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Torvalds Critiques of GPLv3 and FSF Refuted 548

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the time-for-a-face-to-face dept.
j00bar writes "After Linus Torvalds' impassioned critiques of the second draft of GPLv3 and the community process the FSF has organized, Newsforge's Bruce Byfield discovered in conversations with the members of the GPLv3 committees that the committee members disagree; they believe not only has the FSF been responsive to the committees' feedback but also that the second draft includes some modifications in response to Torvalds' earlier criticisms." NewsForge and Slashdot are both owned by OSTG.
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Torvalds Critiques of GPLv3 and FSF Refuted

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  • by Lord Kano (13027) on Sunday August 06, 2006 @02:38AM (#15854430) Homepage Journal
    The FSF intends to use the GPL as a means to prevent people from doing certain "bad" things with free software. I get that and I support the idea. Linus seems to have chosen the GPL for practical reasons. He didn't want the code that he and so many others poured their hearts and souls into to be stolen and closed like the Cedega situation.

    I suspect that Linus just wants to make his software while the FSF wants to change the world.

    LK
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 06, 2006 @03:27AM (#15854495)
      "He didn't want the code that he and so many others poured their hearts and souls into to be stolen and closed like the Cedega situation."

      The thing is, changes in the GPL (mainly those dealing with DRM) are absolutely necessary if you don't want code to be "stolen and closed." It's not some theoretical, idealistic thing. It's an extremely practical consideration.

      If you write a program and release it under the GPL, and if it's permissible to make derivative versions that will no longer run when modified (due to DRM in hardware), then I can take and build upon your code and never give the improvements back. You may be able to see the source, but you can't use my changes because your future alterations will no longer execute on the hardware you own. I can also sell hardware including your code, and even though the GPL intends that my customers should thus have the right to modify the code -- they can't.

      Allowing commingling of DRM and GPLed code is a huge loophole. It essentially allows someone to make a proprietary branch of your code. From then on, you can still look, but you can't touch.

      As for patents, that's another very similar situation. By claiming patents on my modifications to your GPLed code, I can make my own proprietary branch of your code. You can no longer build upon my changes, because to do so would be a patent infringement... but I can freely take yours.
      • by init100 (915886) on Sunday August 06, 2006 @03:55AM (#15854533)

        You may be able to see the source, but you can't use my changes because your future alterations will no longer execute on the hardware you own.

        The way Linus sees it is from the "developer" viewpoint. The code is still free from this viewpoint, since all modifications are published. You can modify it and run it on a DRM-free machine. The FSF rather thinks of the "end users" viewpoint, where modifying the code and running the modified code on the same machine is paramount.

        For myself, I understand Linus view, but I tend to go along with the FSF view. Being unable to modify free software on a hardware device and run it on the same device violates the spirit of free software. The vendor could build upon the mountain of free code, saving a lot of money in the process (i.e. not reinventing the wheel), but does not grant any of these freedoms to their customers.

        So to sum it up, I'd say they can write their own OS, or license a commercial one, if they don't want to give their customers the same freedoms they have.

        • Being unable to modify free software on a hardware device and run it on the same device violates the spirit of free software. The vendor could build upon the mountain of free code, saving a lot of money in the process (i.e. not reinventing the wheel), but does not grant any of these freedoms to their customers.

          But the vendor must still publish the source of any changes he makes to the code. So the vendor is giving back. If you don't like that a vendor's device is locking you out, don't buy it. Is that so ha
          • by temcat (873475)
            I'm afraid that soon DRM will be implemented everywhere at a low level so you'll have to completely refrain from buying any devices that can run user code, because neither of them will let you run what you choose.
          • by Rutulian (171771) on Sunday August 06, 2006 @10:24AM (#15855110)
            But the vendor must still publish the source of any changes he makes to the code. So the vendor is giving back.

            No, it's not. The device driver code for an obscure chip on, say, a wireless router is completely useless if I can't run the code on said hardware. Think about the Linksys WRT54G. It was just running a linux kernel modified to run on the router with a set of minimal networking utilities. When the source was released, people were able to add all sorts of stuff: better firewalls, servers, ssh utilities, more efficient and capable routing.... They wouldn't have been able to do any of this stuff if Linksys had tossed in a TPM chip and made it so only their signed modified linux would run. The changes they made were also useless without the hardware (yay, so now we know how to run linux on a Linksys router, to bad we can't actually do it).

