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BeOS Boo-Boo: Violating The GPL -- Updated 287

Bruce Perens writes "Be is violating the GPL on my software. While it's something they can easily fix, it's a good example of why people need to keep track of where the software they are using came from, and what license is applied to it. We've got the full story over on" Updated 23:15GMT by timothy: Thanks to reader Eugenia Loli, who wrote: "Andrew Kimpton from Be, was on the phone with Bruce Perens earlier, and Be is clearing up the issue once and for good! Please read the important update."
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BeOS Boo-Boo: Violating The GPL -- Updated

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    All the more to use BSD or like licensed code. Not necessarily because the code is better or worse or even because of the license itself, but to avoid the circus of misinformation, OS zealots, and publicity from OSS evangelists.

    Heck, just the outcry from this is ridiculous. People make mistakes. (And you have to look no further than your own "favorite" OS linux and the number of its security ain't perfect.) Perens should have contacted Be directly, waited a bit, but no, he goes and blasts them on his own site, /., turning it into a trolling affair.

    They probably DO keep track of their software and made an accounting error. Heck, keeping software licenses straight is hard enough if you want to use a mix of programs out there.

    If there is any reason not to use GPL'd software, and there are plenty, e.g. your company has no assets, you just created your own. The license is a tool for enforcement; instead, it's simply being abused by its own advocates. Welcome to the religion of the millenium--software licenses.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is "informative"? The man asked a worthwhile question, and as best as I can tell Perens dodged it. Instead Perens jumped on problems that did not need to be attacked twice, and made a cop out excuse for his actions against Be. Sure, Perens has the right to his own intellectual property. The author did not deny this. But since when does the right to do a thing, equal the necessity (or the moral justification?) for a thing? The mere fact that you are legally (or even morally) entitled to act a certain way, does not mean your position is coherant!

    It would be as if I am a black belt in Karate, and claimed I could kick anyones ass without any help. But when challenged, by a 90 pound novice weakling I call in for reinforcements. Sure, you may argue self-defence. You may even win in court. But this is not a defense for why you could not just use your fists.

    The author made a very valid point. If the Open Source process itself is so superior, why does it depend on the rule of law (and/or, in this case, geek paranoia) to prevent its source from being coopted? If the open source zealots are to be believed, closed source has nothing additional to offer the consumer. If consumers aren't purchasing it en masse, then it isn't even really a violation of GPL. So why all the concern Bruce?

    The most obvious explanation is that Open source does not live up to the hype. That it fundamentally lacks things that propietary software has. That propietary development can easily add value to the product for the consumer. Consequently, somewhere tucked in the back of the minds of open source developers is the belief that it need protection. This may or may not be reasonable. But it certainly cannot add up to Open Source being all things to all people at all times in the greatest way.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think that his whole point, while not to embarass BeOS, is to make sure this is public. It is a good way to make sure that some of the open and not so open source companies know that there are people out there watching to make sure that the various opensource licenses are being kept. If he quietly went to them and they took care of it, which I am sure they will do, no one would know. This way, the changes can be made in a very non-adversarial way and set a precedent for other companies.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Says BeNews last week, Be Posts R5 GNU Sources []. Including a link to the location with the updates.
  • >I don't see why Bruce had to draw attention to what he already believes is a simple, honest
    >mistake. It would have been more professional to deal with it privately and only make it a
    >community issue if Be ignored him or refused to fix the problem.

    Because dealing with it quietly and professionally wouldn't generate nearly so many ad banner impressions for Andover and as making a big loud angry controversy out of it has... self-serving tabloid journalism at its finest.

    Color me unimpressed, too.

  • On the other hand, if some company violated the copyrights on someone else's non-GPLed software they would find themselves in court. Why exactly should GPL software be any different?

    Honestly, I don't see how getting a lot of angry email from Linux fanatics is too much of a price to pay for the theft of copyright material. This sort of screw-up would have cost Be Inc. big money if they had "borrowed" someone's proprietary code.

    Bruce is certainly being much more calm about it than he needs to be. After all, it's not like Be Inc. is doing him a favor using his software. It's Bruce that has done all of the work, and now Be is doing precisely what Bruce was trying to prevent when he released the software under the GPL.

    Linux fanatics are a picnic compared to intellectual property lawyers. Be should count themselves fortunate that Bruce is being as reasonable as he is. If he were an unscrupulous sort he could probably do Be Inc. some serious harm.

  • With every other Unix version (and Windows NT, since I am at it), I have never seen a drive consistancy check require manual intervention.

    Guess you don't have that much Unix experience, then. I've seen this on SCO, Interactive, BSD/OS, SunOS, DG/UX and yes, Linux. Probably others, too, but my memory's a bit hazy... FWIW, SCO was by far the worst for this.

  • People seem to be making two responses to what I wrote. I apologize if I'm not paraphrasing accurately:

    If Be had done the same thing with proprietary software, they would have a had a harsher response.

    First of all, I doubt that. In a a case like this, most companies would have had their lawyer send a letter. Still, even if it's true, it's irrelevant. Remember, the idea here isn't just to fight misuse of GPL software, it's to encourage companies to become comfortable with free software and the unfamiliar requirements it involves. To me, dealing this way with a subtle and unintended violation of the GPL is a strong disincentive for a company to write or redistribute free software.

    This isn't a smear campaign. It's just getting the facts out. In fact, it makes Be look good!

    Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't Bruce Perens posting in 20 different places that he deliberately played this out to make the maximum amount of noise? Isn't he saying that he decided to do that before giving Be any chance to address the issue?

    When I wrote "smear campaign" I wasn't referring to Bruce's words, but to the combined result of his provocation and the reactions of the knee-jerk /. zealots. If I sound like I have a grudge, it's about this: two companies who make products I use and love, Apple and Troll Tech, decided to try out an open source strategy while still allowing themselves the possibility to earn a living, not just hype. In both cases, instead of trying to address the weaknesses in their licenses in a friendly and cooperative way, Bruce Perens chose to be inflammatory. The result was FUD storms directed at both companies, that ignorant zealots still carry on long after the problems were fixed. (I've written some minor KDE apps and still get flame mails from GTK zealots who see my name and Qt on the same Freshmeat page.) I'd hate to see the same thing happen to Be over something this marginal.
  • Actually, I doubt that the "strings" command is reverse-engineering. But I didn't break into anything, the code was distributed.



