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November 21, 2006

Microsoft's open-source spat

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 1:59 PM

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's detailed answer to a question raised at a conference in Seattle last week has re-ignited controversy around the company's stance toward open-source software and called into question its pact with Novell.

The complex debate centers on whether users of Linux are violating Microsoft patents, and what Microsoft may or may not do about it. Ballmer suggested that Linux users -- other than those using Novell's offerings -- could be liable for violating Microsoft's intellectual property.

Novell strongly disagrees and offered this statement Monday:

Since our announcement, some parties have spoken about this patent agreement in a damaging way, and with a perspective that we do not share. We strongly challenge those statements here..
We disagree with the recent statements made by Microsoft on the topic of Linux and patents. Importantly, our agreement with Microsoft is in no way an acknowledgment that Linux infringes upon any Microsoft intellectual property. When we entered the patent cooperation agreement with Microsoft, Novell did not agree or admit that Linux or any other Novell offering violates Microsoft patents.

Now, there's a move afoot in the open-source community to change the GNU General Public License that covers Linux. The change, as reported by Reuters, would aim to extend protection granted to one segment of the open-source community (Novell users) to the rest of the community.

For more coverage and opinion on this ongoing story, check out: CNET and Mary Jo Foley.

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