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GNU is Not Unix

GPL 3.0 Concerns in Embedded World 204

An anonymous reader submitted a story discussing version 3.0 of the GPL. An interesting piece that raises some valid points. Talks about the fact that the GPL hasn't been tested in court (yet) and how companies using it as a core of their business are gambling on a variable. Specifically targeted to embedded systems, but the issues spread beyond that.
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GPL 3.0 Concerns in Embedded World

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  • Well then it's easy, an embedded Linux vendor can put their nads on the line (for $$$) when they sell you the product, of you wish. It's all the same, really.

  • There is the critical systems portion of the embedded world. From what I know of the current state of Linux, despite its stability, I wouldn't trust it there yet. If I were a developer, I would actually pay some company a whole pile of money to comb Linux for me, fix bugs, and give me systems that they felt were bug free.

    But, there is also the consumer device portion. I would guess Linux would be ideal there. Stability requirements are significantly less stringent, and cost is an important factor.

    I'm not an embedded systems developer, so you are correct in having a low assessment of my knowledge. I partly posted out of troll like motivations. You learn interesting things when you stir people up. :-)

  • Oh bullshit.

    What Microsoft is most afraid of is the Government investing billions in GPL welfare programs.

    That's what the article stated, that everybody overreacted to. The followup article made specific mention of this.

    The reason they are afraid of this is that no company will be able to use anything developed under the GPL. The Government would effectively replace the commercial software market for one managed by academics if they were to invest heavily in this direction.

    That's all Microsoft was saying. That and a bit of innuendo accusing Linux community of being copyright bandits.

    Actually the legitimacy of government paid research being allowed to use the GPL may be the first lawsuit it's involved in. There's a very good argument that if tax payer dollars paid to fund the development, then it has to be released into the public domain.

    The government can't real copyright material because it belongs to the public by the very nature of it's reason/means of creation. Government ownership implies public ownership.

  • Both the BSD license and the GPL use copyright law to enforce freedom on software, but it's two different types of freedom.

    The BSD license basically says that you can do anything you like with the code, except claim that you wrote it. This includes using the code in closed software project, and this is how Microsoft managed to get a decent TCP/IP stack on windows: they took it from BSD. Under the BSD license, this is completely fine, as long as it is acknowledged.

    The GPL, on the other hand, says that you can use and modify the source however you like, and redistribute it to whoever you want, as long as you give these same rights to them.

    I guess the gist of it is that the BSD license is designed to give absolute personal freedom to you, while the GPL is designed to give (and to make sure you can't worm your way out of) that freedom to the 'community'.

  • It seems like the same old tired misunderstanding. They think any software written to run in userland under the linux kernel must itself be GPL'd.. and we all know this isn't the case.

  • Practical? If it doesn't fit your business model, don't use it. There's more to society than money.

    I'd say a great many younger peopel for the past few years have had their lives greatly enriched due to free software....

    And there's more to OSS than 'companies making money off them'.

    Free software doesn't exist so people can make money off it, though they are free to if they can.... it exists because people wanted to create software....
  • No one seems to be asking the question. What if? What if the GPL/LGPL was declared unenforcable? What would everyone do? Would you still put your code out for the world? Would you go BSD? Or propietary? Can you imagine a world without the GPL? Only BSD.
  • what did you contribute that was so valuable?
  • The question that was debated was, does the system call constitute linkage between glibc and the kernel? It's not linkage in the sense that we usually think of it, but one could argue it on the grounds that both the kernel and glibc are in the same address space, and a thread of execution is crossing back and forth between the two. 'Linking' doesn't have a legal definition, and as a technical term it is somewhat fuzzy, so a clever lawyer might be able to convince a jury of it.

    If so, then glibc is GPL'd when it's used on a Linux machine, because it's making calls into a GPL'd kernel. That would in turn make apps which rely on glibc GPL'd as well.

    For the record, I don't necessarily buy this argument (I'm 95% sure it wouldn't hold water, IANAL of course), but it's definitely something that could arise in court.

  • McAfee was found guilty of copyright violation (some of Symantec's code -- they had to go back and clean-room redevelop it, putting their product schedule in some trouble). Actually, they might have come to an out-of-court settlement or somesuch -- it was quite a while ago, and I wasn't paying that much attention.

    It hardly made headlines -- I don't think most folks heard of it. Of course, they're not Microsoft -- but then, MS has more PR flacks to handle the increased interest.

    Thus, it's quite likely that even were MS guilty, not much anyone would hear of it at all.
  • While the BSD license is free enough, it is TOO free for me. I can release code and let you use it for whatever purpose - However, you'd better not claim to be the original creator/author of the code, and better yet, credit me somewhere in what you distribute.

    This very fair concept is in the zlib/pnglib license. I'm fairly comfortable with all the OSS licenses, but with this added they'd be perfect. Anyone's tried combining the licenses and how'd you do it?
  • ...that was quick.

    Any real connection between WindRiver and MS?
    Or am I just being paranoid again?

    "What, I need a *reason* for everything?" -- Calvin
  • While many embedded systems do perform safety-critical tasks, many more don't. I work for MontaVista Software, a company doing linux-based embedded-space OS work. I can't think of a single client (and we've got plenty!) doing something which qualifies as safety-critical. (However, I'm buried deeply enough in engineering not to know most of our clients -- and many of 'em I can't talk about anyhow).

    In any event, most of the runtime, post-release bugs occur in the client's software anyhow, not the (GPLed) operating environment/support stuff we provide... so in Real-Life Situations it doesn't really come up that much anyhow.

    Even then, I'd be very surprised if an author of GPL-licensed free software could be found liable even in a failure due to safety-critical use. This author usually doesn't have that much money anyhow -- the folks who the lawyers generally prefer to attack are those who can pay large punitive damages... such as the companies making the safety-critical hardware which embedded the free software in the first place.

    IANAL, but I've spent lots of time in classrooms listening to one yammer.
  • G.C. did a routine about the catholic concept of sin, from which I was quoting "you havta wanna" (said in a very rough, low, leering voice).
  • Sorry, you are correct and I misspoke (I remember even seeing this before submitting and cannot figure out why I didn't fix it).

    What I meant was that you do not have thr right to distribute a modified version of the software. Patches get gray. For example, if I change the formatting (say, with indent), and distribute a patch (which would be the entire program), that's clearly a violation.

    I think that the key point is that the patch must contain only reference to the original code which can be construed as fair use, but IANAL.
  • Your two points there seems strangely at odds with each other. If A is a problem, why is routing round it with B foolish?

    If GPL 3 "closes a hole" in the GPL, and the initial author liked that hole, he may see his code included in a project which is GPL 3, and under a more restrictive license than what he wanted. If you claim this isn't a problem, I ask, what is the supposed purpose of the GPL?
  • The alternative to the scenario you depect here is not "Microsoft embraces the open source philosophy and releases their specs and code" but rather "Microsoft, being unable to interoperate with the restrictive GPL license, chooses instead to develop a new and even more incompatible protocol internally".

    GPL'd code, especially cricitial "reference implementation" code and protocols doesn't necessarily lead to a blissful brotherly-love and free exchange of code. Sometimes it gets us crap like SMB which is even more difficult to to coexist with.

    If Kerberos were encumbered by the GPL, Microsoft simply would have ignored it and the quadzillions of Windows users would have seen no benefit at all from the existing, well-tested, and useful code. Rather, they'd now be stuck with some new protocol with new and relatively untested code behind it. Which is better for the user?

    Also, it's an interesting example you use. The reports of Microsoft's Kerb incompatibility have been grossly overstated. I've had no difficulties getting FreeBSD K5, Win2K Auth (Kerb-based), and even mod_auth_kerb to coexist quite elegantly. A few Kb of mod_auth_kerb on your apache server and you can be authenticating users against a Win2K domain/realm.

    I doubt we'd have it that easy if Microsoft had found kerberos inaccessable to them as a result of the GPL. At best, all our friends over at the Samba project would be scrambling to reverse-engineer yet another undocumented protocol.

  • It's called 'humor' - the same type of thing G.C. does.
  • by TellarHK ( 159748 ) <{tellarhk} {at} {}> on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @08:15PM (#412556) Homepage Journal
    No, Microsoft does not want to outlaw open source. What Microsoft is most afraid of, I think, is the fact that there are now millions of lines of "viral" source code, as some folks are putting it, out there now. I suspect Microsoft's biggest fear is either:

    A: Getting caught using GPLed code in their software.


