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Why Torvalds is Sitting out the GPLv3 Process 365

Posted by Zonk
from the sidelines dept.
lisah writes "Linus Torvalds has a lot of reasons for not wanting to participate in drafting the third version of the GNU General Public License (GPL): He doesn't like meetings, says committees don't make sense, has philosophical differences with the Free Software Foundation, and seems to be generally distrustful of the whole drafting process. Though Torvalds prefers the GPLv2, he says if others prefer the GPLv3, they ought to support it because 'it's not like it kills and eats small children for breakfast, and must never be allowed.'" Linux.com and Slashdot are both owned by OSTG.
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Why Torvalds is Sitting out the GPLv3 Process

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  • by pieterh (196118) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @10:53AM (#16200299) Homepage
    If you want to contribute to the GPLv3, you can. The FFII, for example, proposed some changes that would clarify the GPLv3 with respect to patent law in Europe (the current draft is too US-biased).

    Torvalds doesn't need to contribute, but I'm glad he's moved to a more neutral stance. The GPLv2 is old and out of date and though it still works today, will start to crumble in a few years.

    In every new project my firm does, we end up adding our own conditions onto the GPL3 (for instance for patents) and it'd be far better to have these defined as standard.

    It's good to be critical of processes that aren't clear, and it's entirely possible that the FSF won't be able to produce a worthy successor to GPLv2, which is an incredibly important document in the history of software, but we should give them the benefit of the doubt.
    • by mellonhead (137423) <{slashdot} {at} {swbell.net}> on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @11:08AM (#16200543) Homepage Journal
      The GPLv2 is old and out of date and though it still works today, will start to crumble in a few years.
      Please explain how a license can "crumble".
      • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @11:12AM (#16200597) Homepage Journal
        Please explain how a license can "crumble".

        The original GPLv2 was, in fact, printed on a giant cookie.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by noidentity (188756)
          The original GPLv2 was, in fact, printed on a giant cookie.

          Jokes aside, the GPLv2 was, in fact, chiseled into a large stone tablet. Those things most certainly crumble after a few millennia.

      • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @11:14AM (#16200627)

        More and more people will start exploiting the loopholes in GPL v.2 (e.g. apps as web servies, so they're not technically "distributed" to the users, TiVo-esque locking of hardware to use only the company's version of the program, etc.).

        • by CaymanIslandCarpedie (868408) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @11:17AM (#16200687) Journal
          But for many people (Linus included) those "loopholes" are features not bugs. Those holding views can argue those features are what caused GPL 2 to be so widely adopted and that the "fixes" in v3 will cause v3 to "crumble" (ie nobody using it).
          • by oohshiny (998054) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @11:33AM (#16200873)
            ... and we won't know until we try.

            However, the relative lack of success of BSD despite its greater maturity during the early years suggests that making it easy to lock up open systems on proprietary hardware is not a winning strategy. Take, for example, Solaris: it was derived from BSD, but it languished inside Sun for a couple of decades and Sun didn't make many meaningful contributions to BSD. The experience with other commercial users of BSD was similar.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by GigsVT (208848)
              The history of open source is littered with BSD-based empty victories like this. Look at SPICE, it's been consumed into expensive proprietary products and has almost died as an open source product.

              PostgreSQL, while an excellent product that I still use often, is stagnating while MySQL slowly surpasses it in every way.

              I think we should save BSD for simple things such as glue libraries and reference implementations.
              • by slamb (119285) * on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:04PM (#16203329) Homepage
                The history of open source is littered with BSD-based empty victories like this.

                Is it? I'm not familiar with the SPICE landscape, but I am with PostgreSQL:

                PostgreSQL, while an excellent product that I still use often, is stagnating while MySQL slowly surpasses it in every way.

                Umm, what? How is PostgreSQL stagnating? It's a widely-used product with frequent releases, full-time contributors back to the open-source core, and several commercial support offerings. What do you mean by "MySQL slowly surpasses it in every way"? If you're talking about popularity, MySQL's always been more popular. If you're talking about something technical, well, I have absolutely no idea what it could be.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by crotherm (160925)


              Uhh, wasn't the fact that BSD was under the cloud of copyright infringement with AT&T's Sys V that caused BSD's slow usage? Linux came in right at that time to steal what could have been BSD's thunder.

              At least that is how this old dude remembers it.

              And Solaris is a straw man. SunsOS 4.x and older was BSD based. And what NFS, NIS, etc are nothing? As for SunOS 5.x, which is more commonly refered to Solaris, is Sys V Rel 3 based.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by oohshiny (998054)
                Linux came in right at that time to steal what could have been BSD's thunder.

