Monday, August 06, 2007

Microsoft Meets the GPLv3

Now that Microsoft has declared itself untouched by any GPLv3 terms, everyone is trying to figure out if they have a leg to stand on. There is a whole lot of analysis going on, with some wondering if Microsoft is a distributor of software under GPLv3 by means of the voucher distribution and others wondering just what those vouchers included.

First, "distribution" isn't the issue with GPLv3. That is a GPLv2 question, as I'll show you. GPLv3 talks about "propagating" and "conveying", not just distribution. Propagation includes anything, including distribution but not limited to it, that would make you directly *or secondarily* liable for infringement if you lack permission. Convey means "any kind of propagation" that enables another party to make or receive copies of a work. Like selling them the vouchers, perchance? It's a much broader category of activities than just distribution, and I'll explain the terms that I think would have made Microsoft fit neatly into the "convey" category, had they not backed out. I think you'll be able to see how much more protection GPLv3 provides to your code than GPLv2.

And somehow I missed this earlier, but I now discover that if you read the marketing agreement between Novell and Microsoft more carefully than I did before, it turns out we can know what one got with the vouchers, and what they offered included software, upgrades, and support. No wonder Microsoft decided to pull the plug before any GPLv3 software began to be made available. I just don't know if that is enough to save them, since the vouchers they already sold have no expiration date.

by Groklaw

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