    B: Having to defend themselves against any accusation that they used GPLed code, whether they did or not. And on this concern, I can see some small amount of validity.

    The biggest problem GPLed code could cause for software developers is by getting Cool Stuff Done First. Imagine having an idea that someone GPLed some code for first, then trying to make a profit off it. That, I think, is where Microsoft is starting to be afraid. Or at least, they should be. Once the Open Source movement starts to move on to innovation (Which I see happening sometime within the next year or so.) especially in the areas of User Interface design and solid API level work, it will become increasingly more difficult for MS and the other major developers to work without having to be damn careful of what code comes from where.

    So what I think MS is hoping for by talking about the evils of Open Source, is just to get government funding and facilities away from projects that might open up more GPLed code to the world. If you can't beat 'em, cut the resources out from under them.

  • You are making absolutly no sense. Did I ever sign with a signature a contract? No, the law might see that alone as unenforcable. You put something into the public domain you loose copyright. Do GPL'ed programs count? Could be!
  • by Lostman ( 172654 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @08:16PM (#412558)
    Last year John Carmack opened Quake and the Quake World Client to the open source community under the GPL license. After seemingly no time, there were a plethora of cheat clients going around for it... the way to deal with this by one group was to make a new client that everyone had to use to connect to a new server -- and they didnt release the GPL for that. That was Quakelives -- there was even a /. on it.

    Now, though, there is another problem with the GPL. About this same time, another group decided to do something about the cheaters. They created a VERY advanced cheating client using the GPL'ed code, and released the binary... it quickly spread throughout the Quake community... about a month and 1/2 ago, the group came forward: they had implanted a trojan in the cheat file that reported a lot of information (windows cdkey, mac address, real name, organization, icq numbers, email addresses, etc) to servers set up for this purpose. Now, after they came out there was a general uprising of the community about this: everyone was upset, but a few wanted to make sure that was "ALL" the info that was passed.. this should be a fairly easy thing but--they refuse to give out their source code.

    The web page for this is Remote Visual Spy [].

    My question is -- exactly how could a situation like this be remedied? This is an issue that effects over 4000 unique people, but on the big scale of things -- ID Software is not likely to sue over this b/c they stand the chance of losing the GPL license over a small case. How could this be settled? Also: How can someone release code under the GPL with the knowledge that this won't happen? (taking source, modifying, releasing binary, and saying they will NOT release the source)
  • If Curt's argument were correct, that would mean that there would have been very little development for Microsoft products until it's EULA had been tested in court.

    Ignorance is the biggest hurdle for GPL based software that I can see. Capitalists generally have problems getting their heads around the idea of free anything, be that beer or speech.
  • What happens when Big Corp A, B and C throws legal support behind "little, runty corp without lawyers, inc."

    Like I said, I find it hard to believe that the software companies would start fighting for limits on copyright terms after so many years of fighting for stronger copyright. Since copyright is their main form of protection the last thing that they want is to weaken copyright laws.

    Besides, there are several large corporations that have released software under the GPL (Sun comes to mind). For some things releasing under the GPL makes very good business sense. A combination of the GPL and a separate proprietary license, for example, allows the software company to release their software as Free Software to people willing to abide by the GPL while at the same time still maintaining their right to charge commercial developers for the same product.

    In other words I find it highly unlikely that Big Corp "A" will come to runty corp "B"'s rescue. Microsoft and Wind River are two companies that seem to be taking the GPL very seriously. They realize that the GPL could very well destroy their business model, and so we have had two completely FUD articles calling the GPL "un-American" and risky in the same week. If they didn't think that the GPL had a chance of standing up in court, they would simply ignore it.

    People, dont license your work under the GPL until such time as the FSF has made and won its case before a court.

    And what alternative would you have us use? The BSD style licenses are certainly more liberal, but that sometimes leads to problems. For example, the folks who have poured blood and sweat into Kerberos now have to worry about finding some way to interoperate with Microsoft's bastardized version of their software. That's a pain that could have been avoided with a GPL (or even LGPL) style license. It's an extreme example perhaps, but it shows another reason why some people insist on GPL-like licenses on their software.

    At the very worst the GPL won't stand up in court, and we won't be able to distribute our GPLed software until the copyright owners can change the license to something else (probably BSD style). In the meantime, if you are interested in the protections that the GPL offers, then you really don't have much choice but to assume that the GPL is valid.

  • What would this result in, the enforced release of the entire Windows XP source tree?
    No, certainly not. If someone distributes software that contains GPL'd code without GPLing that software they will be done for breach of copyright, not for breach of licencing (because, as the GPL states, nothing has been signed, so there is nothing to prove you ever agreed to the licence).

    The licence works, not because you automagically agree to it when using GPL'd code, but because if you don't agree to it then any distribution you do will be copyright infringing.

    So what you could see (as it would depend on the court obviously) is the software being recalled, or damages being paid, but not automatic source release.

  • - Beowulf?

    Innovative? Wasn't IBM and other companies doing cluster based computing long before?

    - SSH?

    SSH isn't GPL.

    - TUX?

    Moving a web server into the kernel level, effectively making a single purpose computer is innovative? Dude, I was doing this with CP/M.

    - TeX?

    TeX came out long before the GPL.

    - LyX?

    They modified the GPL because of it's viral nature.

    - Python?

    Definately not GPL.

    - FlightGear?

    This is an example of innovation? Hell even Microsoft had a flight simulator 20 years ago.

    - themes?

    The ones from the Win95 Plus! pack, or the blatant ripoff by the Linux community?

    - tailored kernels?

    People did this for years.

    - piles of research code flooding out of universities?

    Yep, but most of the really innovative stuff came out long before the GPL... once again.

    - etc...?

    I don't think you really understand the topic of discussion.
  • > Thus, it's quite likely that even were MS
    > guilty, not much anyone would hear of it at all.

    Despite the fact that most people know Microsoft has been judged guilty in abusing their monopoly power, and despite the fact that the premises for the judgement is publically available and written in plain english most people believe Microsoft is unfairly procecuted.

    I doesn't matter what the truth is, it doesn't matter if the evidence is available for all to see, good spin doctors can make people not want to see the evidence.
  • > All right. So I'm supposed to read this "LICENSE" file that came with the program. But I'm an experienced Linux/BSD/Solaris/whatever user. So I just type "./configure" followed by "make install". I haven't read the license for this program at all.

    Actually, the FSF recommends [] that you display relevant information whenever the program is started.

  • Get a supoena instead.

    All you need is one disgruntled Microsoft developer to testify that there's GPLed code in the Windows source.

  • So suppose I'm coding something, and I don't like some clause of GPL 3.0. Some linking clause or another. Can't I just say I'd like to use GPL 2.x? or LGPL? Or any licences I darn well please? Why, yes, I could.

    I can't see a thing in the world that anybody has to complain about, as far as licenses go. You can release something you create on any terms you like. If you want to use somebody else's code, you do it on their terms. If you don't like their terms, find someone whose terms you do like or code it yourself.

    It's obvious. So what's the big deal over licenses.

  • Most likely, it would mean that Microsoft would not be permitted to continue to use the code in question and would have to prove that they have removed it from their sources.

    This is actually not much different from what was happening with BSD and AT&T UNIX: BSD needed to be cleaned before getting released.

  • Agreed. I had my DECstation running NetBSD using kerberos authentication against my Win2k domain controller.

    I basically did it based on documentation from Microsoft.

  • Think about it. The GPL is what gives you permission to re-distribute the code in the first place. If a large company decides to "fight" the GPL, what would they be doing? They would be fighting against the very thing that allows them to use to software! Does this make any sense? No. Why would you go to court when in if you won, your "victory" would consist of losing all rights to the code? If you don't want to use GPL'd code, just don't use it. You don't have to pay a lawyer to go to court and get a judgement which prohibits you from using the code.

    In order for a compay to get unfettered rights to a piece of code, it would have to attack the very copyright on the software. This is something that, even if some crazy company decided to attack copyright law, is a separte issue from the GPL. I could try to get Linus's copyright on the kernel challenged in court. I could also try to get M$'s copyright on the Windows source. In both cases, I would have a hard time finding a lawyer. Most importantly, neither case has anything to do with the GPL.
  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @04:09AM (#412592)
    Ignoring the article (and it's possible FUD and/or misinformation), here's the crux of the matter for people who want to put their code under the GPL:

    If a court case demonstrates that there is a "leak" in the GPL, then we need to be able to re-license our code under a GPL++ that patches the leak (hence the "or higher" clause).

