Recently a reporter from Reuters stated that Novell could be banned from selling Linux. The reporter, Jim Finkle, writes a headline that says <i>Novell could be banned from selling Linux</i>. Finkle says that:<blockquote>The Free Software Foundation is reviewing Novell Inc.'s right to sell new versions of Linux operating system software after the open-source community criticized Novell for teaming up with Microsoft Corp.</blockquote>.However, after reviewing the <a xhref="http://www.fsf.org" target=blank>FSF website</a> I find no mention of this review anywhere.
I realize that the MS/Novell issue is getting near "dead horse" territory, but you have to understand the gravity of this situation as seen through the eyes of the open source community. We all know that I feel this deal was nothing more than an attempt on the part of MS to undermine the Linux community by slipping patented technologies into the deeper levels of the system (read: the kernel). Sure the FSF is concerned about this issue. But are they actually reviewing the deal and threatening to halt their freedom to sell Linux?
My guess is yes. This deal brings out the conspiracy theorist in me. And I also have to say that I fully support the FSF in ANY attempt to block Novell. Why? Because this deal did nothing but give Microsoft a back door into the Linux operating system that could possibly wind up with MS, somehow, owning Linux. Sure the GPL exists and currently protects any software licensed under the GPL but remember one thing...we're talking about Microsoft here. We're talking about the company that can push just about anything they choose down the throats of consumers, lawyers, and even federal judges. They have capital enough to do just about anything. Think about it: Linux accounts for approximately 5 percent of their $967 million dollar yearly revenue. That equals approximately 4.8 million dollars. The MS deal offered them a total of $696 million dollars. Microsoft has THAT much cash to burn. Microsoft can afford to drop millions of dollars to ensure that their biggest competitor on the market is controlled by their lawyers. And that is what I will predict will happen. Microsoft gladhands Novell (and the open source community) saying they just want to enable their software to more easily communicate with the Linux operating system.
Hello Novell - this is Microsoft we're talking about. It's not the Ximian group promising Evolution will seamlessly communicate with Outlook servers. This is the big bad boy itself. This is the Anti-Linus, Bealzigates...they don't make deals unless you're willing to sell your soul. And the soul of Linux is the kernel which is currently protected by the GPL. The only way Microsoft can get around the GPL (hence to the kernel) is to bypass the law. How does Microsoft bypass the law?
Buy, buy, buy.
And that's exactly what is happening. And that is exactly why the FSF SHOULD be looking into a way to block Novell. Is it extreme? Sure. Is it wrong? I don't know. But I do know this: if Novell finalizes this deal and MS gains access to the Linux kernel, it will only be a matter of time before proprietary code is inserted into the kernel and Microsoft can claim patent rights to the Linux operating system itself.
You may scoff but remember - this is all coming from the company who has managed to skirt the law time and time again. This is coming from a company that has produced second-rate software and managed to convince the public it is the best of the best (Windows ME - need I say more?).
I realize we've gone on and on about this subject. But I'm not sorry about keeping it in the forefront, ensuring the public remembers that Linux and Microsoft are not good bedfellows. The GPL should somehow protect free software from the Likes of Microsoft and their incredibly notorious patent lawyers. And if it means the GPL prevents Novell from selling Linux - I'm all for it. After all, I'd rather see the loss of one Linux distribution than the proprietizing of the Linux kernel.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.