            So, yes, a consumer could just go buy a different wireless router, but that's not the point. The point is that Linksys would have been using GPL'd software to reduce their development costs without giving a useful share back to the community. Developers who don't mind that sort of thing use the BSD license. Developers who do use the GPL. For the GPL to continue to be relevant, it has to be modified to close loopholes that didn't exist 10 years ago.
        • by Rutulian (171771) on Sunday August 06, 2006 @10:09AM (#15855073)
          The way Linus sees it is from the "developer" viewpoint. The code is still free from this viewpoint, since all modifications are published. You can modify it and run it on a DRM-free machine.

          That's the short-sightedness of Linus' argument (the same short-sightedness that let him get trapped by the Bitkeeper fiasco). There are DRM-free machines now, but that doesn't mean there will be in the future. If the media companies have their way, every desktop computer will have a TPM chip in it, and if you want to view things like HD-content, it has to be enabled and running. So a company can take a project, like say mplayer, make a version that plays their video format, decrypting the stream via the TPM hardware, and then sign the binary and then sell it. Congratulations, a company has just saved themselves a couple of years of development time to make a video player to help sell their video files, and you can't modify it at all. If you modify it, it reverts to just plain old mplayer without the ability to use the code that was added. That defeats the purpose of the GPL. Linus really needs to wake up here. Yes, proprietary software has a right to exist, but pretending a company won't take advantage of free software to reduce their development costs (without giving anything back, if they can) is stupid. The GPL allows commercial use of free software as long as you give a fair share back to the community. It is not some fiendish scheme to force all software to be free as some people would say. The GPL as it is has worked fine for the last decade, but now it needs to change or it will no longer serve its purpose.
    • by dbIII (701233)

      The FSF intends to use the GPL as a means to prevent people from doing certain "bad" things with free software

      There are two things to think of that are important about this - first,it will also stop things that are not "bad" by the FSF definition, second - the FSF didn't write the software and does not own the copyright on it or have any obligation owed to them by the authors - attempted name changes or not.

      It is up to the FSF to convince the authors that any new licences are a good idea - the implication

      • by Znork (31774)
        "It is up to the FSF to convince the authors that any new licences are a good idea"

        Partly. Most programs under the GPL retain the GPL v.2 or later options, meaning redistributors and authors of derivative works can update the license to the newer version at their discretion. This is by design, so that the FSF can update the GPL, should loopholes appear or technology change the situation and allow code to be updated to more recent versions, _even when authors are out of touch or dead or otherwise_.

        The Linux
        • The FSF can update the GPL ... even when authors are out of touch

          Are you saying the FSF can switch the work of an author to a different licence when the authors are opposed to the new licence and this is a good thing? If you don't turn the copyright over to the FSF this is not possible - and I've always believed the author should retain the copyright of the work to stop exactly this sort of sillyness happening.

          what Torvalds thinks is really has little bearing on the issue

          If the views of the author do not

    • by DrJimbo (594231) on Sunday August 06, 2006 @03:33AM (#15854504)
      Lord Kano said:
      I suspect that Linus just wants to make his software while the FSF wants to change the world.
      The FSF wants to change the world so that people like Linus will continue to be free to create and modify their free and open source software.

      Without the DRM provisions in the GPLv3 that Linus is complaining about, we could eventually face a situation where it is literally impossible to develop FOSS for the latest generation of computers. Worse, those computers could be running the GPLv2 software we wrote even though we have lost all of our rights to further modify it and we've lost the right to even choose what software we run on our own computers.

      • First a minor point which keeps getting overlooked. With DRM hardware, you cannot verify GPL compliance. The only way to verify that a set of source code purporting to represent the binary that is running, is really the binary that is running, is to compile from that source and run the new binary. Any hardware that requires signed binaries prevents this unless signature capability is given to anyone who wants it. Thus without GPLv3, there cannot be public verification that any vendor of supposedly-GPL software for "trusted" hardware really is complying with the GPL. So another way to characterize the anti-DRM provision would be to call it verifiability.

