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OSI Modifies Open Source Definition 166

The Open Source Initiative has modified their official definition of an open source software license. The change itself is minor, but they're also calling for more input on other possible improvements to the definition - see below for more.

Russ Nelson writes: "We changed the Open Source Definition today. Some people had the idea that "may not" in Section 1 meant that they had a choice. We changed it to "shall not". Other changes may be in the offing. The OSD says nothing about use licenses or patents, for example.

"A use license is largely unenforcable by itself. How can you tell what people are doing with software if anyone is allowed to redistribute it to anyone they want? Some parties have tried to enforce a use license by requiring the non-removal of certain parts of the code. This is, in itself, already prohibited by the OSD, however it's best not to rely on indirection to keep use licenses off Open Source software.

"Patents are a problem that have been anticipated by some licensors. In part the furor over the APSL 1.0 was produced because they reserved the right to revoke the license if it turned out that they were licensing software patented by someone else. A number of new licenses have specifically included terms that require contributors to license any applicable patents. And yet the OSD does not require this. What is the good of an OSI Certified piece of Open Source unless you can use it? And you certainly shouldn't allow someone to sue any contributor over patent infringement and still have a license to use the software.

"Are there other lapses in the Open Source Definition? Send them to me and I'll summarize for the board. Speaking of the board, Brian Behlendorf (Apache/Collab) and Ian Murdock (he put the ian in Debian/Progeny) have resigned, and Guido van Rossum (creator of Python) and Michael Tiemann (co-founder of Cygnus) have taken their place."

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OSI Modifies Open Source Definition

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  • _Deliberately_ obfuscated code. Doesn't matter whether by man or machine, it's just whether there has been a conscious obfuscation stage.
    There's more of a description in the document itself. It states that the code must be in a format that the programmer would chose to program it in. Even obfuscators like to have a clear version of the code to work with, and rarely does it change once they've started the obfuscation process. I write obfuscated code using 'Stroustrup ' braces/indenting and with meaningful variable names. The absolute last stage to me is to remove brackets and change variable names to l1 ll l0 lO etc...


  • Yeah, but you're free to modify the code... chump. How are you locked in?

    [Nasty, ad hominem insults ignored]

    You're locked into the GPLed GNU implementation once you use its unique features. Just as you're locked into Microsoft Word once your macros and files are in its format. Oh, and you can't just transplant the GPLed code into another implementation unless you want to forfeit all of your work and merely create another GPL-infected product.

    RMS's embrace and extend strategy is really quite a lot like Microsoft's.

    As for the name Posix: Yes, Stallman happened to be the one who coined it. So? He's also attempted to take credit for Linux by trying to get people to call it "GNU/Linux." His self-serving behavior reminds me of the old saying, "The easiest way to become a leader is to find a parade and jump in front of it."

    --Brett Glass

  • Agreed. As a developer of Free code, I cannot use any proprietary code either. I don't like the idea of the EULA forcing itself down my throat. I do not have the wherewithal to support myself so I can run around and buy proprietary software, nor do I have enough influence (nor want...) to make that decision for the company I work with.

    The fact of the matter is that propriatary software is really only for those folks who are willing to subject themselves to this "ideal" of perfect propriatary software that never needs any modifications, while those of us who just want to make a living and can't or don't want to do the software equivalent of going to work in the 19th century coal mines of West Virginia where we become so indebted to the company that we lose all our rights just don't count for anything.

    The more I consider propriatary softare, the more I see it as a tool for Bill Gates and Larry Ellison to force their products down everyone's throat. I personally think the BSD licence is reasonable (my understanding is that people can still distribute use the code in commercial products freely). I plan to release code under the BSD licence or possibly another Free license or even pitch it into the public domain. However, in order to maximize my code's usefullness to anyone who might want to use it, I will not deign to tell people who want to use my code that they can't use it in theirs. I think that's none of my business.

  • It indeed is a small price.
    I'm working as an employee of MandrakeSoft. I create Free Software for a living. MandrakeSoft would not exist if there hadn't been any Free Software. At this point, where Operating Systems have become this complex, writing one up from scratch (not only a kernel, but a whole OS including a set of usefull utilities) as a commercial project is just impossible - it would take too much time and money. It wouldn't be competitive (against allready existing OSes).
    Thus, we haven't given up anything. Because without Free Software, there wouldn't be any MandrakeSoft not to give something up.
  • by Webmonger ( 24302 ) on Saturday March 10, 2001 @09:39PM (#371708) Homepage
    I imagine if the obfuscated code was distributed along with a non-obfuscated version, it could be considered open-source.
  • the GPL does not discriminate against people who want to deny OSD rights to recipients of their code. Such people are perfectly free to modify and/or redistribute GPL'ed code.

    This argument is only true for the originator of the software. The OSD is useless if you apply it only to the originator, since the originator has all the rights available to any author anyway.

    Consistently apply the OSD with rights granted to users in mind. Then you will see that there is no way the GPL can fit the OSD.

    Of course, you will almost certainly find some way to counter this argument. The GPL is included for political purposes. The OSI knows that it would become a pariah in the Free Software community if it took such a stand. OTOH, the abiding suspicion of business towards OSS would be aleviated if the right to proprietary forking were made an explicit part of the OSD.

    In other words, the OSI has all the problems of a 3rd political party. Ultimately, all of these free vs. proprietary arguments are really just all the same old left vs. right arguments, with a geek twist.

  • Is an application still considered opensource when the source is completely unreadable?

    Only if it gets that way through lousy coding, rather than malicious obfuscation. The GPL requires that code be in the preferred form for programming, and the Open Source Definition requires that it not be deliberately obfuscated, but code that's simply badly written doesn't seem to fall into either category.

    Nice try at starting a completely extraneous Perl-Python flamewar, though.

  • Actually, the quote you cite supports my statement. The copy (the disc) is commercial, but the code is not. It cannot be, since it cannot be licensed for money.
  • Well said! Mod the above up.

    --Brett Glass

  • The phenomenon you're after is "embrace and extend." The GPL is designed to prevent it.

    Actually, exactly the reverse is true. Look at the FSF's GNU utilities -- including their make, tar, man, etc. -- and what you'll see is copies of the standard UNIX/Posix utilities, extended with their own proprietary command line switches and minor changes that create incompatibilities.