    However, we have no control over what a GPL++ might happen to say. What if RMS sells out (yeah, sure)? What happens after he dies? What happens if someone else takes over the FSF?

    I don't see any particularly good solution to this problem. Probably the project maintainer should insert a clause reserving the right to re-issue the entire project under a new license at any time, regardless of who has contributed to it. However, the same questions asked about RMS above could then be asked about the maintainer, plus the problem of licenses for forks arises.

  • <IANAL>
    I'm not sure that the current copyright legislation is the best tool to enforce copyleft (while probably being the best available).
    Maybe it is time to push for some copyleft-specific legislation, which protects originators of IP which decide to share it.

    The originator of shared IP should be able to dictate its terms, either picking an existing icence or creating its own by a set of standard options, and then it should be protected by Law against violation of its terms.
  • You can either accept the GPL, which gives you more rights under copyright, or if the GPL fails it reverts to copyright laws which do not allow you to use the code (without hunting everyone down and obtaining their permission, and you won't get mine if you don't accept the GPL.)

    Do you think that legal teams from all these billion dollar companies have't dissected the GPL left and right? I work at one of these billion dollar companies, and from statements on their internal web servers, they're damn clear on the GPL. Companies only care about profit. Do you think they wouldn't have taken it down long ago if they thought they could get all that code for their own use for free without having to give anything back to the community?

    Why do you think they're crapping their pants over at MS over the license? They wouldn't be denouncing it if they could take it to court and gleefully tear down the Open Source community, which is the only real threat to their total domination of the industry for the foreseeable future. Don't you think that their top executives live in fear of the day they get a supoena to allow review of their code because one of their developers testified that there was GPLed code in the kernel?

    You might think that it's because the corporations are planning something -- they'll wait until things are farther along before they deal the death blow, but corporations represent collective entities that aren't that smart. They think only of the bottom line for this quarter. If they could do something that would be profitable this quarter, they will. The reason the GPL hasn't been tested in court is because all those corporations decided it'd be unprofitable to even try. The GPL works on the same principles that they've founded their own empires on as well; tear down the GPL and all of a sudden all those other shrink wrap licenses start looking very shaky. If digital content were to revert to simple unlicensable copyright protection, that'd cut the throats of a lot of these businesses.

  • Aren't we missing an important point here? In order for copyright law (and thus the GPL) to apply to any new work, it must be a derivative work of a GPL'd package. What many people seem to be missing is that neither RMS nor Linus nor anybody else involved has the right to say what constitutes a derivative work, although the copyright holder could give away rights as he wishes. The argument about linking or piping will have to be made in court.
  • This analysis is too symplistic. Wind river could develop an interface that allows Linux to run under/over/inbetween their RTOS. They can release the source and specifications for this interface. Anyone who wants to come along and adapt their RTOS to make use of this interface is free to do so.

    But at the same time, thay will not have to open source one line of their RTOS.
  • I've seen Carmak threaten to sue over GPL violations. I don't doubt he wouldn't.
  • Tell me something.. As I understand it, if I use GPL code in *any way* together with some closed-source (or let's just say non-GPL) code, then I have to GPL *ALL* of the code. Right? Well, what about a Linux distro that contains GPL stuff and.. say.. Netscape Communicator? It's one product but I certainly don't have the source to Communicator. So where's the line? If I have to apps, compiled separately, but working very tightly together (a video codec and a multimedia player) is that ok? Under what circumstances WOULD it be ok? Now that we have RPC over HTTP such as SOAP and XML-RPC, it's hard to say what "one software" is.
  • The MS EULA is an attempt to establish a license to use the software. The GPL is only a license to redistribute the software.

    From the GPL:

    5. You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License. Therefore, by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of this License to do so, and all its terms and conditions for copying, distributing or modifying the Program or works based on it.

    So basically, if the GPL is struck down (which doesn't seem to mean much), all that happens is normal copyright ensues and noone can redistribute the program at all.

    There is no chance that a GPL'd program would ever fall into public domain except for it being placed there by the copyright holder or the copyright on it expiring.

    A EULA, by contrast, is an attempt to add extra terms and agreements to the use of the software that do not "naturally" exist without the EULA.

    So to sum up:
    A MS EULA takes away rights that you previously had.

    A GPL gives you rights that you previously didn't have.

    The BSD people simply complain because they think that the GPL doesn't give you enough rights that you didn't have before.

    Note: rights here is used in a legal sense, not a moral/ethical sense.
  • The other major destinication besides the virulent nature of the GPL is that you must provide source. Not true with the BSD license.
  • VxWorks has a real lead in a lot of ways as an RTOS. I think it's great that they extend the GNU toolchain to support their platform -- while they leverage the work of others, they're committed to improving the toolchain overall so it's as good as their customers need (ok, some issues with their gcc, but...).

    I think this article brings out the excellent point that the GPL specifically prevents them from doing what they want to do; link in code with the kernel (or under it) but keep the rights to their part of it. RMS has arbitrarily decided that "linking" as opposed to "piping" is the cut-off for separation of components of a computer system, so Wind River can't do the obvious Right Thing. Namely, build a solid RTOS and have Linux sit on one side of it to run not-so-critical user code, while retaining their rights to the RTOS that they developed. But seeing as RMS wants the GPL to be just this sort of political statement, Wind River is going to have to either release their market-leading, fairly-solid OS as GPL (not likely; not much incentive there), or else use something other than Linux.

  • From the first link on the Bayh-dole act:
    "As a result, companies did not have exclusive rights under government patents to manufacture and sell resulting products. Understandably, companies were reluctant to invest in and develop new products if competitors could also acquire licenses and then manufacture and sell the same products. Accordingly, the Governmentgovernment remained unsuccessful in attracting private industry to license government-owned patents. Although taxpayers were supporting the federal research enterprise, they were not benefiting from useful products or the economic development that would have occurred with the manufacture and sale of those products. "

    Ahh, see this is the innovation that the GPL cripples, as Microsoft said.

    Thanks for the link! most informative.
  • Cluecheck: What's the title of the article we're talking about?

    Duh, it's not Open Source which is the problem, that by itself is a good thing. It's the GPL which causes all the problems due to Stallmans' jealousy.

  • by ajs ( 35943 ) <> on Thursday February 22, 2001 @04:38AM (#412619) Homepage Journal
    If EULAs in general are struck down, this could strike down the GPL as well. They're in the same family.

    Not really. The MS EULA attempts to restrict my rights beyond those that I'm restricted to by copyright law. They actaully want to control what I do with the software BEFORE I try to modify, distribute or copy it.

    The GPL gives me a loophole PAST copyright law.

    Basically, the GPL says that you can do anything with the software that is allowed by copyright law. You can also copy the program, distribute it and sell it, BUT, such an exception to copyright law is ONLY made if you are willing to comply with the terms of the GPL.

    You are never bound by the GPL unless you want to be (it says this explicitly), but (in the words of George Carlin) you havta wanna if you wish to do something copyright law does not allow (create a derived work, distribute, reproduce, etc).

    If the GPL were struck down, it would mean that no one anywhere (other than the authors) has the right to distribute or modify copyrighted/GPLed software (as per the terms of copyright law).
  • decided to keep the source closed, I think that is my right. Agreed. I have no right to dictate to you what you may do with the product of your work.

    Social moods' mean nothing to me; on the other hand, my livelihood does
    Without going into detail (are you American?) this is generally a myopic and selfish viewpoint. In case you wondered - you live in a community, you should participate in it.. you help decide its future. Caring solely about oneself is.... unhealthy for everyone.

    What makes the GPL so great?

    See my post above.

    Who are you (or Stallman, for that matter) to tell me that knowledge should be free?

    People (myself included) see IP as a straw man. I dont agree that it exists. Your time and effort is your product - not your 'knowledge'. The result of your exercising your talents using your knowledge is your 'product'. Remember: We all stand on the shoulders of giants. There is very little real 'innovation' in software: Its mostly simple effort.

    it reflects a communist attitude.

    I am a Communist - if you'd like to discuss communism I am willing: But spare me the McCarthy inspired dogma. In case you didnt know, a great many people in the world do very well with Socialism. The Plutocrats in Washington and LA never seem to mention this though... surprising.

