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GNU is Not Unix

Global File System (GFS) Relicensed under SPL 261

thk writes "Sistina, the main developer of the Global File System, has changed its license from GPL to SPL (Sistina Public License). SPL is basically a free-for-non-profit-use license. Interestingly, the change came just after beta testing, leaving some users a bit miffed. The GFS is an important component of some GPL clustering projects, such as Compaq's SSIC project. The Sistina press release is here."
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Global File System (GFS) Relicensed under SPL

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  • by foo ( 143650 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @06:06PM (#2241205)
    • Re:so it was forked (Score:5, Informative)

      by einhverfr ( 238914 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {srevart.sirhc}> on Friday August 31, 2001 @06:22PM (#2241280) Homepage Journal
      You beat me too it. But this deserves some commentary anyway.

      Manufacturers who think that they can pull this sort of trick and get away with it even if they are not challenged in court have the wool pulled over their eyes. All the OSS community has to do is go back to the last OSS release and work from there. Don't license your stuff under OSS licenses if you want to sell it because you will be undersold. Instead use proprietary licenses from the beginning.

      If you want to be an OSS company, stick to those guns too. Focus on services, not products, and make your operation work! Why is this so hard to understand?
      • yes you can fork it

        how much work will get done it and which version will people ship their products with ?

        my guess is someone will tinker with it (the GPL version)

        then the sinistra version will gain features that people want so they will use that one and wont care about the licence

        its funny you all thought that you could make money from IPO or something like that
        sinistra thinks that its products will be used in some grand scheme and they wont get a cent because they published under GPL

        come on what matters is customers !!!

        the customer is .......... right

        most software is written at the behest of a customer, has sinistra got ANY ?

        yes belive it or not they would get funded I am sure from IBM/Compaq SUN any large hardware seller beacuse software is complementry to hardware

        the problem is that these people thought that they would get rich like the VA linux, the Redhat and the Caldera

        that time is over and now they learn that they are giveing away stuff and have no customers no sponsors and well they had nice jobs at the uni and now they ask themselves "why did we do this wheres all my work going ?"

        and they see the GPL as preventing people from paying them


        go out and find money research grants sponsors and guvemenst are tripping over themselevs trying to give away money for good causes why dont you try for these ?


        john jones
      • Who said they were trying to 'pull' anything?

        They just changed their license on THEIR OWN code. They are free to do so, as long as they hold the copyright.
        Just becuase it's GPL doesn't mean it's had hundreds of public contributors.. it just means people are free to use it however they wish, as long as they stick to the terms of the gpl.

        I agree, though... 'free for non-profit use' is horrible, and not what it's all about.

        • They just changed their license on THEIR OWN code.

          The patches from the contributors are not their code.

          If PacMan had affected us as kids we'd be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to electronic music.
      • So the lesson is... Don't try to work with the OSS community, becuase they will screw you over?

        • No, the lesson is "Don't try to screw over the OSS community, because they're better at it than you."

          People beta-tested this code and may have contributed patches, under the belief that the final product would be gpled. Now, they may be within their rights to change the license. But others are within their rights to fork.
      • Manufacturers who think that they can pull this sort of trick and get away with it even if they are not challenged in court have the wool pulled over their eyes. All the OSS community has to do is go back to the last OSS release and work from there. Don't license your stuff under OSS licenses if you want to sell it because you will be undersold. Instead use proprietary licenses from the beginning.

        Yup. Couldn't agree more. These greedy business people seem to think they can let other people create their project for them (Anyone notice the Tux Racer game?) [] and then when it's "done enough" they take it over by changing the license and try to make money the old fashioned way. I can understand the reasoning, but I cannot understand how they can try it with a straight face! I mean basically, it's taking from the community and then later selling it back to them. How wrong is that??

        I don't know what the current status of the Tux Racer project is although the source code still seems to be available... okay I just checked it and it still appears under the GPL... maybe they back-tracked on that idea then... I dunno. Anyway.. :) I think it's wrong! :)
    • Re:so it was forked (Score:4, Informative)

      by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday August 31, 2001 @09:36PM (#2241868) Homepage Journal
      Just for the trivia of it:

      I'm working on merging the last GPL version of GFS into the FOLK [] patch series. I've already merged the Gwsecurity kernel stuff (which raised ALL Hell and more besides), and I've asked RMS to rule whether re-use of GPL components in other GPL projects is within the rules of the licence.

      Assuming Richard Stallman verifies that re-use of GPL code =is= perfectly legitamate, then GFS will be in the next version. (Grsecurity isn't moving ANYWHERE, unless the decision goes the other way.)

