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Freespire, Linspire, and Microsoft patents

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On July 5, Microsoft quietly released a "Covenant to Customers" to clear up how it is handling its patent deal with Linux distributor Linspire. Instead, it did little but puzzle and annoy members of the Linux community.

Roy Schestowitz, a well-known open-source advocate and author, for example, wrote in his article "Can Linspire Still Feed on Ubuntu (or Debian) Linux Codebase?" that "Microsoft has disavowed any GPLv3-licensed software. Ubuntu will be moving toward the new toolchain, which is GPLv3-licensed. Linspire needs Ubuntu, which is the core on which it builds its products. If Linspire carries on adopting Ubuntu as its codebase or even falls back (some would say 'forward') to Debian, any 'patent indemnification' will then be rendered moot."

Indeed, if you read Microsoft's memo, you'll find that Microsoft's patent protection only applies only to "Linspire Five-0 and successor offerings" on a desktop. Server use is specifically forbidden. Microsoft won't cover any software added to Linspire via the CNR (Click and Run) system. Besides ruling out any patent coverage for software covered by the GPLv3, Microsoft also categorically rules out "Freespire and any other software offerings that include the Linux operating system for which Linspire receives no revenue."

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