                BSD was technically superior long after the lawsuit had been resolved and when Linux was still in its early growth stages. BSD could have easily become the dominant open source operating system.

                And Solaris is a straw man. SunsOS 4.x and older was BSD based. [...] As for SunOS 5.x, which is more commonly refered to Solaris, is Sys V Rel 3 based.

                I fail to see your point. How does Sun changing directions mid-stream turn them into a
          • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @11:36AM (#16200933)

            The GPL was designed by the Free Software Foundation, and they made it very clear what they intended (in the GNU manifesto, etc.). By that standard, the loopholes are bugs.

            In other words, the FSF's opinion is the only one that matters because it's their license. If you don't like it, use a different one or make your own. And if you already chose to use it (with the "...or later" clause), you had ample oppertunity to understand what you were getting into before you did it.

            • Bingo! Give this man a +5 correct.
            • In other words, the FSF's opinion is the only one that matters because it's their license.
              Wrongo. It's the courts' opinions that matter, not FSF. The courts interpret the meaning and validity of the license, and they don't give a rat's ass what FSF's opinions are.


              It's FSF's license only in that they have copyright on the text. Nothing more.

          • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @12:08PM (#16201393) Journal
            I keep going over and over this, and I still can't figure out why Linus would want Linux to be able to be Tivo-ized, but not want it BSD-licensed. Can you explain to me what it is about these specific loopholes that makes them so much more desirable than people taking your code wholesale and making it into a proprietary program?
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Klivian (850755)
              Simply with BSD-licensed code you don't have to give your changes back, but with GPL v2 you have to Tivio or not. And that's the whole difference, simply getting the code back.
            • by Curien (267780) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @12:30PM (#16201717)
              I can't tell you what Linus is thinking, but I can tell you why I think that way.

              I am a programmer. I am not a tinkerer. I care about /seeing the code/. I care that I can then use that code (or more likely ideas and tricks from that code) in my own projects. I don't care about making my consumer-grade router outpace the Cisco gear I use at work. I care about being able to make my own software on par with IOS.

              The ability to tinker with a system just isn't that important to me. It's the ability to /learn/ from that system that I want. Yes, learning could perhaps be easier if I could run modified code on the device, but ultimately, simply having access to the source is what I really care about.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by mrchaotica (681592) *

                Yes, learning could perhaps be easier if I could run modified code on the device, but ultimately, simply having access to the source is what I really care about.

                But you still need a device to run the code on. Consider the fact that in many cases (especially embedded) there isn't a good substitute device. What good does having the code do you in this case? What benefit do you get out of the GPL that you wouldn't get out of, say, MS's "shared source" licenses?

                More importantly, why should the hardware device

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by SiliconEntity (448450)
              I keep going over and over this, and I still can't figure out why Linus would want Linux to be able to be Tivo-ized, but not want it BSD-licensed. Can you explain to me what it is about these specific loopholes that makes them so much more desirable than people taking your code wholesale and making it into a proprietary program?

              With GPLv2, people who take your code and alter it have to publish the alterations. This adds to the store of knowledge generally available to the human race. Good ideas that improve
          • I'll be using it, and judging by the amount of "GPL 2 or later" software out there, so will a lot of other people.
        • by bWareiWare.co.uk (660144) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @11:43AM (#16201019) Homepage
          The significant point about 'apps as web services' will also be a loophole in the GPLv3 and any future version. It it not an EULA and so can't dictate what you do with the code once you have it.

          If you are only running a web service and not distributing anything then you don't need to compliy with the GPL whatever it or any future version says.
          • Damn, you're right; I hadn't thought of that. I guess that's why I hadn't seen anything in the GPL v.3 draft about it...

            Thanks for pointing it out to me!

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by SWroclawski (95770)
            Actually, it's now a decision the author can use or not use.

            It's one of the possible restrictions that can be optionally added which applies to public use of the software requiring distribution of the modified source.

            RMS has said in speeches that both arguments held weight for him and so he decided to leave it up to the software developer and leave the default behavior to the way things currently are.
        • by giorgiofr (887762)
          So basically I'll have to distribute my PHP scripts to all users of my site because it happens to run on a Linux box?
          Oh well I am just about ready to switch to a free OS anyway.
          • by Curien (267780)
            No. If you have a PHP script licensed to you under the GPLv3 (with appropriate provisions activated) and put it on your server, you are required to distribute the script, including any modifications, under the GPL. It doesn't matter if your server's OS is Linux, FreeBSD, or Windows Server 2003; you have to show the code.
          • No, as another poster pointed out, the GPL v.3 isn't (and can't) fix that issue anyway.

