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GNU is Not Unix

Python 1.6 Incompatible w/ GPL 196

WillSmith sent in a bit running over at LinuxToday addressing the fact that RMS thinks that Python 1.6 is incompatible w/ the GPL. The article is basically how to resolve this within Debian.
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Python 1.6 Incompatible w/ GPL

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    It just says that RMS says it's bad, but doesn't specify any of the points of contention. Anyone know?

    It might be important, it might not. It would be nice if there was some specific info.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    True freedom. Hmmm. That's your own special version of the word 'True', eh?

    Freedom involves being able to do what one likes. If I want to change some source code, make it into something the original developer wasn't even able to grasp, and release it under the license of my choice, that is true freedom. Notice I didn't capitalize the 'T' in true.

    Stallman's notion of 'Freedom' reeks of 'pie in the sky when you die' wishful thinking. His vision won't really work very well until we live in a world where all software is released with his One True License. In this context, it's very similar to the old Marxist theory that Socialism Is Not Possible In One Country. Software developers will always move on to develop software under a difference license, and scientists and intellecutals will always find a way across the border to a non-Communist country where they are personally rewarded for their talent.

    So ultimately Stallman's ideology is already obsolete, and should be relegated to the Dustbins of History.

  • The real issues is that the Linux community is giving away free software to get you hooked, and is then going to charge you for the upgrade. Come on guys - we can all see through your sham.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Too bad this "great" license needs to be governed by the state of Virginia--the first UCITA state. What does that mean? Well, I believe that means that the license can change at the will of the issuers and be retroactive in scope. Sorry, this smells terrible and the fact the CNRI is adamant about this makes it an order of magnitude worse.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    (Score:5 Troll)

    soccer is what American sissies call football.

    Dont even try and call that game you play football, cause it aint a ball and it hardly ever gets kicked. I suppose the rest of the world is wrong and your right!

    If you think (American) football players are so tough, then put them up against a team of rugby players.

    Besides, this is slashdot, no place for DUMB JOCKS.

    --
    Man walks into a bar and says to the barman,
    "Have you heard the one about the dumb jock"
    The bar man replys "Hey, I played football for my college"
    "Nevermind, i dont have the time to explain it".
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Paw done shot up the GPL agayaaaaaaan!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The governing state of the license, which I believe is the primary contention, is also the first UCITA state. That says it all in a nutshell.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    From what I can tell, Guido von Rospach does NOT own Python. Rather, the product is wholly owned by some entity, not a real perlson. This is very disturbing. It's hard enough trusting just Joe Author. But institutions are notoriously amoral at best--see The Prince and realize that the nation-states of then are the corporate-states of today.

    If Guido owned Python, there would be a lot less of this bullshit going around. Compare:

    $ python -v
    Copyright 1991-1995 Stichting Mathematisch Centrum, Amsterdam
    with
    $ perl -v
    Copyright 1987-2000, Larry Wall
    (yes, some build-info and noisy output was omitted). See what I mean?
  • Did the license change between versions? And does this effect the 2.x series as well?
  • See, had this been GNU/Python, there wouldn't have been any trouble at all... ;>
  • Archaeopteryx Software makes a nice IDE for Python, under Linux - called Wing IDE [archaeopteryx.com].
  • by mholve ( 1101 )
    Or a blessing of the sacred code. :)
  • The problem with visiting the FSF site is that, in many cases, the site offers no *proof.* I want proof, not just bold statements to the effect of "This license is incompatible with the GPL and therefore shouldn't be used to write free software."
  • The problem isn't merely his attacks on various GPLed (and non-GPLed) projects, but his selectivity. He seems, at times, to only go after what he doesn't like (or doesn't support to begin with.)

    For example, up until a week ago, he went after KDE like a pirhanna after a monkey in the water. The sad thing was that the problem was with the GPL restricting one's freedom to link (the ambiguous "derivative work" clause), not the QPL. Even sadder is the fact that he's *not* pursuing people linking to Mozilla within the GNOME project.

    Come on, RMS, either you persue license violations or you don't...
  • >KDE not complying is damn important, it
    >undermines everything that does. Python doesn't? >Well it should and it will.

    I agree..and Nautilus and Galeon should too.

    Nautlus && Galeon == GPL
    Mozilla == MPL

    According to FSF, MPL & GPL are incompatible

    Therefore Nautilus && Galeon == illegal
  • Naw, thanks to the piss-poor way the GPL is written, a good lawyer could state that a Python script is a derivative work of Python (after all, you need Python to run it, right? And it's not a system essential like libc or GCC, right?) And your script is GPL? Gee, here comes the GPL Police.

    The important thing to remember is that many supposed violations of the GPL are really just abuses of the GPL (which are easy since the GPL is so poorly worded.)
  • There's a clause in the license of the Linux kernel. This apparently makes it all hunky-dorey.

    BTW I was wrong about Nautilus--and this exposes a potential problem with the LGPL. It's not OK for QPL to give permission to link GPL software to QPL software, but it's OK to write LGPL wrappers to link to GPL software (which is how it's OK for GNOME software to use Mozilla.)
  • See previous thread regarding RMS's RSI.

    Next, the issue is not that Python is not using the GPL. The problem is that GPLd code cannot be used with code from Python. Plenty of licenses are GPL compatible (new BSD, MIT, LGPL, W3C license, are some examples). Other licenses are not (Zope, NPL, IBMPL, LaTeXPPL). No one calls this software non-free; but the problem is the old Python license was compatible, and the new one is not.

    As for Hurd, it's coming along. Debian is working on a GNU/Hurd distribution. I haven't run it personally beyond booting it once, but I hear X is working a little, networking is there, and a wide variety of programs work on it.

    Seeing as your slashdot bio has no homepage or information, I'm curious - do you do any coding yourself?
  • The issue is not that it's not GPLd. The issue is that the new license in 1.6 may not be GPL compatible. The old license (for 1.5.2) was. The thing is, 1.6 was released before licensing issues were fully resolved. It may be compatible. It may not be. If it's not, certain programs using Python may now be using it illegally.

    What will hurt python more - a lack of inclusion in commercial applications, or a lack of inclusion in GPLd applications?
  • The problem is if the licenses conflict for some reason, and one or the other of the licenses claims to govern the license of the other.

    I don't know exactly what the situation is for Python, but this can happen when a lib says programs that link it must be distributed under the lib's license (the GPL does this, essentialy) and the license of the prog doesn't permit itself to be distributed under the license of the lib.

    This is what the KDE fracas was about (before QT went GPL), and is why license proliferation is such a Bad Thing(tm).
  • I was thinking about this yesterday. VNC is ditributed under the GPL, but the precompiled distro for Windows is compiled under Microsoft Visual C++. Does this break the GPL the same way KDE did? They are both linking to non-GPL compatable libs. How many other projects are done this way?

    I, myself view things this way (I'm sure that I am wrong minded about this), If the copyright holders of both the GPL program and libs have no beef with each of them being linked together, there is no problem. The problem is academic. (sp?) Wonder if emacs or other FSF software has ever been compiled with a non-free compiler/libs and distributed?