    The aim, as Richard Stallman himself states, is to create copies of utilities and then add extensions which lock users in. Just as Microsoft does. Users are then dependent on, and locked into, the FSF's code. Gotcha!

    --Brett Glass

  • Not entirely true. The code can be licensed for money under the GPL, and there is no limit on the price you may charge.

    In response to this I once quipped "sure I'll license my code under the GPL--for $50,000/copy".

    Indeed, I have heard of one company that licenses gcc mods for $5000/copy. Since the user paid so much, this makes them less likely to give the product away, even though they have the right to do so if they wish.

    Unfortunately these are special cases. The demand curve for most software is such that there are zero units produced at such prices. The extreme case would be one unit sold under GPL, and I believe this may have happened with RedHat and something, but I forget what.

    So, unless you produce highly specialized custom software geared towards corporate clients willing to spend thousands, GPL software cannot be effectively commercialized.

  • The GPL, intentionally and with malice aforethought, discriminates against anyone who wishes to make a living by writing and selling software. This is one of Richard Stallman's stated goals: to make it impossible for anyone to make a living by writing software.

    Note that the GPL also precludes licensing of software under OSD-compliant licenses such as the Mozilla license as well as under closed source licenses.

    The purpose of the GPL is to eliminate any chance that a programmer might use the code in a way which would provide him with a financial reward for his hard work. This is, again, blatant discrimination.

    The GPL discriminates against a field of endeavor and against a group of people. It therefore is not an Open Source license. Even Richard Stallman, the author of the GPL, says that "Free Software [note the caps; Stallman considers this to mean "GPLed software"] is not Open Source." The GPL is not an open source license and should not be named as one on the OSI Web site.

    --Brett Glass

  • They're hurting to the tune of $16 million in revenue a quarter.

    That's revenue, not profit. They're losing money big time. Red Hat has had only one profitable quarter since it was founded, and that was quite long ago.

    --Brett Glass

  • Richard Stallman has said, quite recently, that GPLed software (which he calls "Free Software" with initial caps) is not "Open Source." And the GPL violates the points #5 and $6 of the Open Source Definition because it is designed to discriminate against specific people (commercial programmres) and a specific field of endeavor (the creation of commercial software). So, as part of the revision, the maintainers of the site and the definition should heed Stallman's words and remove the GPL from the list of approved licenses.

    --Brett Glass

  • I'm sorry you don't like being forced to release your code if you include any of mine (or any other word released under the GPL). You know, all you have to do is rip my code (any GPL'd code) out of your project and you can release your code under any license you like. I don't charge you a financial fee for using my code in your projcet -- my fee is your code in return. That's right, you can't take my work for nothing. As I wrote before, why do you think you should have the right to MY hard work for nothing, when you won't recipricate? Will Microsoft, Oracle, or any other proprietary software producers give you such a deal? No? Then why the fuck should I?

    You've simply taken my quote out of context in order to repeat yourself. Since writing my original post I've gone through and read your many comments, all of which repeat the same mantra. You're like those pundits on TV who just shout their opinions over the moderator and their opponent without any concern for their thread of argumet, only their presentation. You have no ideas to exchange, only a position to state -- again and again.

    Am I to understand that if you repeat these ridiculous claims enough you'll change public opinion? Maybe so, but you won't change the facts (content) underlying what the GPL permits and restricts. Here's a hint: the GPL only restricts distribution of content released under the GPL. But, of course, you'll only respond to a statement which you can take out of context, won't you? Your words are without merit because you don't argue content, only position. Do you have a talking points memo on hand to guide how you frame your posts? Sure reads like it.

  • Alas, MandrakeSoft will never be profitable, because the GPL prevents it from adding unique value to its products and forces it to give away its work for free.

    Without GPLed software, there could still be a MandrakeSoft. The company could, instead, build on BSD-licensed code, which (unlike GPLed code) is licensed ethically. Unaffected by the GPL's poison pill, it would have a much better chance of survival.

    But as it is, you have no chance. The GPL is intended to assure that.

    Because of the GPL, MandrakeSoft will burn its investment capital and then fold, as have so many other Linux companies. (It's sad, too, because you really deserve to get some reward for your labors from customers who will benefit from your work, rather than from investors who will lose their money.)

    There's still time to turn things around if you want to. Alas, I fear that you and/or your management may be so blinded by the misleading rhetoric of Richard Stallman that you won't do that even when you recognize that you cannot make money on GPLed software. This is the tragedy of not using software that's truly open source. As Stallman himself states, GPLed software is not open source. It's sabotaged software.

    --Brett Glass

  • In this case old chap, I suggest you use the Lesser GPL - that's what it's there for.
  • by LL ( 20038 ) on Saturday March 10, 2001 @02:40PM (#371721)
    Question - what should happen if OSI software supports plugins (note patented software is just a special case of this) and external scripting languages which themselves are not OSI? You cannot insist that they follow the same licensing. Take a look at GE Medical which embeds Tcl/TK within their medical instruments. I doubt whether they will kindly open up their IP.

    Also if the software goes kaput (or bought out) for any reason, what should the contrib community code licensing do (considering the legal entity holding the original OSI does not exist). If I was a Gate-2.0 I would conceive of an ingeneous bait and switch tactic where the original stuff was OSI but then deliberately strangle the legal holder and change the terms of the now rootless software as individuals with forks won't have the resources to compete.

  • That's right, you can't take my work for nothing. As I wrote before, why do you think you should have the right to MY hard work for nothing, when you won't recipricate?

    When you publish code under the GPL, you've already given your code away to all end users, thus reducing its market value (and the market value of its functionality) to zero. Therefore, the correct price for someone to pay to use it -- whether as an end user or as a programmer incorporating it into something else -- is zero. No rational end user will pay any money either for that code or code that works like it, because he or she can get that functionality for free.

    For you to withhold it from programmers when you've already given it to everyone else -- and, again, reduced its market value to nothing by doing so -- is simply spiteful. The only possible reason for such an agenda is to attempt to hurt your fellow programmers. Which is what the GPL is for. The purpose of the GPL is to destroy programmers' livelihoods. Stallman himself says so.

    --Brett Glass

  • No, Red Hat has had only one profitable quarter ever. Check out the reports on if you have any doubts about this. What's more interesting still is that the company says, on its Form 10Q, that it doesn't know if it will ever be profitiable and points out many reasons why it probably won't be.