      • by Tester (591)
        TiVo is one example..
        The other example is binary modules. Even in the Linksys WRT54G, the wireless driver is binary-only. And they distribute it with the GPLv2 kernel and it seems it's allowed. And it seems that neither the GPLv3 addresses that.
      • Two Cases (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreak@ei r c o m .net> on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @11:38AM (#16200955) Homepage Journal
        Please explain how a license can "crumble".
        Two situations. First, one can have the ability to see and modify source code, but not run the program. Case in point, hardware that will only run signed binaries. Sure, you can look at the source code for your CCTV system, TiVo, etc, but you will never be able to upgrade your own devices code without the hardware keys from the vendor.

        Second, ability to run the program, but not see the source code. Case in point, Google. It is beyond question that Google are using all kinds of GPL applications, from the kernel to webservers to highly modified filesystem drivers. All of it GPLed and none of the code available for you to see, despite the fact that Google allow you to use all these services online, you'll never see a line of the modified code.

        Both these cases violate not the letter of the GPLv2 licence, but the spirit of it. That spirit being the ability to run the program, modify the source, and run the changed program. This is happening on small scales today. It could soon be happening on a huge scale, and that would undermine the whole FOSS community. GPLv3 will be needed in the future.
        • by Curien (267780)
          Suppose Pixar uses modified software licensed to them under the GPL on their render farms. (I have no idea whether or not they do.) Should they be required to distribute the modified source to anyone who has seen Finding Nemo?
        • Re:Two Cases (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ray-auch (454705) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @12:51PM (#16202051)
          Two situations. First, one can have the ability to see and modify source code, but not run the program. Case in

          Been that way since the 80s. Nothing new. Nothing crumbled as a result.

          Second, ability to run the program, but not see the source code.

          Ditto.

          Back almost two decades ago in college I used plenty of GNU software.

          In some cases, we had access to the source, but on the machines on which that software ran, I had nowhere near enough disk quota to rebuild a modified version, let alone install and run it. In some cases the programs we had access to were modified from the GNU source, and the full modified source was not made available.

          From my experience at that time, this sort of setup was very common in academia, which was typically where you found GNU software then.

          The GPL didn't noticably crumble as a result, and in fact its use has expanded massively since then.

          Why ? Because we still had the freedom to look at the source and learn from it, take the source (get the original unmodified source in case 2), modify it to our hearts content, and run it somewhere else. So we did.

          I was able in '92 to take a whole set of development tools and applications off a big proprietary Unix box and build/port them onto a Linux PC, which I then used as primary PC for almost ten years. That is the freedom GPL gives, No way could I have done that with proprietary apps.

          To follow your logic, any system on which GPL software is installed must grant all users full admin rights to allow them to modify it _in_ _place_ (and therefore you could never use GPL software burned into ROM).

          RMS might think that giving everyone root everywhere is the right thing to do, but outside of MIT, in the real world, it is totally impractical. Lots of people definitely _won't_ use GPLv3 software if that is what it means.
      • by pieterh (196118)
        A license can crumble, metaphorically, when the problem it solves becomes irrelevant.

        The GPLv2, for example, is focussed on the distribution of software. It dates from an era where distribution meant floppy disks, tapes, and perhaps for the very luck, FTP.

        But today a lot (most?) software is never actually distributed to users - it is accessed via web services - and the GPL is powerless to force vendors who take GPL'd software and improve it, and embed those improvements into web applications, to release th
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by nbannerman (974715)
      The GPLv2 is old and out of date and though it still works today, will start to crumble in a few years.

      The rest of your points I'd tend to agree with, but I'm not sure what you mean by the one above.

      Considering how Sun and Microsoft have been making a mess of 'open' licences lately, the main reason I can think of for continuing to use v2 is that it is stable. It is a known quantity, and everyone (within certain circles obviously) is aware of what they can do with it. I can't see how time would 'age' a
    • I have actively participated in the debate about the clause 0 defect of the GPLv2 ("that is to say...") and I became satisfied that it is in good shape for the GPLv3.
  • by neonprimetime (528653) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @10:54AM (#16200313) Homepage
    FTFA...

