The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is to allow the Microsoft-Novell partnership under the latest draft of the General Public Licence v3 (GPL3) because it will force Microsoft to grant patent protection to all open source software developers.
The FSF published a Last Call draft of the licence on 31 May before the publication of the final document scheduled for June.
"We believe we can do more to protect the community by allowing Novell to use software under GPL3 than by forbidding it to do so," the FSF stated in a Final Discussion Draft Rationale document (PDF) to explain the most recent changes.
Microsoft and Novell unveiled a marketing, distribution and intellectual property partnership in October.
As part of the $308m deal, Microsoft purchased 70,000 Linux 'coupons' that entitle the holder to a copy of Novell's SuSE Linux. Microsoft also provides the coupon holder with a licence for its patent portfolio.
Microsoft has said that it will not sue individual users, but insists that it should be compensated for alleged patent violations by Linux.
The patent provisions of the partnership have caused a storm of protest, and prompted the FSF to change the terms of the forthcoming third version of the GPL.
Microsoft chose to use coupons because it believes that they allow the company to sell Linux software without actually distributing the code.
Code distribution would subject the company to the current second version of the GPL which bans certain provisions of the partnership. The FSF, however, disputes the notion that Microsoft is not shipping the actual code.
Eben Moglen, founder and chairman of the Software Freedom Law Center, and co-author of the GPL, told vnunet.com that, because Microsoft paid for the coupons in advance and uses Novell only as a shipping agent, it in essence distributes SuSE Linux.
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