Restriction on distribution by Novell?

Brian Behlendorf brian at
Tue Sep 26 17:37:00 UTC 2006

Red Hat has similar language in their RHEL licensing terms.  I believe the 
reason this is supposedly compatible with the underlying Open Source terms 
is that it is not restricting your right to redistribute based on 
copyright terms, but as a function of their support agreement.  That is, 
if you were to violate the agreement and redistribute the patches more 
widely, then you might lose the right to call Novell for support - at the 
very least for those unlicensed boxes, but perhaps even for the ones 
you've paid for.  They might even be entitled to statutory relief under 
contract law, if the contract laid out such terms.  But Novell would not 
be entitled to statutory relief under copyright law.   Thoughts?


On Tue, 26 Sep 2006, Justin Clift wrote:
> Hi Philippe,
> No worries, this is Paragraph 5 in full (the whole document only has 6 
> paragraphs):
>  "Upgrade Protection Benefits. The purchase of Upgrade Protection for a 
> specific installation of SUSE Linux entitles Customer to install and use all 
> Upgrades and Updates (see below) made commercially available by Novell during 
> the period covered by the Upgrade Protection, up to the number of 
> installations for which Customer has purchased Upgrade Protection. Update 
> means a fix or compilation of fixes released by Novell to correct operational 
> defects (program bugs) in the SUSE Linux product. Upgrade means any new 
> version of SUSE Linux which bears the same product name, including version 
> changes evidenced by a number immediately to either the left or right of the 
> decimal (e.g. for SLES 8.0 to 9.0). If a question arises as to whether a 
> product offering is an Upgrade or a new product, Novell's opinion will 
> prevail, provided that Novell treats the product offering the same for its 
> end users generally. If Novell commercially releases any Upgrades and/or 
> Updates, Novell will make such Upgrades and/or Updates available to Customer 
> within a reasonable period of time after they become commercially available. 
> Customer acknowledges that Novell cannot guarantee any specific turnaround 
> times and/or regular release intervals."
> When I asked our Novell Territory Exec he directly said we're only allowed to 
> apply downloaded updates to SLES9 boxes we've already bought licenses for (in 
> line with the above).
> This appears to be curtailing some of the freedoms expressed in at least the 
> GPL, and it appears to be occurring in Real World practice as well.
> All thoughts appreciated.
> Regards and best wishes,
> Justin Clift
> Philippe Verdy wrote:
>> Using the Novell's distribution services for updates (i.e. direct 
>> connections to Novell's servers) may be restricted to a few registered 
>> computers/users, but I don't think that redistribution can be limited. So, 
>> downloaded updates can't be restricted.
>> It would be smarter to include the full paragraph 5 to see what it applies 
>> to, notably because the GPL clearly states that redistribution is ALWAYS 
>> permitted, and accesses to the sources must be given to all users by the 
>> redistributors (so the redistribution right of sources must be granted by 
>> the redistributor, who must then be able to include the sources as well as 
>> the binary updates in its redistribution).
>> I don't think however that Novell must provide the sources (including 
>> sources modified by Novell to create the updates) to those who have not 
>> licenced the software directly from them, but Novell cannot limit their 
>> redistribution by their licensees.
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: <justin at>
>> To: <license-discuss at>
>> Sent: Tuesday, September 26, 2006 8:58 AM
>> Subject: Restriction on distribution by Novell?
>>> Hi all,
>>> Just came across something interesting.  Although Novell's SuSE Linux 
>>> Enterprise Software (SLES) product allows for unlimited use once 
>>> purchased:
>>>   "You may make and use unlimited copies of the Software for Your 
>>> distribution and use within Your Organization."
>>> They have been clever with their terms for receiving updates (Upgrade 
>>> Protection).  They appear to restrict the number of servers to which  the 
>>> updates can be applied:
>>>  (paragraph 5)  "... up to the number of installations for which  Customer 
>>> has purchased Upgrade Protection."
>>> The updates in this case are software updates under various OSI  certified 
>>> licenses (i.e. GPL, etc) which prohibit restriction on  distribution.
>>> Have I missed something here, or is Novell doing the wrong thing?

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