Restriction on distribution by Novell?

Philippe Verdy verdy_p at
Tue Sep 26 21:30:14 UTC 2006

From: "Justin Clift" <justin at>
> 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 is clearly against all GPL requirements. Updates to GPL'ed programs are covered by the GPL as derivative works, and as such must honor the GPL; this means that no restriction should be present to limit the use, distribution or sublicencing of the derived work. I can only accept that accesses to the Novel update servers requires a valid registration for effective subscribers to the service.

As the registration (and the associated authentication keys) only apply to the access itself, and not to the covered work which may be distrituted through it, only these access keys are subject to contractual restrictions (i.e. the licence for this access is restricted to only direct subscribers, who don't have the right to redistribute the access keys, or use them on more than a designated number of systems on which the update service is installed).

The GPL does not cover such support service, which is outside of its scope given that the GPL comes with no implied warranty and without support, and it's normal for a company to restrict the access only to those that have subscribed to this service. But this means that users must find themselves other ways to redistribute the updates on other systems or other parties, without sharing their private access to the update service.

So as long as users are not sharing their access to other systems than the registered one, they can freely redistribute and sublicence the GPL'ed derivative works, but they must be able, themselves, to provide the sources for these updates (and it's not to Novell to provide this access for sublicencees), with a written 3-years offer.

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