    If anything, the BSD license can be considered a bit friendlier in the sense that you can write your app, use whatever code you want, release it or keep it closed-sourced

    Here is where things get very clear. I am not proposing that I should tell you what to do with *YOUR* code. What I am saying is that *MY* code's use has conditions (see GPL) and foremost amoung them is that you may not take *MY* work and steal it to make closed source products. This is what I request of *MY* code. I dont like the idea of simply subsidizing the development costs for M$ (or any other Corp) to make the next nuisance software product that Ill have to deal with. And supporting people who's goals are to - for no other reason than their pocket books - make software *LESS* compliant with Open Standards and *LESS* capable of 'playing nice'.

    Can anyone mention a software development company that releases their code under the GPL and *IS* profitable?

    Who cares about profitable companies? What does my work have to do with supporting 'profitable' companies? This relates to your *own* priorities and goals. Mine are not arming a ruling class of information/knowledge barons - mine is to topple them and build a better world. I am a geek - I am using my tools (knowledge and skills) to accomplish my goals (co-operation, peace, sharing, understanding and the betterment of a future for everyone). Alot of people agree with these goals - the GPL and GNU/Linux is a manifestation of this social force... this is something I have chosen. You are welcome to contribute.

    Please take this with as open a mind as possible - Im trying to explain myself here... Im not attacking your viewpoints - except in the first couple sentences ;)
  • by Nugget94M ( 3631 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:13AM (#412621) Homepage
    You cannot, under any circumstances "make [BSD licensed code] proprietary. Ever. Think it through, your argument doesn't make sense.

    If some company takes BSD Licensed code and incorporates it into a proprietary product the original code is unaffected. It's still just as free as it ever was in its full BSD licensed glory. To use your words, the original code "remains free".

    It hasn't been "stolen", it hasn't been "made proprietary". In fact, it hasn't been affected at all. It's just as useful (or useless) as ever.

    The company that's now trying to make a living selling their proprietary software will succeed or fail solely on the merits of the value of *their* efforts and labor. If the code/documentation/marketing/support they've produced is valuable, they may just be successful.

    In my eyes, this is a far better situation (and a much nobler form of sharing) than one where the original authors restricted their code and only made it available to people who use the same license they do.

    Is FreeBSD no longer "free" code now that Apple has used large chunks of it in MacOS X? No, of course not.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @04:39AM (#412622) Homepage Journal
    It lets me release my code and be sure that some company won't steal it, tweak it a bit and start selling it for a profit without giving something back. Since they're not paying me to use my code, they can damn well give their improvements back to the community.

    If they don't want to give their improvements back to the community, I'll be happy to license my code to them under a different license for a lot of money. Or they can pay their own programmers to write their own.

    The GPL license is just preventing a corporate free lunch.

  • What you described is a hand-written implementation of a shared library, so this would be equivalent of taking the GPL code and trying to release it as an LGPL library, ie it is not allowed.
  • Nope - the invidual developers almost all release their code under >=2. And Linus only owns the code he contributes. The other developers own the code they contribute. It's only a problem for Linus.
    That is somewhat arguable. I agree that what you say is true for segments of code that are explicitally labeled as being under >=2. But for any code that is not specifically labeled as such you cannot make that assumption safely.

    My point is that licencing changes are one thing that doesn't scale well with open source projects where copyright is not assigned to a single entity (see also Mozilla's dual licencing).
  • by SubtleNuance ( 184325 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @04:44AM (#412627) Journal
    *FUD*AHEM*FUD*Face it, the GPL's days are limited.*FUD*AHEM*FUD

    You obviously have a personal axe to grind against the 'GPL' (and or RMS).

    You are at best a troll; but Ill bite.

    The brightest 'star in computing' these days *IS* the GPL. It is a great liberator - it is freeing and opening code and more importantly it is being used as a check against proprietary standards.

    The GPL is a reflection of an underlying social mood in the western world - one which re-evaluates priorities, it is a reflection of the Anti-Plutocracy Movement that is afoot. Like it or not (for whatever reason you are spreading this FUD) the GPL is an IP liberator - which is A Good Thing(TM) because human knowledge and discourse should not be a commodity.

    Counter FUD:
    The GPL is an excellent tool - and its future is very bright. We have much confidence in the GPL and its ideals.

  • There's always BSD.

    There is indeed, increasingly proving to be a choice amongst appliance vendors, although less so in the 'really' embedded arena. Perhaps a lot of this is related to the traditionally regarded as superior BSD TCP stack - argue what you like, I'm talking traditionally regarded - as well as the fact that you can, and a lot of vendors do, munch around with the kernel as much as you like and keep it proprietary.

    Of course, what usually happens is that the people who can munch around with the kernel are the ones who want to release it back into the community and so quite often it does. Case in point: The netgraph networking subsystem - essentially pluggable kernel mode components for making clever network stunts. This was originally made for part of the Whistle (now IBM) box, and has now become an integral part of the FreeBSD 4.x kernel.

    Cool, eh?
  • by Nugget94M ( 3631 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:34AM (#412631) Homepage
    ...and how long have you been smoking it?

    With the possible exception of emacs, you've done nothing more than prove AC's point quite effectively.

    KDE: Making an open-source Windows

    Windowmaker/AfterStep: Making an open-souce NeXTStep

    Mozilla: Bringing the web technology of the mid-90's to the open source community

    XChat: A cheap knock-off mIRC clone for the open source world

    gimp: We'll keep saying it's a suitable replacement for PhotoShop until someone believes us

    Now go grab your favorite public-domain dictionary and look up the word "innovation". You'll find that none of the above products are innovative in any way. In fact, the stated goal for most of the projects you mentioned is simply to replicate the function of a specific piece of proprietary software.

    The original statement that "GPL sw is entirely derivative from A to Z", while not 100% accurate, certainly hits very close to the mark.

    While I enjoy my open source world, and my ability to customize and extend without barriers, you'd be blind not to notice that the best the open source community is usually able to muster is simply running a step behind the innovations developed in the commercial software world.

  • by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @08:46PM (#412633) Homepage Journal

    IANAL, but I think that the GPL probably will turn out to be enforceable for one simple reason. The FSF will be able to pick the time and place for a showdown. Copyright, unlike Trademark, does not require that the owner actively pursue violators. So the FSF can wait until they have just the right violator (someone not very well financed, and in a jurisdiction they feel will be friendly). Once they have nailed one sucker to the proverbial tree they will then have legal precedence.

    The other thing that the FSF has in their favor is the fact that the entire software industry has been trying for years to strengthen copyright laws as they apply to software. After all the work and money they have spent they aren't likely to want to have a legal precedent that puts limits on copyright protection.

    Oh, and there is a definite difference between most EULAs and the GPL, that is that the EULAs trigger on software use, but the GPL triggers on software distribution. Since copyright is designed to limit the distribution rights of the consumer,and not to specify what he or she may legally do with the material, this is a very important distinction.

  • by jsproul ( 4589 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @09:19PM (#412635) Homepage
    As an embedded systems developer, this is an interesting issue to me. Real-time and compact embedded systems often put much of their code in what is conventionally viewed as kernel space in order to have direct access to hardware for key functions. Shared library mechanisms and kernel calls incur too much overhead for performance-critical operations, so these applications are typically statically linked and often have a fixed memory map.

    In the context of the GPL, these code fragments must be released as they are linked with the kernel. With a kernel under the LGPL or other more permissive license, e.g. Red Hat's eCos, these functions may not need to be released. This is fine with me; if you don't like the GPL's requirements, use another OS.

    Stallman is very clear on his intent in the GPL, although the wording in GPL 2 is not so clear. I fully expect that this will be clarified in GPL 3, to everyone's benefit. This will also make it less subject to potentially damaging judicial interpretation.

    That leaves only the lack of legal precedents pertaining to the GPL. Yet the overwhelming majority of commercial software licenses, including Wind River's, are not court-tested and many of their provisions are blatantly unenforceable in many jurisdictions. This argument does not hold water.

    Now consider for a moment that Wind River are one of the leading vendors of non-free, closed-source, proprietary OSes, notably VxWorks and pSOS. Their lunch is being eaten from above by Windows and Linux, and from below by uCLinux, eCos, and other free RTOSes. Clearly Schacker's statements are nothing more than a calculated FUD counterattack. He is trying to scare commercial embedded developers away from free software competitors and back to Wind River's proprietary solutions by raising the spectre of legal actions and a vague threat that companies might someday lose all of their proprietary code and with it their competitive advantage.

