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Corel

Corel Linux Beta License Violates GPL 393

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the that-ain't-so-hot dept.
John Goerzen writes "Corel today began FAXing out beta test agreements for its Linux distribution. However, these agreements violate GPL in many points by distributing software under terms that the GPL prohibits." Since the distribution is based on Debian, this is justifiably making a lot of folks angry. I've attached the relevant excerpts if you click thru below or else you can view Page One or Page Two of the FAX in GIF format.

The agreement that must be signed states "User may not reproduce and distribute copies of the Products to any other person." This violats GPL sections 1, 3, and 6. It goes on to say, "Upon the expiration of the Term [45 days]. . . User shall promptly destroy . . . Product". This violates the same sections.

It then says "All right, title and interest to all intellectual property with respect to the Products shall remain with Corel and its licensors. No license or other right of any kind is granted by Corel's furnishing the Products to user [except for testing]. . ." This not only attempts to assert ownership over items copyrighted by others, but fails section 6 of the GPL.

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Corel Linux Beta License Violates GPL

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  • Section 6 of the GPL states very clearly that you may not under any circumstance distribute the code to anyone else except under the terms and conditions of the GPL. There is no distinction between "internal-only" and public distribution.

    Certainly in the case of "internal-only" distribution it is legitimate for the recipients to voluntarily decline to distribute the code, but Corel cannot forcibly impose this requirement without breaking the law.

  • Corel has already said that they plan to release all their modifications to the GPL programs. It was even on slashdot, and when it was, you all bitched about how they shouldn't take credit for something they had to do.

    This is an internal beta test. They simply don't want places like cheapbytes to start selling CD's to the unwashed masses who would then start complaining that the distribution was buggy and go back to windows (not to return when a stable release came out).

    The difference between companies like Corel and your typical open source group is that when Corel puts its name behind a product which is released to the general public, they want it to be rock solid (or atleast stable). They're not trying to steal source code, they just want to get the bugs worked out of their modifications before they release them.

  • "Rain, an honest to god slashdot girl" is a liar and a poser. You claim to have the email address, rainfa1l@happypuppy.com. The person who has that address lives 4 floors above me, and it is not you. Why do you feel you have to use someone else's email address? It is very easy to get your own, or just not use one. But no, you don't do that, instead you decided to post anonymously but signing as someone.

    Is this polite enough for you, or am I jumping down your throat? I guess you need to read more of /usr/doc/HOWTO/mini/Identity-Spoofing
    or try man -k loser
    and see what you come up with.
    --
    "New worlds are not born in the vacuum of abstract ideas, but in the fight for daily bread..."
  • by EJB (9167)
    This is an internal beta test. They simply don't want places like cheapbytes to start selling CD's to the unwashed masses ...

    They can want all they like, but they have to stick to the license they accepted by distributing GPL-derived software.

    But geez, why is everybody suddenly such a Corel friend? They're just a big bozo software company that doesn't get open source! They deserve all the criticism that has been leveled at other companies like RedHat that do get the spirit of open source and that contribute to GPL software fairly and squarely.

    EjB
  • Just mark it as Corel Linux unstable build 0.1.2/9/99.a or something.
    John
  • Reserve judgement. Read the FAQ:
    http://www.corel.com/betaprogram/faq.htm

    From the FAQ: "Once Corel LINUX is ready for general distribution, it will be distributed in accordance with the criteria for Open Source software."

    So, it looks like the beta license agreement, while lame, is not how the general distribution is going to be licensed. According to the FAQ, they are also going to release source with the general distribution.

    -calvin

  • by Anonymous Coward
    They are correct that there is nothing wrong with them appointing a limited number of beta testers. They are wrong if they think they can restrict the right of those beta testers to redistribute copies of any gpl or gpl derived code that they give to them.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    We should just wait and see how Corel responds to the whole mess. Their mail server is probably smoking right now. Maybe they will abandon Linux, based on the kind of people in the "Linux community" they find themselves surrounded by. It's certainly got to have a chilling effect in other companies pondering the risk of getting entangled with the GPL.
  • by Guzzi (61870) on Monday September 20, 1999 @05:52AM (#1671721)
    http://www.corel.com/betaprogram/faq.htm

    Corel® LINUX® Beta Q & A

    What is beta testing?
    Beta testing can be considered "pre-release testing" in which a sampling of the intended audience tests
    the product and provides feedback regarding their experience with the product. This feedback often
    results in modifications to the product prior to its first public distribution.

    How is Corel Beta testing Corel LINUX?
    The beta testing of Corel LINUX is being done in the same way that we currently test all of our
    software products. We will be selecting individuals from a list of those who have applied to become
    testers via our Web site. Those selected will receive a beta version copy of the software on CD-ROM.
    Beta testers will then be required to use the software and provide Corel with feedback regarding their
    experience with the product.

    What are the requirements for becoming a beta tester for Corel LINUX?
    We will select users based on their experience with Linux®, the diversity of hardware at their disposal
    and on their software testing experience. In addition, we are reserving spaces for some KDE and Debian
    developers.

    Why isn't Corel putting Corel LINUX on an FTP site for download?
    The first version of Corel LINUX is still in the development and testing phase and is not ready for
    general distribution. Beta testing is part of the development process that Corel is following to ensure
    that Corel LINUX reaches a suitable level of completeness and stability before it becomes widely available.

    How many people will be testing Corel LINUX?
    In order to ensure that the beta testing process can be properly administered, we will be limiting the number of registered beta testers for this
    first round of testing. The exact number of testers has not yet been determined.

    Is this testing style in keeping with the spirit of Open Source software distribution?
    Yes. The recruitment of outside Beta testers is part of the initial development process of Corel LINUX and will allow Corel to release the
    first version of Corel LINUX to the general public at an earlier date than would be possible if Corel relied only on its internal testing
    resources. Once Corel LINUX is ready for general distribution, it will be distributed in accordance with the criteria for Open Source software.

    When will Corel release the source code for Corel LINUX?
    The source code for Corel LINUX will be available with the first distribution of Corel LINUX.

    Will Corel be releasing the source code for applications it has created such as the Corel File Manager?
    Corel will be making the source code available for such applications. The exact terms of the license under which the source code will be
    distributed has not yet been announced.

    If I am not accepted for this round of testing, can I still be involved in the testing of subsequent beta versions of Corel LINUX?
    Yes. We will be conducting another round of beta testing in the fall and you can apply then. The second round of beta testing will be much
    larger than the first and may even be openly available from our FTP site. Keep an eye on the Corel Beta news page or consult Linux.Corel.com
    for upcoming beta announcements.

  • It's all nice to have Bruce Perens explain things here, but what I'm really interested in is what the FSF and their most vocal representative Richard Stallman thinks of this.

    After all, they created the license that we're talking about, they have the lawyers who waterproofed the license, so they are the ones who can most authoritatively say wether Corel did or didn't technically violate the GPL, all other considerations (like what a nice cozy corporation Corel is to embrace Linux) aside.

    EjB
  • I believe they made a simple mistake, but they should have known about this before hand. The worst thing a company can do is upset their target audience. After this Corel will be tarnished in the community. Corel is a company and wants to make money, but they should understand the market before racing to release a product and looking foolish in the process.

    -Brian
  • Listen, FYI all of them are clowns. RMS, ESR, Perens. It takes that kind of determination to make it in our society.

    Besides, the Law says that IF YOU DON'T COVER YOUR ASS, you lose the right to defend a license.