        Now, DrJimbo in parent post:

        "Without the DRM provisions in the GPLv3 that Linus is complaining about, we could eventually face a situation where it is literally impossible to develop FOSS for the latest generation of computers. Worse, those computers could be running the GPLv2 software we wrote even though we have lost all of our rights to further modify it and we've lost the right to even choose what software we run on our own computers."

        Right, exactly - And this is what Torvalds consistently refuses to address. He snipes at GPLv3 with invective and complaints about the process (and if he really was the poster in the Groklaw thread, about the definition of source code), etc.. But on the hardware issue he just flippiantly declares that if you don't like the inability to run modified GPL code on the same device, get some other device.

        This obviously ignores the "trusted computing" initiative that is intended to make all PCs slave devices, and is progressing like an onrushing freight train while DRM apologists quibble on the tracks and say "let's wait and see what it really turns out to be" or "how it is used" - then of course it will be too late.

        This makes me wonder of a darker possibility which I do not like to think of ,but it fits the facts: Has Linus sold out? This is suggested by another poster below and in this post at the Newsforge thread: [newsforge.com]

        "You need to understand why Torvalds opposes this. Torvalds sits behind a wall of IBM/HP (and other companies) lawyers. They pay his wages and defend him from the SCOs of the world. In return, he spouts their views... and in this case, these technology companies want this hardware in every PC very very badly. To get the level of control over the user that they want, they must be able to use a "trusted" kernel (the kernel/bios/boot loader are critical components in a trusted system).
        "Basically, Torvalds has turned into a mouthpiece for technology companies. "

        Otherwise why does Linus fail to address the real and appropriate concerns about TC hardware becoming exclusively available?

    • Problem is there that FSF actually wants to prevent BAD business practices (like bullying customers with DRM and patent stuff), but GPLv3 is definetly not a right way to do it.

      I can see both sides too and Linus have lof of it's points right (DRM is *legitive* way of protecting something, now what, we could not have crypt software in GPLv3? Crypt software in combining with hardware - I see lot of real legal use).

      If you don't like DRM - don't buy products with it (Music CD and DVDs). If you don't like softwar
    • He didn't want the code that he and so many others poured their hearts and souls into to be stolen and closed like the Cedega situation.

      And that is exactly why the GPL is being updated.

      Make no mistake - RMS may be driven by ethics, but the GPL is a practical solution to a practical problem.
  • There is a lot of waffle in the article about listening to people but nobody had presented a simple table showing the requirements for GPLv3 in different drafts. This is the sort of thing you do to design commercial software and I would expect that the same approach would make the GPL more transparent.

    If they want to give Torvalds's input a low priority then show that somehow. Otherwise show where his input has gone.

    I don't want to take sides in the Linus v RMS thing here, I am just a bit sick of people h

    • A lot of hand waving. This "article" is really an editorial, not news. Linus himself has said that the section on DRM is not what bothers him, but other parts of the license that are actually engineered to interfere with DRM. The problem is that it will interfere with a lot of legitimate uses.

      I don't see any real refutation of Linus's points in the article. It reads more like a personal attack, or at least an unsubstantiated one.
  • by JanneM (7445) on Sunday August 06, 2006 @02:40AM (#15854433) Homepage
    I'm sure lots of people will correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the Linux kernel - and thus Torvald's views - rather unimportant here?

    The entire kernel, and all contributions from hundreds or thousands of people, are explicitly licensed as GPL version 2. Even if the kernel people were rabidly enthusiastic about GPL v3, they'd have a very, very difficult time changing the license in any case; as a practical matter it'd probably be impossible. So what Torvalds, in the guise of kernel maintainer, thiks of the license is not really relevant since the licence, no matter what it looks like, would never be used by the kernel in any case.

    Torvalds views as an OSS developer are of course relevant - but as one voice among the hundreds of other leading developers in various projects. And as has been pointed out, if he really wanted to be constructive he'd have joined in the debate itself, rather than just sniping at it via the media.