    Moderate this as Offtopic/Flamebate/Overrated :)
  • So any program compiled with GCC/G++ must be licensed under the GPL or compatible to it?? I don't think that's how it works.

    No, that is not what I said. I said the opposite of that. What I am asking is, does it break the GPL to compile and distribute GPL software if it is linked to non-free/non-GPL libs. If I remember correctly, the GPL says nothing about "system libraries".

    The GPL only applies if you DISTRIBUTE the software.

    So I will ask again.

    Is it a violation of the GPL to compile GPL software with a non-free/non-GPL compiler/libs and distribute it?

    I hope the answer to this question is no.

  • I want to use KDE code in GPLed GNOME code! I want to use GPLed GNOME code within KDE!

    The only problem I see is that if you DISTRIBUTE KDE linked to QT libs, precompiled. You can swap the KDE and GNOME code all you want without ANY problems. If I am dead wrong about this, some please explain it to me.
  • I trust you are aware that RMS suffers from near-crippling RSI?

    Whether you like his principles or not, whether you like his license or not, whether you like his hygiene or not: the man has literally destroyed his body developing software that he believed could and would change the world. That's a hell of a sacrifice and one which deserves a little more respect than a sneering "get back to coding."
  • You said "no one give RMS much credit". I don't know why the author of python or any other open source software have to give RMS credit at all. You probably think not so many programmer who program on MS Windows platform give Bill Gates much credit. I thought the purpose of free/open software is to let people to see source code and share the idea. While there are several softwares are open source with different copyrights, RMS refuse to accept none other than GPL. I can understand why RMS is obssesed with GPL. He wrote it, and it's his ideal copyright for every software. But why other people are so obssesed with GPL? Difference between QPL and GPL is quite small (compare to MS windows license and GPL). Still, lot of people said they won't use KDE, because of copyright problem. I guess those people don't use MS Windows.
  • Sigh.

    The only form of intellectual property that requires this "enforce it or lose it" is a trademark.

    That's not what the GPL is - as you say, it is a contract (or a license, if you like). I believe the reason for the bickering is that the GPL is a very strong, powerful license that has a very distinct "meaning" in software-development circles. To water it down in any way could pose a problem in the future, if (for example) it was tested in court.

    I have no idea where these legal urban legends about enforce-it-or-lose-it start, but I'd like to quash them.
  • by Jack9 ( 11421 )
    I have a hard time stomaching RMS bitching about the GPL...so what if it's not "vanilla" GPL anymore. As an end user, I dont care and until they someone reuses the code, no one will.

    Often wrong but never in doubt.
    I am Jack9.
  • by Lx ( 12170 )
    So fucking what? I don't understand why everyone feels they have to conform to the fascist views and license of RMS. Python releases with a license that's more free than the GPL (in fact, this is one of the strong points of python - it's not GPL), and they get totally flamed for it.

    The whole issue is ridiculous, and I think Python should take the same stance as QT/KDE, and tell RMS to get lost. We need more projects doing that, instead of bowing to the whim of this looney.

    -lx
  • There shouldn't be a declared venue, and beyond that, Virginia is a particularly odious one, because Virginia passed the UCTIA [washingtonpost.com], which empowers authors retroactively do all sorts of malicious things with their code.
  • In reading the license, it just seems like a BSD-ish license.
    (There's a good chance I'm wrong about that evaluation, I'm not a lawyer, nor do I want ot be one.)

    My question is why is this such a big deal?
    The source is 'open', it's modifiable, redistributable, etc, why does it matter that it's not under the GPL?
    All the CNRI license seems to prevent is plagiarism.

    No, it won't prevent a commericial entity from forking it and making their own closed version, but hey, there will always be the 'official' sanctioned version from the Python group, and usually the standard version wins in the marketplace.

    Finally, it's their code, and they can do with it as they please.

    --K
    ---
  • What 'protection' does it offer? None. It offers up a way for a judge to make a ruling that MIGHT allow for compensation, but that is not protection, that is compensation AFTER the 'damage' has been done.

    It is at least better than just handing it over (as public domain and some licenses do).

    By extension of your logic, dumping toxic waste into drinking water should be legal because corperations usually get away with it anyway. (I know, nobody dies when GPL is abused, but the point is there).

  • by sjames ( 1099 )

    I have a hard time stomaching RMS bitching about the GPL...so what if it's not "vanilla" GPL anymore. As an end user, I dont care and until they someone reuses the code, no one will.

    I don't! I release software under the GPL because that's the way I want to share my code. I don't want to see it in a year or 2 with Sun's or MS's name on it. If someone wants to use my code in a less free package, I expect a percentage (be it monetary if they're selling it or publicity if they're giving it away).

    That will not be the case if violating the GPL becomes common practice.

    What I DO have a hard time stomaching is the many 'Joe Blows sorta kinda free for now license for Monday, Sept. 4, 2000 at 12:05 and 13 seconds' followed by Joe Blow complaining that his project is being left out of a GPL distro. Jow Blow then inevitably goes on to explain that his license is EXACTLY LIKE GPL, but can't explain why then he prefers his version.

    I have no doubt that you as an end user don't care about the difference, you got your free (as in beer) software. You'll never hear about the great free (as in beer) software you MIGHT have gotten next year if someone could have reused Joe Blow's sorta kinda free source. Besides, it's not your work that is being protected by the GPL, so what do you care. Your not the one who might otherwise see your work commercially benefiting the very same corperation that spends many times your income trying to make sure that thousands of PHBs who can't even find the power switch will make your job harder by demanding that you use crappy bloatware instead of the best choice.

    If you had seen, first hand, the software world going from a freely shared group effort to a proprietary hell of software that almost works but makes the suits rich, and then spent another couple of decades swimming upstream to revitalize the old system (as RMS and others have successfully done), you might be a bit touchy about slippery slopes yourself.

  • If you have a novel way of implementation, what is stopping anyone from taking your code, creating a spec of it, passing that spec over the cube wall and having another implement the spec?

    No copyright can protect from that. Your confusing copyright and patent. I HAVE considered the idea of 'Patent-left'

    How about this: They just cut and paste your code into their product. Do you have the money to track down all the different people who might have done this cut-n-paste job? Do you have the money to take them to court?

    Of course I don't, but do they want to take the risk that a dis-gruntled employee might tip me off? That I might transfer my copyright to the FSF and get RMS on their case?

    *IF* your modivation is "to stop theft of my code", I wish to remind you that 'locks keep honest people honest'.

    That IS my motivation for releasing under the GPL. I prefer to risk having someone cheat on the license rather than lock up the source.

    Then there's the fact that a great deal of GPL code is out there, and there have been reletivly few incidents thus far.

    IMHO, even though the risk for a large company is small, the consequences are big if it actually happens. Smart companies don't take the chance.

    And, well, your code may not worth taking :-(

    That's always possable, but then the whole point is moot.

  • Specifically, CNRI wants to resolve all disputes in Virginia which has passed UTICA.

    Think about it.