  • Hm. Am I allowed to reverse engineer copyrighted code in order to find evidence of a copyright violation? :-)
  • If BeOS supports LD_PRELOAD in their run-time linker, you can put Electric Fence in its own dynamic library and set LD_PRELOAD in the environment to load it. You can even make a shell wrapper that does this and runs your executable.



  • Consider it this way: these are the ones I caught. Electric Fence is distributed with just about every OS other than Microsoft (and maybe even that) and not every one is complying with the license. I want to get my message to the ears of the people I haven't caught yet.

    Yes, doing it in the aftermath might have been nicer, though. Maybe I screwed up.


  • My copyright string is in the .o file, with my name in it.
  • You might have that one backwards, actually.
  • I should have written more carefully: The object code was distributed, not source. Thus, I didn't have to "break" into anything, unless you consider the "strings" command and "nm" to be breaking in.

    The question of whether or not disassembling someone else's code to look for an infringement is legal is an interesting one, though. I reject the analogy that it's like breaking into someone's home to look for stolen property. It's more like looking into the window of their car when they've parked it in front of your home.



  • I made it very clear they were attempting to comply with the LGPL and the problem was no doubt unintentional. Consider it shock treatment for other businesses that might be in the same situation. I now have to sign a release for Be, which I will do, so that they can continue to distribute released software. You don't want to get your company in this situation unnecessarily.



  • Regardless of what you think of my motives and Open Source in general, I have the right to enforce my license, just as Be would if I wasn't complying with their license. That has nothing to do with whether the software is Open Source or not.

    I don't freeload music and I don't want other people to do that. What made you think I did?

    I am sick of us having to chase these things down. Publicity is an effective tool for stopping that. At no time did I threaten to sue Be, and I knew I didn't have to, but I don't know the same thing about the next guy who comes along. I must actively enforce my copyright or the next fellow will have a big loophole to step through.



  • I think you're over-reacting (but then half of Slashdot is). I didn't smear anyone. The article clearly stated that it was an accident they made unintentionaly. But the fact is, they were in infringement, and liable to various sorts of legal hassle if I were a different sort of person. Instead they got the incident written up and it's over.



  • Isn't there a BSD tar? If not, there are a number that you can commercially license. Getting a commercial license only seems fair if you're producing proprietary software.



  • Mr Otter,

    No way would I have gotten Troll to change its license without the public outcry. They had no reason to do so except that the community didn't like it. The day they fixed their license I publicly endorsed it. Regarding Apple, that was even worse. ESR had gotten up on stage and endorsed it! That took major fire-fighting on my part to undo. And the most ironic thing about it is that even after Eric's endorsement, the Open Source Initiative board has still refused to certify the license even though I thought version 1.1, which addresses all of my criticism, was fine. So, Eric really should not have been up there endorsing version 1.0 .

    I can only profess to be neutral regarding Be using GPL software. I'm not out to encourage them to use it as you think I should be, I'd just as well see their customers use an Open Source OS. Thanks


  • A GPL faq would not have saved anyone from this problem. Doesn't FSF have one? I doubt I'm going to get time - the baby arrives in one week.


  • A settlement was never in question. I'm not interested in prosecuting them and obviously they were going to fix the problem as soon as they heard of it.



  • AFAIK, yes, that is OK. After all, what is it that you're getting when you buy a 2 CD set of binary only Debian or RedHat? The difference, (which I'm not sure that Be has pointed out) is that the GPL is littered all over linux disks - it'd be pretty difficult to NOT know that the software was GPL'd if you went looking for the software's license. And of course, they'll provide the source whenever you ask them to. Seems like we don't have much information with this. Anybody want to let us in as to whether or not Be has made the consumer aware that the software is GPL'd?
  • First I can't beleive I am going to say this, but...

    This is GPL it involves me almost as much as it involves Bruce. I respect Bruce but he does not represent me. This is a G motherfucking Public Goddamn License.
    I need to know. Face it; this is the best protection we have.

    Not some Court, or Lawyer, But Shame Shame will be our best defense, as this becomes more common.
    Closed source must allways be viewed with a jaundice eye, Corporations can't be Friends they are designed for one purpose to make money. They are not evil, but one must be wary of them.

    Nice people don't steal, They are stealing from you, why play nice?

  • GCC is fine and good, but it still isn't what I'd call an innovation. It's a compiler implementation - no matter what the quality is, it's still not innovative in the strict sense.

    Innovation is doing something that nobody has done before, or at the least deviating widely from the norm in the implementation in such a way that is non-obvious to others working on similar projects. Whatever the very first compiler was would be considered innovative, but I don't really see GCC as being so itself.

    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews ( [])
  • This is all good stuff, but is it innovative? It's not that commercial/proprietary companies didn't know the benefits of open standards, it's that they didn't care to use them (usually so that they can ensure lock-in).

    This is almost the same thing as if an oil company developed a super-efficient electric car and then buried the research, only to have someone else do the same thing. It's not innovative the second time around, but it arguably helps people more.

    That said, this is something that people should demand of commercial vendors. Open-standards, even with closed-source software, are very useful indeed. Just not terribly innovative.

    Really, the only main innovation that open-source software has brought to the table that I can see is the open-source aspect. It's a good development for many uses, but it's not a (technological) innovation, really.

    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews ( [])
  • How many times have most protocols been re-coded?

    Great example! TCP/IP from Berkeley was released under the BSD license and almost nobody rewrote. Everyone took the BSD TCP/IP code and incorprated it into their products. Well, everyone except Linux and the HURD. You see, Stallman's GPL wouldn't let them use BSD code. And this is why Linux's TCP/IP stack is still one of the weaker ones in the industry. Further proof that the GPL is only a partial solution.
  • That's funny my computer has been turned off multiple times without the "proper" shutdown sequence and it has almost always worked perfectly.

    "almost", hmm, "almost", thank you for proving my point. With every other Unix version (and Windows NT, since I am at it), I have never seen a drive consistancy check require manual intervention.
  • If you're not giving out the modifications in source or binary form, you're fine.