    For Torvalds, the controversy over the different versions of the GPL is ultimately very simple: If "I can just go back to 1992, when I relicensed Linux under the GPLv2, and ask myself: If I had the choice of licenses back then that I have today (including the GPL3 draft), which one would I have chosen? And the answer simply isn't the GPLv3. It might have been the Open Software License, though. But, most likely, it would still be the GPLv2."
    • ...because he just said he would have chosen the same thing anyway (read the last sentence of your quote).

      See, that's what I don't understand: why is Linus complaining? The kernel is licensed "v.2 only" anyway, so what the FSF does should be irrelevant to him!

      • you should read the article and see his concerns with respect to the Apache license.
        • You're referring to this, right?

          "But if you actually look behind all the nice words, it's just a polite way of saying, 'We want to hijack the code of those projects that use the Apache license, too, and turn that code into GPLv3. Because the definition of 'compatible with the GPLv3' is strictly one-way compatibility. You can convert Apache-licensed projects into the GPLv3, but not the other way. Doesn't sound quite as much as a "Kumbaya" moment any more when you put it that way, now, does it?"

          You know, th

          • It's even worse than that. It's the tired old argument that people who release things under permissive licenses don't actually want people to make full use of those licenses.

            News flash, Linus: If the Apache project didn't want its code to be able to be "hijacked" into GPLv3 projects, then they wouldn't have permitted it in the license.

            Linus needs to learn to shut his damn mouth unless he actually has something intelligent to say.

      • He needs a time machine...
        No he doesn't...


        I'm sure he'd still say he needs a time machine.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    At heart, he's a developer. He'd rather be coding or debugging than getting involved in legal debate. And that's a good thing for us. I'd much rather him spend an hour working on Linux than disputing some clause of some license. It's just a more productive use of his time.

    • by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @12:58PM (#16202163) Homepage
      At heart, he's a developer. He'd rather be coding or debugging than getting involved in legal debate. And that's a good thing for us. I'd much rather him spend an hour working on Linux than disputing some clause of some license. It's just a more productive use of his time.

      None of us, even Debian developers, enjoy dealing with legal issues. We do it because not doing so is short-sighted. IMHO, Linus often fails to understand the full scope of a non-technical problem, and when challenged, he uses "I'm apolitical" as an excuse to remain ignorant.

      Linus is a decent programmer and a mediocre project manager. He's not a visionary, and I think his relevance has peaked or will soon do so. For the FSF, on the other hand, it's only the beginning. Linus is probably disappointed because the FSF won't cater to him or change its goals to suit his needs (see his complaint about the FSF not giving him early access to the first draft of GPLv3), but frankly I couldn't care less if the FSF just ignored him altogether.

    • He'd rather be coding or debugging than getting involved in legal debate.

      ...whether or not the legal debate directly affects him. See also: BitKeeper. He wasn't interested in the silly licensing issues until the rug got jerked out from underneath all the kernel developers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ClamIAm (926466)
      He'd rather be coding or debugging than getting involved in legal debate.

      Then why is he continually debating the legalese of the GPL3 draft? To me, it sounds more like he wants to be "right" but doesn't want to do anything that could put him in a position to look stupid. See also: pretty much every debate Linus gets involved in.
  • by stox (131684) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @10:56AM (#16200353) Homepage
    for the kills small children and eats them for lunch license. Dinner would be OK, too, but not breakfast.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by kfg (145172) *
      Everyone knows the GPL is a virus. Maybe it's one of them flesh eating virus thingies.

      KFG
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by db32 (862117)
      Quite frankly I'm dissapointed. It SHOULD kill small children and eat them for any meal! We need to make sure it can determine the outcome of any given child's future. Future lawyers...kill em n eat em... Future **AA employees... kill em n eat em... Future DRM creators... warm them up and eat them alive so we can all hear them scream... Future MS programmers...kill them but don't eat them...lord knows what kind of evil sits in their minds waiting to come out.
    • by lpontiac (173839)
      Well, the BSD license is best for mulching babies [lwn.net].
    • So make your own! It's not like anything's stopping you...

      (Note that it may not be as enforcable as the GPL, however.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I'm holding out for the kills small children and eats them for lunch license.

      http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/home/eula.mspx [microsoft.com]

  • by El Cubano (631386) <robertoNO@SPAMconnexer.com> on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @10:57AM (#16200379) Homepage

    Torvalds may not like the GPLv3. However, I think that is orthogonal to why he is sitting out the process. At heart, the man is an engineer/coder. How many people work as software engineers/programmers/code monkeys/whatever and jump at the shot to sit in the "politcal" meetings? Seriously. As a general rule, engineers and programmers would rather be engineering and programming. They don't care so much about marketing. They don't care so much about the political undercurrents of the organization. They just want to do their job well.