    Don't you realize your eagerness to defend your high-and-mighty idealogies is the exact sort of hysteria that characterizes Microsoft's legal department? In your fierceness to defend against look-and-feel, you've become just as lawyer-happy when someone even questions "your" ethics

    Come again? He never said defend ideologies. He said defend the GPL. Show some ability to process complex contexts. Defending a license is not the same as being letigious. (Drop the dictionary. The world makes dictionaries, not the other way around. The world therefore has precedence on meaning. Unless this is Oceania.)
  • So wait, if I wanna take GPL code and sell it, all I have to do is make the person I'm selling it to sign an "NDA" or claim they are my employee? Just as long as I don't sell it to the public at CompUSA, I can claim it's "private" and get around the GPL? I think not...
  • It seems that the BSD license is the communist one: "to each according to his needs (want the source? take the source), from each according to what he can provide (here's the source, take it)."

    The GPL, on the other hand, says "Here's the source, here's the program. There's no marginal cost to me if you copy it, so I won't charge you for that. If you want to use it, though, you'll have to agree to my terms. Rather than demanding money in exchange for my work, you must give back any changes you make. Furthermore, you do not gain the right to exclude others from my property, to which I am only grant you license to use."

    It's a contract establishing a consentual transaction between parties to establish the rights associated with intellectual property. Sounds pretty damn capitalist to me.
  • Windows tacticts don't work in the linux community... the faster they learn that, the better.
  • Sorry Corel, you lose bigtime with that little play.

    If Corel insist on trying to license 'Corel' Linux under their terms, I suggest someone start up a GPL enforcement office, and we pay a Lawyer to take these things to court.

    I'll give 50 quid to the organisation that impliments THAT.

    *shakes head*

    Come on Corel, don't lose our confidence.
  • Actually, the GPL makes no distinction between internal and external distribution. You distribute it to them under the GPL, or you don't distribute at all. Or you violate the license. The recipient being under contractual obligation has no effect on this, because the GPL forbids you from distributing under terms other than the GPL. Either you release them from the contractual obligation, or you can't distribute it to them. If you install it on company computers, that's one thing, because that's not distributing to someone. But that's not what they're doing here.
    For employees, there might be laws that prevent them from using the rights that the GPL grants them, but no conditions imposed by the employer can apply, or distributing the software to them would have been illegal.
    This is my understanding of the GPL. IANAL.
  • Why wouldn't the GPL stand up in court? The whole reason that shrinkwrap licensing is so fruity is that you've already paid money for the software, then after the sale is concluded, you're supposedly bound into a contract; the theory against them is that the uniform commercial code grants you certain rights as a result of the purchasing transaction, which you didn't waive during the transaction itself.

    The GPL, on the other hand, specifically states (paraphrasing a bit) "Nothing requires you to agree to this license, since you haven't signed it. However, nothing else grants you the right to use this software." Copyright law gives the author the right to exclude anyone from using the work (except for fair use, which wholesale copying usually isn't.) The GPL states the terms under which the author is willing to allow Joe Public to use his intellectual property.

    The only possible hitch would be if you'd purchased GPL'd software; then it might be argued that the UCC grants you certian rights because you purchased it. (although with the new UTICA, there's no reason to believe it would be any less valid than any other software license agreement.) The fact that you are able to obtain any GPL'd software gratis seems to be to be pretty clear evidence that what you are purchasing is not the software per se, but rather the service of the distribution itself.

    Yes, it's ironic that the GPL depends on the existence of intellectual property rights. My personal feeling is that RMS is fully aware of this, and probably loves the paradox. I know I do.
  • So just ignore the Corel license. Let's get a copy of it up on an FTP server. Hopefully CheapBytes will put it out on a CD
  • the GPL doesn't say internal distribution is different. It seems to say any distribution has to follow this licence.

    Wouldn't it be nice if I could buy one copy of any software and 'internally' distribute it to whomever I choose, worldwide without violating any license?
  • Dude. The FSF has lawyers, not just rambling old RMS =).

    Also, a certain company called RedHat would tend to want to defend the GPL. Have you ever heard of SuSE, GmbH? How about Walnut Creek CDROM? Linuxcare? All of these companies woud be in a Bad Way (TM) if the GPL was non-functional.

    Another thing is: If the GPL is invalid, then all software licences are invalid.

    Also: What argument exactly would Corel use?

    "Ahh, well, we, err, think, that, umm, because they, ahh, released the, err, source code, then, umm, it should be treated, uhh, as if it were, err, in the public domain. Yea, uhh, that's it."?

    I think the GPL's on some pretty solid ground with some pretty sold backing.

  • Debian's goal is to be the most open source distribution (iirc). Corel is basing its distribution off of Debian and currently has the title of most closed Linux Distribution.

    Hopefully they will see the error in their ways and correct this problem very soon.
  • you can reach them at corellinux@corel.com
    write them and let them know we are upset.
    Let them know that we wont support their distro on IRC, that we wont help new users using their product, that we will actively boycott their distribution and encourage others to do the same. Let them know that we will donate a few bucks each to organizations like the FSF who will persue them in court ($2 * 2 million linux users == $4,000,000 == lots of lawyers) and finally let them know that its not too late to win our trust back!

    You would be surprised how much Corel needs our help on IRC and throughout the community to do their job of tech support for them. If they dont have our help they will have to spend many tens of thousands of dollars extra on tech support.

    now that i have finished ranting i will go to class and turn my FORTRAN assignment in...



  • by grrlfox (80643) on Monday September 20, 1999 @02:09AM (#1671749)
    It looks like beta test agreements that I've seen before from IBM and Lotus. Most likely the beta agreements got slapped onto the software by someone in their legal dept. who doesn't have a CLUE what the GPL is.
    I doubt that this bodes well for the Corel version of Linux, though, if their legal department can't even read the licenses that are already attached to the distribution.....
  • I mean.. If they _try_ to copyright the distrib, what's next? Copyright initialisation scripts?
    Cmon....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 1999 @02:09AM (#1671751)
    Before we all go berserk on Corel, maybe someone at Slashdot could get some clarification from them. Did they just use their standard beta license by mistake? Does the licentse only apply to betas, and not the finished product?
  • I guess this puts quite a dent in Corel's reputation for the OSS people.

    Corel just went down a couple of places in my 'cool companies that do stuff with linux' list.
  • Sounds about like what they have planned..... but then again
    I may just be a pessimist at the moment.

    I do have faith that Corel will do what's right...
    I just hope that it's not misplaced this time... *erf!*


  • True, many companies charge for GPL software, or charge for it in a package. However, they place no restrictions on what you do with it after you get it. Corel is doing just that, restricting what you do after you get it. It doesn't matter if you can get it somewhere else.
    ---
  • We can probably assume that that contract only holds true for the stuff Corel developed. The "product" would be the CD as a whole, but obviously they can't restrict your use of GPL'd parts of the CD.



    All they need to do to comply with the GPL is offer an FTP site for the source code of all GPL'd programs and derivatives thereof.



    If they don't do even that, THEN they're violating the GPL and should change their ways or action should be taken against them.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Linux has the hypeshare, not the mindshare.

    It is a very important distinction. When and if Linux is a smouldering wreck, sunk because it carried a big blatant target called the GPL, and sorta begged all the missle launchers to let go at it, the BSD projects will still be chugging along.
  • you're not an employee if you don't get paid, ever heard of a minimum wage?
  • Since the GPL doesn't mention "public distribution", but merely distribution, it doesn't matter what you call it. If you distribute, you do it under the GPL or not at all.
  • why doesn't the debian group ask a federal court to ban the importation of corel linux into the US if they don't change the license. That would be more effective than just asking nicely. Since most of their market is here in the US, if they had an exporation ban against them it would cripple them if they don't change the license.
  • _probably_ the GPL?