    You'd only be in violation of the GPL if you were distributing your modifications and refused to make source availible.

  • AAaah, see...that makes alot more sense. So if they put...oh i don't know....a readme in the FTP directory that sayed "The following software, blah blah and blah are GPLed, email for the source" they would be in the clear?

    Also...and I'm being totally serious here, what part of the GPL says it can't be linked with proprietary componets? I can't seem to find that in the Terms of Use....
  • but isn't that the distributation, not the actual linking? Distrubition can be GPLed ( ie, source made available ) but what if you distrubite them sepeartly?

    What is considered distrubition in the terms of the GPL?

    And the most important question is..does any part of BeOS rely on this library? If you can just put in a disclaimer saying "this package require this GPLed package" can you not get away with a propritary license? Or is the disclaimer then being interpreted has making that GPLed package part of your program?

    =-=- Keep in mind, I have NO idea what i'm talking about -=-=
  • There is more to the GPL than making the source code available. There are also restrictions on how the binaries can be used, as far as linking with proprietary code goes. That's why there is the LGPL (Lesser/Library GPL) - LGPL'd code can be linked with non-GPL code.

    From :

    This General Public License does not permit incorporating your program into proprietary programs. If your program is a subroutine library, you may consider it more useful to permit linking proprietary applications with the library. If this is what you want to do, use the GNU Library General Public License instead of this License.


  • the same people in this discussion, on the side of the GPL, are on the same side that believes that pirating music and software is part of their "free right"

    What the hell are you talking about? I'm a big proponent of the GPL. I also agree that pirating copyrighted music is illegal. Heck, I even think it's immoral.

    I also think that the recording industry ranks slightly below pond scum, but I still don't advocate theft.

    So fine, that's your $0.02, but keep those pennies to yourself, and don't speak for me...


  • On the other hand, if some company violated the copyrights on someone else's non-GPLed software they would find themselves in court. Why exactly should GPL software be any different?

    In most cases, as source is closed, that's not an issue. That aside, in most states, one can't sue unless one has demonstrated that one has *tried* to settle differences without a lawsuit and been unsuccessful.

    In other words, there's the warning shot across the bow before the courts. Let's see a warning shot across the bow -- IN PRIVATE PLEASE -- before convicting someone in a court of public opinion.


  • Well, Be *could* just GPL their other software. There'd be no change in functionality, and more software would be freed.

    GPL is free as in speech but, just like commercial software, there is a "cost". For commercial products, the author wants money. Under GPL, the cost is that you must free your software. Some people think that's a good thing, and they release their software under the GPL. Some people don't want to pay this price. They're still free to link to it in these round-about ways, and they're also free to *not* use it.

    Bruce happens to be someone that doesn't write software for a profit, but he wants more software to be free. Why should he make in convenient for Be to use his labor, with no compensation, and not follow his wishes? The GPL is his only defense if he wants his software to remain free. BSD and public domain are nice... if you don't care if your software remains free and don't mind people making millions off of your work.

    > Can you explain what anyone gains from Be moving your code from one library to another?

    Let's pretend that Be used commercial code and forgot to pay the cost of the license. Ask your question again:

    "Can you explain what anyone gains from Be paying your license fee?"

    In this case, the answer is simple: the author gains because he gets paid the license fee. The answer to your question is that Bruce gains because his software remains free. He would gain even more, and Be wouldn't have to work-around anything, if Be would free their software...
  • Your right. While I agree that a little 'community pressure' might be necessary to get a company in line, these Slashdot 400 message spasms are way more than is required.

    I'm sure that months from now, long after Be has fixed the problem, people will be still be yelling that they will never use that horrible GPL-violating OS.

    There's still people out there that believe that QT or Apple Darwin is not under an Open Source(tm) licence, long after those problems have been fixed. People still have bile for Corel after what was a minor and debatable mistake.

    Once Bruce Perens has branded somone a infiltrator or an enemy, it's hard to get the word out that they are not. I think he should keep his warnings off of Slashdot and stick to more cozy and rational places like Technocrat or the Debian maillists.
  • I never said you do not have the right to protect your work. In fact, I said you did, if you did not notice. Nor did I say that you, or "all", Open Source advocates participate in piracy. I did, however, question your justification and reasoning for doing so. Although I admit I have not kept close tabs on your assertions lately, I'm quite sure have asserted Open Source to be "better", in so many words, in almost every category of interest. Thus, I still must persist: If Open Source is so superior, why do you feel compelled to use any and all means (e.g., "publicity") to stop it? Why would anyone pay more for less? And if people are doing this of their own volition, why should you care?
  • Heh, no such thing as bad publicity eh? Why don't you tell that to the Dow Corning, makers of sillicon breast implants? You know that there has not been one shred of evidence against silicon implants for causing these supposed conditions (in fact, they've done much the opposite)? Yet they can't sell them anymore, no matter how hard they try. Now, I'm not saying I particularly approve of ditses getting their breasts enlarged, but there are legitimate uses for these (e.g., breast cancer survivors), and the company serves a need. In fact, there are legitimate uses for silicon. It is actually one of the safest substances known for medical implants, yet any company that produces medical grade silicon is scared silly that a med tech company will ever use their product without their permission, such that they can be sued. So much so that they will actually go to court to stop you, simply because they can be sued....This might seem a little bit offtopic, but this was the result of bad publicity. The media effectively smeared them, triggering these law suits and what not. The bad press harmed not only the silicon breast implant makers, but also the hundreds of medical technology companies that would use silicon to improve safety and performance. So here is atleast one case of horribly bad publicity. There are many many more.

    Furthermore, in this particular situation, we're talking Be getting smeared by, say, 80% of the slashdot community. Since no one else outside of slashdot or the "open source community" could particularly about such niggardly issues, how does Be benefit? It's not as if this made it into the frontpages of mainstream media, or ever will. At most, they benefit from awareness from slashdot readers. In reality, how many slashdot readers do you think don't already know about Be? At worst, they annoyed a large swath of geeks who are morally, or atleast theoretically, supportive of the "open source" movement. Even though in reality, only a small percentage of those who "support" Perens are actually convicted to what they say, this "publicity" has more potential to hurt Be than help them.

