from Novell or someone else.
The deal included a patent pledge from Microsoft’s not to take intellectual property infringement action against Novell’s Linux customers and openSUSE project contributors, as well as unsalaried open source developers.
As such the pledge excluded the vast majority of Linux users and open source developers. For Novell to make this deal shows a profound disregard for the relationship that they have with the free software community, added the Samba team.
We are, in essence, their suppliers, and Novell should know that they have no right to make self serving deals on behalf of others which run contrary to the goals and ideals of the free software community.
Samba is an open source file and print technology for Unix and Linux that integrates with Windows and as such is integral to Windows/Linux interoperability. It ships as part of Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise operating system.
The Samba team also accused Novell of running roughshod over opposition to software patents among the free software community by legitimizing software patents and called on the company to work with the Software Freedom Law Center to undo the patent agreement and acknowledge its obligations as a beneficiary of the free software community.
The SFLC is the legal practice set up by Free Software Foundation general counsel, Eben Moglen, and is already working with Novell to check whether the offer from Microsoft to single out Novell’s customers for patent protection is valid under the terms of the GNU General Public License.
The SFLC’s chief technology officer, Bradley Kuhn, last week savaged Microsoft’s offer not to target unsalaried open source developers, stating that it was worse than useless and an empty promise that can create a false sense of security.
Criticism of Novell’s deal with Microsoft has also come from open source writer, developer and strategist, Bruce Perens. This entire agreement hinges around software patenting – monopolies on ideas that are burying the industry in litigation – rather than innovation, he stated recently.
If we’ve learned one thing from the rapid rise of open source, it’s that intellectual property protection – the thing that open source dispenses with actually impedes innovation. And the Novell-Microsoft agreement stands as an additional impediment, he added.