Samba Choosing Sides in Novell/Microsoft Linux Deal

Samba developers aren’t happy with Novell  about its deal with Microsoft on Linux, with good reason.

Samba has long been the subject of dispute between the open source community and Microsoft, with Microsoft implying that Samba in some way infringes its intellectual property.

Samba  is a critical component on most Linux distributions. It enables file and printer sharing between Windows and Linux hosts. Under the terms of the Microsoft/Novell deal , announced on Nov 2 and clarified a week later in an SEC filing, Microsoft and Novell have entered into a “patent covenant” such that Microsoft will not pursue its patent rights against Novell’s SUSE Linux users. One of the key technologies covered by the patent covenant is Samba.

In an open letter sent by the Samba community, Samba developers called the Novell Microsoft patent agreement divisive.

“It deals with users and creators of free software differently, depending on their “commercial” versus “non-commercial” status, and deals with them differently depending on whether they obtained their free software directly from Novell or from someone else,” the letter states.

The Samba developers go on to argue that “GPL’ed”  software developers need to stand together against patents. They argue that Novell, by joining with Microsoft, is abandoning the unified defense in order to satisfy its own agenda about competing in the Linux space.

“For Novell to make this deal shows a profound disregard for the relationship that they have with the Free Software community,” the letter said. “We are, in essence, their suppliers, and Novell should know that they have no right to make self-serving deals on behalf of others which run contrary to the goals and ideals of the Free Software community.”

“Using patents as competitive tools in the free software world is not acceptable.”

Novell is certainly no stranger to Samba either. In fact one of the lead Samba developers, Jeremy Allison, is currently a Novell employee.

Allison along with Samba developer Andrew Tridgell, provided an analysis of the Microsoft/Novell deal a week ago in a letter to the Samba Developers list.

“The Samba Team would welcome Microsoft documenting its proprietary server protocols,” Allison and Tridgell wrote. “Unfortunately this isn’t what the settlement stipulates.”

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