    • by ClosedSource (238333) * on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @11:05AM (#16200479)
      I think that's part of the reason, but he also understands his high profile and doesn't want the process to be more "legitimized" through his involvement when he thinks the basic outcome was predetermined.
      • Discussing GPL3 for Linux is pointless as it is not a legal option. One might as well argue as to whether you want there to be gravity or not

        Many people have contributed code to Linux, and those people retain the rights to that code and every one would have to agree to move to GPL3. Linus cannot just say "all Linux code becomes GPL3".

        He could say that all **future** Linux code becomes GPL3 otherwise it does not get gitted, but that cannot be retospectively applied to existing code and would mean that the ma

        • by ray-auch (454705)
          He could say that all **future** Linux code becomes GPL3 otherwise it does not get gitted, but that cannot be retospectively applied to existing code and would mean that the majority of the Linux code would remain GPL2 for a long time.


          I don't think he can, because he couldn't mix the two together - as far as I can see, GPLv3 adds additional restrictions, so you can't link it with GPLv2.
        • I assume you mean "a lot/most of Linux code re-usage" is in the embedded space.
    • by Aladrin (926209) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @11:07AM (#16200513)
      That's obviously correct as far as it goes, but think about open source licensing for a moment. Can you think of anyone who is not fanatical about the license they picked? I know I am. At least if not the exact license, then the spirit of that license.

      LT has made it pretty clear that the spirit of the GPL v3 is not the same as the v2 to him, and that's his objection. I definitely agree with that, even though I strongly dislike the v2 as well.

      I suspect the real reason he has dropped out of the conversation is because he has no interest whatsoever in the direction of the v3 and the FSF has made it VERY clear that they have no intent on changing the parts he hates. It doesn't help him or them 1 iota to stay, so he left. Smart man.

      "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
      • Can you think of anyone who is not fanatical about the license they picked?

        Linus. He originally licensed Linux under a free-for-non-commercial-use license, and changed it to the GPL when asked. He doesn't agree with the FSF's philosophy, which is embodied in the GPL. He likes some of the side-effects of the GPL, but has never been a strong advocate if it or the philosophy it represents.

    • by vertinox (846076)
      They don't care so much about the political undercurrents of the organization. They just want to do their job well.

      Which is the fatal flaw of any engineer or programmer especially when their common sense tech skills could save the company (or movement) when a non-tech person gets at the helm and steers everyone into a situation that sinks them all.

      To play on a Hellraiser movie quote: "You may not believe you can affect politics, but politics believes it can affect you."

      If you refuse to deal with politics, i
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grumpyman (849537)
      Yes engineers wants to do their job well. And the quote "They don't care so much about the political undercurrents of the organization" is typical of engineers. But engineers gotta realize in order to make a decision for the larger group (not just themselves), these processes has to occur. I wouldn't even call such a thing as 'necessary evil', because afterall, it is really just a process to get this done with consensus, unlike design of a subsystem, architecture of a software, which may only require agr
    • by dfghjk (711126)
      It's called maturity and leadership. Yes, plenty of engineers/programmers want to participate in such processes. They consider it part of doing their job well.
    • Even simpler (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @12:17PM (#16201517) Journal
      As an engineer at heart, he understands computers and software systems very well, but likely avoids and despises legal systems.

      Or, put simpler: I think he simply doesn't understand it. And yes, I know that sounds arrogant, but if you remember his posts on Groklaw, he demonstrated again and again that he thought the GPLv3 demanded things that it didn't, and that he had completely missed the point of what it's actually trying to do. For instance, he actually brought out that old FUD about how disabling DRM will prevent certain security measures, which it doesn't.

      I don't think Linus and PJ actually disagree, but I do think PJ actually knows her stuff, and Linus should stick to the actual coding, organizing, and benevolent dictating of the kernel itself.

      That, or sometime fairly soon, we're going to actually squeeze a statement from Linus that, given the choice, he'd go with BSD or public domain. They seem more in line with his ideals.
    • It's true. Engineers, scientists, programmers, mathmeticians, etc, would rather engineer than participate in meetings and organizational politics. Often, this is accompanied by an inability to play well with others--which I suspect is the case in this instance.

