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By | Andrew Orlowski 11th November 2006 00:16

Microsoft's patent promise 'empty'

And deadly

Microsoft's promise not to whack unarmed free software developers is useless - and no protection from Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel. That's the view of former Freedom Software Foundation executive director Bradley Kuhn.

Kuhn says the pledge, formally called the "Patent Pledge for Non-Compensated Developers" and part of Microsoft's deal with Novell, "has little value" for the FOSS community. It only applies to software developed at home, and doesn't extend to downstream recipients of the code - such as software projects that might want to use it. Developers must pledge to remain unpaid, notes Kuhn.

"It's worse than useless, as this empty promise can create a false sense of security. Don't be confused by the illusion of a truce; developers are no safer from Microsoft patents now than they were before," he warns in an open letter.

The Free Software Foundation owns the copyright to key parts of the Novell's Linux distribution, and its attorney Eben Moglen is on sabbatical to run the Software Freedom Law Center for a year.

Kuhn is currently the Software Freedom Law Center CTO. Moglen has yet to pronounce on whether Novell is in breach of Section 7 of the GPL, under which the FSF's code (and a lot of other people's, too) is licensed.

Earlier this week Bruce Perens, the noted Open Source developer and author, told us he thought Novell had contravened Section 7. ®

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