      The problem, I believe, is that people believe they "own" the code they developed. If you opt for an Open Source or Free Software philosophy, then ownership (which is just Intellectual Property in disguise) ceases to exist.

      GFS, kernel security, etc, =WILL= survive, no matter WHAT attitudes these idiots develop.

    • Re:so it was forked (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Alan Cox ( 27532 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @09:46PM (#2241892) Homepage
      I've also explained to the Sistina people that even if they own all the code and can happily relicense it (which may be the case) it requires a huge patch to the kernel so cannot be conceivably consider entirely a "seperate work" nor part of Linus binary modules using existing exported symbols exception.

      We will see what happens in our discussion, and if need be I will be sending them notice recorded delivery that I believe they are violating my copyrights.

      In the mean time I hope IBM who provided the GPL DLM used for some GFS setups and Compaq who are doing all the great cluster work will adopt and support OpenGFS instead.

      The OpenGFS folks would also like to hear from anyone who contributed patches to GFS while it was GPL licensed that are still in the non-free one without their permission.

      • If someone forked off the beta into opengfs, that's fine, but consider that you can fork off whatever you want, you'll never get the (c) of the forked off code. This seems legal due to the GPL, but is it? Sistina still owns the (c) of the code in OpenGFS. And because they own it, what will stop them to go to court and ask the judge to stop the opengfs project, since Sistina is the owner of the code in that project and can do whatever they want with it, GPL or not.

        I'm saying this because in the Netherlands there are cases where a programmer worked on project A, left the company, company sold project A to another company which made a huge profit. Because the programmer didn't sign a copyright traversal agreement with his original company, he still was the owner. He went to court and asked for a lot of money or the termination of the project A. The judge agreed that he still was the owner and had every right on the money earned by the second company.
  • So, get the latest GPL'd version and let's branch off and finish it ourselves. They can't legally take an existing codebase and un-GPL it. If so, then the GPL is worthless, because a company can just release a free codebase, wait until everyone uses it, and then commercialize it. Hogwash!
  • by Nos. ( 179609 ) <andrew.thekerrs@ca> on Friday August 31, 2001 @06:07PM (#2241214) Homepage
    From their Q&A on SPL:

    Q: Exactly how is the new SPL structured? Who has to pay under the SPL? A: You are free to download and use the software for free under the SPL, and like the GPL you have access to source code. We encourage input and modification to the source code. Under the SPL we do expect to get back any changes that are made to the code. If you intend on building a product offering and reselling it for revenues in the market, you then owe Sistina a license fee for the use of GFS. Also if you build infrastructure that supports an outsourcing service - you also owe us a license fee on that infrastructure. We think the Sistina Public License strikes a happy medium. Our users are free to download, use our technology, and alter the source code as before with the GPL. or service offerings with our technology will owe us a license fee.

    So in other words, if your're going to use our hard work to make a buck, we want some of that money. Doesn't sound like a bad licensing scheme to me at all. If your going to use it and put it in freely available software, then go ahead.
    • I'm predicting about 15k "BUT THAT MEANS IT'S NOT FREE!" replies to that comment!
    • not so fast... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mikey504 ( 464225 )
      It doesn't sound too good to me. If you try to see it from the point of view of third-parties who contributed code to this project in anticipation of being able to use the finished product, then it starts to look like Sistina is telling these people that they have acquired precisely nothing for their contribution.

      In other words, Sistina has (actually, I should say may have, because I have no idea how much of the code base was developed by the community) leveraged the benefit of the community's contribution fully, then reneged on the long-term benefit to the community side of the equation.

      Heck, even quality testing and bug reporting has great value, and many of these users were probably working under the impression that they would be entitled to make use of the end result as they see fit.

      If companies keep doing this kind of end-run around the GPL, extracting maximum value for themselves and then refusing to let the community extract all the benefit it can derive, this may lead to restrictions against these practices being written into the GPL. It's already a tough sell as it is!

      I hope companies will exercise great care with how they use the community resources. I know open source software has made a big difference in my life, and I don't want the well to run dry.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The license seems like a fairly square deal(after a surface skim anyway). In fact, as far as "commerical" licenses go, it's a damned good one. The thing that irritates me is that they should have made their intentions clear from the begining.

      If this type of crap becomes common, you can kiss this free testers time good bye, as I simply will not give it anymore(I didn't test GFS, but I do actively test for 3 other projects). I see no profit in me doing free work for commerical ventures, no matter how nice the license is.