  • My sentiments exactly. Something tells me though that Perens had every intention of dodging my question. So I really doubt he'll have the courage to bite the bullet now. I mean, gasp, can you imagine admitting that open source has flaws? That might just be non-religious!

  • Boy 0 for 2 you are really bad at reading today. Yes, there is no question in the post I responded to. Perhaps you are confusing question with statement.

    Political anarchy is the removal of a current government to replace it with a better one, and that still has nothing to do with pirating software as the previous poster indicated.


  • Not a good day for you, eh?

    Considering I'm able to express myself without swearing and attacking, I'd say I'm having a better day than you.

    I never denied that Bruce posted here, I said we don't know for sure since he posted on technocrat and it could have been picked up by slashdot editors. It's since been pointed out that a quote in the story is "we have more over at technocrat..." thus indicating that he DID submit it. So I was wrong, and I give you credit for doing a background check on my other threads.

    As for the accuations, Perens claimes that he found his copyright string imbedded in the BEOS library binary file. Since he would be pretty much kicked out of the Linux community if he just made this up, I'm assuming he is telling the truth. It's easy enough to check if I had BEOS where I am now.

    What part of this whole story did you think involved ME making the accuations, Bruce made them, I simply discussed them in my original post.

    Any while we are on the topic of baseless accuations:

    There not one single shred of evidence that the code in question is GPL code.

    Care to prove that?

    They have not committed any violations.

    Do you have the evidence to back this up? Other have claimed that they DO have the evidence to the contrary.

  • Here is you post where you claim to ask me a question, in it's obscene, derogatory glory:

    Perens is a whiner. There not one single shred of evidence that the code in question is GPL code.

    If it is, all they have to do is make the source available, per that communist license that the bearded freak created. They are under no obligation to distribute as you or Perens see fit.

    Now, you GNU freaks get upset when they don't follow your own little rules for using the license. They have not committed any violations.
    Stop making up the rules as you go. that, of course, is the Stallman way. "Do what I say, until I change my mind, again" and of course G**/Linux, the most disgusting appropriation of others' work ever.

    Please kindly point out what you felt was a question.


  • Note that the GNU Project recommends avoiding the term piracy since it implies that sharing copies is somehow illegitimate.

    Yes, that's true. Perhaps that's because sharing copies of GNU software ISN'T illegitmate.


  • Before you attempt to lecture to me take a look at your first post and see who sounds more mature. You don't start with much credibility when you title you message "Attention dipshit..."

    The whole basis of this huge thread is that I decided to believe Perens right off the bat, while you wanted for him to post evidence (which he actually didn't and even if he did it still could have been made up since neither of us have greped the file ourselves).

    Perhaps we could have come to this understanding earlier had you have not started out like some vulgur young kid who thinks he knows everything.


  • Thanks Bruce, but I have a gut feeling this guy isn't going to believe you unless you download BE in front of him, and grep the .o while he watches.

  • Well, Bruce posted how he got the evidance, course even if he posts the greped file in question and shows you the copyright string, are you going to believe him? You made up your mind from the beginning that there is no evidence, while I made up my mind that I belive the people claiming there is evidence.

  • Hmm I asked you to point out where there was a question, and you seemed to (dare I say it) avoid doing that? Interesting

    But you are right, there was a question in the next post, I believe it went a little like this:

    How do you know there is a violation?

    I didn't answer this question? Try looking at the next post.
    My asnwer was to cut the part of Bruce's story that explained how he found the violation.

    Bruce also answered like this:
    My copyright string is in the .o file, with my name in it.


  • I never made up my mind from the start.

    What selective memory you have

    There not one single shred of evidence that the code in question is GPL code.

    They have not committed any violations.

  • One mistake everyone seems to be making is assuming that Bruce submitted this to slashdot. He may have just put it up on his page (which is read by a comparativly small group of people). Since there is no submission credit, I assume that Slashdot editors just happened to pick it up from Bruce's site.
  • but since they distribute the object. via FTP, they'd probably have to distribute the source that way too.

    Well, the way I read the GPL, they could theoretically make the source available only in hardcopy mailed upon request and still be GPL compliant.

    Course, the way a mainframe systems programmer reads a license and the way a lawyer reads it are probably worlds apart. :)


  • No, it implies nothing of the sort. The quoted text is taken straight from Bruce's website. Hemos could very easily been surfing his page and come across the story himself. The point is, we don't know what happened.


  • the same people in this discussion, on the side of the GPL, are on the same side that believes that pirating music and software is part of their "free right"

    Now THERE is a baseless generalization. Care to back that up in any way?

  • Yeah, you're right. I missed that end line. Chalk it up to debugging JCL all day.



  • Here's a free english lesson for you, if there is no question mark (?) then there is no question.

    Nowhere in that offensive, rambling attack on everyone you could think of did I find a question.

    Since you are asking one now, here goes:

    (from the story)
    Electric Fence program, a malloc() debugging tool, is also part of Be's . Electric Fence is under the GPL, not the LGPL. That license would not allow it to be part of a library with proprietary components, although Be could distribute it in a separate library.
    It turns out that not only is Electric Fence in Be's, but Be is distributing it in object-code form, without source, as if it were one of their proprietary components.

    I currently don't have the tools on my work computer to verify this for myself, so I'm going to take their word for it.

    Next time you want to have a conversation with someone online, try acting civil and not like a whiny 5 year old that needs to sit in the corner.


  • The bruce perens writes could mean that he wrote it on this site, I've seen sorties picked up before that weren't submitted by anyone per se that started the same way.

    However, I missed the "we've got the full story over at" part at the end, so you ARE right.
  • Sorry, that last line should have been in italics also, you made both statements in your forst post.

  • I must have read that as "they've got the whole story...". You're right.


  • You're seriously dodging the question. Your feelings on the matter is that Be is a threat to your software because they do not allow you to maintain/develop/support your IP if its closed source. If you're worried that they'll do a better job than you, then you are effectively stating that you believe closed source to be a better form of software development. If I'm wrong, then please tell me what your feelings on the matter are.