  • Linus (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew.gmail@com> on Sunday August 06, 2006 @02:53AM (#15854451) Homepage Journal
    I am very grateful for the contributions Linus has made to the world. But he can be an ass from time to time.

    And when he said that nothing much changed between the second and third drafts, he was not only being flippant, but ignorant. Many of the changes were in direct response to criticisms he made.

    GPLv3 will happen regardless of whether or not it is accepted for the Linux kernel. I'm not sure they need to make Linus happy. I think the GPL crew needs to make the license best suit their needs.

    Regardless, I don't think Linus will back down and accept it any time in the future. He has been very clear that the kernel is to be licensed under GPLv2 and GPLv2 exclusively.
    • Re:Linus (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 06, 2006 @03:25AM (#15854493)
      I'll go you one further, and I hope Linus gets to read this. His behavior regarding this new draft is starting to cost him significant respect, and he's also hurting both the free software camp, and his own open source group, while providing Rovian press material for some real class A crooks. Linus is a great developer, but he needs to show a little moderation, and a little more respect for Richard Stallman. Call him what you will, but Stallman's vision regarding the GPL to this point has been beyond genius. And if it was not for Stallman's vision and tenacious courage (with Eben Moglen's help) in the face of just about every kind of demeaning criticsm and ploy one could imagine, Linus would still be in Finland, himself eating herring every day and trying to get Windows to stop crashing.

      Stallman's license has stymied a large nest of very nasty people for 20 years, people who would steal Linus blind if it weren't for Stallman and his vision. And given Stallman's record, dedication, and results, if he sees issues with patents and DRM, if I were Linus, I'd listen first, and then ask respectful questions via professional channels.

      Based on the past 20 years, and the benefits that will accrue to all of us due to his work, Richard Stallman is deserving of a Nobel prize nomination. Linus is just a developer and project manager, and he should show Stallman commensurate respect.

      jwwjr
      • MOD PARENT UP (Score:4, Interesting)

        by cryptoluddite (658517) on Sunday August 06, 2006 @04:34AM (#15854586)
        The problem I have with Linux re: GPL 3 is that he's just being ignorant. He has some beef about people having to give out their own personal private keys that has been shot down by any number of people that actually know what they are talking about legally (PJ, Eben, etc). Just casually reading the license and Linus' comments, he just isn't making any sense.

        My best bet is that Linus doesn't actually want to understand the GPL v3. Linux is eminently practical, and the practical thing to do to increase Linux usage, fix bugs, and add new features is to make Linux corporate friendly. A *lot* of contributions come from the likes of IBM, Red Hat, Sun, Novell, and other companies. I bet the prospect of these companies pulling out their support is a major consideration (whether intentional or not).
    • Re:Linus (Score:2, Insightful)

      > Regardless, I don't think Linus will back down and accept it any time in
      > the future. He has been very clear that the kernel is to be licensed under
      > GPLv2 and GPLv2 exclusively.

      However, if the compiler that they use to compile the binary versions of the Kernel is licenced under the GPL v3, then wouldn't the Kernel also need to be licenced under the GPL v3?

      Surely GNU/Linux is an ecosystem, and the Kernel is but one part of that ecosystem that would not be able to function without all the rest of
      • Nope. The license covers the program itself, not things you create with the program.

        Just because an office suite might be under the GPL, that does not mean documents created by it are under the GPL.
    • Re:Linus (Score:3, Insightful)

      by houghi (78078)
      GPLv3 will happen regardless of whether or not it is accepted for the Linux kernel.


      Sure it will happen. You could also write a GPLv4 or any other license. On my SUSE there are some 20+ different licences. The question is not wether or not you can make a new license, but wether or not people will start using it.

      I could make a "houghi license" and I am sure nobody will use it, not even me. Now if nobody is going to use it, why make it?
      • You seem to suggest that if Linus isn't using this, then there is no point to the license. Given the number of committees that worked on this, and their connection to major software projects, their involvement all but guarantees that many major software projects will use the new GPL license.
      • Dude!! I'll use it!
        ---------------
        The above comment is released under the houghi license, whatever that is. =)
  • Torvalds complained that the FSF didn't listen to people's comments.