    --
    Ben Kosse

  • 1) People defending the GPL are becoming more and more fanatic about it because they feel "threatened" by all these incompatible licenses.

    RMS and the other Free Software advocates have felt strongly about this issue for a long time. They have a long history of not bending. They simply get more press nowadays because more people are using their software.

    Like it or not there are a great deal of talented people that believe strongly in the GPL. Because of this there is a huge body of source code that becomes off limits if your software is not compatible with the GPL. That is why groups like Sun, TrollTech and now the CNRI want their licenses to be considered GPL compatible. Unfortunately for those of us caught in the middle, the people creating these new licenses also have their own agendas. They want RMS to give in on his principles so that they can have their license the way they want it, and still be able to use GPLed code.

    Fortunately for all of us RMS is not going to budge unless it is in all our best interests.

    2) Maybe the GPL is just a bit too strict and should be loosened to help people develop under some other license withouth having to bother thinking too much about pissing off other developers.

    This is not going to happen. The FSF has spent a lot of time and effort creating a body of software that is only available to people who don't object to sharing code. Since sharing code is what RMS is all about, he isn't about to give ground. After years of struggling he finally has the upper hand. Plus, he's on a roll. QT, StarOffice, and MySQL are just some of the recent examples of major software products that have succumbed to his pressure. BSD style license advocates are up in arms because GPLed software is more damaging to their cause than commercial software, but that's another story...

    3) People are writing other licenses not caring about the GPL and it's compatibilities and only realise later when they are threatened to not be distributed that they have to modify it??

    Bingo! give the man a prize. This is the root of the problem. Instead of sticking to one of the licenses that is already well accepted in the community each and every major non FSF project seems to want to create their own license. There is a long list of acceptable GPL compatible licenses. In fact, the old Python license is one of them. Yet, for some reason, people keep thinking that they need a license of their very own. In this case the CNRI added a clause that specified the jurisdiction for any disputes. Since that is an extra restriction on the rights of us that don't live in Virginia, then RMS is technically right. The license is not GPL compatible.

    Now, if the CNRI was smart, it would have simply slapped a standard BSD style license on Python and called it good. But instead they have screwed it up for Pythonistas everywhere. Now every single GPLed program that embeds Python will either have to 1) stay at version 1.5.2, or 2) pick another scripting language.

    Since I happen to be one of the Pythonistas affected, I am quite upset, but then again, I probably should have stuck with a language that guaranteed my freedoms. Something nice and LGPLed would be perfect (as I could then also use it in my commercial projects). I suppose I could go back to Perl, as it's dual license is both safe (it's GPLed) and commercial software friendly (the Artistic License).

    Hopefully this will get sorted out post haste, but I don't plan on testing the new versions until they do, and if they take too long, I will find some other language. If there is one thing that has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt it is that Open Source software projects that end up with licensing problems have a hard time gaining mindshare. KDE should have been the undisputed desktop leader. They had a years head start, and the Gnome guys had to create nearly their entire framework from scratch. And yet despite all of KDE's advantages it wasn't until after StarOffice was pledged to become a part of Gnome that they finally relented.

    There are enough good truly Free scripting languages that Python can ill afford to have problems of this sort. Perhaps now would be a good time to take a look at Ruby...

  • I don't see why Debian cares whether the Python licence is compatible with the GPL, though. The licence certainly seems to be DFSG-free, and I'm not aware of any GPLed software that has ever incorporated Python bodily. (People have written GPLed software in Python, of course, but that's a different thing; there's no requirement GPLed software be written using a GPLed system or platform.)
  • It seems you're claiming that a script written in Python is derivative of the Python interpreter. But that's wrong, because it would mean you can't write a GPLed Delphi program (because Delphi isn't GPLed) or a GPLed set of Excel macros, which is silly; the fact that you're using a non-GPLed development environment doesn't mean you can't write a GPLed program for that environment. Otherwise, how could you legally run the GNU tools on a non-GPLed OS like Solaris?
  • The consultations will go on, and there's still hope that a settlement between RMS and CNRI will be found that produces a license that's compatible with the GPL.

    Sorry to point this out, but to RMS, the only license that is compatible with the GPL is the GPL.

    Woz
  • I suppose I shouldn't have forgotten to add that little smiley at the end of the post...

    I guess I was just poking fun at the whole RMS craziness that has happened recently. I'm not (intentionally) spreading FUD. I'm glad you like to jump to conclusions, tho. It was a satiric comment. Forgot the smiley. My fault.

    I highly respect RMS, even though I don't agree with everything he says/does and have issues with his personality.

    Anyway...

    Woz
  • I'm with you, man. I am dumbfounded at the hostility displayed here on Slashdot to a man that has done more than any other person on the planet to bring us these wonderful Free Linux systems (including Linus, there's a bit more to your average distro than just /vmlinuz).

    I just don't get it... it's truly sad.

    "Free your mind and your ass will follow"

  • by Cato ( 8296 )
    I just read that interview, and I think he came out of it OK - he is very focused on a single idea, i.e. a zealot (he almost has to be, by definition), and that's one big reason why the GNU movement has succeeded.

    The interviewer was either playing devil's advocate or rather clueless about free software - RMS did OK in handling this, only occasionally letting rip...

    I am not a huge fan of RMS and I tend to ignore the demands to refer to GNU/Linux not Linux (there are many other types of software in the typical Linux distro, e.g. Perl Artistic licensed, BSD and X11) - however, without RMS I would not now be typing this message on a Linux system compiled by GCC and running Gnome, so I think we all owe him a huge thank you, even if we don't agree with everything he says.

    Courage in your convictions may sometimes be hard to distinguish from arrogance...
  • #1: You convert Python into an OS so that it can have all of the system resources to itself and your Python programs can run faster

    #2: instead of using `ls', in unix, you use:
    python -c "map(lambda x: __import__('sys').stdout.write(x+'\n'), __import__('os').listdir('.'))"
  • Pardon my ignorance, though, if someone can explain to me why as the author of some open source software (all gpl'd actually, but not because RMS said I should) I should give a shit.

    Other people have mentioned this before, but I guess it should be repeated. No one cares what you license your own code with except you. But if you use an "almost" GPL license, then don't whine if you find that you can't get your code accepted in a GPL distro.

    -Brent
  • First of all, licenses matter. To programmers they matter directly--which code can you reuse and who can reuse your code. To non-programmers they matter indirectly--which products get which features, when and how compatible.
    Second of all, I seriously doubt RMS has a list of software vendors that he consults and then goes out to badger them into using the GPL (or a compatible license). More likely, Python went to him to see if they were GPL-compat. He said "no" which is entirely his choice. Furthermore, Python acknowledged that it was his choice by the very act of asking.

    It is certainly RMS's choice to say "The Python License is not compatible with the GPL". However, his saying so does not necessarily make it true. The issue is whether a GPL program can be linked with Python, and whether the requirement of the Python License that disputes are governed under the laws of Virginia prevents such use.