  • Bravo. States his point very well.
  • Be Inc violated a license to distribute copyrighted material. Bruce made an announcement about this. Where is the smearing? Be broke the law. Bruce is letting them simply fix the problem for the future and get away with distributing currently illegal stuff. Bruce did nothing but state the truth in a public setting.

    Furthermore, bruce never advocated not using Be products, nor indicated that Be is evil, nor in any other way impaired Be's future business or reputation. Be was not materially injured in this (people who are going to use BeOS are not going to be extreme GNU types anyhow). Oh, and Be is responsible for the misdeeds of its employees in a commercial capacity, so by the one engineer in Be making this mistake, all of Be did, so this isn't misdirection of blame, either.

    Where on earth is all this, you mistreated Be by revealing their mistakes before they could correct them. It would be nice to notify Be beforehand. It's hardly necessary and they don't suffer in any material way from not being notified first.

    Besides, this isn't the first GPL violation that Be has done. You'd think that the first one would have sent them a message.
  • Well, this is kind of a dead givaway:
    localhost% cd obj.i586.dyn
    localhost% ls
    ef_malloc.o ef_print.o malloc.o
    ef_page.o efence.o mcheck.o
    localhost% strings * | sort | uniq | more
    Electric Fence 2.0.5 Copyright (C) 1987-1998 Bruce Perens.

    If they reimplemented the functions, that was pretty nice of them to give credit to Bruce anyways. I'm sure this is an oversight on their part. I mean, why would you follow the GPL on dozens of packages and include many MB's of source on your FTP server, and then try and "steal" four .c files (leaving the authors copyright notice intact at that.)
  • I think Bruce did the right thing.

    Be has a reponsibility to scrutinize the licenses of such code, not hope someone spots it and tells them [1]. you can bet that if a similar mistake occurred with a proprietary lib, heads would roll.

    I'm not anti-Be, but everyone has to realize that it's *their* job to respect the GPL. this *is* the high road, compared to the standard corporate solution: a lawsuit.

    IANAL, but AFAIK Copyright law does not have quite the same 'defense' requirement that Trademark law has. [A trademark must be defended or it may weaken or lapse]

    Even if it did, Bruce would have even more reason to bring each infringement into the open. Since he might not catch every infringement, he could at least show he vigorously pursued the ones he caught


  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @07:44AM (#1125996)
    I see the proof that's shown is that they have some functions that use the same name and the same functionality as some code released under GNU. How do you know they didn't reimplement it?

    Since you don't have access to the source, you really don't know, do you?

    Is there actually any proof that I missed that says conclusively whether they've violated the license or reimplemented code?

  • There will probably be some drive-by flamings about BSD licenses being "obviously superior," although what that would do would probably just be to aggravate people like Bruce Perens that prefer to retain some control over the use of their code.

    The crucial point is that Licensing is Important. You fail to read the license at significant peril. That's even true for BSD-like licenses.

  • by Forge ( 2456 ) <kevinforge&gmail,com> on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @07:55AM (#1125998) Homepage Journal
    This is the second time that BE has been caught violatng the GPL "by accient". I suspect that if debian went throgh the whole BEOS and audited it with a decompiler they wold find a few more violatons. It's not that BE is evil or even particularly careless. It's just that it's damnd hard to keep track of which license governs hich pice of software. especialy when you borow so heavly from the GNU/Linux codebase.
  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <> on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @08:02AM (#1125999) Homepage Journal
    The library can't be linked with proprietary components. That's the first problem. The distribution of the .o files, and the library itself, didn't come with the requisite written notice about the source being available. So, yes, if they put the notice there, they'd be legal, but since they distribute the object. via FTP, they'd probably have to distribute the source that way too.
  • by Darchmare ( 5387 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @10:11AM (#1126000) Homepage
    Um, what innovations of the open-source community?

    Seriously, this is 100% not a troll. From what I've seen, the open-source community usually seems content with reimplementing features from other operating systems (often superior to the software they are copying).

    But innovation? Not really. People throw that term around far too loosely. Seriously - What major open-source innovation has Be capitalized on?

    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews ( [])
  • by howardjp ( 5458 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @10:21AM (#1126001) Homepage
    I theory eventually linux will surpass BSD in this area. Bigger user base and more competent developers with the source code and developers who will listen will always equal a better product.

    This assumes that Linux's developers are more competent. But let's compare TCP/IP stacks of say, FreeBSD and Linux. Well, FreeBSD blows Linux out of the water. Let's compare virtual memory. FreeBSD virtual memory is simply incredible which why big sites run FreeBSD. NetBSD's new UVM is quite interesting and I wish I had time to look into it further. Linux's VM contains nothing insightful or even intelligent. Let's look at the file systems. Traditional Unix file systems included in the BSDs and SVR4s are rock solid. Are you using EXT2FS? I hope someone doesn't pull the plug on you, it probably won't come back.
  • by SgtPepper ( 5548 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @07:43AM (#1126002)
    Be is distributing it in object-code form, without source, as if it were one of their proprietary components.

    Correct me if i'm wrong ( and I'm sure someone will :) ), isn't this allowed under the GPL as long as you make the source AVAILABLE? Now of course if they don't mention that it contains GPLed software and the GPLed parts are, by rights, available in the original source form, then they might be violating the GPL. And yes, it might be breaking the spirit of the GPL, but is it breaking the letter?

    Just a thought. Other then that, i do hope BeOS rectifies what you view as a mistake, since has the authour of said software it should be your choice on how it's used. ( then again some will argue that the GPL takes that away, *sigh* let the holy wars commence )

  • by deeny ( 10239 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @07:59AM (#1126003) Homepage
    A mirror of the offending archive is available at the following URL: /libroot-obj.tgz.

    You will note, if you look that every single other item in the gnu/r5 tree (see? they knew and they were acting clued) has source. I looked quickly, but it does seem that this was an oversight.

    It certainly didn't need to be shouted this loudly. Did Bruce actually contact them privately first or did he just yell to the media?

    A single omission does not a clueless company make.

    No one screamed this loud when Linuxcare's Bootable Business Card was distributed without source (this omission was corrected, but there was a period of several weeks when it was an issue). When I handed one to RMS, he was polite but firm about it (as he should be), but he didn't post it to a web page and submit it to Slashdot.