    The truth is that the guidelines are clear, but Wind River can't compete. They would do much better for their investors to figure out how to adapt to the changing business climate instead of entrenching a lost position.
  • Of course, Stallman didn't realize this and goes off on a rant protecting his "GPL". Face it, the GPL's days are limited.
    These are unrelated statements. Please clarify. Why are the GPL's days numbered? What situation will strike down my right to impose distribution restrictions on a copyrighted work?

    Argue away that there are problems with the GPL or with the particular restrictions it places, but I will not buy that something which makes such clear and simple use of copyright law has its "days limited" unless you provide some serious backing to the claim.

    I will grant that in the embeded world, things can get dicey because the particular optimizations that people perform often involve modifying the OS. However, this will simply slow, stop or change the adoption of GPLed software in one market, not eliminate or strike down the GPL and its many uses.

    Personally, if I were in the embedded market, I'd be looking at the BSDs anyhow since they have more of a track record in that regard. Perhaps this is the basic tool being employed: get people to pay attention to X product vs Linux and ignore the, better suited, BSDs....

    There's also a product specifically for the embeded market from Red Hat (was Cygnus).
  • > How can you know that you will approve of a
    > license you haven't even read?

    Well, trust in one way. Even without that, there are severe limits to what the FSF can change. They have a lot of code under v 2.0, and written contractual obligations to a lot of contributers about what licenses they can release their code under.
  • by ajs ( 35943 ) <> on Thursday February 22, 2001 @05:00AM (#412644) Homepage Journal
    People, let's get two things straight about the GPL:
    1. Claims that the GPL is weak because it has not been tested in court are silly. Most software licenses have not been tested in court. The GPL is a very simple license which uses copyright law as its basis. It does not attempt to add restrictions, only grant limited rights, so I really don't see how it would be "struck down" as so many seem to fear.
    2. You are never bound by the GPL unless you wish to be. Under standard copyright law, you have no right to modify and/or distribute other people's copyrighted software. If you wish to do that, the author must give you license to do so. The GPL is such a license. Arguments that people are not bound by the GPL because they did not read/agree to it are moot. If you did not read or agree to it, you have no distribution rights.
    All things considered, I think people are over-reacting to one man's take on why people should not be taking his market share away.
  • Commercial companies steal a lot of proprietary code from each other, and obviously also from free software regardless of any licenses. The BSD license is probably the most violated software license in the world.

    In order for a violation to come to court, two criteria have to be fullfiled.

    1. It has to be discovered by the copyright holder. This rarely happens.

    2. The copyright holder has to care enough to bring the issue to court.

    This happens even more rarely, commercial entities would only care enough if the other company was a direct competitor, or the code itself was a product. And the Regents of UC, who have plenty of money, have only once sued for a BSDL violation, and that was a counter-suit.

    In the hypothetical example[1] made by the AC, there was no indication of whether the copyright holders was aware of the violation, or if they cared. Cormack had no legal interest in the issue, as his code was licensed.

    [1] We should always treat allegations froms AC's as hypothetical.
  • So suppose I'm coding something, and I don't like some clause of GPL 3.0. Some linking clause or another. Can't I just say I'd like to use GPL 2.x? or LGPL? Or any licences I darn well please?

    Yes, yes you can. From section 9 of the GPL 2.0:

    9. The Free Software Foundation may publish revised and/or new versions of the General Public License from time to time. Such new versions will
    be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns.

    Each version is given a distinguishing version number. If the Program specifies a version number of this License which applies to it and "any
    later version", you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that version or of any later version published by the Free
    Software Foundation. If the Program does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published by the Free Software Foundation.

    The Linux kernel currently comes with the following in the COPYING file:

    Also note that the only valid version of the GPL as far as the kernel is concerned is _this_ license (ie v2), unless explicitly otherwise

    So, yes Virginia, there is freedom of choice in GPL-land.
  • Speaking to the litigous society comment (and tying back to embedded software):

    Embedded computers can be found doing safety-critical things, such as software controlling transportation systems (from automated trains to the microcontroller in your car's engine) and medical equipment. If the software has bugs, then human lives can be lost as a result of those bugs.

    I would argue that GPL'ed software (licensed as is) is dangerous to use in safety-critical embedded systems, because the author may believe that he/she is safe because of the NO WARRANTY sections of the GPL. The original authors of the GPL'ed code may not ecessarily be safe from lawsuits in the case of injury or death if some company decides to use their (buggy) free software in a commercial product.

    The GPL does not include clauses that forbid code released under such a license to be used in such systems. Whether such a clause would be any more legally binding than what is currently there, I don't know. I have seen such warnings on hardware components from companies such as Motorola before, though.

  • The real problem with GPL 3 is that you have to put that ugly GNU/ in front of everything.
  • by ThatField ( 201302 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @08:54PM (#412651)
    GPL has limitations due to grouping all code as open always. BSD can give a company the ability to open source, or keep the code's really the way to go IMHO. BSD supports freedom of indidviduality in that sense, and GPL is more like another `prison` even tho it's the opposite of proprietary licenses - which are also `prisons`. I can't see why a company would really want to use the GPL when there's some very good (and often slightly better) software and OS's using the BSD license. I realize it's a matter of taste, but in a legal and business sense....BSD really would be the way to go. It doesn't force you into as many corners.
  • by jmegq ( 33169 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @08:56PM (#412654) Homepage
    They're taking on an point that is explicitly called out in the GPL; that of linking against GPL'd code. Every /.er who's been through the license game knows that if you link your code to GPL'd code, your code must be GPL'd too.

    VxWorks is saying, gee, it'd be nice for our customers to have Linux above our RTOS to run their code on; why don't we put some shims in there and link the Linux kernel in and we'll be set (kind of like RT-Linux, I imagine). Oops, but we'd have to link, instead of using, say, pipes, so we hit the GPL linking clause.

    But VxWorks has very little incentive to release their OS as open source, because of the basic economics of scarce resources -- in this case, their RTOS technology is pretty advanced, pretty stable, and they need to hold onto that lead to make money and pay programmers, etc. Happily, they do contribute to the GNU toolchain, using it for their platform and improving it (contributing back) so their customers, and everyone else, benefits. But that's because the toolchain isn't their core competitive advantage.

    The article isn't FUD -- it's a legitimate point about the standoff between the GPL, which advocates fully public-domain programs as the only acceptable kind, and economics, where you must control a (naturally or artificially) scarce resource in order to make money and mantain an advantage against your competitors.

    Corporations are legally required to act in the interests of their investors; they can't just say "we gave it all away and all our competitors now have our best technology, hope that's ok!". Meanwhile, low-level Linux developers are legally required to make their code freely available in exchange for the ability to link to freely available code. But that's not a good deal if your private code is better than the freely available stuff (and as an RTOS [at least], Linux ain't all that great). Hence, conflict.

  • ID Software is not likely to sue over this b/c they stand the chance of losing the GPL license over a small case. [...] How can someone release code under the GPL with the knowledge that this won't happen? (taking source, modifying, releasing binary, and saying they will NOT release the source)

    So what you're asking is how can we make sure nobody will violate the GPL while carefully avoiding finding out whether its terms are actually legally enforceable?

    I dunno...

    Adding the clause "You agree to lose any court challenge."?

    Roving vigilante squads?

    A worldwide network of crack assasins?

    Mandatory skull implants that can be remote triggered to explode if the RMS judges that you've violated the GPL?

    Self-reproducing, self-improving killing machines? (I think the answer to all the world's problems is self-reproducing, self-improving killing machines, but maybe I'm just being idealistic)
  • All right. So I'm supposed to read this "LICENSE" file that came with the program. But I'm an experienced Linux/BSD/Solaris/whatever user. So I just type "./configure" followed by "make install". I haven't read the license for this program at all.

    Granted, some programs do have "click-through" licenses, but most of these are non-GPL, and then few GPL ones that do show the license use Windows installers (one such program is the pre-compiled Gimp for Windows []). If you expect me to hit "I agree" on your web page, I likely can find the file by browsing your FTP server directly. If I never reached the license agreement page on your web site in the first place, does it bind me?

    It's like the legal print found at the bottom of most web pages under titles like "Terms of Use." Slashdot's parent, OSDN, has such a legal section []. But given the headlines are on top of a page, who reads the legal stuff on the bottom?