    If you write a program which you want to GPL, and it uses Python, there is a way out; RMS explains how in a section on the Qt license in his article Various Licenses and Comments about Them [gnu.org]. If you are creating a Linux distribution, or even a large software collection which includes Python and GPL software, you're ok:

    In addition, mere aggregation of another work not based on the Program with the Program (or with a work based on the Program) on a volume of a storage or distribution medium does not bring the other work under the scope of this License.

    Third, this causes no problems to the FSF, the Python people or the general public. It's only a problem for groups like Debian that want to distribute A) only GPL and GPL-compatible software and B) Python.

    This isn't quite true - if I write a program which incorporates the Python interpreter, or pieces of it, and want to (or have to) use the GPL, then I have that problem. I'm not sure if I can legally distribute a work under the GPL plus the statement:

    This License Agreement shall be governed by and interpreted in all respects by the law of the State of Virginia, excluding conflict of law provisions.
    I understand why CNRI included that statement; I'm not clear on why that becomes a significant problem with respect to the GPL, or if it indeed is.
  • I'm not quite sure how you can say that he's never been about self-promotion. To me, his whole GNU/Linux crusade has been about himself. And I'm sorry, but I see no reason to give someone style points just for being consistent, when it's clear to a lot of people (not all, but many) that he's being an ass. ("Yeah, but he's consistently an ass!" ?) As a much better writer than me said:

    "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." — Ralph Waldo Emerson


    Cheers,

  • Specifically, CNRI wants to resolve all disputes in Virginia, which is where they are headquartered and don't have to send lawyers off to New York or California or East Buttwad every time they get sued.

    Think about it.

    (To put it another way, what part of UTICA would actually benefit CNRI in enforcing a license for free software? Especially when about the only way you could possibly violate that license is to misuse CNRI's name...)
  • Perhaps he will announce the incompatibilty of the hydrogen atom with the GPL, therefore refusing to wash. Then again, considering his photo he may already have.
  • The real problem isn't that they couldn't package Python for inclusion. The real problem is that it's questionably legal to embed Python in a GPL'd package. I'm doing some of that, but I'm not particularly worried.

    CNRI, the previous employers of GvR, own the code; they were guaranteed a Python 1.6 release by Guido. BeOpen will do the 2.0 release. That's why the two are so close together. CNRI is being a bit difficult about the licensing issues (claiming that the previous Python license doesn't count as a real license, etc.)

    In the best case, all of this will be worked out and people can distribute binaries of this package with Python linked in. In the worst case, none of this gets sorted out until Python 2.0 (BeOpen wants GPL compatibility) and no one can distribute said binaries with Python2.0.
  • Humm... I wonder if RMS will ask them to beg for forgivness?? It's funny how some people in the open source community select their reaction depending on the targets. KDE moves to the GPL and they get flamed, now Pyhton is not compatible with the GPL and people try to work a way to make them fit in.

    By the way, this was not flamebait this was just sad irony...
  • Let's split hairs even more. The BSD license is incompatible with the GPL.


    Neither name of the copyright holders nor the names of its contributors may
    be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without
    specific prior written permission.


    Since the GPL is silent on endorsements and promotions, this is an additional restriction. But lest you think I'm making this up, RMS has already decreed the new Apache license incompatible for its clauses 4 and 5, and Apache clause 4 is the same as BSD condition 3!

    Face it, nothing is compatible with the GPL.
  • That's simply wrong. I don't think RMS view differs substantially from the FSF view. You could know about compatible licenses by just visiting the FSF-site and read the list of GPL compatible licenses.

    The problem is that he can't make up his mind. Exhibit A:


    Subject: Re: New Apache license compatible with GPL?
    From: Richard Stallman
    Date: Mon, 19 Jun 2000 14:47:39 -0600 (MDT)
    cc: debian-legal@lists.debian.org
    ...
    "Clauses 4 and 5 are incompatible with the GPL because they are stated as conditions of the license for the copyright."


    Exhibit B, clause 4 of the Apache License:

    The names "Apache" and "Apache Software Foundation" must not be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without prior written permission. For written permission, please contact apache@apache.org.


    And finally, Exhibit C, condition 3 of the new BSD license:


    Neither name of the copyright holders nor the names of its contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without specific prior written permission.


    So, as you can see, Richard Stallman has the perogative of picking and choosing which licenses are GPL compatible and which are not without reference to any sort of reality.
  • Not compatible. See condition three, and my exhibits in an above post.
  • compatible with RMS?

    Emacs.

    (I wonder if the entire Free Software Movement has just been a Illumnati plot to position emacs ahead of vi in the eternal One True Editor Jihad?)

    ,
    (K)

    --
    Evan

  • Hmmm, what was that about 'freedom' again???


    My understanding is that the freedom is not of the programers so much as of the software itself. The idea is that the GPL prevents people from incroaching on the freedom of the code, not the other way around.

    --Ben

  • Keep in mind the difference between Open Source and Free Software. Open Source code can be closed but Free Software is Free---it can't be closed. The GPL is viral intentionally with the intention that, one day, all software will be Free.

    --Ben

  • So that's what GNU-Latin looks like.
  • One of Python's strengths is its license, which is very BSD-like. It allows people to redistribute modified Python as part of their project, embed Python as a built-in language and extend it with their own C-based modules. I have been trying to convince my own employer to use Python for some products, and the license is a big plus in that fight --let's face it; businesses are more amenable to the BSD-family of licensing than the GPL.

    If the Python people follow TrollTech onto the GPL bandwagon it will probably hurt Python in the long run... Before you know it, RMS will be arguing that products using Python as a scripting language or based on Python extensions (and there are quite a few) will have to switch to GPL...

  • INo copyright can protect from that. Your confusing copyright and patent. I HAVE considered the idea of 'Patent-left'


    Indeed, many of us have done so. although I prefer the term "Latent," for "left-patent," to the awkward "patent-left."

    There are many interesting issues that make Latents a much harder thing to accomplish. And the OSS community seems unwilling to consider Latents (because it is about software patents) sufficiently politically correct to get behind it. However, Latents offer the single best chance, IMHO, to protect the future of OSS against monied interests abusing OSS with software patents.
  • it's not splitting hairs. The GPL says (and I'm guessing that this is the reason) "no extra restrictions" and this is an extra restriction.

    Oh, if only that were the case, then this would be easy. The issue is not that any extra restriction makes things incompatible, but that some restrictions do and others do not. The arbiter of what are improper restrictions, at the end of the day, is RMS, in his view.

    And the law is on his side -- at least technically. The language is clear that any addtiional restriction would violate. Thus, at the end of the day, the enforcing party can be the arbiter -- if only by deciding which violation to enforce, and which not to enforce.

    So, I would agree the author is correct that its probably not "splitting hairs" to claim ANY non-GPL license is incompatible if it has any word not in the GPL or any provision not expressly a subset of a GPL restriction.

    It is, however, arbitrary and capricious in practice. To pretend that some licenses are clearly naughty and others are clearly nice, and that this distinction is somehow embodied consistently in the GPL itself, or in the corpus commentary at FSF's web site is to engage in fantasy.