    It doesn't matter, if you don't enforce your license you pretty much relinquish it. They need to be corrected now.

    By the way, changes made to software because it is 'internal use' do not have to be destributed by the GPL - but if you have access to the software in binary or source format you have rights with the source (if you have it in binary format, you have the right to get the source it was compiled from). This goes without it being internal beta or not. You cannot place a restriction on (for instance) your employees that they cannot redistribute the modified GPL program's source, or else you are actually in violation of the GPL. So the beta users should have the right to get the source, recompile it, or distribute it, which the license does not allow. Beta or not, the license is in violation of the GPL.
  • Why would Corel try and pull something like this? One would assume that this tactic will alienate them from their consumer base and that they are well aware of it...especially after CmdrTaco gets a hold of the info.

    Perhaps they are afraid that some of their 'competitors' such as Red Hat or Mandrake will borrow the code they released and make it their own. (Which won't happen because GPL means no one has the IP rights to it to begin with...I think)

    I cannot even use the old addage "Even bad publicity is good publicity" to rationalize this. Except in maybe someway they want to give people the sense that their code is "Forbidden fruit"...thus causing a lot of people to pirate the code even though they really aren't because its under GPL.

    *shrug* Its been a long day.

    Why is Chewbacca on Endor? Wookies don't live on Endor! It makes no sense!

    >;)

    -Vel
  • I guess thats the place to go to discuss it with them
  • Read the GPL, and then read the Corel Beta Agreement. The Corel Beta Agreement has a clause which it states that it supersedes any and all other ownership rights. The GPL takes no rights away from Corel's ability to keep secret any Corel developed software ... it just makes it contrary to law to attempt to alter a copyright holder's rights. Red Hat and Caldera handle this by making a clear difference between their and other's products vs the GPL. The non-GPLed products may have any license desired. The GPL products license may NOT be altered by anyone.
  • And your local store doesn't distribute software, they make it available to those who wish to pay?
  • Wow, that is totally on crack.. so what distinguishes the collection from 'every individual element inside the collection', which he would have rights to?

    I need to move to a country where law is simpler. But damnit, then we'd have to still listen to international law.. mebbe that private moon base will have a few apartments up for rent soon..
  • by aallan (68633)
    There are two ways to look at this, if we look at it in the best light possible, what probably happened was that some techie dumped a CDROM onto a PR departments hack's desk and said "Distribute this for Beta test". The PR hack did, attaching the standard legal mumbo jumbo, not knowing what
    they were doing.

    If we look at it in a bad light, then Corel don't have a leg to stand on. The GNU Project guys will crucify them...
  • Is this testing style in keeping with the spirit of Open Source software distribution?
    Yes. The recruitment of outside Beta testers is part of the initial development process of Corel LINUX and will allow Corel to release the first version of Corel LINUX to the general public at an earlier date than would be possible if Corel relied only on its internal testing resources. Once Corel LINUX is ready for general distribution, it will be distributed in accordance with the criteria for Open Source software.
    --by which they probably mean the GPL
  • And thats *exactly* what that is. They did a global search and replace on "CorelDRAW" and replaced it with "Linux" essentially.

    The person who probably crufted together the Beta test agreement is probably a clueless droid and no one caught the error.

  • Corel has a plausible argument that they are NOT actually RELEASING this code yet (note that they're only giving it to a limited selection of volunteers, not making it generally FTPable), that they have some of their proprietary packages mixed in there which they do NOT intend to open-source, and that they were simply trying to accellerate the beta test by not holding things up to sort them out, instead relying on the contract with the beta testers (trading pre-release access for their work and waiver of rights under the open-source licenses).

    Now they may not have a leg to stand on. But then again they may. And they HAVE announced an intention to release the source according to the appropriate open-source license terms with the general release, and to sell a separate distribution with their closed-source intellectual property added.

    So the courts might agree with them. And other prospective open-source providers might be turned off if someone "bites the hand that feeds them" by publishing Corel's IP along with the beta.

  • by NovaX (37364) on Monday September 20, 1999 @12:29PM (#1671824)
    Personally, the only violation would be not distribting the source code. In that faq, it says they will suply the source code with the product. The GPL says they must supply it, one way or another. They don't have to have it on an FTP.

    One can merely email them and say, I want the source code to your beta! If they so 'NO!' then that is a violation. If they say, sure, but we will charge you for the cost of sending a cd specially made for you. That's fine, the GPL says that's ok, as long as its to cover costs. Actually, I believe RMS tries to charge as much as possible if you get the code from them, directly (offline).. something about old tapes. Its on GNU's site somewhere..

    The point is, I don't see any violation by Corel unless they refuse to release the source that was gobbled up by the GPL.

    12. Intellectual Property Rights
    All right title and interest to all intellectual property with respect to the Product shall remain with Corel and its licensors. No license or other right of any kind is granted by Corel's furnishing the Products to User, except for the limitted right to use and test the Product as expressly provided in this Agreement.


    {bold done by me}

    So, Corel says that the user cannot break the licenses in the distribution, Corel's, GNU's, and others. Wow, I'm so shocked! That does not violate the GPL.

    They also say elsewhere that he user cannot disclose confidential information. That's fine, Corel can say 'this part is confidential.' That's in their right.

    Corel says they must destroy the copy. That's ok. Corel is the one who must distribcute the code, not the user. As their copy contains Corel non-GPL'ed code, they can say that. Corel must provide the source code on any Open Source software, which would be a seperate cd or however they choose.

    Finally, Corel says the user cannot distribute the CD. The above makes this obviouse why, it contains Corel code. Again, the user is not the one bound by the GPL to send out source code, Corel and others are. I can't demand - "You run RedHat! Go find and give me all the free source code!" Thus, this is legal. It would be illegal for the user to distribute Corel's Linux, as it contain's Corel's code. Without that code (I assume some is GPL'ed and some is not), it would be fine.

    Actually, Corel never denied distribution of the free code, just not the distribution. The free code makes up some of the distribution, but not all of it.

    Does anyone else see this as a mistake by Slashdot readers? How many posters read the license? Even the sections pointed out by Mr. Taco , are not illegal. I believe I've proven why. If not, ask me to clearify some more. I think this is just as dumb as when a a senator (?) was running for office and said niggardly (sp?), and had to drop out because to few people looked up the word and considered it a slander even after they knew what it really meant.

    Come on people, this is not a violation. Your just making Corel look evil, and thus hurting a good company, hurting an ally, and may even make people afraid of you. Maybe that's where BSD really does have a plus, companies don't have to be scared of their users.

