Microsoft: We're Not Bound by GPLv3

Microsoft shot back at the open source community Thursday, saying it would not provide support for software licensed under the GPLv3. The third version of the GPL -- a license used for open source software -- was officially launched a week ago by the Free Software Foundation.

"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," the company said in a statement.

The reasons for this are simple: GPLv3 adds provisions into the agreement that make it difficult for Microsoft to assert its patents against Linux developers.

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Additionally, the GPLv3 also makes future deals like its pacts with Novell, Linspire and Xandros illegal, something the Redmond company obviously wants to avoid.

"Microsoft is not a party to the GPLv3 license and none of its actions are to be misinterpreted as accepting status as a contracting party of GPLv3 or assuming any legal obligations under such license," it added.

Certficates for Novell SUSE Enterprise Linux support distributed by Microsoft covered the GPLv2 version of the product. Novell is expected to sign on to the newer GPL version, which some have said would indirectly mean Microsoft would be bound by its provisions.

Additionally, since the certificates apparently have no expiration date, a customer could use the certificate for software issued in the future under whatever version of GPL is current at the time. This could potentially also cause problems for Microsoft.

Essentially, Microsoft is pulling out of the distribution part of its deal, as it says the certificates that it would distribute would not entitle the customer to any GPLv3 protected software, at least initially.

Regardless of what this means for GPLv3 and the future of the Novell deal with Microsoft, Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley said that some parts of the company's strategy here did not "add up."

Foley wonders how lawyers for Microsoft could let the company issue the certificates without any expiration date, as well as not thinking the Free Software Foundation would attempt to prevent Microsoft from making good on its legal threats in the future.

"Is Microsoft legal holding a trump card that no one knows about? Or is Microsoft really as inept in fighting off open source as it currently seems?" she asked.

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