The Samba Protester

December 23, 2006 7:34am CST
One of Novell’s top programmer’s has resigned, strongly objecting to the company’s patent deal with Microsoft. Jeremy Allison used to be one of Novell’s high-profile open-source programmers. After the company decided to sign a patent pact with Microsoft, Allison signed his resignation, saying that the Linux seller’s relations with the open-source community have been damaged. Not wishing to be associated with “pariahs”, the programmer has decided to move to Google, where he will continue his work on Samba, the open-source project he helped launch. Samba software that lets Linux servers share files on Windows networks. Allison’s resignation letter was published online on Thursday, by Groklaw, a site that monitors open-source legal affairs. Allison himself confirmed the document’s authenticity that same day, saying he had sent it to an internal Novell mailing list. He declined to comment further on his departure from Novell. “I know you don't want to hear this, I know *nobody* wants to hear this but I'll not be able to live with this if I don't say it publicly at least once. Whilst the Microsoft patent agreement is in place there is *nothing* we can do to fix community relations. And I really mean nothing,” he said. “We can pledge patents all we wish, we can talk to the press and "community leaders", we can do all the right things w.r.t. all our other interactions, but we will still be known as GPL violators and that's the end of it. For people who will point out to me we don't "technically" violate the GPLv2 here's an argument I recently made on the mailing lists.” “Do you think that if we'd have found what we legally considered a clever way around the Microsoft EULA so we didn't have to pay for Microsoft licenses and had decided to ship, oh let's say, "Exchange Server" under this "legal hack" that Microsoft would be silent about it - or we should act aggr[i]eved when they change the EULA to stop us doing this?” “The Microsoft patent agreement has put us outside the community, and there is no positive aspect to that fact, and no way to make it so. Until the patent provision is revoked, we are pariahs.” Allison joined Novell in 2005 after working at HP. A Novell spokesman, Bruce Lowry, declined to comment on Allison's views, but said the company still employs two Samba programmers. "We wish him the best," Lowry said. Novell has recently re-hired another open-source figure, Hubert Mantel, a co-founder of Suse Linux. He left the company in November 2005, but returned in December of this year. "I had more than one year of time to think about my future and came to the conclusion that the thing I'm most interested in still is Linux," he said in an interview with the online magazine Data Manager. Mantel also defended the Microsoft deal: "I understand that many people don't like it as Novell is collaborating with the 'evil empire,'" he said in the interview. "But I don't like this way of thinking. We are not working against somebody, but we are working for Linux. Fundamentalism always leads to pain. I think it is a good thing, especially for the users." The new Microsoft-Novell partnership allowed Microsoft to purchase coupons to sell 350,000 copies of Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Server. Microsoft has agreed not to sue Suse users for patent infringement. The two companies also are working to make elements of each other's software work together. Microsoft is paying Novell a net amount of $308m for the five-year deal, much of it for Novell agreeing not to sue Microsoft over patent claims. Allison’s comment is: “My issue with this deal is I believe that even if it does not violate the letter of the license it violates the intent of the GPL license the Samba code is released under, which is to treat all recipients of the code equally.”
No responses