      There are so many cases on the record where LT beats a hasty retreat after his arguments are demonstrated to have poor logic. Let's hope LT learns to moderate his penchant for hyperbole. Let's all be glad he codes better than he discusses policy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @11:05AM (#16200483)
    Have a chair.
  • "And Ode to GPLv2" (Score:4, Informative)

    by diegocgteleline.es (653730) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @11:28AM (#16200819)
    For those that didn't see it (because my submission to slashdot was rejected, between other reasons), An Ode to GPLv2 [lkml.org]:

    "One of the reasons I didn't end up signing the GPLv3 position statement that James posted (and others had signed up for), was that a few weeks ago I had signed up for writing another kind of statement entirely: not so much about why I dislike the GPLv3, but why I think the GPLv2 is so great.

    Rest of the post [lkml.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Chops (168851)
      Personally, Linus's attitude to the GPLv3 has never made a lick of sense to me. He (and the others on the LKML who drew up that position paper [slashdot.org]) seemed downright Republican in their determinedness to misrepresent the opposing point of view, their reliance on statements which, on examination, seem increasingly bizarre ("... the FSF's attempts at drafting and re-drafting these provisions have shown them to be a nasty minefield which keeps ensnaring innocent and beneficial uses of encryption and DRM technologi
  • Because there were no chairs left.

    Ballmer got there early this year... (too easy?)
  • by oohshiny (998054) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @11:38AM (#16200961)
    Linus doesn't have a choice in the matter: since the kernel is under GPLv2 without an "or later" clause, he can't change it. The Linux kernel is stuck with GPLv2. For him to argue one way or the other is pointless and sounds like post-hoc rationalizing.

    Personally, I think the GPLv2 will sooner or later kill the Linux kernel. Some highly successful embedded Linux systems like the WRT54G only became hackable because the manufacturers made a mistake. Evidently, embedded users of Linux just don't get the benefits of openness, and they'll get better and better at circumventing the GPLv2; the GPLv2 will turn more and more into a kind of encumbered BSD license, and you can see how well BSD did with that.

    Of course, I'm not too concerned. I think we really need a successor to the Linux kernel anyway, yet the industry is happy to keep running a 30 year old kernel design. If being increasingly the target of GPL circumvention is what it takes to motivate people to move to a new kernel, that's fine with me, too.
    • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @12:50PM (#16202033) Homepage
      you can see how well BSD did with that.

      Yeah, no kidding... I mean, there definitely aren't any successful [freebsd.org] BSD [openbsd.org] variants [apple.com] available and widely deployed. And there certainly aren't any other successful [apache.org] non-GPL [mozilla.org] projects [postgreqsql.org] out there. Yup, the GPL is definitely *the* only way to go if you want to make a successful open source project... assuming, that is, you're a single-minded zealot (or troll?).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kjella (173770)
        Let's see now, how long was it since Theo was featured on slashdot begging for money to keep OpenBSD running, using OpenSSH as hostage? I don't know about FreeBSD, but I haven't got the impression it's very popular either. Why Apple is successful is for completely other reasons than BSD. They could have licensed the AIX kernel, the Solaris kernel or any other kernel, gotten the very few pieces of drivers they need working and be done. You might as well count the BSD licensed code shipped with Windows them i
  • by Y-Crate (540566) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @11:52AM (#16201155)
    I recognize the importance of software licenses, especially the GPL, but I've come to the inescapable conclusion that many of the major players in OSS have an insatiable need to spend enormous amounts of time bickering about licensing minutiae.

    Every week brings a new drama-bomb in the endless pissing contests and personal rivalries/vendettas. If half the energy expended to one up, or argue with another developer was put into the development process, an untold number of projects might be a bit further along. One thing you can say about closed-source software is that the financial pressures end up stifling a great deal of the petty childishness that seems to pervade the OSS community, and taints its image in the process.

    Don't get me wrong, you still get this sort of crap on the closed-source side of things - "I don't want to use your standard...I want to reinvent the wheel for this app..." etc, but it's not at the forefront. Human nature dictates that you will find these problems everywhere, but in the corporate, closed-source enviroment, it comes down to one conclusion - eventually the project needs to get done.

    If OSS wants to gain more acceptance, it needs to put this sort of thing aside and get back to the core issue - it's the code, dammit. None of the present issues with the community are insurmountable, but direct action needs to be taken, these problems are not going to going away on their own. Rampant egoism, Not Invented Here Syndrome, coder-centric, not user-centric development methodologies...these all slow the pace of progress and paint open source in a very bad light.

    OSS has a large community of smart people, and I just think it can do a whole lot better.
    • by ratboy666 (104074)
      Let's focus on those "licenses".