    So for those of us who actually do care about, or are fiduciarily responsible to others, about license compliance concerning, GPL, we must take the view that only GPL is clearly compatible with anything that is not GPL, lest our clients find ourselves at the business end of that caprice.
  • So for those of us who actually do care about, or are fiduciarily responsible to others, about license compliance concerning, GPL, we must take the view that only GPL is clearly compatible with anything that is not GPL, lest our clients find ourselves at the business end of that caprice.

    Sorry about the syntactic instability. I meant to write something different, but clicked the wrong key. The sentence should have read:

    Some of us actually care about avoiding license violations, or are responsible as advisors to those who want to avoid the same. For us, we must take the conservative view, that only GPL, and a very few other licenses, is compatible with GPL. Any other view exposes them to the caprice of the copyright holder.

    This, IMHO, is the primary difficulty with the GPL.
  • Please cite what you believe to the relevant provision of UCITA which permits a licensee to unilaterally change a license in this manner.
  • What if mathematicians create the Algebra of Licensing - formal science for calculating license compatibility. The licenses will have much more compact formulations. And it will be possible to use OBJECTIVE means to figure out if software is composed legally and what is the resulting license or, on the contrary, is illegal and uses bad license mix

    Not likely. Mathematicians have already proved it is impossible to create a general process determine whether two non-identical programs have the same input/output characteristics.

    Far more likely, either the language will be too limiting to support most desirable license constructs, or it will be too expressively robust, implicating Godel-like or Halting-problem-like self-reference issues, to permit the existence of a general algorithm for determining equivalence or violations.
  • arguments?

    Nonsense. As a lawyer well-versed in computer law issues, two things are apparent: (1) these issues are not beyond the ken of the Slashdot audience, who on both sides have manifest a fair understanding of the legal questions; and (2) one should never blindly accept the conclusions of a lawyer, such as Eben, who is acting in his capacity as an advocate for a client, in this case RMS and FSF.

    Surely, when a lawyer makes cogent remarks, complete with reference to authority, one should take notice. But guess what? The folks on the "other side" are represented by counsel as well -- indeed, the lawyers who advised them to include the "offending provisions." They might take a different view. Thus, we as laypeople must make these calls on the merits, informed by the ARGUMENTS, not the assertions, of learned counsel.

    This is why we have juries.

    Bottom line: don't pretend this is beyond the ken of anyone here. The issues are fairly clear, and there is nothing deeply obcure from a legal position. In short, I see no reason a non-lawyer should feel shy about chiming in about these general policy questions.
  • The only objection of RMS is against clause 7, the "State of Virginia"-clause. The strange thing is, this clause may not be applicable outside the US, so the license may be GPL-compatible outside the US after all. (Only lawyers can sort this out).

    Nah, actually, once you have formation of contract under applicable law, remaining choice of law clauses are generally enforced, even in international scenarios. There are exceptions, but I don't see one here.

    In this sense, the choice of law clause actually seems like a good idea. I think that RMS is troubled not by the idea of a choice of law clause per se, but by an ideological opposition to laws passed in some jurisdictions. The problem is, that he is not arguing his underlying opposition -- he is pretending that this is a clause inconsistent with free software -- I disagree.
  • And is Stallman crazy? Or crazy like a fox?

    Just crazy. (Actually, I don't think he is crazy -- merely unnecessarily dogmatic, and to the detriment of his stated cause and philosophy.)

    But I just LOVE the anti-UCITA arguments made by folks who don't understand the law. While UCITA does have some provisions offensive to me, if these provisions are your lead concerns, well LOL. UCITA is no better or worse in this regard than the

    This particular argument is one of the weakest reeds on which I have seen an anti-UCITA advocate lean.

    For centuries, violations of fundamental public policies, and more recently, but for decades, unconscionability have been grounds for courts to void provisions of contracts. This is true not only of the common law, but also the fifty-year-old UCC, which is the statutory law most likely to apply in its absence.

    Indeed, UCITA's provisions are somewhat better than prior law, in that they LIMIT the scope of discretion a court will have by more rigorously defining the notions and their application.
  • Your bio says you are an intellectual property lawyer. It may be easy for an IP lawyer to fall in love with UCITA...though there are plenty of lawyers who haven't.

    I wrote computer games long before becoming a lawyer, and have since left the law to make internet security appliances. You seem to think my background disqualifies me, and I'd like to think these combined credentials give me a fair perspective on things. Let's lose the ad hominems on either side and discuss these issues on the merits, OK?

    None of your remarks address the point I made. While there may be sound arguments against UCITA -- and there are many points of UCITA with which I disagree -- none of them were raised by the ridiculous propositions that UCITA, and not present law, permits unenforceability of unconcionable and counter-policy laws; or even that such provisions are bad things.

    You might be interested to know that it was precisely these grounds with which the only Circuit Court cases not enforcing a shrink-wrap agreement based their judgment. Leave those cases out, and you are stuck with Zeidenberg's 7th Circuit shrink-wrap-uber-alles opinion, and all that under the common law and the UCC!
  • it involves true freedom to do whatever you want with it once you have it

    Except, of course, to release it under a more restrictive license, or distribute binaries without making the source available, or using it in proprietary software.

    Did I miss any?

  • A bit of searching should find you an .au clip of RMS singing "Cooperation with RMS is impossible" or something like that. It was a long time ago and I'm too lazy to find it again.
  • By the way, this was not flamebait this was just sad irony...

    If your post wasn't flamebait, it had to be gross incompetence.

    KDE moves to the GPL and they get flamed,

    1. KDE has always been GPL.
    2. It was Qt that switched licenses, from QPL to GPL.
    3. RMS never once flamed KDE in his post.

    Other than an unfortunate choice of words, RMS said nothing evil about or to either TrollTech or KDE. He thanked them for finally resolving this issue, so that GNOME and KDE could finally compete on technical merit alone. His comment on 'forgiveness' was an acknowledgement that the KDE group has done some nastiness in the past with the GPL, but in the same breath he absolved them for all violations regarding FSF code. The next sentence asked everyone else who'd been abused by KDE to do the same.

    Granted, this does piss off the KDE developers, since they never cared about the licensing issues in the first place (and AFAIK have never acknowledged that they violated the GPL in the first place). But although RMS does care, he is willing to let it all go if this will all just be over.

    now Pyhton is not compatible with the GPL and people try to work a way to make them fit in.

    People have been trying for years to resolve the KDE/Qt/QPL/GPL issue, RMS first and foremost. In fact, the very creation of the QPL was an earlier attempt to resolve this. It failed, though, because TrollTech couldn't resist throwing in an extra couple of clauses that violated the GPL.

  • >I don't want to see it in a year or 2 with Sun's or MS's name on it.

    If you have a novel way of implementation, what is stopping anyone from taking your code, creating a spec of it, passing that spec over the cube wall and having another implement the spec?

    The GPL protected your intellectual property how?

    How about this: They take your code, move the indentations about, change some var names, add one or two new vars...the GPL protects you how?

    How about this: They just cut and paste your code into their product. Do you have the money to track down all the different people who might have done this cut-n-paste job? Do you have the money to take them to court?