    What he really meant was, "The FSF listened to everybody's comments, instead of just doing what I told them to do."

    The experience of being a benevolent dictator in one area has given him the idea that he should be a benevolent dictator in other areas.

    • What he really meant was, "The FSF listened to everybody's comments, instead of just doing what I told them to do."

      I think you have it backwards - remember who it is that insists on a name change another persons project to "advertise" the gnu project and bring attention to the FSF.

      It is up to the FSF to convice others that changing to a different licence is a good thing - instead of some overbearing person insisting that people have to change because they said so. If I was Linus my polite response would b

      • remember who it is that insists on a name change another persons project to "advertise" the gnu project

        Are you referring to the term GNU/Linux? In this case, you are wrong. Stallman does not insist on Linus to change the name of Linux, he just insists on using the term GNU/Linux when referring to a working (GNU/)Linux system, which contains a lot more than the Linux kernel. I understand his argument, and in principle I agree, but using the term GNU/Linux in practice is unduly complex.

      • Except noone is asking Linus to change the kernel license- it would be pretty much impossible, since copyright belongs to the individual contributors. You'd have to convince thousands of individual devs, some of whom are dead, to agree to it. The FSF has never asked Linus to change license, this is Linux blasting it on his own. Which wouldn't be a bad thing if they were throught out criticisms, but his criticisms have no basis in reality. Many of them are just flat out wrong- the license doesn't requi
  • by vdboor (827057) on Sunday August 06, 2006 @03:08AM (#15854475) Homepage

    I've read TFA, but noticed most arguments against Linus' option are made by members of the Open Source / Free Software communities. It would be more interesting to hear the feedback from commercial party's who're involved with Linux as well (e.g. Novell, HP, Oracle, Trolltech). This doesn't exactly put any weight under the arguments of the article.

    I believe Linus is more open towards commercial development then most FLOSS community members are. This makes it understandable why he is so against enforcing freedom through everyones throats. Linus has always been the more practical type.

    • by DrJimbo (594231) on Sunday August 06, 2006 @03:52AM (#15854528)
      vdboor said:
      I believe Linus is more open towards commercial development then most FLOSS community members are. This makes it understandable why he is so against enforcing freedom through everyones throats. Linus has always been the more practical type.
      I've heard over and over again that Linus is taking the practical and/or pragmatic side of this debate. Poppycock! He is not being practical, he is being very short sighted in a way that could come back and bite all of us in the hat someday.

      The DRM provisions in the GPLv3 that Linus is complaining about are there to help ensure that FOSS developers like Linus will not be locked out from developing software on future generations of computers.

      Furthermore, if we are locked out from developing FOSS on those computers, we can take some comfort in the fact that it will be illegal to run GPLv3 code on them.

      • This is the second time you've proposed that without the GPLv3, OSS developers will be locked out from developing a whole generations of computers. Could you please explain this scenario for me? Is there going to be a conspiracy of hardware makers that are going to lock out OSS development?
        • by jimicus (737525)
          Doesn't need to be.

          All Trusted Computing provides is a means to verify remotely what software is running on a given system. Cisco have already developed routers which can be set up to only route traffic from something running "approved" software.

          http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/ch ronicle/archive/2003/11/19/BUGP6351V31.DTL [sfgate.com]

          If they only way for your software to be "approved" is that it's the version your vendor shipped & signed, then it matters not whether or not you can mod
        • This is the second time you've proposed that without the GPLv3, OSS developers will be locked out from developing a whole generations of computers. Could you please explain this scenario for me? Is there going to be a conspiracy of hardware makers that are going to lock out OSS development?

          I imagine it means we could find ourselves in a situation where the Playstation 4 or XBOX 3 actually runs Linux. But while the code is "open," licensed under the GPLv2, all the cryptographic nonsense and DRM closes it ba

      • by g2devi (898503)
        > He is not being practical, he is being very short sighted in a way that could come back and bite all of us in the hat someday.

        While I agree that it is short sighted, I think it's short sighted for different reasons.

