Free Software Foundation to Microsoft: You are not above the law

Microsoft wants to pick and choose which open-source licenses it will respect. Nope, says the Free Software Foundation.

Microsoft may wish that it were above the law, but the Free Software Foundation has issued a press release calling Microsoft to repentance for its efforts to deny GPLv3's hold on it.

We do not...agree with Microsoft's characterization of the situation involving GPLv3. Microsoft cannot by any act of anticipatory repudiation divest itself of its obligation to respect others' copyrights. If Microsoft distributes our works licensed under GPLv3, or pays others to distribute them on its behalf, it is bound to do so under the terms of that license. It may not do so under any other terms; it cannot declare itself exempt from the requirements of GPLv3.

Microsoft has said that it expects respect for its so-called "intellectual property"--a propaganda term designed to confuse patent law with copyright and other unrelated laws, and to muddy the different issues they raise. We will ensure--and, to the extent of our resources, assist other GPLv3 licensors in ensuring--that Microsoft respects our copyrights and complies with our licenses.

Them's fighting words, and rightly so. Microsoft is in no position to determine which open-source licenses it respects. If it distributes software under the GPLv3, it is bound to abide by its terms. Period. End of story.

I suspect that if Microsoft pushes this issue, it will find a long list of people happy to fund the FSF's lawsuits against Microsoft. Microsoft is basically throwing down the gauntlet on open source, and not merely one license. It will find it has many enemies in such an endeavor.

Via Groklaw.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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