    Now IANAL, but I doubt the GPL nor most web sites' terms of use would hold up in court. You can not be bound to what you do not have to read.

  • I would find it an amazingly amusing thing, if some Microsoft programmer came out and said ''Microsoft is using GPLed code in Windows XP.'', and someone was able to get their hands on proof, in court. What would this result in, the enforced release of the entire Windows XP source tree?

    I think that what would happen instead, is that Microsoft would offer the individual plaintiffs an ungodly amount of money in return for permission to use their code under a different license. The GPL does allow this, and many GPL'd products (such as Qt and MySQL) do this. The alternative is that Microsoft (with its deep pockets) would drag on the appeals for years or decades before anything happened. By that point, the source for XP would be worthless. This assumes: (1) that the GPL holds up to a court challenge (which it hasn't yet), (2) that there is a finding of fact that Microsoft did indeed use GPL'd code and violated the GPL in doing so.

    Standard disclaimer: IANAL

    ObJectBridge [] (GPL'd Java ODMG) needs volunteers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:54PM (#412662)
    To be clear, Schacker is not saying that the entire GPL is poorly defined. "Don't get me wrong," he explains. "There is not much ambiguity about the fact that if you take a software program covered by the GPL and make changes to that code, that code would now be licensable under the GPL. Nobody argues that point. But if you write an embedded application and you link that code to Linux, is that code now subject to the terms and conditions of the GPL? That's what isn't clear." The Free Software Foundation's Stallman answers Schacker's question by making a distinction: "If you write an application, link it to Linux, and thereby combine the two into a single program, the application is now covered by the GPL. However, normal practice does not involve linking user programs with Linux. User programs are linked with Glibc [GNU libc], and Glibc communicates with Linux using 'system call trapping instructions.' That mechanism has been used for decades for user programs to talk to a kernel, so it is generally accepted that the two are separate programs.

    They may as well be speaking two different languages, as the word "link" used in each paragraph means very different things. Of course, Stallman didn't realize this and goes off on a rant protecting his "GPL". Face it, the GPL's days are limited.
  • > you'd be blind not to notice that the best the open source community is usually able to muster is simply running a step behind the innovations developed in the commercial software world.

    tailored kernels?
    piles of research code flooding out of universities?

    How many does it take to qualify as innovative? And how many of the products from your favorite closed-source shop are just clones of something someone else did first?

    OSS might not have been first with all the things I listed, but it's still a running step ahead of most of the commercial software world with respect to most of them.

    The only way you can claim that OSS doesn't innovate is to wear blinders that limit your view of what counts.

  • by grovertime ( 237798 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:55PM (#412666) Homepage
    I've heard rumor that in Western Canada, there is talk of a suit that revolves around GPL. It involved a company called Mixar(?). Can anyone confirm or deny this?

    1. what the? []
  • by divec ( 48748 )
    See, all of your GPL'd code _already_ falls under GPL 3. Look at how much that power that hippie kid has over you already. My solution? BSDL.

    Clever ... kinda like cutting your own head off so that nobody else can decapitate you.

    Seriously, there's nothing the FSF can do to your software by updating the GPL which you wouldn't already be doing to yourself by using the BSDL.

    written into GPL 2 is a clause that states ...
    This is just pure FUD. When you put the copyright notice on your program, you can *choose* to say "This may be distributed under the terms of the GPL v2 or later at your choice". If you don't like that, you can just say "under the terms of the GPL v2". Your choice.
  • by TellarHK ( 159748 ) <{tellarhk} {at} {}> on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:56PM (#412668) Homepage Journal
    I worry sometimes about the GPL's chances for survival in this extremely litigous society we have. Sure, it's most likely that some corporations out there, big corporations out there, are taking GPLed code and using it themselves without letting anyone know. But who can afford to bring a GPL based lawsuit against someone doing this?

    I would find it an amazingly amusing thing, if some Microsoft programmer came out and said ''Microsoft is using GPLed code in Windows XP.'', and someone was able to get their hands on proof, in court. What would this result in, the enforced release of the entire Windows XP source tree?

    I see a lot of comments about the BSD license, and many of those seem to think it is in some way better than the GPL. Could someone summarize the differences between the two, without just RTFLing at me or quoting huge blocks of the legalese?

  • Their lunch is being eaten from above by Windows and Linux, and from below by uCLinux, eCos, and other free RTOSes.

    Is eCos really popular? I havn't seen much mention of it in embeded systems journels, or any body claiming to use it in shipping products. I think eCos is kind of cool, and would be delighted to hear that it is popular...

    That leaves only the lack of legal precedents pertaining to the GPL. Yet the overwhelming majority of commercial software licenses, including Wind River's, are not court-tested and many of their provisions are blatantly unenforceable in many jurisdictions. This argument does not hold water.

    That is exactly what I've been thinking. Version 1 of the GPL is a lot older then most comercial software licences, and so far all chalangers to the GPL have decided to settle out of court (by releasing the code). I think that speaks almost as strongly as a court victory.

  • The GPL license is just preventing a corporate free lunch.

    Exactly. Although the GPL doesn't give as much freedom as the BSDL, it does provide a lot of fairness. Compare it to our neat society: total freedom is not good, I am very glad that we don't give everyone the unlimited freedom to kill each other for example.

    There is nothing wrong with restrictions, as long as they are fair. And the GPL captures that spirit and that's what I like about it.

  • Well, what about a Linux distro that contains GPL stuff and.. say.. Netscape Communicator?

    Look at the text of the GPL [], end of section 2:

    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.
  • The article talks about things needing to run 'close' to the Linux Kernel in embedded devices.
    Well, the GPL 3 is completely irrelevant here, as the Linux Kernel is not available under GPL3. Linus specifically releases the kernel under the GPL 2 licence (not GPL 2 or greater, see Kernel Traffics passim. []).

    Some would argue the if the GPL3 turns out to be a good thing in the future, then it will be very difficult to relicence the kernel under GPL3 as there are so many contributers who submitted modifications to GPL 2 only code.

    Note that this also means that you can't legally take code from the GPL 2 only kernel and place it in a GPL 2+ project, but that's not strictly relevant to the topic at hand.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I very much doubt the GPL will ever be sucessfully upheld against a commercial company. Case in point, the recent(ish) GPLing of the Quake software. Sure, a small community group (QuakeLives) breaches the GPL. It reaches slashdot, John Carmack himself gets involved and the people eventually back off. However, there have also been several COMMERCIAL breaches of the GPL. For example, 2015's new division "Trainwreck Studios" released a commercial game (Laser Arena0 based on the Quake engine... They licensed a non-gpl'ed version of the source code from ID Software. Then they went and ripped several bits of GPL code from other GPL'ed derivatives of the public engine. They grabbed subroutines, and all sorts of nasty code that is very easy to prove in court. They also admitted to stealing some of this code. What happened? Noone cared. 2015 have enough money to support themselves. Slashdot and the gaming news sites refused to post any articles about it... Except those sites that interviewed 2015 and congradulated them on releasing this game. John Carmack himself, alas, refused to acnowledge it. And none of the people in the Quake community recieved any credit for their work which was blatently ripped off in a boxed, commercial product which was sold on the shelves of major retailers like Target. And of course, the chance of a small group of geographically diverse people sucessfully mounting a lawsuit is next to none. The simple fact is that over time, no real fuss has been made about large commercial companies 'borrowing' GPL'ed code. It will just never happen.
  • by Muggins the Mad ( 27719 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @10:39PM (#412688)
    > Now IANAL, but I doubt the GPL nor most web sites' terms of use would hold up in court. You can not be bound to what you do not have to read.

    That's where the GPL is quite clever. You see, it doesn't take any rights away from you - it only gives you more rights than you had. The right to copy, under certain rules.

    If you deny you're bound by the GPL because you didn't read it, then even if you win, you end up bound by normal copyright law and aren't allowed to be copying the code *anyway*.

    - Muggins the Mad
  • There's always BSD.
  • If they did this [sued a small company for a minor violation] it would really show Stallman's true colors.

    It amazes me the length that some people will go to find reasons for hating RMS.

    Here's the scenario. Some slimy company FooBarCo takes the source code to Emacs and redistributes it as FooBarMacs without releasing source code. When the FSF comes to them and mentions that doing such is illegal FooBarCo tells the FSF to "go climb a tree."

