Restriction on distribution by Novell?

Chuck Swiger chuck at
Tue Sep 26 19:26:02 UTC 2006

Juergen Weigert wrote:
> On Sep 26, 06 11:21:02 -0700, Ben Tilly wrote:
>> On 9/26/06, Brian Behlendorf <brian at> wrote:
>>> 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?

What's in the patch?

If the patch contains binary code derived from GPL'ed software which Novell is 
redistributing, then no, Novell may not impose additional restrictions on any 
GPL-licensed software per GPL clause #6, exactly as Ben writes:

>> If that is their rationale, I think this would be a violation of the
>> GPL V2.  As item 6 says, "You may not impose further restrictions on
>> the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein."  Attempting to
>> impose further restrictions based on a contract would clearly violate
>> that.
> The GPL does not grant any support.
> Novell can restrict support, without violating the GPL. No?

Novell can restrict or deny support if someone violates the terms of their 
support contract.

However, if there is GPLed software in the patches which Novell is 
redistributing, then: "Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work 
based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the 
original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these 
terms and conditions."

By redistributing GPL'ed software, Novell has granted the recipients the right 
to likewise redistribute that software to others.  Claiming that the 
recipients have violated the terms of a support contract by exercising a right 
that Novell has granted them is non-sensical.


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