      I really REALLY want all users of "non-OSS" licenses to respect, 100%, their license. I really REALLY want full penalties for all license violations, or the simple inability to run "unlicensed" software. I am all for "software registration and enabling".

      Really.

      Because "non-OSS license" users will then actually care about the licenses they have. The ONLY reason that isn't the case is that illegal copying is (generally) encouraged.

      Financial pressure? I don't think that's the re
  • by CoughDropAddict (40792) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @11:56AM (#16201225) Homepage
    I think Linus's difference with the FSF is quite simple.

    The FSF is concerned with users. The whole thing started when Richard Stallman couldn't fix the printer driver that he was a user of. The FSF's goal is to ensure that everyone who uses software, ever, has the technical and legal right to modify the software they are using.

    Linus seems more concerned with developers. If someone comes along and contributes some sweet code to the Linux kernel, he thinks it's only fair that any developer gets the opportunity to use that code too, in their own project. But he's not concerned that an end user can't install a modified version of Linux on their Tivo.
    • Linus: Developers! Developers! Developers! Developers!

      Somehow, I get the feeling it wasn't Linus who originally said that.

    • by emurphy42 (631808)
      Which begs the question "where do you draw the line between users and developers?". For instance, at work I'm clearly a developer, at home I have a typical RH9 box with typical development tools but I mostly use it in an end-user role.

      Did you mean that the FSF is concerned with end use and Linus is concerned with development?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        You're a user when you're using software that someone else compiled/packaged/distributed to you. You're a developer when you are compiling/packaging software yourself, whether you are the intended user or not.

        When you are a developer, you get to decide how the software works. You can decide that, for example, DVDs can have previews that the software refuses to skip over.

        When you are a user, you're stuck with the decisions the developer made, unless you have both the technical and legal capability to chang
    • by cananian (73735) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @04:12PM (#16205879) Homepage
      Linus himself rebutted your contention in his GrokLaw post [groklaw.net]:

      This is not about "programmers vs users". That's a totally false dichotomy, exactly the same way it's a totally false dichotomy to make it about "DRM vs the good guys". That's not how "freedom" works (and, that's not how DRM works either. It can be used for good, it can be used for evil. It's just technology).

      The thing is, "freedom" is not a thing that you can say "freedom for some people, not for others". You have to respect the people who do the work, and you absolutely have to respect their freedoms too. And you cannot and must not try to make it about some group vs another.

      You're way too eager to throw away the rights of people who actually work on things. You're way too eager to say that people who worked on something for decades should just do what you want. Here's a hint: that's not freedom.

      So whenever you say "freedom for group X", you're using a totally invalid argument. That's like saying that slavery was "freedom for the white people", and that I'm against freedoms, because I think your arguments are bad. Don't you see that? You can't willy-nilly try to limit the freedoms for one group versus another. That's not "freedom", that's just using a word that sounds good to make your argument for you.

      So don't talk to me about "programmers vs users". That's a deeply flawed argument, and that's not how freedoms work. It's especially not how freedoms work with the GPL, since the two aren't even distinct groups. I'm a user too, and part of the whole point is that users now have the option of becoming doers.

      Finally, there's a distinct logical fallacy in the argument that "users" should be protected. It's the fallacy of thinking that people who consume are equal to people who produce. And that's not true. People who produce are the one who get to decide how things are done, because they are the ones doing it. It's that simple.

      This is your board, so you get to set the rules, right? If people complain that you're doing something wrong, you can tell them to make their own board, right?

      That's right. That's how the world works. And it is how the world should work, because that's what motivates people to get off their lazy behinds and do something.

      In other words, if you're just a user, and you don't like how you're treated, you have the choice of becoming something more. If you don't like Tivo, you can buy a regular PC, and put MythTV on it. You'll even get to use the Tivo code, thanks to the GPLv2 (not that you'd want to).

  • Malignorance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0xABADC0DA (867955) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @12:00PM (#16201297)
    Linus has such a dislike for the FSF that he rants on these things that he doesn't even know about and what's worse, uses his position to spread his ignorance like a cancer, a malignant ignorance. Consider that he did not even know the 'meetings' took place over email and IRC. Or his repeated claims of having to give up his private key, which is shown wrong over and over by legal experts. Or saying committees don't take responsibility for decisions and then complaining that they didn't just blindly agree to whatever his kernel developers wanted.

