Novell Inc’s head of marketing for Linux and open source has apologized to the Free Software Foundation and the open source community after making misleading statements about the company’s financial contribution to the FSF.
Justin Steinman, director of marketing for Linux and open platform solutions at Waltham, Massachusetts-based Novell, made the apology after it was pointed out that his claim that Novell is a significant financial contributor to the Free Software Foundation was incorrect.
Steinman made the claim in an online interview last week but was quickly forced to retract the statement after the FSF’s executive director Peter Brown disputed it via a statement to the Groklaw web site.
Novell last gave funds to the FSF in October 2005, when they donated $5K as part of FSF Corporate Patron program. Since their deal with Microsoft was announced we have not asked them to renew as a patron, nor would we. Novell is not ‘a significant financial contributor to the Free Software Foundation’, Brown stated.
In his apology Steinman stated that he believed his original statement to be true at the time he made it, but nevertheless apologized for misrepresenting the facts.
Further research inside Novell confirms that Peter Brown is correct and I spoke in error. I want to make it clear that I had no intention of making false claims or providing misinformation to the market, he wrote. I want to apologize to the Free Software Foundation and to the open source community for making this misrepresentation. I should have double-checked the accuracy of my information before speaking, and for that, I offer no excuse.
The apology comes at a time when Novell’s standing in the open source community is at best precarious. It has been openly criticized for entering into a patent agreement with Microsoft Corp in November 2006 that Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, has used to suggest that Linux infringes Microsoft’s intellectual property.
The deal prompted the resignation of a number of core open source developers at Novell, including most of the team behind the Samba file and print integration technology, while the Free Software Foundation has announced its intention to bar such agreements from the forthcoming version 3 of the GPL, which could leave Novell isolated in providing updates for GPL v2.
Earlier this week Novell’s CEO, Ron Hovsepian, declined to discuss the potential impact of the GPLv3 ahead of its release other than to state that the company continues to contribute to the development process.