Firefox and Moonlight (Mono) "Free Software" Status?

Keith G. Robertson-Turner fedora at
Mon Jun 2 02:28:51 UTC 2008

Any comments on the following, and how it might pertain to future releases?:

I noticed a comment thread on Groklaw about Moonlight, with a link to
the license terms on Microsoft's website. They call it Covenant to
Downstream Recipients of Moonlight - Microsoft & Novell Interoperability
Collaboration . A comment by Microsoft's Brian Goldfarb on Dana
Blankenhorn's article about Novell being a lead pony for Silverlight
started the discussion originally. Goldfarb represented that anyone can
use Moonlight: "Moonlight is usable for anyone on any distribution of
Linux (redhat, ubuntu, etc.) -- it is not limited just to Novell as Mono
is." And he linked to the covenant, saying it "applies to all downstream
recepients of the software." Is that true?


"Microsoft, on behalf of itself and its Subsidiaries, hereby covenants
not to sue Downstream Recipients of Novell and its Subsidiaries for
infringement under Necessary Claims of Microsoft on account of such
Downstream Recipients’ use of Moonlight Implementations to the extent
originally provided by Novell during the Term and, if applicable, the
Extension or Post-Extension Period, but only to the extent such
Moonlight Implementations are used to provide Plug-In Functionality. The
foregoing covenants shall survive termination of the Agreement, but only
as to specific copies of such Moonlight Implementations distributed
during the Term, and if applicable, the Extension or Post-Extension Period."


Q: But the definitions section seems to be saying that Moonlight is safe
from threat only if you get it from Novell AND DO NOT PASS IT ON, as
there are no protections for downstream recipients.

A: Correct, unless those downstream recipients get it from an
'Intermediate Recipient' defined to only include authorized resellers.

I was particularly interested in the phrase "it is not limited just to
Novell as Mono is."

I know you don't ship Moonlight, and I sincerely hope you never do, but
you /do/ ship Mono, and I have been vigorously campaigning (in various
places) for distros not to, without much success. I think this latest
revelation is finally vindication of my concerns, and you should drop
Mono like a hot brick.

On the subject of Microsoft's "covenants", there's also this:

So much quarreling about open standards. Jason Matusow advocates for a
document format with RAND licensing conditions for the patents. What
does he mean when he talks about RAND? RAND stands for "reasonable and
non-discriminatory". But Jason Matusow's company Microsoft lacks honesty
when it talks about "reasonable and non-discriminatory" conditions.


Reasonable and non-discriminatory in patent licensing means "we apply a
uniform fee".


RAND patent licensing conditions are a tool to ban Free Software, which
is entirely incompatible with RAND licensing conditions. Now one side of
the debate blames it on the patent licensing conditions, the other side
on the software licensing conditions.

"The reason I agree with the statement about patents and Free Software
not mixing is that there have been terms written into GPL licenses that
explicitly conflict with software patents. Okay, that is the choice of
the authors and users of those licenses."

It seems clear to me that the cloak of ECMA's RAND, that Microsoft hides
their .NET and OOXML patents behind, has been exposed as a sham. IOW the
Emperor has no clothes.

Why are you still shipping Mono?

Then there's this new debacle over Firefox:

I decided to upgrade my copy of Firefox 3 Beta5 to the recent Release
Candidate today and was greeted with something quite unexpected.

Instead of my browser window opening as it was supposed to do I was
given a End-User Software License Agreement (EULA) screen which would
not let me use Firefox until I agreed with the terms and conditions.

While Mozilla has had a EULA since Firefox 1.5 or so they have never
brazenly shoved it into the end-user's face until now. It immediately
set me on edge because this behavior is indicative of proprietary
software and not something you would expect to see when using something
that is open source.

Why are you still shipping Firefox instead of GNU IceCat, which is after
all exactly the same software - but without the additional restrictions
that make Firefox® non-Free?

Keith G. Robertson-Turner

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