    What's interesting to me is when Torvolds says the GPL2 is where companies and open source people can meet in perfect harmony, as if companies like the GPL2. No company likes the prospect of having to open up their product because some 'tard put in GPL code without their knowledge. They put up with it because they have to, because it's a reality they can't escape. I know I have had many heated arguments about making code GPL when others on a project wanted BSD to be more 'corporate friendly'. Perfect harmony? Wtf world is he living in? Use GPLv3 and they will come and work with that too (even though they don't want to) and for the same reasons.

    I think the real question is, as an open-source developer, why wouldn't you choose GPLv3 over v2? Because you want some company to use your program and then sue you because you made use of their patents? Or you want your software to make DRM devices cheaper to create? Or you want your license to be worded in a way that is ambiguous in some regions? I wonder why Linus wants linux to be licensed without patent protections, with ambiguous language, and in a way that supports DRM?
  • by browncs (447083) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @12:20PM (#16201539)
    1. RMS and the FSF (which are one and the same for all practical purposes) talk
      about "free software". What they are truly fundamentally about is
      creating a comprehensive category of software which is completely free from
      corporate/business control, and which individual users can completely control in
      all aspects as they wish.

      His fundamental motivation is an anti-corporation, pro-individual/community
      point of view. The fact that the mechanism for enabling his version of
      "free software" is the GPL and a common pool of open source is
      secondary. If he could have gotten a global law enforced that all corporations
      must release all their source code freely on the Internet, that's what he would
      have done, instead of GNU and GPL.

      RMS is an absolutist on this point. He truly sees this as good vs. evil, and as
      a belief system about which there can be no question.

      To help understand this, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID =9350 [zmag.org]
      read this interview.

      This is where the insistence that DRM and "Trusted Computing" and
      software patents must be abolished comes from. These are all tools that
      corporations use to protect their property. RMS does not believe they should
      have property like this... that it should all be made available to users with no
      control by corporations.

    2. Linux is also licensed under the GPL (v2), but comes from a completely
      different motivation than RMS. Torvalds simply believes the open-source
      development model is the most effective way to create excellent software.
      Torvalds is just fine with corporations and businesses using Linux for profit,
      even if that means "controlling" some aspects of its use. He
      certainly has opinions on DRM, patents, and "Trusted Computing", but
      he's not going to let those get in the way of Linux development.

    3. So now starts the struggle for control of "what is the meaning of free
      software". RMS is clearly trying to re-establish his vision of the
      principles involved by pushing through GPL v3, because he's seen GPL v2 used in
      ways that offend his principles deeply. Is it too late? Has the FOSS movement
      taken off to an extent that he no longer controls it? Stay tuned.
    • by teflaime (738532)
      This is where the insistence that DRM and "Trusted Computing" and software patents must be abolished comes from. These are all tools that corporations use to protect their property. RMS does not believe they should have property like this... that it should all be made available to users with no control by corporations.

      RSM isn't the only driver of the elimination of software patents. There is another of opinion (one I happen to agree with) that simply doesn't believe software should be patnented. It shou
  • by Michael_Burton (608237) <michaelburton@brainrow.com> on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:30PM (#16203841) Homepage

    Though Torvalds prefers the GPLv2, he says if others prefer the GPLv3, they ought to support it because 'it's not like it kills and eats small children for breakfast, and must never be allowed.'"

    Linus, you're never going to have a successful career in politics with an attitude like that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @03:53PM (#16205521)
    it's not like it kills and eats small children for breakfast

    GPL3 may not look like that, but Stallman does!!
  • by newhoggy (672061) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @07:51PM (#16208881)
    Linus has claimed that he likes the GPLv2 because it was a "tit for tat" license and the GPLv3 is less so and then he says this:
    one of the stated goals of the FSF with the GPLv3 was to expressly design the new license to be compatible with the Apache license. That sounds like a great thing, doesn't it? It sounds nice. 'Compatible' is such a nice word. Let's just all sing songs about it around the camp-fire.

    But if you actually look behind all the nice words, it's just a polite way of saying, 'We want to hijack the code of those projects that use the Apache license, too, and turn that code into GPLv3. Because the definition of 'compatible with the GPLv3' is strictly one-way compatibility. You can convert Apache-licensed projects into the GPLv3, but not the other way. Doesn't sound quite as much as a "Kumbaya" moment any more when you put it that way, now, does it?

    Well if GPLv3 was convertable to the Apache license it wouldn't be a "tit for tat" license at all anymore would it? I don't know what he is complaining about here because he is complaining about something if addressed would make the license even less appealing to him. It looks more like he's desperately searching for FUD fling about to divert attention from the fact he can't actually find fault with the new license.

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