  • by finkployd ( 12902 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @07:53AM (#1126004) Homepage
    Before the flames attacking the GPL and how hard it makes life on software engineers come out in full force, let me remind everyone something.

    Nobody put a gun to BE's collective head and forced them to use the code that Bruce had writen. They activly went out on the net (I'm assuming) and found it. When someone allows you to use their work under a license, you have a (moral and legal) obligation to read and follow their license agreement. If you don't like the GPL, don't use GPLed code, it's that simple, folks.

    BEOS decided to use someone else's GLPed code in their program, didn't follow the rules, and is being called on it. I'm sure they will comply and this will be settled quickly.


  • by finkployd ( 12902 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @08:09AM (#1126005) Homepage
    One assumption everyone is making is that Bruce submitted this to slashdot. I'm assuming he put it up on his little page, and slashdot picked it up and made it into a story.
    We really don't know what happened behind the scenes, Bruce may have e-mail BE, then started a thread on his site to let people know what was going on.

  • I'm not saying the issue should be kept hidden, I just thing Bruce missed the chance to take the high road on this one. I don't know all the details, but it seems like this is catching Be off guard.

    I'm sure Bruce would even be willing to post their reply right on the same page with his message.
    Exactly. Bruce and Be could have worked out the details and posted a message together stating the issues and the resolutions. That way we would have people saying "Bruce and Be are cool people." Instead, we have people jumping up and down shouting "Look what Be did! GPL violation! KILL! KILL! KILL!"

    Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but I think you get the idea.

  • by Plasmic ( 26063 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @11:10AM (#1126007)
    Another testament to the fact that moderators don't have a clue. I cut-and-pasted the text in my reply directly from the article just to see how it would get moderated, and look at the results:

    Moderation Totals:Redundant=3, Informative=2, Total=5.

    What does this imply?
    2 out of 5 moderators don't read the articles
    3 out of 5 moderators do read the articles

    Those statistics might not be so disturbing if they only applied to people replying to the article, but these are the people who are actually moderating others' replies? That's pitiful.

    Whose fault is that? The people who make Slashdot suck. (I'll give you a hint, it's not CmdrTaco or Hemos).
  • by dublin ( 31215 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @12:54PM (#1126008) Homepage
    There are other competing free software licenses out there. It's exactly this sort of behavior from the GPL crowd that tends to make BSD-ish licenses much more attractive (at least to me). As I've said before here, it's the "militant communist" attitude of the "gnazis" that manages to drive as many people away from free software as it attracts. Many factions are (justifiably, I think) nervous about the GPL - events like this don't do much to help. (And the timing is not good, either, with more commercial software companies than ever before weighing the wisdom of freeing thier software assets...)

    Geesh, Bruce, if you set out to deter people from reusing/leveraging your software (which is the point of free software, after all) you could scarcely have done a better job...

    CompactFlash: IBM Microdrive, Flash, Ether, Modem, etc.

  • by barleyguy ( 64202 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @07:56AM (#1126009)
    Actually, the GPL is a public license. So the issue is not just between the author and the violator or the license, but also with the public as well.

    I think keeping GPL issues as a public forum is a good thing. That way, people remain aware of the issues involved in their rights under the license, and companies are less likely to get away with not observing it.

    If Be wants to post a reply, they are free to do so on the Net. I'm sure Bruce would even be willing to post their reply right on the same page with his message.
  • by Money__ ( 87045 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @03:03PM (#1126010)
    Re: Funny how everyone gets all uptight if someone copies a bit of source code here or there, but then turns around and fires up Napster or Gnutella without thinking twice.

    I have one foot in each field you mention (programer by day, musician by night), and I have to say you couldn't be more right.

    A mason respects a solid foundry. A pilot respects a well built plane. Each person respects the work done by others in a related field, but may lack an apreciation for things they don't understand.

    Some programers may view music as a series of acoustical waves combined in such a way as to elicit an emotion. Some musicians may view programs as a bunch of buttons on a screen combined in such a way as to get a task done. While both are technicly correct, each fails to see the art in the other, and thus, they lack the respect that prevents copying.

  • by randombit ( 87792 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @07:48AM (#1126011) Homepage
    It's nice to see companies (like Be) using free software as part of their commercial product. Why? Because something that is implemented by free software is, by definition, not implementing a proprietary API. If Microsoft chose to use glibc 2.1 for the next Windows release (which is possible as glibc is LGPL), wouldn't that be good for everyone? MS would finally have a decent CRT (slam), and programmers would have an OPEN, PORTABLE API for programming on Windows. Everyone wins. Same thing for Be.

    While I don't particularly like either Windows or BeOS, I do prefer Be as a company. They provide POSIX interfaces, and complete documentation for all their systems (and the source for components that are GPL/LGPL, unless they make a mistake as in this story). And one of their API functions is is_computer_on_fire(). Gotta love that. :)
  • by TheReverand ( 95620 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @09:09AM (#1126012) Homepage
    "they have already promised to fix the problem"

    Then what example needs to be made? All you seem to have done is whip slashdot into a frenzy that I'm sure will cause more than a few hate mails to arrive in someones inbox at BE. This company would need to be made an example of if they refused to do anything about their violations. Instead you have treated them like children, going and shouting to the rest of the class, "Hey guys hey guys Johnny isn't playing fair!!". This story should NOT have come out the way it did.


    Flame all you want....I'll Post more

  • by jallen02 ( 124384 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @07:49AM (#1126013) Homepage Journal
    Okay this is a very serious issue and I hate to ignore the issue at hand. Bruce if you are out there I admire ya a lot.. But I think you thrive on this sort of thing. Finding any little irksome problem and capitalizing on it etc. I understand this is a avenue of letting us all know about it but why not give Be a chance before you subject them to this type of crowd next time? Hmmn?
  • by Yardley ( 135408 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @09:41AM (#1126014) Homepage
    Companies who use the goodwill and other benefits of the GPL need to be self-policing. Be does a pretty good job, but some things were missing. By publicizing this, Bruce Perens has provided incentive to other companies to make sure to follow their own license. GPL violations can usually be easily fixed, but any company using the GPL is in the best position to find its own violations. The public does not have time to audit each and every business, so publicizing GPL violations when they occur should lead to better adherence by all. Harsh to Be but better for all. And Be should come out a winner, too. The next article on /. (on this topic) will be about how Be responded in a timely manner and fixed its gpl problems.