  • by alewando ( 854 ) on Saturday March 10, 2001 @02:45PM (#371724)
    For example, back when Steve Job's Next was marketing the objective c language as used in nextstep and openstep, he based their objective-c compiler on a modified version of gcc (which is under the GPL). Jobs didn't want to release the source for the objective-c changes, but after much legal wrangling, he decided that he didn't have much of a legal leg to stand on.

    There have been no official court decisions or cases, yet (despite many hints by RMS that one is on the horizon). This is itself an implicit suggestion that the legal case against violations would be pretty good.
  • This is one of Richard Stallman's stated goals: to make it impossible for anyone to make a living by writing software.

    Brett, Richard and I have our philosophical differences, but I'll defend Richard here and say that you are lying, flat out. I have never heard Richard say what you claim he says.
  • This is a good summary of our differences.
  • by chipuni ( 156625 ) on Saturday March 10, 2001 @02:47PM (#371727) Homepage
    In Section 2, Source Code, one thing that isn't mentioned is the language. What good is source code if I use a proprietary language that isn't available to other programmers? The code might be un-obfuscated, but otherwise useless.
  • Nobody ever said that free software was zero cost. Sounds like you can't afford free software. Other people can. Some day soon you might find yourself competing against them. Maybe you'll find a way to afford free software then?
  • The GPL confiscates your rights to your own code if you include even one line of GPLed code.

    You could make a good argument for fair use in this case.

    the misuse of copyright for an end not specifically contemplated by the Constitution.

    Ha! Most of what the federal government does violates the Constitution. You think anybody is going to worry about "copyright abuse"? The copyright period has been extended and extended, so obviously nobody has read the part about "for a limited time."

    the OSI should reject the GPL and state that it simply is not an open source license

    We would have to modify the OSD first, for reasons I've stated elsewhere.
  • "FUD-meister flamebots in the Linux community (and before that, OS/2?), "

    I believe you have Brett Glass confused with Nicholas Petreley.

    Brett promotes BSD, not Linux.
  • I can see this question applying mainly to Perl applications, because of Perl's tendancy to tolerate shitty coders who don't know where to hit the carraige return when they are coding.

    As long as the problem is poor formatting/indention and the like, you can clean this code up very quickly with emacs (GNU or X.) Just set a mark at the beginning of the file, move to the end of the file ("ESC->") and indent region ("ESC CTRL-\" or "META-x indent-region" if you have trouble remembering the shortcut.) This works in any language that emacs has a mode for - which is pretty much every language around.

    "That old saw about the early bird just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."
  • The code can be licensed for money under the GPL, and there is no limit on the price you may charge.

    Not so. The GPL demands that the price charged for a copy (not a license, but the production of a physical copy) be reasonable. The charge is for the copy, not to license the code. The license for the code must be free. And after the first copy is made, the recipient can distribute the code for free. So, whatever is charged for the first copy is likely to be all that the programmer ever makes.

    --Brett Glass

  • The GPL is included for political purposes. The OSI knows that it would become a pariah in the Free Software community if it took such a stand. OTOH, the abiding suspicion of business towards OSS would be aleviated if the right to proprietary forking were made an explicit part of the OSD.

    Interesting ideas here. Do you think that the OSI would absolutely and unavoidably become a "pariah" if it stood up for its principles and admitted that the GPL does not meet its ethical standards? Or would it depend on what the OSI said about the issue and what it recommended as an alternative?

    What do you think it would take to convince the OSI that principle is more important than politics and remove the GPL from its "approved" list, as it really should?

    --Brett Glass

  • Oops.... Sorry for the typos in the above. My keyboard is sticking this evening and is due for a good cleaning.
  • Neither the Open Group standard nor the proposed CIFS standard (which was really released as a political ploy to counter Sun's NFS proposal) will actually allow you to make a working server that interoperates with Windows 2000. Microsoft has shifted SMB out from under the Samba developers quite a few times. See their mailing lists.
  • Can we add a line that says "what ever Microsoft does [], they can''t call there software OPEN"?


  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 10, 2001 @01:53PM (#371738)
    Much better!
  • by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Saturday March 10, 2001 @02:48PM (#371740) Homepage Journal
    There's no problem at all. Certain OSI licenses might have a problem with these, but most will not. Plugins are not derivatives works anyway, in either the programmatic or the copyright sense. And external scripting languages are just that, *external*.

    The FSF has always held that the GPL soes not allow proprietary plugins, but the GPL is but one of many OSI licenses.
  • Stallman discussed the Next wrangling (among other things) in this email []. It's an informative read.
  • This is utter bullshit. Name one OSI approved license that allows a EULA to be included that is not already an RMS approved Free Software license. You can't do it.
  • by David Price ( 1200 ) on Saturday March 10, 2001 @02:52PM (#371743)
    That's not true at all - the "Open Source" movement was largely intended to put a happy corporate face on free software. The two represent basically the same idea; the reason you see RMS griping about the difference is likely twofold:
    1. He pioneered the idea of free software, under the moniker of "free software," and very likely feels upset that those ideals have been usurped by this new movement with a new name (this motivation to have his contributions recognized in name can also be found in his urgings that the OS is called "GNU/Linux," not just "Linux");
    2. He fears that, by removing the word "free" from the name, we're also removing the concept of freedom from our thoughts about the subject. Freedom of software is important to him and he wants the users of free software to be reminded that they are excercising their freedom by using it. "Open Source," in his mind, dilutes that association in users' minds.
    There isn't much difference, beyond the symbolic, between free and open source software. Microsoft's latest overture to allow its biggest customers to view the source code to some of its products does not qualify as open source by any stretch of the imagination - they're forbidding modification, redistribution, even compilation of the revealed code. And open source software cannot be bound by "oppressive EULA's" - see Term 7 of the Open Source Definition [], which forbids the execution of additional licenses. Keep in mind that the OSD derives, nearly directly, from the Debian Free Software Guidelines [].

    The difference is a difference of name; a kernel by any other name would smell just as sweet.

  • Actually, since RMS fully admits that no one should be obligated to release their own unreleased works, his philosophy could be better summed up as "if you share with one person you must share with all persons." Sounds an awful lot like my kindergarten teacher.
  • No, Red Hat has had only one profitable quarter ever. Check out the reports on if you have any doubts about this.