    *IF* your modivation is "to stop theft of my code", I wish to remind you that 'locks keep honest people honest'. People who are going to take things they should not, will take things they should not. Given the risk of you comming out of the woodwork and suing is miminal, taking your code and making a closed source project from it is a minimal risk.

    And, well, your code may not worth taking :-(
  • From a posting of Guido van Rossum, Tue, 05 Sep 2000 09:29:44, in python-dev :

    The bad news is that there's still no agreement from Stallman that the CNRI open source license is GPL-compatible. See my previous post here. (Re: Conflict with the GPL.) Given that we still don't know that dual licensing will be necessary and sufficient to make the 2.0 license GPL-compatible, we decided not to go for dual licensing just yet -- if it transpires later that it is necessary, we'll add it to the 2.0 final license

    So, they're considering it, at least for 2.0. But they hope to avoid it, and they are not sure it is enough.

  • What is funny/sad about all the bickering about the "RMS is a zealot," "would he just shut up about the GPL," "I'll do whatever the hell I want with my code" comments here on /. is that it is very anachronistic.

    What I mean is, the comments are usually made by people who don't know or understand the history of GNU, Unix, BSD, gcc, Linux, and all the other little stories that created our current environment. It would take too long to go into this history here, but I'd strongly encourage people who think that RMS is a whiner to read up on how all these threads began.

    It's anachronistic in the same sense that folks in countries with a history of democracy and political liberalism (in the technical sense) don't understand why people get so worked up about voting and free speech. They've benefited from that history, but have also been blinded by it.

    Disclaimer: I'm not blind to the attempts by both governments and corporations to marginalize the democratic process and civil liberties in the US and other countries--I'm being somewhat simplistic in these comments to make a larger point.

  • Why not simply call the CNRI license the "General Python License"? ;)

    --

  • I'm not privy to any inside story, but this one seems plausible and deserves to be moderated up. On the other hand, the RMS-bashing and utter nonsense from non-lawyers in other postings on this topic is excessive even by /. standards.

    I respect Eben Moglen, the FSF attorney who is trying to help out here upon request of CNRI and the others involved. I think we should leave this matter to the expert lawyers and not feel afraid that somehow our interests as users or programmers will be hurt.

    For example, one legal concern that has not been mentioned is that some U.S. states don't allow unconditional restriction of user rights in warranty disclaimers. You have probably seen such a statement on your cereal box in all capital letters, but failed to understand it. Maybe some CNRI attorneys are trying to suggest that either they should put such a statement into their disclaimer of warranty, or else restrict the contract enforcement to a state such as Virginia that doesn't void such disclaimers. Such a warranty concern might not have anything to do with UCITA at all!

    The GPL has wisely adapted to new concerns by evolving the text of its license. One such concern has been the question raised by some distinguished legal experts that the contract might not be valid without some consideration exchange--at least a dollar bill. This was raised and never answered satisfactorily a few months ago on /. during the CyberPatrol fiasco.

    Eben Moglen has been looking into such matters for the FSF. We ought to support such work financially, since at the moment it is done on a shoestring and with overworked volunteers. But instead of that, what do we see here but a bunch of opinionated crusaders pitching in with free legal advice on how others ought to do it for them. Is that what the Free Software movement is all about?

  • Sorry to point this out, but to RMS, the only license that is compatible with the GPL is the GPL.

    Yes, but don't foget that if you don't release your code under the GPL right away then you will always be 'incompatible'.

    Witness the latest fiasco over the GPLing of Qt and the fact that RMS thinks KDE is still in some kind of violation of the GPL until they 'beg forgiveness'. Someone needs to stop his religious zealotry. It isn't a jihad, it's software for christ sake!
  • Have RMS's complaints about different liscences ever done a damn thing for open source?!

    Although I think RMS is a bit much, he has never said he supports the open source movement; he supports the Free Software movement. Free software is a bit more than open source... it involves true freedom to do whatever you want with it once you have it. Open source is just a side effect of his vision of free software. RMS and the FSF don't care at all about pragmatics, just principals.

    "Evil beware: I'm armed to the teeth and packing a hampster!"
  • Have RMS's complaints about different liscences (anything other than pure 100% GPL) ever done a damn thing for open source?! I don't want to label him a fanatic, but it really doesn't encourage the adoption of open source to insist on a particular liscense scheme (the flaws of the GPL have been discussed ad nauseum so I won't bother enumerating them).

    All statements like this accomplish is stir up conflict in the community. (And endless liscense flamewars on slashdot.) There's no point in expecting him to stop this sort of thing, but we can hope.

  • Bright idea just came to me. What if mathematicians create the Algebra of Licensing - formal science for calculating license compatibility. The licenses will have much more compact formulations. And it will be possible to use OBJECTIVE means to figure out if software is composed legally and what is the resulting license or, on the contrary, is illegal and uses bad license mix. There could be programs which will facilitate analizing licenses and will give automatic answers. Nobody discusses 2+3=5 today. Probably licensing laws will win if they will use some algebra, eh?

    Anybody missing interesting diploma project?

    SOme kind of Licode (~ geekcode of licensing) is needed, sure! And Freeware community could set this standard.

    Maybe this way people will look at the licenses and understand them at one glance, like E = mc^2 ;-)

    I hope my idea will not be forgotten and somebody will take notion of it and realise it.

    Thanks for your attention! Roman [mailto]

  • by DLPierson ( 8772 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:47AM (#798589)
    First of all, I'm just a Python user. For official infomation look in comp.lang.python or on the beopen.com Python website. Here is what Guido and others have described:

    Guido spend the last several years working at CNRI. During this time, the only Python license was the original CWI one however CNRI says that they have copyright to versions of Python produced while Guido worked for them.

    Guido and others left CNRI (and other places :-)) to work on Python at BeOpen.com. This caused a looonnngggg discussion between CNRI and BeOpen.com about a new Python license. The discussion took place largely at CNRI's insistence, IMHO.

    CNRI and BeOpen.com (lawyers) agreed on what they thought was a GPL compatible license and asked RMS about it. They made several changes at his request. This eventually became the current license which CNRI agreed to release Python 1.6 under. BeOpen.com agreed that Python 2.0 was/is a derivative work of Python 1.6 so they have to live with the Python 1.6 license terms. This does not mean that they have to release Python 2.0 or any later version under the CNRI license though.

    CNRI lawyers insist that the license contain a jurisdiction clause because of fear that someone will abuse the license (hard to do) and bring suit in some strange jurisdicion with laws or court rulings that would pervert the license (or some such -- I have trouble thinking like a paranoid lawyer). RMS objects to this clause. It is unclear whether the fact that the jurisdiction in question is the state of Virginia is relevant to either party. At last word, discussions were continuing...

    The main Python developers are now at BeOpen.com where they have no control and little influence on either side of this disagreement. They'd really like to see a fully GPL compatible resolution but there is nothing they can do about it.
  • by redd ( 17486 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:27AM (#798590)
    Until the GPL is tested in court, people cannot risk violating it, even over petty things. Who knows what anti-GPL court tactics have already been thought up in the legal departments of Microsoft and Corel?