    The FSF sues FooBarCo (and hopefully wins). All of FooBarCo's customers now are able to get the source code to FooBarMacs should they decide they want it.

    In real life, The Free Software Foundation has had plenty of opportunities to "sue." For the most part the infractions that have surfaced have been minor, and when the infraction was pointed out to the offender the problem has been cleared up amicably.

    Contrast this to what happens if you misuse copyrighted material from anyone else, and you would quickly see that they FSF is a pretty decent group of individuals. If you stole the source code to Windows and sold it as Windows ACV (Anonymous Coward Version) Microsoft would find you and stick hot pokers in your private places.

    The GPL was specifically designed to require people to share source code when they distributed binaries. If you don't appreciate that, use software under some other license.

    I don't like the fact that I drive a Honda instead of a BMW, but that doesn't mean I go around "borrowing" BMWs out of parking lots. The software that the FSF wrote belongs to them, and they can do what they darn well please with it. I personally am glad that they decided to share, but you certainly don't have to feel that way.

  • by the-banker ( 169258 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:59PM (#412698)
    I am guessing a large reason for it not being litigated is the risk on both sides.

    Right now, proprietary software companies must not sufficiently threatened by its existence to litigate. There is a huge amount of downside risk for a company like MS to challenge the license, since the precedent could go either way. I think it is safe to assume that the GPL has enough legal foundation to make any outcome questionable.

    What a lot of this comes down to is enforceability of a license. Many of the same arguments I have used against shrinkwrap licenses can be adapted to the GPL.

    Finally, one thing I have never reconciled is how much duplication of code constitutes a violation? How many programs have a "while not EOF" type routine? Is it the approach to a problem that determines the uniqueness of the code?

    IMO, neither side (pro or con) wants the GPL to go to court anytime soon. When you consider the other cases pending, such as RAMBUS, domain name trademark infringement, etc., any case involving the GPL would be a stressful time for a lot of people (myself included).


  • IANAL, so this is not the most in-depth explanation possible, but the basic difference between the GPL and BSD license is that the GPL has a "viral clause", which basically says that all derived works must be GPL'd. BSD makes no requirements as to the licensing of derived works.

    As always, there will be others who have more in-depth info to post...

  • One is allowed to continue to use the license based on the current version of the GPL. We may not know what the future version would say, but we do know what the current version says. It's true, IANAL, and black has been declared white before now, but there is no possible legal defense against that.

    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • by indole ( 177514 ) <> on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @08:00PM (#412705) Homepage

    I've always wondered about the strength of the GPL. More particularly, though, if Big Money wants to use GPL'd code in their product, who exactly is going to step into the ring to fight their hordes of lawyers? Their power to bankrupt through extended litigation is not to be underestimated.

  • No, but the permission to distribute changed versions of the code, or to re-distribute the copy that they have acquired, is dependant on the provisions of the GPL being accepted and legal. If they aren't legal, then you have no further right to redistribute the code. Or to modify it. And certainly not to distribute modified versions.

    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • Why not? Do you think that being small should give you the right to violate the license?

    What would be unfair would be to not try to resolve the problem out of court first, and to no make sure that the accused actually was guilty before pressing charges. Suits that are just "You can't afford to defend yourself, so I'll bankrupt you", those are evil. But I don't think that that is precisely what we are discussing here.

    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • by WasterDave ( 20047 ) <(moc.pekdez) (ta) (pevad)> on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @08:01PM (#412709)
    Curt Schacker, vice president of corporate marketing for Wind River Corp

    Ah, WindRiver - they would be upset. WindRiver sell a really HUGELY expensive (we are talking 'n' kilodollars per developer backside) POSIX OS / toolset for embedded development called VxWorks. They've managed to keep a commanding but certainly not monopolistic lead on the whole embedded OS scene for really quite a while now and the appearance of Linux that's just as good (debate), has shedloads more mindshare and is far cheaper has had a pretty decimating effect on their bottom line. The linked article is a classic example of FUD. Don't sweat it, they're doing it for you. A man called Curt Schacker is doing it for you, actually.

    Bypass the whole thing, use BSD. (climbs into flameproof suit).

  • First off, is it me, or does viewing that site on my fbsd box with ns just suck?

    "it's anybody's best guess. Therefore, if you use Linux and you agree to the terms and conditions of the GPL, you are-at least to some degree-placing a bet as to the implications of the code that you develop.

    We've all seen this argument before, and whats surprising is their is the Open Source movement but not something of like an OpenCode movement, where developers would share code and allow others to better modify their (original programmer's) code which at times can produce better programs. Sure it hasn't been tested in court, and an argument for this would be, many GPL'd code was made on person's own spare time, perhaps as a hobby or pet project. Eitheir or, it would cost a lot for someone coding off of a pet project to rush into court to protect their GPL'd code, and not only that how does GPL based code fall into laws around the globe?

    "Let's say you own a company that is building an Ethernet switch. Let's also say your value-add is software, and you have chosen to base your device on Linux. Can you imagine a court case some day that determines that all of the software you've developed falls under the GPL, and is now in the public domain? We fear this situation is impeding development in the embedded open-source arena."

    Who really thinks this is an issue many of the big boys including IBM offer code which fall into the GPL that could be, and has likely been used by others as a basis for something better or more stable.

    But if you write an embedded application and you link that code to Linux, is that code now subject to the terms and conditions of the GPL? That's what isn't clear."

    He answers his own question here how can it not be clear. If he creates an RTOS embedded app linked to Linux, the original code is core, not Linux so why would it fall under GPL, thats sort of like saying Real [] just let go of their copyrights and patents since their audio/video player is now GPL in essence (at least from what I can muster)

    I wish I could speak more but that Elton John, Eminem duo made me wanna puke, I like the original Stan, and the newest Rob Malda version []

  • If the GPL were struck down, it would mean that no one anywhere (other than the authors) has the right to distribute or modify copyrighted/GPLed software (as per the terms of copyright law).

    Who says you don't have the right to modify GPLed software?

    According to the CONTU Final Report, which is generally interpreted by the courts as legislative history, ``the right to add features to the program that were not present at the time of rightful acquisition'' falls within the owner's rights of modification under section 117.
    Note that, since it's not copyright infringement for you to apply a patch, it's also not copyright infringement for someone to give you a patch. For example, Galoob's Game Genie, which patches the software in Nintendo cartridges, does not infringe Nintendo's copyrights. ``Having paid Nintendo a fair return, the consumer may experiment with the product and create new variations of play, for personal enjoyment, without creating a derivative work.'' Galoob v. Nintendo, 780 F. Supp 1283 (N.D. Cal. 1991), affirmed, 22 U.S.P.Q.2d 1587 (9th Cir. 1992). See also Foresight v. Pfortmiller, 719 F. Supp 1006 (D. Kan. 1989).
  • "where you must control a (naturally or artificially) scarce resource in order to make money and mantain an advantage against your competitors."

    *within the bounds of law*. It doesn't mean they have a free pass to do *anything* they want to make profit. If they want to link to Linux to provide some extra value for their customers but *don't* want to accept the license terms of Linux...well, there's a word for that: tough!

    How is this different from any other license (other than it is untested in court and with a sufficient amount of money and evil, there is the possibility it could be invalidated)? My question is, could they just create their own LGPL libraries as a shim and thereby skirt the whole issue? Hows does glibc get away with linking to the kernel, but remaining LGPL, not GPL? Or does it not link to the kernel???
  • by Raven667 ( 14867 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @10:48PM (#412715) Homepage

    Personally I have never seen software that had a warranty. If you build a critical component (heart monitor, brake system, etc.) on, say, VxWorks would the liability be any different. I imagine that VxWorks has the same "not fit for any particular purpose" clause as every other piece of software I've seen, and if you build something important out of it it is your liability.

  • WindRiver has done quite a lot for GNU (GCC, GDB). OK, their OS is very expensive, but as long as there are customers willing to pay: good for them.

    Since 10 years they already deliver the GNU toolchain as (cross)development environment for their OS. In fact, they were one of the first to use GNU tools in a commercial setting, and in that time, they have contributed quite a bit to gcc,gdb etc (and because of the GPL, shared those improvements with the rest of the world). As their target platform covers many different CPU's they contributed to many gcc backends as well.

    They deserve some credit for that. Curt Schacker is not saying that the GPL is wrong (otherwise, they would not have used GPL-stuff for so long) but is only warning about upcoming developments in the GPL. Those might force them to stop using GCC.

