Restriction on distribution by Novell?

Ben Tilly btilly at
Tue Sep 26 23:43:58 UTC 2006

On 9/26/06, Justin Clift <justin at> wrote:
> Juergen Weigert wrote:
> <snip>
> > The GPL does not grant any support.
> > Novell can restrict support, without violating the GPL. No?
> As a Real World thought, the place I'm working for has a "Master License
> Agreement" with Novell, with "Premium Service" technical support.
> It's a bit different from buying technical support for x number of
> boxes, as a Premium Service support contract covers "all novell products
> throughout your enterprise" (my wording).  No counting of boxes necessary.
> (My understanding is it's supposed to ensure we have 24x7 response if
> any Novell product anywhere in our business has issues).
> The terms we're discussing are for their SLES9 Update Protection
> service.  So their ceasing to supply the service would mean they
> wouldn't provide updates, even though they would (in our case) still
> have a contract in place for providing Technical Support:
>    "Any unauthorized use of Upgrade Protection will be treated as a
> material breach of this Agreement."
> That's from Paragraph 4 of their terms (here in full):

The full license is at

My reading says that Paragraph 4 is superceeded by Paragraph 3 but
*only* for the individual pieces of software which are covered under
more generous licenses.  So if you wished to, you could have one
machine updated by their update protection, and then copy updates to
GPLed software to as many other machines as you wanted.  However you
*can't* just copy _everything_ from the updated machine over, because
eventually you'll wind up copying something that you have no
permission to copy.  And you also *can't* just make as many
installations of Suse as you want without telling them about it
because, again, in making an installation you are making copies of
some proprietary bits.

I don't see any GPL violation in that.

[ section 4 of license snipped - anyone who wants can see the link]

> One interesting aspect here is that it seems to say that if we get
> Upgrade Protection for our servers, we *have* to install the product on
> all our servers even though we don't want to (i.e. live update of
> Production servers? that's insane):

Pretty close.  It says that you must purchase that many copies.  It
doesn't say you must install them all.

However it says that for services where update protection is sold per
server, each copy must be installed on a machine meeting the
specifications of the machine that copy is for.  Unless you're allowed
to install 2 copies of update protection on one machine, this will
result in every server having it installed.

So for some services the effect is what you describe.

>    "For those SUSE Linux products on which Upgrade Protection (or
> Maintenance) is sold via Novell's price lists on a per-server basis,
> each copy must be installed on a machine corresponding to the Upgrade
> Protection sku or part number describing such product ..."
> Pretty sure that's an unintended meaning though, as they're trying to
> differentiate their pricing for the product based on the power of
> people's servers.  i.e. pricing for SLES is different for a 16 processor
> box than for a 2 processor box.  They want to ensure people buy a 16
> processor version (expensive) for a more-than-2-cpu box, rather than a 2
> processor version (even though it would work).

I agree that looks like an unintended side effect.


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