    They weren't required to file reports with the SEC prior to 1999.

    Here's a link for you: le /0,,4661_133741,00.html

  • Cheapbytes doesn't create anything, they simply take stuff other people have created and redistribute it cheaply.

    The same can be said of
  • ... BSD-licensed code, which (unlike GPLed code) is licensed ethically. Unaffected by the GPL's poison pill, it would have a much better chance of survival.
    "Unethical"? "Poison pill"? Give me a break. Don't you understand the basic concept of the GPL?

    It is: "I will share my code with you, but you have to share your improvements back to me. That way we all benefit."

    And you call that UNETHICAL? You think that playing fair deserves the label "poison pill"? What kind of twisted, messed up ethics do you have? The license you prefer allows people to freeload - to take code, change it, and make it proprietary, refusing to share the improvements with the community that wrote the software in the first place. Is that the kind of ethical behaviour you like?

    I sincerely pity you.

    Torrey Hoffman (Azog)
  • RMS's embrace and extend strategy is really quite a lot like Microsoft's.
    Except that Microsoft's strategy is designed to bring them maximum profits, at the expense of the freedom of their users. But the GPL was specifically designed to provide maximum freedom to users, treating that as more important than profits.

    And Microsoft leverages monopolies in one area to reduce customer choices in other areas, while GPL'ed software aims to be standards-compliant, thereby maximizing customer choices.

    So, yes, they are "quite a lot like" if you define that to mean "totally different".

    Torrey Hoffman (Azog)
  • Well, see, all the spam that I ever get claims not to be spam, so that I figured if I sent out spam that claimed to actually *be* spam, nobody would mind. Read this post over your left shoulder with a mirror, and it will all make sense, trust me.
  • by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Saturday March 10, 2001 @10:50PM (#371751) Homepage

    They're no more forcing their morality on you than you are forcing your morality on your customers by your licenses. It's their code, they're entitled to place whatever conditions on it's use they want. You then have the choice of whether to abide by those conditions or not use the code. No, the conditions they set aren't compatible with most commercial licenses. That's deliberate. They specifically want to ensure that code they released under non-commercial terms is never co-opted and placed under commercial terms.

    And actually, I think the deal for the GPL is more: I'll let you benefit from my work, but only if you in turn let everyone else benefit from your work in the same way. It's the same thing as most commercial software, really, except that you're paying in kind for the right to use someone else's code, instead of paying in dollars. If you can't pay their price, then you'll have to put their code back on the shelf and not use it. You certainly wouldn't argue that you should be able to use any commercial library you wanted even if you couldn't pay for it, would you?

  • Is there anybody who wants to modify IOCCC code?? It's like a work of art -- leave it well enough alone.

    I can't imagine any changes to the OSD which would allow IOCCC code to be certified without also allowing companies to publish obscured source code.
  • I don't think anybody's worried about it. What about (e.g.) packet drivers written in MSDOS assembly language? There is no open source assembler for MSDOS-format x86 assembly language. You have to own Borland TASM or Microsoft MASM to make anything of the otherwise open source packet drivers.

    Or, as someone else pointed out, what if the program is simply written poorly?

    Or, (getting ridiculous now), what if you lack the skill to make the changes you desire?

    OSI Certified(tm) doesn't ensure that you can make the changes you want. It just ensures that nobody can stop you from making the changes you want and redistributing them.
  • I'm sorry, but I don't understand what you're saying. If you have a piece of OSI Certified code (no matter which of the approved licenses it uses), you can modify and redistribute it under the same license. That's our assurance to you. We say NOTHING about whether you can modify and redistribute it under a different license. Assuring people of that freedom is not a goal of ours.
  • by Arker ( 91948 ) on Saturday March 10, 2001 @10:54PM (#371756) Homepage

    The purpose of the GPL is to eliminate any chance that a programmer might use the code in a way which would provide him with a financial reward for his hard work. This is, again, blatant discrimination.

    Nonsense. The purpose of the GPL is to keep software licensed under it Free. It's obviously more difficult to make money selling software when that software is Free, but it is far from impossible. See Selling Free Software. [] In fact, the FSF considers the ability to sell the software for a fee an essential component of Free Software - the Yast license, for one, is classified as non-free because it forbids this.

    Even Richard Stallman, the author of the GPL, says that "Free Software [note the caps; Stallman considers this to mean "GPLed software"

    Whoah, slow down there troll-boy. Free Software is most definately NOT the same thing as GPL'd software. See this list [] of licenses on the GNU site - particularly the ones listed under headings "GPL-Compatible Free Software Licenses" and "GPL-Incompatible, Free Software Licenses."

    15 licenses are listed as GPL compatible, and an additional 21 are listed as not GPL compatible but still Free Software!

    "That old saw about the early bird just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."
  • RMS usually is very careful with his language. I can't imagine that he said "force" in this context. Instead, what he expects will happen is that anyone who wants to sell a better mousetrap will have to start with the existing one, and sell its creation as a service, not a product.
  • Heck, I just say "libre" and "gratis" in the context of free software. People who don't already understand can figure it out from context pretty quickly.
  • Richard Stallman has attempted, as part of the confusing and misleading rhetoric of the FSF, to redefine the word "proprietary" to denote any software that he has not "blessed." But the correct meaning is different.

    Proprietary software is software which is incompatible with other offerings (regardless of whether these offerings are open source or not). Microsoft's incompatible extension of Kerberos is a good example.

    Likewise, a proprietary protocol or file format is one which is in control of a single vendor -- and generally undocumented to preclude others from producing products that are compatible with it. SMB is an example of a proprietary protocol, and the Microsoft Word file format is a proprietary file format.

    Whether or not something is proprietary has nothing to do with whether the source is open or not or whether money is charged for it. Stallman likes to use the word to refer to all non-GPLed software because it sounds nasty -- and because he can take advantage of the negative connotations which had long been associated with the original definition.

    In my message, I was using the word "commercial" in exactly the way I intended and in the way in which it's defined in the dictionary. The GPL discriminates against producers of commercial software -- software which is the object of commerce. GPLed software cannot be licensed for money and hence cannot be commercial. The disk it's on can be sold for money, and so can support, but the code itself cannot according to the terms of the GPL. It therefore is not commercial.