    The first paragraph of the Bruce Perens' article sums it up:

    Be has already contacted me and promised to fix this problem. But I'd like people to be aware of it because it points out what can go wrong when you use other people's software without checking the licenses.

    Plus this clip from the last paragraph:

    ...but you don't want to get your company in this position unnecessarily. Be is going to be a lot more careful about this now, and your company should, too...
  • by logistix ( 152482 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @09:42AM (#1126015)
    Revealed that the library in question actually contained the string "Bruce Perens is a weenie!"
  • by Matts ( 1628 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @09:12AM (#1126016) Homepage
    Have you checked out TECHNOCRAT.NET

    How can we? You use Zope. Telnets get through, pings get through. The only damn thing that won't go through is HTTP. Perhaps you should investigate a more scale-able solution? ;-)

  • No, I submitted it. It's a warning to others to be more careful.



  • It is fundamentally inconsistent of the Open Source community to claim that:

    a) Open source is the best. That it always more bug free than closed source. That it is more innovative than closed source. That it provides better support. etc. etc. etc.

    b) Closed source (propietary software) freeloading of Open Source code represents a large and significant threat to the movement.

    If Open Source is so great, why worry about propietary efforts? If a company comes along and merely extends Open source software, why should this be a great concern to Open Source advocates? If these advocates are to be believed, there is no way that propietary extension could be better (ultimately). What rational person would pay money for an inferior value? [By value I mean, not only how the software in and of itself performs, but its support, and the extent to which moving to or from it actually benefits the user in real life] So why worry?

    It would seem to me that these people, who want to assert both "A" and "B", are either blind followers or they understand on some level that propietary software offers some significant benefit over and above what that same open source effort offers. Bruce Perens is particularly aggregigious here in my opinion. In some ways, I can respect RMS more here (even though I have the least in common with him). I've never heard him purport Open source per se to be the best thing since sliced bread. His objections to propietary software is based on "moral grounds", so he can object to propietary freeloading relatively consistently. This is simply not true of the vast remainder of the Open Source camp.

    While it is Perens' right try to stop Be from "freeloading," I think he is wrong. I question his motives. I question his thought process, and I question this slashdot public opinion, which is best described as an avalanche. Furthermore, it seems to me that many (but not all, I realize) Open source zealots want to have their copyrights and burn them too. They want the right to freeload music, but don't want software companies to freeload from them....

    I believe Open Source offers some significant advantages to propietary software, but is not black and white. When I see anyone painting with such broadstrokes, I'll question them. If I get flamed, and modded down to -43423 so be it, such is the price for honesty.
  • by orpheus ( 14534 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @09:18AM (#1126019)
    I have read many discussions of this passage, by people whose opinions I respect. However, I am not quite sure I accept the 'viral' interpretation of this condition, and alas, the courts have not ruled on it.

    I respectfully submit my objections for comment.

    *IF* I linked a proprietary program to a GPL library, *and* I were hauled into court, I think it would be relatively easy to demonstrate that my whole program didn't fall under GPL.

    1) Write a small program that links a GPL library. [or write your own demo library and GPL it]

    2) Write an alternate non-GPL library (same functions, different code) to show that a program simply requires *a* library with the correct functions, not any specific library, and hence not the GPL'ed library in question.

    3) Since a calling program can run with any library containing the correct functions, then calling programs are an "identifiable section of that work" that is "not derived from the Program" (capital-P Program, meaning the GPL'd library, quoting the GPL itself) "and can be reasonably considered independent and separate works in themselves"

    4) Some will argue that my program isn't a 'separate work' if distributed together with the GPL library, but proprietary software can co-exist on the same CD as GPL software, and still be proprietary even if the proprietary software requires the GPL software to run! Corel ships its Linux software with a Linux distro. That Corel software won't run without Linux. Does that make Corel automatically GPL?

    In other words: if I ship Fords with Michellin GPL tires, I don't GPL my Fords, because they could also use (in theory) Goodyears. If the Michellin GPL tire had a *patented* feature that my Fords needed, then it would be an entirely different matter, because Goodyear would be precluded from making such tires. Copyrights, unlike patents don't preclude you from "rolling your own".

    This is simply a demonstration of principle. I don't actually need to write any more libraries, as long as programs are independent in principle.

    Look at the other side: If I have a GPL program that calls a PROPRIETARY library, I obviously have no right to pull that library into GPL -- and there is nothing to keep me from making my program GPL. The library is independent of the program, and can be used in many programs, even if it can't 'run' by itself. Similarly a program could run with an alternate library, and is independent.

    Note: some may consider this a bug, but it's there in the language of the GPL. Proprietary licenses for library code apply different restrictions.

    Submitted in response to:

    It is in condition #2 of the GPL, which reads (in part): "These requirements apply to the modified work as a whole. If identifiable sections of that work are not derived from the Program, and can be reasonably considered independent and separate works in themselves, then this License, and its terms, do not apply to those sections when you distribute them as separate works. But when you distribute the same sections as part of a whole which is a work based on the Program, the distribution of the whole must be on the terms of this License, whose permissions for other licensees extend to the entire whole, and thus to each and every part regardless of who wrote it."


  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @07:56AM (#1126020)
    Lord Stallman, I await thy orders on when to begin the BEos inquisition. I have several hundrd GNU warriors armed and ready. We have secured yaks to carry us into battle.

    Know this, O' Lord Stallman, ye who hath given the world this wondrous tool called GPL, know that we will lay our lives down to protect the integrity of Copyleft. For what kind of man would live in a world where Copyleft was not protected. Show me such a man and I will show you that the Earth is round !!!

    Hark, my warriors. Let us rejoice in what we are about to do. May the next battle take us to the BSD infidels. I would love nothing more than to excise that Devil Theo from this world and send him and his fellow savages to Hades !!!
  • by Otter ( 3800 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @08:55AM (#1126021) Journal
    It's a warning to others to be more careful.