    (I only realized this when a Linux guy stated this, "Post Slamming the GPL." Didn't see these posts in the mess I read.. but I'm sure he posted that for a good reason.)
  • by Chris Johnson (580) on Monday September 20, 1999 @08:45AM (#1671827) Homepage Journal
    If they want to control the process, they can damned well write their own operating system and see how far that gets them! They do not have permission to control distribution in this manner. Who cares if they'd be getting tons of bug reports? That's beside the point: to the extent that they follow through on this daft licensing notion they are breaking the contract (the GPL), which says NOTHING about number of bug reports or whether you're calling the software or distribution a release, a beta, an alpha or a _Studebaker_.
    I'm glad Bruce Perens has taken it upon himself to try and correct them. It's good to negotiate, but we (GPL using authors of which I am one, though my stuff isn't in their dist) have no ground to give. GPL means GPL. Don't like it, go somewhere else or make up a different license or use BSD instead of Linux. There is no flexibility in what you might call the 'freedom of information' aspects of the GPL. Everything else comes in second to this, it's the whole point of the license in the first place. It is _not_ _encouraging_ to see Corel, even temporarily, thinking "Let's use the GPL, except that we will need to control the information and regulate it for our convenience!". Even though this is evidently a mistake it has to be stopped cold- and it's not delightful to see people arguing that they should be allowed to do it for 'practical' reasons. Again: if you want practical go use BSD licensing- the GPL has an agenda, one that I personally agree with and support and contribute to. The convenience of Corel is beside the point! They need to fix this mistake immediately, either by not having beta testing from the outside at all, or by fixing the licensing. Their choice :P
  • by Adam Schumacher (267) on Monday September 20, 1999 @12:33PM (#1671831) Homepage

    Caldera does a very nice job of accomplishing this. Their licencing appendix in the user's guide is a bit bloated, but it does make the distinction between GPL software, Caldera Systems software, and third-party commercial software. It even goes so far as to outline in the EULA which software falls under which category, and attaches the full text of the GPL. Very nice.

    - Adam Schumacher
    cybershoe@mindless.com

  • Looked at in the best light, the license is probably intended cover any Corel proprietary content that may be in the distribution. Obviously, the beta test license cannot conceivably apply to any material that is under the GPL, so you can ignore the license with respect to those components that fall under the GPL (or other licenses incompatible with Corel's).

    The only gripe I have is that their license doesn't make it clear what is and what is not covered. Newbies might think that it covers every included item.

    So this could be just a case of innocent misrepresentation. My guess is that someone in the company who is vaguely clueless about free software just applied some ``standard'' beta test licensing boiler-plate.
  • The stuff that is not "releaseable" is what is called Confidential Information, defined as
    ... nonpublic information that Corel designates as being confidential, or which, under the circumstances surrounding disclosure ought to be treated as confidential.
    Confidential information does not include any information which the User can conclusively establish was (i) in the possession of the user at the time of the disclosure; (ii) prior to or after the time of disclosure becomes publicly available without the act or omission of the User; (iii) is disclosed to the User by a third party under no legal obligation to maintain the confidentiality of such information; or (iv) was independently developed by the user.

    Software that represents part of the Debian [debian.org] body of code will fall under item (iii) above, and thus represent stuff that is Not Confidential Information.

    It is pretty evident that the lawyers "went a little ape" on this; as likely as not someone needs to wander over to Gowling and Henderson (the big Ottawa law firm) and have words with them.

    It is not, however, evident that this represents a clear violation of the GPL.

    The only stuff it seems would legally be able to be treated as "Confidential" would be code that Corel themselves produce and provide.

  • They are behaving as if 'beta' testing 'doesn't count' somehow. The contract does not support them in this mistaken assumption, so they either need to not beta test with outside people, or to follow the GPL, _or_ simply this: they can beta test with only selected people, and simply place NO RESTRICTION on those people. Then those people can redistribute all they want, but nobody is forcing Corel to _listen_ to anyone but their selected beta testers. They can select only the people they wish to have feedback from, and ignore anyone else for the beta stages. This fully complies with the GPL, because all the GPL cares about is getting the information out unrestrictedly (except by the GPL itself). The GPL contract nowhere states that the dist compiler _must_ listen to bug reports or work with whoever comes along- it only says that you _must_ give the work to anybody who wants it.
  • by Signal 11 (7608) on Monday September 20, 1999 @02:11AM (#1671859)
    I'm waiting for Bruce Perens here, since he always posts good material on these copyright issues. But he hasn't posted yet, so I will. :)

    Nobody here can do anything about this violation. That's right - you can't stop Corel from doing this. But the authors of these packages can. If Corel won't back off, the community will need to undertake an effort to bring a class-action lawsuit against Corel for violation of the GPL. This should amount to some 200 or so violations if all the authors of the individual packages cooperate. Debian might also be able to sue (IANAL).

    Bruce, are you out there? How do you feel about getting a group going to spearhead this? We need somebody to herd cats. :)

    For now, everybody just sit tight - I'm fairly certain it won't come to this - Corel isn't this stupid. The legal department probably erred and didn't contact the engineers before slapping these restrictions on. We'll see...

    --

  • Maybe the individual packages can't be controlled by Corel, but the compilation may be an independently-copyrightable work. Hence, the distribution itself might be property of Corel, while the individual components are property of others.

    Of course, with Corel's distribution based on Debian, the compilation is probably a derivative work of Debian, so Corel can't control a compilation copyright. However, in principle, I think a Linux distribution might be able to be restrictively copyrighted.

    Any lawyers wish to comment?
  • Corel has slipped up on something that makes passionate software users everywhere an anomaly: There needs to be a connection between the legal department and the PR department.

    Coming from a Windows world where messing with copyright terms will not anger most end users, they have made a horrible blunder that needs to be fixed right away if they wish to retain the respect of a large part of the community. If they do not, it is a sign that the support of the hardcore Linux users do not matter to Corel in the slightest.

    I don't know about most of you, but as a home computer user, I don't really read the licenses of Windows products that I've installed, but I go through the trouble for a lot of Linux packages, because the implications of a limiting license under Linux could mean a lot more, since distros like Debian Linux can be rolled out in most situations without a second thought as to whether the software that I just installed software that needed to be registered with the company in 20 days, or it becomes disabled.

    Corel Linux's blunder has only slightly to do with inconveniencing us from using their modified betas. Rather, it has everything to do with someone stealing the intellectual property that was released to the public. It is a challenge against the GPL.

    Don't we have to protect the GPL, or the software that had it's copyright licenses gets violated? The applying laws to this may or may not be the same in my country. Also, does anyone have a list or could pass some names along as to what software was stolen?

    This could also bring up a bit of a holy war: People who say that anyone who cries out against Corel for this are overreacting: They will release the source with the distro eventually. However, I believe it's the principal of the thing.

    Let's hope this is a stupid mistake and not a stupid company. It is a sign that when Linux grows up enough to have a big enough user base, that the communities of old and wise(sometimes) coders can be ignored by companies and profit can still be made using our software. When this happens, and I'm not saying it did, people will hesitate to contribute to a movement that helps so many companies who do not care about us. Free software has this hurdle to get past, if Linux ever eventually has enough of a userbase of average users. It will probably happen within the next few years.
  • by Natedog (11943) on Monday September 20, 1999 @02:13AM (#1671878)
    Hmm...seems that Corel should have first defined a point of separation between the GPL'd stuff and their own proprietary Products (why did they use an uppercase P?). In other words, they should have worded it something like "This distro contains both GPL and Corel owned product. All GPL'd product can be distributed freely under the terms of the GPL and any changes Corel has made to GPL products is also freely avaliable. However, all Corel owned products are copyrighted by Corel and my not be copied or redistributed."
  • What do you mean, "District Attorney."

    In the jurisdiction in which Corel is incorporated, it would be a Crown Attorney that could be relevant, and that only if this were a criminal matter. (With court session probably to be held a couple blocks from my old high school, but I digress...)

    The firestorm that would arise from taking such action would have Unintended Consequences that would likely be widely injurious to the free software community.

    It makes a lot more sense for one or three of the people that are developers of software known to be included with "Corel Linux" to calmly request that the language in the "Beta License" be toned down a little to correctly reflect the licensing of the free software being distributed.