        I don't think that GPL3 proponents in the Linux development community have any problem with the Linux kernel being licensed under GPL 2. The problem is that it's GPL 2 only, so it can never be changed in the future by future maintainers of Linux without a complete rewrite. If there's a serio
  • The answer... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dosius (230542) <bridget@buric.co> on Sunday August 06, 2006 @03:21AM (#15854491) Journal
    The answer if you can't handle Linux being bound to GPL2 when the rest of the world goes GPL3, is to drop Linux for a GPL3-compatible system. Don't get me wrong, I like Linux, but maybe this will cause a lot of movement from Linux, not to Hurd - Hurd is still shit - but to FreeBSD, which is the next best thing to Linux and the license ought to be compatible with any version of the GPL.

    And besides. In this "GPL vs Proprietary! White vs Black!" debate that's been going on past 15-aught years, I've sided with NetBSD.

    -uso.
  • by Korgan (101803) on Sunday August 06, 2006 @03:28AM (#15854498) Homepage
    Maybe I'm being ignorant here, but if anyone actually reads the version of the GPL that is used by and distributed with the Linux kernel, it does not allow you to use a later version. The Linux kernel is, and always will be, GPLv2. That was a conscious decision by Linus and the other developers.

    Because of that, who really cares what Linus has to say about the GPLv3? He's made it pretty clear he doesn't like it, but the only work that he's producing that anyone cares about is Linux. And the Linux kernel will never be anything other than GPLv2. Even if they /WANTED/ to change it, too many people that have contributed in the past under the GPLv2 license are either dead or simply not accessible to get their permission to change to the newer license. The logistics of keeping track of which part is GPLv2 and which might become GPLv3 just makes it simply "too hard."

    Personally, I don't give a damn if Linus likes GPLv3 or not. Its not about Linus, its about everyone in the Free software community as a whole. Individuals can go shoot their feet off instead of their mouth. Its about whats best for the majority, not just Linux or just Gnome or just GCC or just whatever...
    [/rant]
    • I personally have no concern about what one weird guy or the other thinks. I will use whichever license fits into my intentions for my code. I personally almost like the idea of anti-DRM. Why? If I am generous enough to let you use my code, then it would be unfair for you to use my code to be selfish to others. Simple as that. But beyond that, I really don't care. All I really want is the basic tenet of GPL: if I give it to you and you use it, then you should be willing to do the same for others.
  • The situation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mendy (468439) on Sunday August 06, 2006 @07:17AM (#15854767)
    ...that I can see justifying the extra clauses in V3 is one where all the major computer manufacturers decide that their computers will only run those operating systems that are certified with them. Businesses might not object to this (if it was sold as having "security benefits") and so there wouldn't be enough of a market for people who wanted to run their own versions to justify a new "GPL Friendly" hardware company, at least not with the resources that Intel/AMD have at their disposal. The problem with attempting to use the GPL to rememdy this problem is that if the hardware manufactuer is building a check into the hardware but shipping the hardware without the software then the GPL probably doesn't apply to them. It might apply to any OEM shipping Linux with the hardware but I'm sure they'd get round the legal problems by making a click-through that put the responsibility for the combining of the two on to the end user.

    For the other lesser cases where there isn't such a barrier to entry I don't see that there's a problem. If someone makes a DVD player that is unmodifyable and publishes the source of it's operating system then if there's a market for a modfiyable one a competitor can simply take the published source and build a competing product. There can also be some legitimate reasons to prevent people from modifying software - "If the work communicates with an online service, it must be possible for modified versions to communicate with the same online service in the same way such that the service cannot distinguish." - sounds to me like it would be impossible to make a GPL'd game that did any kind of hacked client prevention.

    I think a likely outcome of all this is that any hardware manufacturer who would be likely to fall foul of these clauses will simply switch to using a non-GPL operating system, commercial or BSD and consequently Linux will miss out on contributions to infrastruture such as embedded cpu support that it might otherwise have recieved. The MPAA (or whoever it is who controls it) may also choose not to grant licences to hardware manufactuers who produce devices can run modified code that they fear could be used to circumvent their DRM.
  • Refuted? (Score:3, Informative)

    by nwbvt (768631) on Sunday August 06, 2006 @10:45AM (#15855176)

    Thats some pretty strong language, and isn't at all appropriate for this discussion as it primarily involves opinions rather than facts. Linus disagrees with the direction GPLv3 is taking, which is his right to do. To 'refute' those comments, you would basically have to prove he has no problem with GPLv3.