    The warning I would take away from this is:

    So your company is thinking about using the GPL, or GPL'd software? Well, think twice, because if you do anything that could be construed as a violation, even if it's clearly unintentional, it is going to be met with a public smear campaign without first giving you a chance to address it.
  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <> on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @08:53AM (#1126022) Homepage Journal
    I've heard from Be. They will solve the problem. They will be more careful in the future.

    There is some software already going to the CD-presser and the retail channel, and I asked their attorney to write a release that will let them continue to distribute that. I will sign it.

    I would not have put this in the public eye except that it's something that people have to be more careful about - be sure you know whose software you are using and what license it has - you ignore that at your peril. Thus, I publicized this example.



  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <> on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @09:50AM (#1126023) Homepage Journal
    OK, you have a point. I could have handled it more gently.


  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <> on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @08:41AM (#1126024) Homepage Journal
    My copyright string is embedded in their software, with my name in it.
  • by deeny ( 10239 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @08:12AM (#1126025) Homepage
    ...wouldn't community relations have been better served by a private email to the Be engineers?

    Bingo. A lot of the Be folk are just as much friends of open source as anyone. The choice to work at a proprietary OS company is something that I *can* understand, even if Bruce and RMS can't. Be's offices have a vitality and energy (not to mention a whole bunch of old hardware) that I haven't seen often.

    I don't see why Bruce had to draw attention to what he already believes is a simple, honest mistake. It would have been more professional to deal with it privately and only make it a community issue if Be ignored him or refused to fix the problem.

    I agree. I doubt they would have ignored him or refused to fix the problem, but I'd be willing to bet that they may re-engineer it not to use his code.


  • by ashpool7 ( 18172 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @09:08AM (#1126026) Homepage Journal
    I would not have put this in the public eye except that it's something that people have to be more careful about . . . . . Thus, I publicized this example.

    Nobody is denying that it should be publicly advertized that Be messed this up. What slashdotters want to know is why you publicised now instead of later (after you settled it with Be).
  • by ashpool7 ( 18172 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @10:16AM (#1126027) Homepage Journal
    ... I ment "settle" as in "resolve the problem".

    I think I understand why you posted this now . . . "Be fixes GPL Violation" would attract less readers than "Be Violates GPL". If your intent was to warn GPL developers of danger and alert them to checking licences, etc, then gaining maximum readership was definately obtained.

    However, in the process of trying to get everyone to look, you've smeared Be. Yes, you cleaned up by posting [] that Be is fixing the problem, but you still smeared them.

    My thoughts on the matter is that you could have gotten away with a minimal loss of readership if you hadn't smeared them in the first place (posting after word from Be).

    I notice Technocrat now has an updated headline on the article to reduce Be smear. I find it very odd. First it's "BeOS Boo-Boo: Violating the GPL" and now it's "BeOS Boo-Boo: GPL violated, They'll Fix It". The first title sounds like you want to roast Be on a spit and the second sounds like a informational post.

    To the critical reader, this looks like you smeared Be to further your point and now you want to clean up and and forget you smeared them. It looks like you're trying to manuplate the fact that you originally smeared them.

    Thats a Boo-Boo.

    I'm not intentionally trying to smear you here, I'm just pointing out whats going on. If more data is forthcoming . . . I'll post a followup. :)
  • by FascDot Killed My Pr ( 24021 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @09:19AM (#1126028)
    To sum up:

    1) Be made mistake.
    2) You found the mistake and
    a) posted it on your news site
    b) posted it on another news site known for it's hasty reactions
    c) THEN contacted BeOS to get more information
    3) Someone questioned whether you ought to contact Be
    4) You claimed you "made it clear" that you had contacted Be
    5) When someone notes that you didn't "make it clear" you admit you hadn't mentioned that when you posted the story

    I think the REAL point here is that you haven't read the Advocacy-HOWTO.

    Free Software is about love (i.e. sharing) or, at worst, tough love (I'll play nice with you if you play nice with me). All you've done is instill fear in current and future GPL users. They'll be careful all right--careful to avoid the GPL.
  • Wouldn't it have been better to work this out with Be in private and then post it on the net?

    You have every right to protect your rights, and I encourage you to do so, but you don't have to knock Be down to do it. Both of you could have come out looking better if this was resolved before it was common public knowledge.
  • by sugarman ( 33437 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @07:47AM (#1126030)
    So, a month ago, when Be had a small user base, and of those not a lot where looking in depth at what was contained in all the libs (okay, at least I wasn't, not sure about all the others).

    Now, Free Be has had 700,000+ downloads, many of them Linux users who are trying the OS for the first time, and some inconsistencies come to light. So as the OSS zelaots preach: "With many eyes, all bugs are shallow."

    I imagine that Bruce is correct: this was likely unintentional. I also imagine that there may be more instances of this withing Be's libs. I mean, iut is a versatile, Posix compliant OS, so there could be a number of other apps being used in the same way.

    I guess a more thorough audit of what actually is included in BeOS may be necessary, at least by someone who knows what to look for. I'm sure that whatever conflicts arise could be corrected in short order, but I'd hate to see my fave OS get caught up in licensing hell.

  • by awk2 ( 47179 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @08:50AM (#1126031)
    I've just spoken with Bruce Perens, and acknowledged that we at Be have indeed 'boo-booed' with our use of Electric Fence in

    We're working to remove Electric Fence from and to place it in a statically linked library that can be linked against when-ever needed (typically for debugging). We'll then also distribute the full-source to the static library.

    Our plan is to complete this by the end of the week and to update the downloadable package from and also to include the updates in future revisions of BeOS Pro.

    Andrew Kimpton
    Be Inc.
  • by DanaL ( 66515 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2000 @07:52AM (#1126032)
    ...wouldn't community relations have been better served by a private email to the Be engineers?

    As has happened in similar cases (I'm thinking Corel's gafs), Be will probably recieve a LOT of angry/nasty/rude email from some of the more fanatic GPL/Linux advocates.

    I don't see why Bruce had to draw attention to what he already believes is a simple, honest mistake. It would have been more professional to deal with it privately and only make it a community issue if Be ignored him or refused to fix the problem.


Given its constituency, the only thing I expect to be "open" about [the Open Software Foundation] is its mouth. -- John Gilmore