    It is highly probable that the high-handed wording resulted from some lawyers that having arbitrarily applied the sorts of licensing terms they have always applied to beta editions of things like WordPerfect or CorelDraw! without having properly read the free software licenses.

    Does it make more sense to:

    • Try to burn them in oil, and certainly discourage them from ever considering free software ever again? or
    • Respectfully requesting some form of "cease and desist" that provides an avenue for them to back down gracefully, provide a more satisfactory license, and learn something from the process?
    I know which option I'd rather go with...
  • It's pretty clear (emphasis mine):

    6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein. You are not responsible for enforcing compliance by third parties to this License.

    No language about "internal use." In fact, "internal" does not appear anywhere in the GPL. Corel is violating the terms of the GPL. Perhaps this was unintentional. Regardless, it must be corrected promptly, if only to specify that the license language only applies to those parts of the distribution wholly developed by Corel.

    --
    Interested in XFMail? New XFMail home page [slappy.org]

  • I don't think that this is intentional. I think that they probably took a regular Beta license that they give out for all products and used it for their linux distro. I also do not believe that they would intentionally try to retain rights over things they obviously don't own, or that they would try to keep withhold the source code for their distribution. I think they just don't want every gimp in the world to have a copy of their beta versions, and sending in irrelevent mailings about certain "features".
  • It took about 1/2 a minute to find this info in the Corel Linux Beta Test FAQ [corel.com]:

    Why isn't Corel putting Corel LINUX on an FTP site for download? The first version of Corel LINUX is still in the development and testing phase and is not ready for general distribution. Beta testing is part of the development process that Corel is following to ensure that Corel LINUX reaches a suitable level of completeness and stability before it becomes widely available.

    Is this testing style in keeping with the spirit of Open Source software distribution?
    Yes. The recruitment of outside Beta testers is part of the initial development process of Corel LINUX and will allow Corel to release the first version of Corel LINUX to the general public at an earlier date than would be possible if Corel relied only on its internal testing resources. Once Corel LINUX is ready for general distribution, it will be distributed in accordance with the criteria for Open Source software.

    When will Corel release the source code for Corel LINUX?
    The source code for Corel LINUX will be available with the first distribution of Corel LINUX.

    Will Corel be releasing the source code for applications it has created such as the Corel File Manager?
    Corel will be making the source code available for such applications. The exact terms of the license under which the source code will be distributed has not yet been announced.

    Looks like they have "closed" the beta so as to limit "bad" copies of Corel Linux in circulation. This may, indeed, violate the GPL, but doesn't look like they are "commercialising"/"closing" their/debian's distro- not they even indicate that the Corel developed software will be OSS (though not necessarily GPL).

  • by zantispam (78764) on Monday September 20, 1999 @02:16AM (#1671925)
    I think that this is a blessing in disguise.

    The GPL hasn't really received a trial by fire yet. While I agree with some earlier posters that this was possibly a MarketDroid typo, I think that we have to be prepared for it not to be.

    In other words, legal precedent for the GPL.

    IMHO, that, along with a nice point-and-drool install, will advance Linux more than anything.


  • Even if it only applies to betas, there is still a serious problem. They are distributing software in a way that violates GPL. Period.

    We cannot make exceptions for software that vendors label as "beta". If we do, what's to stop everyone from calling their software "beta" and then continuing on to violate GPL with it?

    We must consistently, vigorously defend Free Software.

  • I believe you are being intentionally misleading. The complete quote which you began is "all right, title, and interest to all intellectual property with respect to the Products shall remain with Corel and it's licensors" This clearly indicates that the original owners of non-Corel code, still retain all their rights. The GPL code is therefore not owned by Corel.

    Oh, damn. I wasn't being misleading, I was being flat out wrong. It wasn't intentionally, I swear. I don't know how I missed that.

    Well, never mind then. The only concern in the license is the restricted redistribution after all.
  • Actually, if I remember correctly, the GPL has been violated by a business before. It was NeXT, actually. They added Onjective-C to GCC, then tried to close up their source tree. FSF got mad, took them to court, and the end result is that we now have Objective-C in GCC as Open-Source.

    In other words, Corel's about to get slammed hard. And frankly, they deserve it; I don't consider myself an OSS-zealot, but breaking a license like this is another issue entirely.
  • by rhuff (22750) on Monday September 20, 1999 @02:17AM (#1671940) Homepage
    It doesn't matter if the license only applies to the betas or not. The betas contain GPL'ed material, which cannot be licensed under different terms without permission of all the contributors.

    While I suspect that Corel didn't mean to do a Bad Thing, that doesn't alleviate their guilt. If they are serious about participating in the free software community, they need to apologize and change their licensing terms immediately.
  • Looking at the agreement itself, it's pretty obvious that some legal department lackey did a search-and-replace using the last beta product license for who-knows-what. There are provisions that are obviously in violation with previous and superceding GPL licensing, but I suspect that it's an error, rather than a ploy to try and steal GPL code back into the proprietary world.

    Corel will, in all likelyhood, quietly revise the license and try to remove the egg from their collective faces.
  • by Zooko (2210) on Monday September 20, 1999 @02:18AM (#1671952) Homepage

    Calm down, people. This is obviously just a mistake. If you think Corel is deliberately setting out to violate the law and torpedo their own product then you're an idiot.

    Someone needs to calmly and politely point out their error and try to help them do damage control so that this incident doesn't make their target market nervous about trying Linux.

    Corel is a small, struggling company and they are probably working way too hard trying to break new ground for Linux in the mainstream marketplace. Their lawyers are probably wrestling with a thousand complicated issues about how to embrace Linux and still protect Corel from the usual suite of legal threats by opportunistic consumers and predatory competitors. They are bound to make a few mistakes, but they're not trying to rip anybody off.

    Help them, don't hurt them.

    Zooko

  • by sinnergy (4787) on Monday September 20, 1999 @02:19AM (#1671958) Homepage
    that it will take corporate lawyers a little bit of time to learn how to deal with new licensing terms, such as GPL. In the past, they've had complete control (theoretically speaking, of course), of how their software was licensed and used. It takes a while to teach an old dog new tricks. For Corel's sake, I hope they learn fast or this could be a serious black eye. If anything, this might serve as a lesson and reminder to other corporations moving towards the OSS movement. Perhaps this will remind them that they don't necessarily make the rules anymore.
  • This could be the first real test of the GPL's legal viability.

    What concerns me is this:
    Who will be more convincing in court? RMS rambling about "taking away freedom"? Or Corel's army of knowledgable copyright lawyers, who have probably already found every legal loophole there is in the GPL?

    The future of the open-source community hangs in the balance. If the GPL doesn't hold up in court, it's open season for profiteers and freeloaders -- and I think it will be a long time before anyone gives away their hard work for free again.
  • Isn't the benefit of free and opensource software to have the code WITH the beta so that the people using it can fix bugs. By not using the GPL for the beta, Corel are losing a major benefit of open and free software. $0.02
  • This could be the first real test of whether the GPL and other software licences are really enforceable. I see three possible outcomes:

    1) Non-enforceable. The whole software industry (including free software) goes into disarray. The terms of the GPL would probably be observed by most companies anyway to keep the community goodwill going. Flamewars about the BSD/GPL flame wars will be meaningless, and everyone will go back to coding.

    2) Enforceable. Nothing much changes, except that everyone gets a warm fuzzy feeling about the power of their favourite software licence.

    3) Corel backs down. This is the only really likely scenario. This all blows over and the only people who still care would use plain Debian instead of Corel's effort anyway.