    GNU tools have been successful because of a balance: you can use it commercially, but improvements you have to give back (good for both). If the GPL goes out of balance, the result will be no more commercial use of GPL-ed stuff, and thus less improvements coming back from commercial users. That would be a loss for both sides.

  • by LL ( 20038 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @10:58PM (#412718)
    If you look at the licenses, then end result is that they encourage different business models. The MS EULA assumes a manufacturing model - pay per widget whether devtool or .bet components. In this situation, they wish to control their IP (building blocks) so that all higher stage developments go through them so they can get an early peek and if necessary buy-out high growth sectors). Read ESR's notes on the difference between end-use and intermediate-use.

    The GPL on the other hand assumes that code is communications and the license aims to ensure integrity (purity) and persistence (viral nature). Given that the distribution is unrestricted, then IMHO the model shifts the value to the service model (support, mentoring, accessories, etc). Unfortunately, the margins in this area are slim as it is labor-knowledge intensive and a firm cannot forbid an employee from walking out the door (not until they reintroduce economic slavery a la corporate towns). So you can kiss you 50% gross margins and shareholder stock pyramid goodbye.

    The problem comes with the embedded model is that they exist in the gray area between manufacturing and service. IMHO, the problem can be resolved through thinking more carefully about the issue. For example, if you're doing embedded sytems, you might think about distribution of firmware updates as your service model or transmeta code optimisation as a value-added service. All you need to do is to OpenSource something like FCode, intgrate it with Linux as a kernel loadable module, and establish a long-term service contract with customers that purchase your hardware.

    Whether this produces superior software is a separate issue. One can argue that something the size of a fortune500 company is too large to be responsive to customers (cf bug tracking/resolution record) and the lack of feedback (which if you assume that code is communications is a valid analogy) creates software that sucks. There are models which combine both Open/Closed source ... see VTK which offers the basic toolkit free, then sells application kits and linkages to other systems.

    If you look at it objectively, Microsoft is *NOT* a software or innovation company, it is in the business of IP licensing (buy, borrow or bully :-)) and the GPL is a fundamental threat to this model as it does not fit the fules of the game they are trying to impose on the market. Currently OpenSource is a niche segment (low-end servers, embedded, exotic hardware) but given the fact that the PC market is saturated and the internet plays to Linux strengths (many small penguista experimenting with services), then it makes sense to do a slash and burn to clear the path for the 800-pound gorilla.

    As a defensive tactic, the GPL acts as a poison pill, as there is no point in being taken-over if you cannot embrace, extend and extinguish a competiting standard. It does even the field for new entrants which as any good self-respecting monopolist tells you is anathema to their excess profits. However, the big big disantage of having a purely free (as in beer) software is that you are missing the market signals that indicate the demand for a particular service. RMS may have his heart and soul in the right place but some of the practical issues need a lot more careful thought.

  • I mean, aside from all the squabbling over definitions.. if an embedded system wants to build it's functions into kernel-space, it'll have to abide by the GPL. That said....

    Who cares? Embedded systems does NOT mean 'set-top boxes'...
    Embedded systems generally do not need even a fraction of what the linux kernel offers, and they are generally so hardware specific that you don't *need* the source.. you don't have the tools to build it anyway.

    What I'm trying to say is, nothing is broken here. If someone wants an OS they can extend at the kernel level, and not publish the results, they don't need to use linux...there are lots of other options, some open-source, some not.

    This is not a 'flaw' in the GPL.. it just means that the GPL is not suitable for , in this case a license on an open-source extensible embedded kernel. It *IS* the license that linux and crew publish the Linux kernel under.... and THAT is THAT.... if you don't like it, don't use it.

  • now, if i remember correctly, there's an exception in the linux license to allow binary-only loadable modules, but i'm not too clear on that part.

    This is a very important point, Linus has made it clear that he intends for people to be able to make binary-only LKM's. See 4Front, makers of the OSS sound drivers [], for an example. I also believe that some hardware vendors have done this, but I don't have examples handy.

    In any event, worst case you have to GPL the code that you put in the kernel, but you only have to provide it to people that you have sold units to. Of course they can distribute it to anyone they want. More likely you talk to the copyright holder of the code you have changed and hammer out an a different license between the two parties.

    Oh, and the GPL is good for business. One should open up their code to their customers, but there is no reason to allow your competitors to take your code without giving back. It's a standoff, you have your code, your competitor has your code. Any change they distribute they have to share with you, and as the owner you can do anything you please with the code.

    HTML should have a ramble tag . . .

  • This is utter nonsense. Do you know what the embedded world is? Vxworks is used in jetfighters, in space robots, in nuclear reactor control systems and the like. (I used it for a space robot myself). Don't imagine to see Linux there anytime soon (or ever).

    The price is not exorbitant, given the range of applications you can/may use it for. For that money they do extreme quality control. Do you know what the requirements are for software to be used in a nuclear reactor?!?

    B.t.w. any price the customer is willing to pay in a fair and open market (i.e. not the monopolized desktop computer market) is a fair price, by definition. Since they're still in business after 15 years, there must be some that apparently find the product worth the price.

  • Now IANAL, but I doubt the GPL nor most web sites' terms of use would hold up in court. You can not be bound to what you do not have to read.

    Sure you can. The GPL is a *license* not a *contract*. In a contract you have to have certain elements including "consideration" before it is legally binding. In a license, you don't need all the elements for a license.

    The GPL is a license because it allows you to do stuff that you couldn't ordinarially do. The code is copywighted, so you can't distribute it unless you have a license that permits that. As soon as you have distributed GPL code (without arranging for a unique license from the copyright holder) you are either (a) in violation of copyright law or (b) bound by the terms of the license.

    "That Catch-22, it's a might fine catch. It's the best one we've got."
  • This has probably already been said, but I'm going to put it my way, because I think it's clear. I think this matches the situation that they are postulating:
    1. I write EmbeddedFoo, using no GPL'd code
    2. I adapt EmbeddedFoo to run under Linux, using some GPL'd code, and call it GnuFoo.
    3. GnuFoo is covered by the GPL, and all the code in it is GPL'd.
    4. I do not have to release the source to EmbeddedFoo, even though much of the code in it is licenced under the GPL in GnuFoo. I still retain copyright to all the code I created, and no court would ever find EmbeddedFoo to be in violation of the GPL.
    What I have done is granted others the right to modify and distribute GnuFoo and it's source code. I have not signed away my own rights to do whatever I like with the code that I created, including closed-source commercial exploitation of it.
  • by Enry ( 630 ) <enry@wayga.QUOTEnet minus punct> on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @08:10PM (#412740) Journal
    As an example, Schacker offers this scenario: "Let's say you own a company that is building an Ethernet switch. Let's also say your value-add is software, and you have chosen to base your device on Linux. Can you imagine a court case some day that determines that all of the software you've developed falls under the GPL, and is now in the public domain? We fear this situation is impeding development in the embedded open-source arena."

    What the heck does this mean? It's like saying that some day, the MS EULA means that MS owns all the code you've ever written. This is why lawyers exist. This is why you can (probably) contact the FSF. This is why there's been a bazillion questions about how the GPL operates, with most of them having been answered already.

    Listen up, there is nothing about the GPL that makes it any different (in a legal standpoint) from the MS EULA, aside from changes in the terms and conditions. If EULAs in general are struck down, this could strike down the GPL as well. They're in the same family.

    So let's look at the terms and conditions. The fear that your code will somehow have to be released under the GPL is covered by the LGPL, which is used to compile most apps that use the gcc compiler and libraries. The LGPL allows for commercial (closed source) apps to be compiled and linked against LGPL libraries.

    If a company doesn't pay attention to this difference in licenses, it's their own fault. This is akin to mistaking the MS EULA for a Borland EULA. If you're still stuck, go get a lawyer or call the FSF.
  • by Uruk ( 4907 )
    C'mon. Let's make a list of licenses that have been tested in court, and let's make a list of corporations who have put millions of dollars behind those untested software licenses. So some people are worried about testing the GPL based off of the fact that it tries to force developers to free their source when they use it in certain ways. They're not worried about commercial licenses which come up with dozens of dubiously legal ways to make you give up your freedom. And besides all of that, this argument is quite old, and the GPL is still adopted by companies. I wouldn't call this 100% FUD, but it's definately >=60% FUD.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger