Business your connection to The Boston Globe

Novell may face ban for Microsoft deal

A nonprofit software group said yesterday it might ban Linux software distributor Novell Inc. from using new versions of its computer code to punish the company for signing a patent deal with Microsoft Corp.

The move by the Free Software Foundation would apply to a group of programs known as the GNU operating system, which comprise the bulk of the code at the heart of the popular Linux software system .

Financial analysts say Novell would have a tough time keeping its version of Linux competitive if it lost access to future upgrades of GNU software .

The Free Software Foundation proposed the ban as it released a draft of a licensing agreement that will cover its software, along with thousands of other open-source computer programs which developers choose to adopt on its terms.

It said arrangements like the Microsoft-Novell deal "make a mockery of free software, and we must do everything in our power to stop them."

Members of the free software community have attacked Microsoft and Novell's cross-patent protection agreement, saying the move implies Microsoft has legal rights to Linux.