    (I think I've finally got un-confused about Corel and Caldera both being companies starting with 'C' with Linux distributions - Yay!)
  • by AJWM (19027) on Monday September 20, 1999 @02:20AM (#1671979) Homepage
    A few idiots were squawking about this when the beta program was first announced, and they were just as wrong then.

    It's a beta test, and although Microsoft has warped that term to mean "early public access for suckers who'll pay us money", it has long been traditional that beta testers are, in effect, working for the company developing the software and that beta copies remain the property of the developer just as they would if all the testers were working inside as full time employees (hence the legal paperwork in the first place).

    Since this is a beta, and not a public release, for the purposes of the GPL it can be considered "internal only" and not a public distribution, and thus the GPL does not apply. The licenses explicitly calls this a pre-release, so the product has not been released yet.

    (For a similar case, consider the NDA'd development of the 64-bit Merced Linux port.)

    Now, if Corel doesn't change the licensing when it distributes an actual product, then folks have a legitimate complaint. Meanwhile, anyone who signs that contract and violates it by posting the pre-release distro is as guilty of piracy as any warez kiddie.

    (And no, I'm not and never have been a Corel employee or stockholder.)
  • Just to get something straight, they define "the Products" to be "Beta builds for Corel LINUX" - not just their own software, but the whole wad.

    They then claim that they have "all right, title, and interest to all intellectual property with respect to the products", and that "User may not, however, reproduce or distribute copies of the Products"... granted, that last part is GPL-specific, and the GPL has never been tested in court... but the first claim is just a gross violation of copyright law.

    And even if they could find a loophole to get away with the second claim, do they really want to be remembered as the company who broke the GPL?

    (copied to corellinux@corel.com)
  • As I see it, Corel is distributing a PRIVATE software package, to a limited number of people, hand chosen by them. Under the GPL, this is not public distribution, and not subject to all of the GPL _YET_. This is an inhouse only beta test, even if they are picking people from 'outside'.

    I might be wrong here. I checked the GPL and I don't see a definition of 'distribution' but it was my understand that inhouse use did NOT mean that you were forced to distribute source to others (or other GPL-ish activities). If I'm wrong, then section 4 means that anyone can distribute the beta:

    4. You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under this License. Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License. However, parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long as such parties remain in full compliance.

  • by Dast (10275) on Monday September 20, 1999 @02:32AM (#1671995)
    Kinda funny. This story has brought out yet more posts that basically say "This wouldn't have happened if you use a BSD style license."

    Well, they are right. If Linux (and Debian specifically) were licensed under a BSD style license, this wouldn't have happened.

    But... That is like saying, if you have no rights, no one can infringe upon you. How much sense does that make?

    The reason we use the GPL so we have (hopefully) some legal ground to stop companies doing exactly what Corel (might) be doing. I say might, because it looks to me like a Legal Dept. error.

    Yes, we could have used a BSD license and Corel wouldn't have a problem playing unfair. But we want companies to play fair--this one of the reasons the GPL exists. Now, whether or not it is enforceable is a whole other issue. But at least we try.
  • "Since this is a beta, and not a public release, for the purposes of the GPL it can be considered "internal only" and not a public distribution, and
    thus the GPL does not apply. The licenses explicitly calls this a pre-release, so the product has not been released yet."

    This is certainly a reasonable take on things - and quite possibly the assumption Corel is operating under. If it is, they really should have mentioned it somewhere themselves - they were sending these documents out to people who have been selected in part because of their interest in free software.

    This may not be a legal screw-up on their part - it certainly appears that it is not. I don't think the GPL would be a usable license if it mandated that you had to make your software freely distributable at pre-release stages in development. But it is definitely a PR screw up - and one Corel should have anticipated.

    This explanation and the "It's just a standard beta agreement" explanation are mutually exclusive.
  • Is this license agreement a serious attempt to attach incompatible Corel licensing onto their distribution, or did they simply attach some "boilerplate" license without realizing it? Obviously it can't stand as it is. They'll either need to change their license, switch to an OS with a different licensing scheme, or prepare for a long legal battle.

    "Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity." :)

    • ...start up a GPL enforcement office, and we pay a Lawyer to take these things to court.

    Hold on a second...

    While it is a good idea to enforce the GPL where applicable, it certainly should not be necessary to be as litigious as our closed source friends. This American ``sue everyone'' mentality really gets on my nerves sometimes (and I'm American!).

    Corel obviously made a goof. You work on proprietary software long enough, you start to think there is nothing else, especially if you're a software company's lawyer drone, using search and replace to do 10 years of contracts and EULAs.

    Certainly, if someone (perhaps the Debian folks) were to contact Corel and point out the error, they should have no problem writing a real agreement that is compatible with the GPL. I mean, they pay the lawers for something, right? Right?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 1999 @02:49AM (#1672007)
    A few idiots were squawking about this when the beta program was first announced, and they were just as wrong then. It's a beta test, and although Microsoft has warped that term to mean "early public access for suckers who'll pay us money", it has long been traditional that beta testers are, in effect, working for the company developing the software and that beta copies remain the property of the developer just as they would if all the testers were working inside as full time employees (hence the legal paperwork in the first place). Since this is a beta, and not a public release, for the purposes of the GPL it can be considered "internal only" and not a public distribution, and thus the GPL does not apply. The licenses explicitly calls this a pre-release, so the product has not been released yet. (For a similar case, consider the NDA'd development of the 64-bit Merced Linux port.) Now, if Corel doesn't change the licensing when it distributes an actual product, then folks have a legitimate complaint. Meanwhile, anyone who signs that contract and violates it by posting the pre-release distro is as guilty of piracy as any warez kiddie. (And no, I'm not and never have been a Corel employee or stockholder.)
  • I've read nothing but posts saying either 'Corel is violating the GPL (period)' or 'Corel probably made a mistake'. I've decided to check it out for myself. Here's the scoop from:

    http://www.corel.com/betaprogram/faq.htm

    (Select Portions Follow:)

    Corel® LINUX® Beta Q & A

    What are the requirements for becoming a beta tester for Corel LINUX?
    We will select users based on their experience with Linux®, the diversity of hardware at their disposal and on their software testing experience. In addition, we are reserving spaces for some KDE and Debian developers.

    Why isn't Corel putting Corel LINUX on an FTP site for download?
    The first version of Corel LINUX is still in the development and testing phase and is not ready for general distribution. Beta testing is part of the development process that Corel is following to ensure that Corel LINUX reaches a suitable level of completeness and stability before it becomes widely available.

    How many people will be testing Corel LINUX?
    In order to ensure that the beta testing process can be properly administered, we will be limiting the number of registered beta testers for this first round of testing. The exact number of testers has not yet been determined.

    Is this testing style in keeping with the spirit of Open Source software distribution?
    Yes. The recruitment of outside Beta testers is part of the initial development process of Corel LINUX and will allow Corel to release the first version of Corel LINUX to the general public at an earlier date than would be possible if Corel relied only on its internal testing resources. Once Corel LINUX is ready for general distribution, it will be distributed in accordance with the criteria for Open Source software.

    When will Corel release the source code for Corel LINUX?
    The source code for Corel LINUX will be available with the first distribution of Corel LINUX.

    Will Corel be releasing the source code for applications it has created such as the Corel File Manager?
    Corel will be making the source code available for such applications. The exact terms of the license under which the source code will be distributed has not yet been announced.

    (end of Corel quote)

    Now what do you think?