    The GPL is, by the way, a key element in the recent woes of Red Hat and other "Linux companies." It prevents them from adding unique value to their products while at the same time undercutting their sales and destroying their markets. The people at these companies are doing good work and deserve to be rewarded for it! Unfortunately, the GPL, which is designed to keep such companies from being successful, is preventing this. I think that's a shame.

    People who do good creative work that benefits many people ought to be rewarded for it. I think that if the GPL were removed from the Open Source Definition's list of approved licenses we'd see this happen.


  • by Webmonger ( 24302 ) on Saturday March 10, 2001 @03:04PM (#371767) Homepage
    It's in a violator's interest that the GPL be valid. Because if the GPL is invalid, they have no license to use the code. And if they have not license to use the code, they are committing copyright violation.
  • There is no difference between Open Source Software and Free Software. There may be a huge gulf between the advocates and movements of those terms, but the software itself is identical. Every OSI approved license is also a Free Software license, and every Free Software license sanctified by RMS' imprimatur is also an OSI approved license.

    There is only one small bone of contentions. That is the Artistic License. RMS does not approve it as Free Software. But if you look at his explanation, you'll see that it's because he thinks the license is vague, and not because he thinks it violates some tenant of Free Software licenses. Just about everyone outside of the FSF agree that the Artistic License is Free Software.

    Why is RMS against Open Source? Two reasons, in my opinion. A) "not invented here", and B) it doesn't use the word 'free'. He has long said that he wished for a better term than "free" so people don't confuse "free software" with "freeware". Well, there is a better and more accurate word, and that word is "open".
  • In the US at least, it has already been ruled that languages, including programming languages, can not be considered intellectual property (imagine someone patenting English...). Now, specific implementations of languages are copyrightable, but not the syntax itself. That's why Sun got to beat MS up over Java - MS licensed Sun's Java implementation. On the flip side, HP has decided they don't like Sun's embedded Java and have implemented their own (Chai or micro-chai, something like that) and Sun can't do a thing about it.
  • No, it's not better.

    A good example is the differences between the Free Software Foundation and the Open Software Foundation.
  • I've already explained to you that and why the GPL does not violate sections 5 and 6. If you refuse to address my reasoning, but instead keep on repeating your incorrect assertions, I have nothing more to say to you.
  • So you admit that Stallman didn't say that he wanted to destroy programmer's livelihoods?

    In any case, I fully expect that you will find that RMS has modified his views over the years since the GNU Manifesto was published. It's certainly not proper to say that he "wants" this. It's much more truthful to say that he "wanted" this, given the age of that document.
  • Unfortunately, the message above pretty much regurgitates Richard Stallman's propaganda uncritically.

    Translation, because I agree with RMS I must be mentally deficient or "uncritical." Right?

    The fact is, again, that the GPL does preclude authors from reaping any financial reward from their work.

    The fact is that you can repeat that like a mantra all you want, but repetition won't make it true.

    No company whose business strategy has been based on the sale of GPLed software has ever been profitable.

    First, such companies are very new on the scene - and most tech companies take a while to become profitable (and many never do) whether their software is Free or not. Redhat for instance is making millions off software sales every month - they're just spending it faster than they make it, currently, operating at a loss to maximise their future returns, just as any other software company in their position would - GPL or no. Second, you started off by talking about authors reaping financial rewards from their work, now you are talking about companies reaping financial rewards from the authors work. These are totally different issues, which you are (deliberately?) confusing. The companies are not the copyright holders, they must make money within the terms of the license - the authors do not.

    "That old saw about the early bird just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."
  • Ha Ha Ha, aren't you the witty one.

    Do you know that your idea would deprive software engineers of income? The writer of the software can release it under multiple licenses, you know. Releasing useful code under the GPL and then charging for commercial use is actually quite possible, and the GPL version provides useful publicity and familiarity to increase sales. I think Troll Tech is doing ok with this model..

    If I wanted you to be able to make money off my hard work, I would have relased under a different license.

  • Have you ever heard of the LGPL? The equivalents of MFC are licensed under it, you know...

    Don't come back until you show at least the slightest indication that you know what you are talking about!

  • No. If they use an existing OSI-approved license, we have to certify the software as open source. That would be the easy version. The hard version would be if they wanted us to approve the Microsoft Open Source License. If it complied with the OSD, we'd have a hard time disapproving it.
  • Agreed. As a developer of proprietary commercial code, I cannot use any GPL code either. I don't like the idea of the GPL forcing itse;f down my throat. I do not have the wherewithal to support myself so I can sit around and write free software, nor do I have enough influence (nor want...) to make that decision for the company I work with.

    The fact of the matter is GPL is really only for those folks who are willing to subject themselves to this "ideal" of perfect free software as codified by the GPL, while those of us who just want to make a living and can't or don't want to do the software equivalent of chucking it all and living on a commune just don't count for anything.

    The more I consider the GPL, the more I see it as a tool for RMS and the FSF to force their religion down everyone's throat. I personally think the LGPL is reasonable (my understanding is the "linking" clause is not there). I plan to release code under the LGPL or possibly another license or even pitch it into the public domain. However, in order to maximize my code's usefullness to anyone who might want to use it, I will not deign to tell people who want to use my code how they should license theirs. I think that's none of my business.

  • Actually that isn't correct. Under copyright law, if you haven't seen the original you can't be guilty of copying it even if what you produced is identical to the original. Any published author or their agent or an editor can give you chapter and verse on it. Witness the policy of never reading unsolicited manuscripts or manuscripts that don't have the appropriate releases and contracts signed, specifically to provide a defense against charges of copying a work someone sent in to them.

  • There are also the Artistic, Apache, and Mozilla/Netscape Public Licenses.

  • Part of the liscense may be held invalid while the other parts are upheld (including language disclaiming such a possibility). If the violator can get the restrictive parts invalidated while retaining the part about free use, then he's doing pretty well for himself.
  • War is peace
    igonrance is strength
    free software is slavery
  • How the hell is this informative?
  • Just don't use the GNU code in your programs, you moron!

    Maybe you should complain to MicroSoft about how much money you are losing because you can't use their code either!

  • And since GPLed code is at the same time insidiously undercutting you and destroying your markets, having to reimplement what the GPLed code does is likewise a losing proposition.

    So you are blaming Stallman for your lack of programming and/or business savvy?