    If some code in Python violates the GPL in some way then you might think "so what?" but if someone then re-uses this code in another project (X) and inadvertently releases this code under the GPL, he could land into big trouble.

    If someone takes code out of X and violates its GPL licence, he could take it to court and find that the license was invalid anyway due to the fact that the original sourcecode (from Python) was breaching the GPL!

    In other words, in order to release something under the GPL, ALL code within it has to be either GPL or upwardly compatible with the GPL.
  • by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @03:04PM (#798591) Homepage Journal
    Nevertheless, you missed the point completely. If forbidding the use of the name of the software is an additional requirement, then so is forbidding the use of the name of the author.

    Or to put it another way, if the BSD condition is not an additional restriction over and above those of the GPL, then please show me in the GPL where one is not allowed to use the name of the copyright holders and contributors for endorsement or promotional purposes. I can't find it.
  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:25AM (#798592) Journal
    Is the title of an op-ed at Dr. Dobb's [ddj.com].

  • by tylerh ( 137246 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @09:06AM (#798593)
    ...declares boycott of Webster's dictionary.

    In breaking news today, Free software advocate Rischard Stallman noticed his Webster's included the clause
    free adj. 2.Not controlled by obligation or the will of another: felt free to go.
    As this conflicts with the key GPL clause, "Richard should always get his way," RMS has called for an immediate boycott of this evil corporate entity.
  • by talesout ( 179672 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:07AM (#798594) Homepage
    RMS is a zealot. His latest tirade has left me with the feeling that he is just one step seperated from a Catholic Priest.

    Priest: You must beg god for forgiveness.

    RMS: You must beg the creator for forgiveness.

    Priest: You shall have no other god before my god.

    RMS: You shall have no other license before the GPL.

    Priest: You must admit to the possibility of one true god.

    RMS: You must admit that no license is open source except for the GPL.

    Is anyone else sick of this diatribe?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 07, 2000 @06:47AM (#798595)
    compatible with RMS?
  • by Per Abrahamsen ( 1397 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @06:56AM (#798596) Homepage
    Some information is missing here. A license doen't need to be compatible with the GPL for debian to software covered by it. It just has to be free. Debian includes lots of free software covered by licenses that are not compatible with the GPL.

    Will some Debian comment what the real issue is?

    PS: I predict we will see lots of flames here (condemning RMS, Debian, Python or the GPL) from people who haven't bothered to find out what the issue really is.
  • by slothbait ( 2922 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:19AM (#798597)
    Have RMS's complaints about different liscences (anything other than pure 100% GPL) ever done a damn thing for open source?!

    Why would RMS care about Open Source? He is interested in Free Software. And several people talk about RMS as if he's getting in the way of OS. WTF? OS is just a watered down form of Free Software that people like ESR approach businesses with. If you think the two are the same movement, then you are sadly mistaken.

    it really doesn't encourage the adoption of open source to insist on a particular liscense scheme

    Again, you are missing the point. Open Source is the watered down, pragmatic movement that doesn't address user freedoms. That's not what RMS wants, so why would he help in it's acceptance? RMS is seeking to educate people about their freedoms, and at the same time write enough quality software that people have a viable free choice. He has a higher goal than just "better code", and is not interested in compromising on his ideals.

    There's no point in expecting him to stop this sort of thing, but we can hope.

    I sure hope he never stops. The man may not be someone you want to take home to mom but, then again, he is a freedom fighter: radical, unkempt, and fighting the good fight.

    I'm amazed at the number of people who don't understand RMS. Have you never read the GNU Manifesto?

    --Lenny
  • by AMK ( 3114 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:54AM (#798598) Homepage
    People seem under the impression that RMS pronounced a verdict ex cathedra about the new license. That's wrong; the Pythoneers explicitly went and asked him for an opinion on the new license's GPL compatibility. RMS has not said you should not use Python; RMS has not said that Python's license is bad. He was asked if it's GPL compatible, and his legal advisors don't think it is, that's all. If you blame anyone, blame GvR and BeOpen for considering GPL compatibility an important criterion. I think they're right, and expect the situation to be resolved somehow by the time Python 2.0final arrives.
  • by Alternity ( 16492 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:22AM (#798599)
    First IANAGE (I Am Not A GPL Expert).

    We are seeing more and more GPL incompatibilities these days. Now I am not sure but here might be some reasons why :

    1) People defending the GPL are becoming more and more fanatic about it because they feel "threatened" by all these incompatible licenses

    2) Maybe the GPL is just a bit too strict and should be loosened to help people develop under some other license withouth having to bother thinking too much about pissing off other developpers

    3) People are writing other licenses not caring about the GPL and it's compatibilities and only realise later when they are threatened to not be distributed that they have to modify it??

    Whatever the reason I definitly think something should be done quckly... After all the goal of open source is to develop good software working all together in the same way and not against each other...
  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @06:52AM (#798600)
    Who cares? I don't even see why they're "negotiating" with RMS. The man won't be happy until the software is used his license or a license that is just the GPL with another man. He's a zealot. You can't negotiate with that.

    The fact is that the current license is an Open Source license. RMS just tries to use his fame to denegrate any OSS software project that doesn't agree with his radical "software wants to be Free" ideals. Witness the latest KDE & Qt nonsense. I think he's quite frankly power mad with his fame.
  • by Chalst ( 57653 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:18AM (#798601) Homepage Journal
    This is not true. Copyright is a very robust form of IP (under the
    Berne convention, you can assert your rights under copyright after
    years of ignoring violations), and the GPL license simply specifies
    when the copyright holder permits copying and derivative worksto be
    made.
  • by jallen02 ( 124384 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:05AM (#798602) Homepage Journal
    It is quite easy to deride people who stand up for things they believe in to the fullest extend of their ability. It is even fair to do this since it is our right as human beings to bitch complain and whine (right.......)

    However no one gives RMS much credit, hes always had an agenda *always* from day one, only someone with an agenda would have written the GPL anyways.

    His agenda is to make sure that source code is available for every bit of software on the planet that is his dream

    maybe its wayyy to idealistic but the one reason I dont ever complain about RMS is because he is always VERY consistent.

    He doesnt waver or change or crack or use his fame to do anything other than promtoe his agenda which is to make software free.

    Give him a little respect and hey fame is an illusion

    Jeremy
  • by Karmageddon ( 186836 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:54AM (#798603)
    it's not splitting hairs. The GPL says (and I'm guessing that this is the reason) "no extra restrictions" and this is an extra restriction.

    If you really think it's splitting hairs, why don't you accuse CNRI of the hair-splitting... they could easily take it out if it's so insignificant as to be hair-splitting...

  • by jmt(tm) ( 197664 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:07AM (#798604) Homepage

    You just have to read the /.-article, and you know there will be RMS-bashing inside. And always there has to be a cleaning woman trying to get the FUD out of the world. Now it's my turn:

    Sorry to point this out, but to RMS, the only license that is compatible with the GPL is the GPL.