    Who the hell wrote this article, Richard Stallman?

  • But does it help? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pnambic (3298) on Sunday August 06, 2006 @12:17PM (#15855522)
    As far as I can see it, DRM technology poses three distinct major threats to developers' and users' freedoms:

    1. locked digital media
    This is where the GPLv3 works, sort of. You cannot take a GPLv3ed media player, add some DRM component, and distribute the result while keeping the key that unlocks the media secret. That's fair. Unfortunately, there is a large range of non-GPLed media players available. In the end, FOSS users will still have to resort to hacks, but they're not worse off in that respect than they are now, and at least the code they worked on won't be used to prevent them from doing what they want.

    2. locked FOSS-using devices (the Tivo scenario)
    I think the FSF, and software developers advocating GPLv3, are seriously overstepping their bounds here. Basically, they're telling hardware developers that in order to use FOSS, not only do they need to give freely what they freely received (which is just reasonable), but they also have to make THEIR OWN product convertable to any use their customers see fit. This immediately excludes building devices that need to assure overall system integrity (from fair network gaming through to voting machines) and also excludes a number of fairly reasonable business models (hardware has a significantly non-zero duplication cost, unlike software, and the money has to come from somewhere). Alternatively, they can choose to make their machines physically tamper-proof (which defeats the intent of the license, makes the license unverifiable, and the product unrepairable in case of software problems). The net result will simply be that hardware developers will stop considering the use of FOSS, which will lead to them getting what they want anyway, FOSS code getting less exposure and less fixes, and end users receiving an arguably less technologically sound product at a higher price.

    3. locked general-purpose computers
    The GPLv3 can't do squat about thread 3. If such devices do indeed appear, they will simply not be running FOSS. Ever. Because even if a vendor would like to offer an OS based on some hypothetical GPLv3ed kernel, the license wouldn't allow it.

    So, looking at the above, I can't help but think that Linus is right here. I have the utmost respect for RMS and the members of the various committees, I'm even a paid-up and (CD-)card-carrying member of the FSF (#2342), but so far they have failed in providing a satisfactory solution to the problems ahead.

    Please prove me wrong.
    • by dodobh (65811)
      And in all these cases, the end user is losing out on being able to use the hardware/software as (s)he pleases. This is precisely what the FSF is trying to prevent.
  • by eliot1785 (987810) on Sunday August 06, 2006 @11:50PM (#15857381)
    They might have refuted Linus's criticism, but his criticism is still there. The reality is that this little feud between Linus and FSF matters less as a logical debate and more as a practical issue. If Linus is unhappy with GPLv3 and decides not to adopt it for the Linux kernel, that will be a major blow for GPLv3 no matter how you cut it, because it will have a domino effect in which it is not adopted as a new standard.

    It may be that the other GNU project tools like gcc are indispensible parts of the Linux operating system. I don't know enough to know for sure. But the Linux kernel is also an indispensible part, and if you start having the operating system split between GPLv2 and GPLv3, new projects will justified in following the Linux kernel's lead and sticking with GPLv2.

    Another issue here that may not be fully appreciated is that many people already think that GPLv2 already goes too far. By going even farther, GPLv3 is going to turn off even more people to the GPL project. It may be that the goals it establishes are justified. But if even Linus Torvalds is turned off by this, I wonder what corporate users of Linux will say...?

    Also - one theory I'd like to just throw out there is the possibility that while current replacements for many of the GNU tools may be lacking, if they adopt GPLv3 and corporate customers like Google and Sun don't like them because of restrictions on usage, they may spearhead the development of replacements.

    Likewise, any GPL version that places clear requirements on web applications developed using programs under that version (e.g. you must GPL those web applications) will never see adoption by Google etc. Assuming this is where FSF is going, the GPL will ultimately destroy itself by becoming too extreme.

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