    Stallman didn't like it when the commercial software houses changed the way they did business. You know, in the old days, nearly everything was open source (not Free Software or even Open Source, but still something.) The programmers were paid by hardware companies, who wrote it off as a cost of selling the hardware. Then some real smart suits came up with a new business model. Enter the world of binary-only distributions and EULAs and NDAs that MicroSoft is so good at making money off of.

    Stallman set out to destroy that business model, not business in general. You seem quite convinced he'll succeed. I quite hope you are right on that at least.

    That business model is neither the first under which programmers have been paid, nor will it be the last. It's just the one most destructive to the user community. Good programmers are a scarce and necessary commodity, and they will continue to make money, one way or another. The ones that embrace the future and take advantage of changes as they occur will make more than the ones that whine and complain and hold onto the past kicking and screaming at first, of course. But that's life.

    Your lament is like that of the record companies suing napster. You want to punish someone for making your life uncomfortable, for destroying the business model that feeds you - rather than showing some entrepenurial spirit and figuring out a new business model, or even rediscovering an old one. Keep misplacing your energies so and it will be no ones fault but your own if your career does go downhill.

    "That old saw about the early bird just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."

  • Not true. The GPL makes code non-free, particularly to commercial developers (to whom it is, essentially, inaccessible).

    Bull. The GPL makes code free, not non-free. If commercial developers don't like freedom, I'm sure they can find another implementation somewhere that isn't free. They can even ask the authors of a free package if they're willing to license it again under non-free terms. If they really must use GNU code without negotiating another license, they're welcome to use it at the command-line level without being 'infected'.

    The GPL is designed to propagate itself and increase the FSF's hoard of GPLed code,

    No, it's designed to increase *my* hoard of GPLed code. And yours. And everyone else's. Everybody wins when code is released. I don't mind reciprocating.

    at the expense of users -- who are deprived of the choice to buy commercial software.

    Huh? Since when were they not permitted to buy commercial software? If commercial software wants to compete with free software, it's very welcome to. There are many areas of software that are done well by commericial software and done poorly by free software (games, for example). However, noone is likely to sell me a C compiler ever again.

    By the way, do you think ID software would have released their Quake engine under a BSDish license, where their competitors could take their entire engine for free without reciprocating any improvements?

    And at the expense of developers, whose markets are destroyed by the GPL's anticompetitive and predatory tactics.

    Well, according to you, there's a vast market of other developers out there who want non-GPLed code. Surely they could sell to them instead? (And that's exactly where the market for commericial development software *is* - although Cygnus^H^H^H^H^H^HRed Hat competes there too, for money, free compiler or not)

    I note you mention nothing of BSD predatory licensing of protocol implementations -- in order to entrench protocol X as an accepted standard, they offer commercially exploitable code for free (see IPv6, PNG, zlib, etc)
  • You choose to use Microsoft because you can link to the libraries for free, you don't have to release your source and you can make a decent profit.

    Good for you.

    I hope you continue to make a profit.

    I give away my source code to anyone who wants it. The only condition is they must give it away too. I get paid to modify it and to customize it. If you wish to use my code in your application you have two choices

    1: Abide by my restrictions, you must give your code away for free.
    2: Pay for a copy with a different license.

    If you don't want to pay me, you can use a different vendor.

  • OTOH, the abiding suspicion of business towards OSS would be aleviated if the right to proprietary forking were made an explicit part of the OSD.

    Quite the opposite. When companies like Apple, Netscape, Trolltech, Sun etc. consider making a project open source, being able to deny people the ability to make proprietary forks is high on their list of priorities. That's why they make licences that basically follow the GPL model (whilst being incompatible with the GPL itself of course; if the derivative of the GPLd code must be GPLd and the derivative of the APSLd code must be APSLd then you can't combine code from the two sources).

    I can see you might want to prevent this process continuing, but saying that businesses are generally opposed to these licences is obviously untrue.
  • by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Saturday March 10, 2001 @06:52PM (#371807) Homepage

    Pardon me, but this sounds an awful lot like: I want to benefit from somebody else's code without worrying about minor details like whether they've authorized my use of it or licensed me to use it. The technical term for this is 'theft'. Frankly if I release software under the GPL, I specifically want it to do exactly what it does to you: make it impossible for you to use my code under anything other than the GPL. The licenses of the code you produce for your employer do exactly the same thing.

  • The GPL is, by the way, a key element in the recent woes of Red Hat and other "Linux companies." It prevents them from adding unique value to their products while at the same time undercutting their sales and destroying their markets.

    They're hurting to the tune of $16 million in revenue a quarter.

    That doesn't sound like "prevents" to me. Perhaps "hinders" or "restrains", but not "prevents".

  • In no way does the GPL "play fair." As Stallman himself says, the GPL is "not Mr. Nice Guy." It's a Faustian bargain designed to destroy programmers' livelihoods.

    What is unfair about it? The reason it is not "Mr Nice Guy" is that it disallows freeloading. That is, it PROTECTS the original programmer or programming community from being exploited. It has some teeth in it, backed up by copyright law, to prevent this exploitation.

    Please explain why you think this is unfair. What's the Faustian bargin? If you don't like it, don't use it... no one puts a gun to a programmer's head, saying "We will make you use this GPLed code. And then all your code are belong to us, bwa ha ha ha!"

    It's not like there aren't other options... if you don't want to deal with the GPL, there are hundreds of companies willing to sell you programming tools, software toolkits, and anything else you want. Or you can write it yourself.

    But if you want to use the output of the free software community, you have to join the community. That sounds perfectly fair to me. I'm a software programmer, and the GPL isn't destroying my livelihood. In fact, I get paid very well to work on GPL'ed software, adapting it, fixing it, and configuring it to suit my company's needs. I love every minute of it. No more fighting with undocumented APIs, no more reverse-engineering buggy code to try to work around problems I can't fix...

    Let me tell you: Working on GPL'ed code is what every programmer should dream for. I'm never going back to a closed source platform, now that I've had a taste of freedom.

    Finally, just because I work on GPL'ed code and use a GPL'ed platform doesn't mean I, or anyone else, is forced to GPL all the code I write. I don't. My company has proprietary code where that makes sense. So... I really can't see why you think the GPL is so unethical. You still haven't explained why you think so.

    Torrey Hoffman (Azog)
  • You are out to destroy my livelihood.