  • by msphil (28085) on Monday September 20, 1999 @03:46AM (#1672016)

    Maybe the individual packages can't be controlled by Corel, but the compilation may be an independently-copyrightable work. Hence, the distribution itself might be property of Corel, while the individual components are property of others.

    <IANAL>

    It is my understanding that copyrighting compilations only holds for compilations which do not have their own rights. Otherwise, for instance, Author A, who writes books published by Publisher P1, could have his books "compiled" by Publisher P2, who could then publish it, and neither A nor P1 could do anything about it. The programs assembled in Debian do not relinquish their own copyright -- the GPL allows them to be distributed without explicit agreement with the copyright holders provided the GPL continues to be followed.

    The GPL [gnu.org] explicitly allows the programs to be distributed -- provided that the programs are distributed under the GPL. It becomes the purview of the copyright holders to make the case that the GPL has been violated, and assert their copyright.

    </IANAL>

    All of that being said, it would be a good idea for interested parties to gently and politely point out to Corel that their Beta agreement violates the GPL that allows them to distribute the software. However, they should also have some means of making an interim test version of the distribution before the product is finalized -- they just screwed up in making the beta agreement. I believe that another poster has already suggested that an amended agreement forbidding redistribution of Corel's portion (as opposed to Debian's) would be legitimate.

    If there is an attempt to license the final distribution in an insane manner (such as not allowing the GPL-covered portions to be re-distributed), then the appropriate people should take appropriate steps.

  • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Monday September 20, 1999 @03:52AM (#1672021) Homepage Journal
    Apologies for the lateness of this reply, Slashdot was so wedged that I could not post for a while.

    I got through to the responsible people at Corel, we just had a conference call, and we discussed strategies for dealing with beta-tests including software that's owned by people outside of Corel. They will fix the problem.

    Although I'm not always around to help, feel free to mail bruce@perens.com when this stuff comes up, and my home-office phone number is in my domain record. The SPI board has my cell-phone number.

    I did also tell them they're going to have to keep their eyes on the traditional Windows crowd at their office where things like this are concerned, or they'll appear clue-less and get the authors of the software really annoyed.

    Thanks

    Bruce Perens

  • Sorry: unless you can say that the beta testers are paid employees, they _are_ the public. They happen to be a picked subgroup of the public but they are certainly not employees, not insiders.
    Eventually this breaks down- are temps insiders? What about people who've only worked for the company for a short while? Eventually you get to people who are definitely insiders. (You could make an argument that, even so, those people have a right to the GPLed source!) However, making a public announcement fishing for members of the public to do beta testing is, well, public- there's no way that's an inside release. It's not intended to stay an inside release, it's not being tested on the inside anymore- it's distribution to the public, just on a smaller scale.
    Again, they ought to select beta testers and then decide to only pay _attention_ to their own choices for beta testers, while allowing the testers to redistribute. Do you realise that such a tester would, under Corel's original idea, be confronted with a whole _Linux_ distribution that hopefully is a good synthesis of lots of opensource software from all over- and yet the tester would be forbidden to distribute any of it through that channel? That's just not right- there's no reason such conditions have to cover the whole distribution. They can cover the proprietary bits, hopefully not for too long. :P
  • [Sorry if this is a duplicate - Slashdot is being balky today] Apologies for the lateness of this reply, Slashdot was so wedged that I could not post for a while.

    I got through to the responsible people at Corel, we just had a conference call, and we discussed strategies for dealing with beta-tests including software that's owned by people outside of Corel. They will fix the problem.

    Although I'm not always around to help, feel free to mail bruce@perens.com when this stuff comes up, and my home-office phone number is in my domain record. The SPI board has my cell-phone number.

    I did also tell them they're going to have to keep their eyes on the traditional Windows crowd at their office where things like this are concerned, or they'll appear clue-less and get the authors of the software really annoyed.

    Thanks

    Bruce Perens

  • by penguinicide (73759) on Monday September 20, 1999 @05:17AM (#1672024)
    If a violent lawsuit is immediately brought upon Corel without any other (documented) attempts to get them to change their agreement, it could scare off many other businesses thinking about using linux. That would not bode well for linux.

  • I am sure this is just another oversight in their transition to Linux. Just like their BETA test requirements said that you needed Windows.

    Bruce Perens just posted a message to debian-user stating that he talked with Corel and they will be fixing the problem.

    Corel is the most supportive commerical software vendor going when it comes to Linux. They have stated that they plan to give most (all?) of their work back to the Debian community.

    I'd quote the message but I don't think it's my place to do so ...

  • take a look at the beta program faq [corel.com]; corel reveals some interesting info. of particular interest, this quote:

    Is this testing style in keeping with the spirit of Open Source software distribution? Yes. The recruitment of outside Beta testers is part of the initial development process of Corel LINUX and will allow Corel to release the first version of Corel LINUX to the general public at an earlier date than would be possible if Corel relied only on its internal testing resources. Once Corel LINUX is ready for general distribution, it will be distributed in accordance with the criteria for Open Source software.

    whoa. they do go on to say that all of thier additions, including thier new file manager et al. will be released open source. at least that. but i dont think that the beta license we saw was a boilerplate/mistake. ick.

  • Yes, I completly agree with you, on the analysis on beta testers being internal. But the problem with that is, a company if wishing to give away the software, but not the source, could call its product a beta indefinatly. Look at ICQ (while they are not using GPL its just an example) everyone of their products have so far been called betas, but they are still making money off the advertising associated with it. We need to set legal presidence on this issue. And possibly what would define internal beta, and what would define a shipping product, weither they call it that or not.
  • by rjaninda (58617) on Monday September 20, 1999 @04:47AM (#1672044)
    I find it extremely interesting that when news broke about the Red Hat trademark issue [slashdot.org] everyone was ready to set fire to the North Carolina mountains even though RH has legitimate rights to their trademark. Yet, now when Corel pulls a stunt like this on software they don't own everyone says, "Let's wait and see what Corel has to say, I'm sure it is just a mistake." Have the Slashdotters lost their "passion" or have they grown up?
  • by Hermelin (15608) on Monday September 20, 1999 @04:52AM (#1672046)
    Doesn't anyone do research? Even a little? Oh well, here is what I found.

    Directly from the Corel Q&A on linux.corel.com [corel.com]...

    Will Corel LINUX be available as a not-for-charge download or sold as a standalone product?

    Most of the Corel LINUX operating system falls under the guidelines of the GNU Public Licence, and will be available as a not-for-charge download. A standalone version, which may contain additional enhanced features, will be available on CD-ROM and will be sold with an accompanying manual and technical support. Final price has not yet been determined but Corel LINUX will be competitively priced to other Linux operating systems. Corel LINUX will also be included with the soon-to-be-released WordPerfect® Office for LINUX.

    Is there an advantage to Corel to give away the source code to Corel LINUX and make it available as a not-for-charge download?
    By returning the source code to Corel LINUX to the Open Source community and making Corel LINUX available as a not-for-charge download, we are acting within the spirit of the Open Source community, and helping to grow the Linux market by creating new demand for applications in addition to the operating system.
    According to this, they appear to want to release under the correct license. But, all other distrobutions have open betas, so I don't understand what they really are concerned with.

    But on a strange side note, why do they say they will release Corel Linux with enchanced features that are not part of of the GPL? I assume that it won't have their installer and a free copy of WordPerfect. But that isn't a big deal for me.
  • There are more Free Software licenses potentially being violated than just the GPL. There's also the QPL, MPL and Artistic. BSD and X don't care so they don't count. However, any harm to the above is also an indirect harm to the GPL. No matter how isolationist you are, your neighbor's injustices affect you as well. Champion Free Software, not just an individual license.
  • Enh. Wrong.