    That's simply wrong. I don't think RMS view differs substantially from the FSF view. You could know about compatible licenses by just visiting the FSF-site and read the list of GPL compatible licenses [gnu.org]. Either you didn't, or you are spreading FUD although you know better.


    echo $FAKEMAIL | sed s/soccer/football/ | sed s/" at "/@/
  • by jimhill ( 7277 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:25AM (#798605) Homepage
    RMS is most emphatically NOT an advocate of "open source". His cause is "free software" and there are many examples of software which meets the Open Source definition without being Free (the latest, apparently, being Python 1.6). Whether you agree with some of the stands he has taken in the past, honesty requires that you acknowledge he has never misled people about what his goals are and he has never cared what others thought of his methods.

    The recent high-profile licensing flamewars have come about in part because of the success of RMS's cause. After many years trapped in universities and corporate basements, free software has become quite popular and its quality is recognized. ESR's "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" provided a stimulus in the form of demonstrating how users will improve software faster when they can provide more than just bug reports. As a result, the world has become fixed on the idea that releasing source means better software. There are two big problems with this success, though:

    The first problem comes about through licensing schemes that provide source but little else to the user, the most egregious example I can think of being the SCSL abomination delivered by Sun. Licenses like these are little more than an attempt to get users to do your work for you while reserving all rights to that work to yourself. Stallman's attack on this particular license generated little flame because the Open Source crowd was also condemning it.

    The second problem is a little more subtle and is best exemplified by the unending GPL vs. BSD bickering. A BSD-style license provides source and nearly unlimited rights to the user, but is little better than an SCSL in Stallman's view because it permits unscrupulous users to "take the code private", that is, to benefit from others' work without sharing their own. If you truly understand RMS's definition of free software as "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" then you will see how such a license is also unacceptable to Free Software advocates.

    These second category licenses have enjoyed increasing popularity as an opportunity by developers to get their product in wider use. Many people misunderstand the requirements of a GPL-compatible license and think that anything they do using a GPL-comptaible product must be released -- don't laugh, I know one guy who refuses to write anything in Python because "then I'd have to give my code away." The question of people asking if they can release binaries compiled by GCC without having to release source demonstrates the prevalence of this miunderstanding. A quick way around that is to allow people to take the code private. Some like that, some don't. It's unfair to attack RMS for being just as insistent on free software now as he was before the great Open Source Revolution of the 1990s.
  • by tilly ( 7530 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:09AM (#798606)
    Perl has been doing this for many years with GPL and Artistic, easy to do, no possible problems.

    You offer the code under a choice of licenses, refuse all patches that don't fit both licenses, and call it a day. If you wish to use Perl with some drivers or some packages, you may need to use the Artistic license. If you need to use it in others you may need to accept the GPL. Most people don't ever bother deciding...

    Cheers,
    Ben
  • by richnut ( 15117 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:04AM (#798607)
    GNU/I GNU/just GNU/Dont GNU/see GNU/what GNU/everyone's GNU/problem GNU/is GNU/with GNU/RMS. GNU/Maybe GNU/I'm GNU/just GNU/biased.

    -GNU/Rich
  • by Mr T ( 21709 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:11AM (#798608) Homepage
    This topic has come up a number of times over the last few weeks and I think it has almost been treated comically. I don't see how we can devote the amount of attention to the theft (err, "sharing") of music and the various legal activities surrounding it and then treat our own copyrights with contempt. I've read so much RMS bashing that it makes me sick. RMS is doing us a favor! The GPL will be tested in court, that is eminent. Dotting the i's and crossing the t's is very important. It may sound like RMS and the FSF are on a power trip or something, which is probably true to some small extent, but it is also critical that the GPL be followed, it not be watered down by being misused, the misuses are known and publicized, and that we take care of it. Spiritually, we're (the royal we, as in GNOME, GNU, KDE, Linux, free software) are all on the same page but those nasty details need to be worked out. The fact that there haven't been any lawsuits within the community show that we're together in spirit.

    Something else which I'll bring up that hasn't been is that this is about leverage. Don't confuse it with anything else. It is about positive leverage for change. As the GPLed code base grows, being able to use it becomes more and more desirable. To use it you need to contribute to it, that's the leverage. It's reaching a critical point now, there is a lot of good software that is GPLed. That is how and why RMS designed it. It's also a good thing, the leverage is controlled by us, there isn't an IBM or Microsoft on the other end, it's us. The community, the programmers and the users. It's not an RMS thing either, ESR brings it up at the end of Magic Cauldron and in his eyes it is much much more than that because he believes that opensource has already won and that in 3 to 5 years when just about everything is opensourced that leverage can be applied outside of software; applied to laws? social causes? all sorts of things, we're talking about wholesale social change! This isn't a communism or socialism thing, it's about restoring power to the people, the people own GPLed software and the people need to police it and protect it.

    KDE not complying is damn important, it undermines everything that does. Python doesn't? Well it should and it will. There will be countless others, as the GPL's importance grows so will the amount of attention given to products which go against it and I'm betting that there is a pretty fair number of them.

    I don't know if Bruce Perens or ESR are reading but I suggest that an ammendment be made to the opensource definition. There needs to be a level of license interop that is supported. We've already seen the NPL fail to comply with GPL, the QPL fail to comply with the GPL, the CNRI license fail to comply with the GPL, interoperability is critical. I want to use KDE code in GPLed GNOME code! I want to use GPLed GNOME code within KDE! I want to use mozilla code with both! If the interop can't be worked out then what is the point really? It seems like a lot of the ideas and theories about opensource go out the window if interop isn't part of the deal.

  • by FascDot Killed My Pr ( 24021 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:04AM (#798609)
    First of all, licenses matter. To programmers they matter directly--which code can you reuse and who can reuse your code. To non-programmers they matter indirectly--which products get which features, when and how compatible.

    Second of all, I seriously doubt RMS has a list of software vendors that he consults and then goes out to badger them into using the GPL (or a compatible license). More likely, Python went to him to see if they were GPL-compat. He said "no" which is entirely his choice. Furthermore, Python acknowledged that it was his choice by the very act of asking.

    Third, this causes no problems to the FSF, the Python people or the general public. It's only a problem for groups like Debian that want to distribute A) only GPL and GPL-compatible software and B) Python.
    --
  • by Boulder Geek ( 137307 ) <archer@goldenagewireless.net> on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:10AM (#798610)
    There is a FAQ [python.org] on the new license. Excerpting (w/out permission, but I believe this to be fair use ;-):

    7.Is it compatible with the GNU Public License (GPL)?

    Legal counsel for both CNRI and BeOpen.com believe that it is fully compatible with the GPL. However, the Free Software Foundation attorney and Richard Stallman believe there may be one incompatibility, i.e., the CNRI License specifies a legal venue to interpret its License while the GPL is silent on the issue of jurisdiction. Resolution of this issue is being pursued.

    To me it seems that RMS is really splitting hairs. Most contracts that I've seen specify a jurisdiction under which the contract is to be interpreted.

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