    Suppose I release the code to my new still image format. This format is 1/10th the size of bitmaps, and you figure you can add it to your program to reduce the size of your video file format.

    My program is released under the GPL. I release my program under the GPL because I use a lot of Free software, and I want to contribute something back.

    Your program is *not* released under the GPL. You dont release your program because you want to make money off it and you dont feel you can do this by using the GPL.

    Both of our reasons are sound.

    You want to take my code. I want something in return. I want to use your program, for Free. But I want to guarantee Freedom to use your program.

    Why should I give you my code if you refuse to contribute back? Its not a trade, and its not fair. If everyone took this stance then I wouldnt have an operating system to run Freely. There would be no GNU, there would (probably) be no linux as we know it today.

    Dont expect to have programmers react kindly to your stand point. I can see how you would like to use code for free, and not have to open up dirivative works, but nothing is free. Only Free. And if you get soemthing for Free, then you have to make yours Free too. That's just the way it works. Freedom does negate some freedom (the ability to just use code and not open yours), but there's a price to pay for everything.

  • In a sentence, the goal of "OSI Certified" Open Source is to identify software that people can modify and/or redistribute. We intentionally say *nothing* about whether you can re-license a piece of Open Source code so that it is not Open Source.

    Given that goal and non-goal respectively, the GPL does not discriminate against people who want to deny OSD rights to recipients of their code. Such people are perfectly free to modify and/or redistribute GPL'ed code.
  • by ellingtp ( 198719 ) on Saturday March 10, 2001 @01:55PM (#371823)
    Does anyone recall any cases where a company or individual was violating the Open Source Software License, and was legally forced to correct the violation. I'm looking for legal precedent of the enforceablity of such a license.
  • No. What the GPL means is I'm going to give you something, but only if you give me back anything you might use with it.

    You completely missed my point. I'm saying that I cannot use GPL code because I cannot make the rest of the software I working on GPL. If this discussion were about religion and morals everyone would be screaming about the fact that people who are using the GPL are forcing their morality on me. I'm perfectly happy to honor the GPL with respect to anything I use or any modifications or additions to it. What I find intolerable is the fact that simply by linking that code to something else suddenly the whole program must be GPL'ed. That's ludicrous for anyone working in the commercial world. We can't all be idealist and practice the communal life-style of GPL while hoping somehow we can finagle a way to get paid enough to eat. I honestly don't see how anyone could could have a sucessful business because here comes the GPL saying "All your code are belong to us."

  • Your right. But there is no software license in existence in the commercial world that tries to dictate what you do with other code completely unrelated except for the fact that it's being linked together. The GPL may make sense for applications, but it's absolutely ludicrous for libraries. That's why the LGPL exists in the first place, but even the description of the LGPL on thumbs their nose by saying, what we really want is all your code, but if you're too much of a puss you can use the LGPL and force anyone who wants to use a piece of your code to spill their guts to the world for free. The GPL is a wonderful idea, but the more I consider it vis-a-vis the Real World (and not academia, where most of /. users are living in a happy little magical dream world, the more I see it as being quite untenable. I guess it all boils down to the fact that the Free Software movement in general considers me morally inferior because I use Microsoft. I don't have a problem with that, but I don't think they should pretend it's more profound than that.

  • Red Hat has had only one profitable quarter since it was founded, and that was quite long ago.

    I don't know where you get your information, but you need to find a new source.

    RedHat was profitable for the entire years of 1997 and 1998.

    As for 1999 and 2000, they fully expected to not be profitable for a while after their acquisitions. They are on track. This is not abnormal for corporations. Their cash reserves are more than sufficient for them to reach profitability again.

    Revenues are currently up to over $22 million. Their gross margin is rising. They're only losing $3 million a quarter, on cash reserves of over $152 million.

    They aren't hurting, they're just growing real fast.

  • And with such "argument" you have given up your case in my eyes. You didnt respond to one argument I gave you, you just repeat your own "dogmatic" propaganda. Free is not free. Free is free use. Free use with restrictions to make sure future works are for free use...

    Do me a favor. IF nothing else, tell me why you feel you should be able to use everyone else's code for free? You havent said so yet. You just say that we have "reduced the value" of our code to "nothing" since we gave it away for people to use for Free (nb: not your definition of free). Why do you think that because we let people use our code Freely that you should be able to use our code in closed source, non-Free programs? Just answer those. Because I cant see why you think you should be entitled to re-use Free code as free code... it just doesnt add up. period.

  • Wow, so many mistakes, so little time.

    BSDI has been around for 22 years, not a decade, and has only managed to grow to about 1/3 the revenues of RedHat during that time.

    And the majority of their revenue *IS* outside cash influx from investors, not product sales.

    It's not like with RedHat, where the outside investments help; BSDI wouldn't exist at all without them, they'd be long ago bankrupt.

    This is because there's little demand for their product, and that's because of the proprietary nature of it.

    FreeBSD does better, but it still takes a back seat to Linux, because of the GPL.

    At the same time, the Linux companies have to be wondering what theyll do when the VCs decide not to throw good money after bad.

    BSDI doesn't have to wonder, they know; they'll have to shut their doors.

  • please read the line above as:

    you can use the LGPL and not force anyone who wants to use a piece of your code.

    It's very late and I've been on the phone with the doctor about a sick daughter. I'm a little distracted. Good night.

  • > The GPL is, by the way, a key element in the
    > recent woes of Red Hat and other "Linux
    > companies." It prevents them from adding unique
    > value to their products while at the same time
    > undercutting their sales and destroying their
    > markets.

    As if we would be able to build our own OS from the ground up, all code by our selves. There's just no way we could do this. There's simply no time. The GPL allows us, for the small price of giving our code away too to everyone, put together, and sell, what others have created.

    This is not undercutting our sales and destroying our market - this is creating amarket and undercutting old-fashioned software companies' market....
  • Since when did "open" have anything to do with "open source"?
  • What you say is true, but totally meaningless. Yes, I can refuse to "share" my GPLd program unless people pony up to my outrageous fees. But so what? Once *one* person has a copy, no one ever has to pay me anything since I've just created my own competition for distribution. *I* might not be the one sharing the program with the rest of the world, but it will happen nonetheless.

