FSF: GPLv3 Applies to Microsoft, Too

Aug 29, 2007

Anti-competitive behavior, and continued attacks on free software – these were the allegations that the Free Software Foundation levied at Microsoft, eight weeks after Microsoft's roundhouse swipe at GPL v3.

Shortly after the Free Software Foundation (FSF) released version 3 of the GNU General Public License (GPL), Microsoft dissociated itself from it in early July in a public statement. This can be seen as Microsoft's attempt to absolve itself from any responsibilities with respect to GPL v3. After almost two months of silence, the FSF has now picked up the gauntlet: "Microsoft cannot declare itself exempt from the requirements of GPL v3", says the non-profit organization in a press release from August 28.

The kingpin is again the agreement between Microsoft and Novell dating back to November 2006. The FSS specifically criticizes the "discriminatory agreement", which states that no action for patent infringements will be taken against customers using Novell's Suse Linux distribution. Microsoft seems to have hoped that customers who were unsure of the legal implications would prefer to pay a fee to the distributor to avoid legal action. The FSF sees this as evidence that Microsoft is actually aiming to redefine free software as proprietary software. The NGO sees a pattern in the corporation's actions: "Though the details and timing were a surprise, it was no isolated incident; Microsoft has engaged in anticompetitive conduct in the software industry for many years, and has sought to attack free software for almost as long."

To counteract this, the Free Software Foundation has reworked Version 3 of the GNU General Public License once more. An additional clause will bind Microsoft to the provisions of GPL v3 whenever a customer receives software published under GPL v3 via a Microsoft agent. The NGO emphasizes that it will be making sure that Microsoft and its licensees respect the copyright and licensing conditions of GPL v3.

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