    1. If I have to sign a license agreement to get the software, that software has been licensed to me.

    2. If Corel licenses software to me, they must either own the copyright on that software or have the right to sublicense the software. For most of the distribution, they do not own the software and must therefore distribute it under the terms of the GPL. Are they distributing it? Let's see..

    3. If the license that Corel holds the software under (GPL) puts restrictions on how the product may be sublicensed, those restrictions must be obeyed.

    4. Corel is **licensing** products which they recieved under the GPL to their beta testers.

    5. The beta testers are not the same as employees, and a public beta test is not the same as internal use. Here's why: Corel's beta testers had to agree to a **license** to get the beta. When companies do *internal* testing, the QA people get a copy of the pre-release product without agreeing to a license.

    6. So if there is a license involved, we are talking about distribution. Allowable distribution terms are very well defined in the GPL.
  • It's not at all clear to me that the beta-testers have established a consultant's relationship with Corel, and thus that it's an internal distribution. Remember, the GPL deals with distribution, not release. But let's put the legal point aside. I am author of a few things in there - part of dpkg, Electric Fence, various pieces around Debian. I put that stuff out under the GPL, and I'd feel a heck of a lot better if I had access to the modifications they are testing, even if I'm not in the beta program. So, that's what I told them. They are concerned that too many support-hungry Windows users and the press not get ahold of this software in an early state. But there are better ways to handle that than to overlay their license terms upon mine. So, we discussed those ways. Now, they are thinking about them and will get back to us.

    Although their main market is up-until-now-Windows-users, they have to keep the software authors happy, too. It would be a PR disaster for them to do otherwise.

    Bruce

  • This looks like it came from a template for a standard Beta Testing agreement. It's what I would expect from a large company like Corel, which is new to the Open Source game.

    It's also in clear violation of the GPL, and one of the reasons that I'm not too excited about the Corel distribution.

    Red Hat is beta testing, too - sign up for the mailing list, grab the beta from one of the mirrors, and offer some feedback to a company that gets it.

    I expect that there will be a quick retraction and apology from Corel, but this sort of thing does not breed confidence.

  • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Monday September 20, 1999 @05:37AM (#1672075) Homepage Journal
    They are considering what to do now. We will need to give them a little time.

    Bruce

  • It is a problem, but it may not be so cut-and-dry. A beta, by the very idea, is for *internal* release. The fact that they are having people sign this, puts the testers under a light contract with Corel, upholding that "internal" specification. Since the release is internal, and not public, they are under no obligation to release the source, as they haven't actually released the binary either.

    Now, having said that - I agree that this needs to be addressed. This sets a dangerous precedent for companies releasing things under the title Beta that are really just commercial-grade.


  • by GnrcMan (53534) on Monday September 20, 1999 @06:54AM (#1672082) Homepage
    The following is taken from the Corel Linux Beta FAQ [corel.com]...The third one is my favorite

    Why isn't Corel putting Corel LINUX on an FTP site for download?
    The first version of Corel LINUX is still in the development and testing phase and is not ready for general distribution. Beta testing is part of the development process that Corel is following to ensure that Corel LINUX reaches a suitable level of completeness and stability before it becomes widely available.

    How many people will be testing Corel LINUX?
    In order to ensure that the beta testing process can be properly administered, we will be limiting the number of registered beta testers for this first round of testing. The exact number of testers has not yet been determined.

    Is this testing style in keeping with the spirit of Open Source software distribution?
    Yes. The recruitment of outside Beta testers is part of the initial development process of Corel LINUX and will allow Corel to release the first version of Corel LINUX to the general public at an earlier date than would be possible if Corel relied only on its internal testing resources. Once Corel LINUX is ready for general distribution, it will be distributed in accordance with the criteria for Open Source software.
  • The whole point of OSS is that any programmer can download it, use it, test it, fix bugs etc.

    Now Corel is inventing the Cathedral Model of software development again. They're not getting it: they're just using Linux because it's popular, not of the philosophy behind it.

    I'm sorry to say, but I don't believe after seeing this that Corel is going to be a benefit to the OSS community, people will probably be needing to correct them all the time.
  • The GPL protects the individual programs in the distribution, obviously. And if Corel implies that their license should be applied to the programs themselves instead of the GPL, then they would be violating the GPL.

    However, their distribution can be a copyrightable work in it's own right. That is, their particular way of organizing the distribution can be regarded as copyrightable. This would not impact the license to the individual parts, and would not let Corel stop anyone from excersizing their rights under the GPL to the individual parts. But it would let Corel attach specific terms to their particular organization of the programs.

    Since, as far as I remember, the GPL specifically allow GPL'd programs to be grouped together with non-GPL'd programs on the same media, it is quite possible that a court would find that a GPL'd program could be part of a non-GPL'd distribution as well.

    To make an analogy:

    If I paint a painting, it would be a copyright infringement to take a photo of my painting and distribute it without a license from me. However, if my painting was only one part of the photo, and the value of the photo could be considered as the arrangement of items and lighting etc., then it would likely not be an infringement. In the case of a GPL'd painting, however, the aggregate work could be compared to a program consisting of separate image elements, and would be covered.

    But what if someone make a photo album, and redistribute it?

    If my painting had been included, it would be a copright infringement, however if the pictures aren't arranged randomly, the placement of the pictures could be said to be copyrightable in itself. Which would mean that even if all the pictures were mine, or were under the GPL or in the public domain, I would not neccesarily be free to copy the way they were arranged in the album.

    This analogy is close to the Corel distribution. And the GPL doesn't specifically mention it. Which may or may not be how it should be. On one hand, being able to copyright a distribution does not limit peoples right to use the software, but it does limit peoples right to organize collections of the software in a particular way and distribute the result...

  • by David Jao (2759) <djao@dominia.org> on Monday September 20, 1999 @07:05AM (#1672092) Homepage
    There is an extraordinary difference between what Corel is doing with their distribution and what Intel is doing with their Merced port.

    The Intel Merced NDAs only cover changes to the Linux kernel that are specific to the Merced port. That code is owned by the developers working on the port, and Intel is free to make the developers sign NDAs on that code.

    The Intel NDAs do not in any way restrict the signatories from distributing outside GPL'd code that they did not themselves author. The Corel license, on the other hand, restricts the beta testers from distributing code within their distribution that is owned by other parties like the Free Software Foundation. That practice violates the terms under which the FSF licensed their software to Corel.

    Section 6 of the GPL states very clearly that you may not under any circumstance distribute the code to anyone else except under the terms and conditiosn of the GPL. There is no distinction between "internal-only" and public distribution.

    Certainly in the case of "internal-only" distribution it is legitimate for the recipients to voluntarily decline to distribute the code, but Corel cannot forcibly impose this requirement without breaking the law.

  • by Arandir (19206) on Monday September 20, 1999 @05:46AM (#1672094) Homepage Journal
    What if the software has been licensed to a legal entity such as a corporation? All employees are considered under a single license instance. This is why proprietary software often has "site" licenses. If an employee goes online and downloads the Linux kernel, they can do with it what they want since they hold the license, but they can't redistribute their companies tweaked version since the license still belongs to the company. To take it to an absurd extreme, if you come over to my house to borrow my computer you have no legal rights to upload any software from my box.

    In a more realistic sense, there are thousands of companies that have modified GPL programs for their own use but aren't distributing them, so should we pursue legal action against them too?

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