    In essence, the GPL forbids private distributions. I'm not necessarily arguing that this is a bad thing, but it does mean that for all practical matters, once I share with one person I am sharing with everyone.
  • Which is why the term is "open source" as opposed to just "open". If only RMS had picked the term "free source" way back when, a whole bunch of confusion could have been avoided.

    Using the word "free" in reference to source code means the same thing as "open". Only human beings can be free in the sense of "free speech". What's the difference between "free speech" and "open speech" anyway? After all, it's not the software nor the speech that are free, but the coder and the speaker. "free speech" places the emphasis on the speaker and "open speech" places it on the speech itself, but it's still the same thing.
  • What are the frech words for "free memory block", "free electron", "free end of a rope" and "free verse"?

    There are seventeen definitions of "free" in my dictionary. Having only two words to express them is not much better than only having one.
  • The GPL also constitutes copyright abuse -- the misuse of copyright for an end not specifically contemplated by the Constitution.
    So, you're saying that having volumes and volumes of source code you can view, use, and modify just by paying the price the author requires for the re-use of the code (licensing your own code under the same licensing conditions, thereby contributing to the pool of publically-available source code), this does not at all promote the progress of science and the useful arts?


  • As for Stallman's talk of compatibility" -- it's primarily there because stallman hopes to co-opt other software, inasmuch as he can, into GPLed software so as to further his agenda. When RMS says a license is "GPL-compatible," it means that he thinks he can get away with incorporating the code into GPLed software, thus increasing the size of his arsenal of GPLed code. Which he'll then use to attack programmers' livelihoods.
    I'm astonished by this line of argument. No one -- not rms, Linus, esr, et all -- demand that you to release your software under any license at all. If you create program, wholly on your own, you may license the work however you wish. You may even use all of the free tools created by various Free Software and Open Source projects toward your own end, without legal constraint. rms would certainly prefer that you license your work under the GPL, but he'll have nothing to say on the issue should you choose a proprietary commercial license.

    When I use a commercial product such as Oracle, I'm restricted in what I may say about the product, how I might duplicate a copy of the product, under what conditions I may run the product, and there's even software created to force compliance to some of these terms. One deals with none of this while using Free Software. You may USE Free Software any way you wish.

    You may NOT modify a GPL'd program and then redistribute your results without making your modifications available under the same license. Period. How the hell does this threaten your right to distribute and/or sell software you create wholly on your own? Would you argue that Microsoft should give you IE source so you can redistribute and sell a proprietary fork? No? Then why the hell should rms give you source to readline for your proprietary product? And there's nothing stopping you from offering the FSF MONEY for a special license to the source... that you have as much chance at convincing the FSF to sell you a proprietary license to readline as you might have at buying a license to the source of Microsoft's IE is irrelevant -- nothing stops a developer from releasing his/her source tree under multiple licenses.

    The point is: you're expecting something for nothing from the FSF so that you can take the work for personal gain. This doesn't happen in the business world, why the hell do you think it's appropriate among cooperative communities?


  • I can turn your argument on it's head by applying it directly to commercial software licenses, you know. Those license terms confiscate my rights to my code based on the commercial code by preventing me from distributing my work based on it. By your logic, then, the licenses for commercial software contain unconscionable terms.

    I think the problem is that you're assuming that your rights to use my code supersede my rights to control the use of my code, while trying at the same time to hold that my rights don't supersede yours. That doesn't work. The poison pill in the GPL is designed, deliberately, to insure that you can never ever release anything based on GPL code under any other terms. This ensures that, if I use the GPL, you can never ever release my code ( anything you write that would cause the GPL to apply to your code neccesarily has to contain some of my code ) under any terms other than the ones I applied to it. This is precisely and exactly what the licenses on the software you write are intended to do, isn't it? The GPL is probably the purest form of open-source license, guaranteeing that the code and any code derived from it will always remain open and accessible by everyone regardless of what anyone else wants. That's not compatible with most commercial uses, which require that the code not be accessible by anyone, but that simply means that the commercial uses require non-open source, not that the GPL isn't open source.

    Of course, you do have one option. You can always go to the creator(s) of the code you need to use and license it under terms that are compatible with the licenses you need to apply to it. You might have a hard time convincing them unless you're willing to pony up some dollars to compensate them, though.

  • I believe the prohibition on obfuscated sources is not intended to prohibit the IOCCC code from being OSI.
    Yup... that's what I think they mean as well, but it isn't exactly what they say. I just think it needs some clarification, is all.

    Ryan T. Sammartino

  • You can modify it all you want, and you can charge anything you want for it and if people don't want to pay it, you don't have to give it to them. But if one person decides to pay for it, they can distribute it all they want, at any price they want; or they can keep it for themselves.

    The GPL says that the source travels freely with the binaries.

  • The explanation that you seek can be found here [], complete with a link to the shockwave movie in question.

    Remember, for great justice, take out every zig.

  • Exactly how does one judge what has been deliberatly obfuscated

    Exactly the same way you tell the difference between 1st degree murder, 2nd degree murder, and manslaughter in a trial. If it ever ends up in court, both sides will offer evidence to support the argument that the accused either did or didn't deliberately obfuscate the code. IANAL.

  • ...the company will now share 95 percent of its code with any developer that has 1500 Windows licenses and has also signed a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement. According to the company, that's about 1000 customers.

    The other 5 percent is stolen code?

    "What we hope to do is allow customers developing custom apps to optimize the application by stepping through the APIs (application programming interfaces) they are having trouble with," said Jason Matusow, product manager for source licensing at Microsoft.

    If they did better API documentation they won't had to "open" the code.

  • Hi, Bob.
    Hi, Lenny. Say, did you get the new gcc?
    Yeah, it's cost me $500. Can you believe that?
    Hey! I paid $500 also. What a ripoff!
    Tell you what, next version I'll buy it then sell you a copy of $250...
  • by ryants ( 310088 ) on Saturday March 10, 2001 @02:28PM (#371866)
    Deliberately obfuscated source code is not allowed.
    While I understand the intention and rational of this requirement, it does have some issues:
    • Deliberately obfuscated code (like we see here at the IOCCC []) should be able to qualify as Open Source somehow. You can learn a lot from those goofy programs. :)
    • Exactly how does one judge what has been deliberatly obfuscated, and what is just really shitty code? Frankly, I think the clause should say "no shitty code allowed", but hey... that's just me :)

    Ryan T. Sammartino

Forty two.