    • Are you sure? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by j7953 ( 457666 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @06:44PM (#2241364)
      Under the SPL we do expect to get back any changes that are made to the code.
      If you intend on building a product offering and reselling it for revenues in the market, you then owe Sistina a license fee for the use of GFS.

      To me this reads, if you're going to use your work (that you had to give to us) to make a buck, we want some of that money.

      If your going to use it and put it in freely available software, then go ahead.

      Not if that free software is also commercial software. Linux distributions are definitely a "product offered and resold for revenues", so they'd have to pay a license fee, too.

      • To me this reads, if you're going to use your work (that you had to give to us) to make a buck, we want some of that


        If I understand open-source development properly, you would be using some of your work, some work by a whole lot of other people, and a huge amount of work by Sistina, to make a buck. Damn right they want some of that, and they deserve it. If you want to cut them out of the loop, remove their contributions to the code (i.e. most of it).
      • To me this reads, if you're going to use your work (that you had to give to us) to make a buck, we want some of that money.

        No, it reads "We're glad you put our work to use for you. Please make your check payable to..."

        Not if that free software is also commercial software. Linux distributions are definitely a "product offered and resold for revenues", so they'd have to pay a license fee, too.

        No, Most linux distributions are downloadable. SuSE is the major exception that I know of. You pay for the convenience of the media, and the support. RedHat makes a grand total of $0.00 on every ISO download (and probably technically loses money, because i take their bandwidth to get it).

        • Most linux distributions are downloadable. SuSE is the major exception that I know of

          Correction, SuSE is also downloadable. Just not in convenient ISO form. The packages SuSE puts on its CDs/DVDs are all downloadable (except for any commercial stuff SuSE pays a royalty or license fee on).

          (And actually, SuSE 7.1 for SPARC is freely downloadable as ISO images, they no longer ship that as a boxed set.)
    • The problem is that the SPL is a discriminatory license. Even though this license is pointed directly at those who try to take GFS work and make a product for profit around it, it is no better than saying "Those who are left handed must pay the licensing fee". If it is silly to require "left handed license fees", then why should people pay for "nearly free softare" because they aren't using it in a "free" manner?

      What do they mean by "building a product from GFS"? If you looked at the code, gain some insight into networking from GFS, and use this knowledge to make a telnet client do you owe Sistina money? What happens if you are a contractor making a software solution internal to a private company that uses parts or all of GFS to do some of the work? Did the contractor just make a product they sold to the hiring company? Who is responsible for paying the license fee?

      I really have a distaste for software that is "nearly free". The spirit of giving away software freely is that you give it to everyone not just a certain segement of the population.
    • by HiThere ( 15173 ) <charleshixsn@ea r t h l i n> on Friday August 31, 2001 @06:59PM (#2241409)
      Doesn't sound bad, but it's the wrong way to do it. Two reasons:
      1) They should have been upfront with their user community. If they changed their mind, they should have said so before the last beta. Something like: This is the last beta that we'll be releasing under the GPL ... etc.

      2) They shouldn't do it this way anyway. What they should do is release under two licenses. One for GPL use (non-profit oriented), and one for commercial use.

      It sounds like what they are trying to do is blend the two licenses of step 2 into one license, and that's the wrong choice. It causes extra problems all around. (For them, too, I'm pretty sure.)
    • You are correct that this is a good lissencing scheme for many products, but there are dangers associated to this kind of scheme. Suppose you had to pay web developers to hunt through Apache modules to figure out who you needed to pay. It would make IIS look a lot more tempting.

      The Free Software community should embrace this sort of lissence they are confident that the software (and it's derivatives) will not be used by many people (say 1%; ala ERP softare) and the software is inherently large (say CAD/CAE pacages). We should replace crytical or modular things which are lissenced this way (ala Gtk vs. Qt).

      Conversly, if only a few people want your produce enough to pay you for it then you are at no risk from competition with a free software replacment (ala ERP software).
    • Doesn't sound like a bad licensing scheme to me at all.

      It wouldn't have been a bad licensing scheme if they had used it from the beginning. But changing terms after benefitting from bug reports and suggestions for enhancements from end users who thought they were contributing to a GPL'ed project is wrong.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    if you use their product in a product that makes money, you have to pay them a tax.
    this discriminates against business.

    but that's okay. I have a similar clause in my software that says
    all brown-skinned people, and all jews, must pay a license fee.

    I think that "levels the playing field."

    Seriously, people will just take the GPL version and build off that, and leave the other version to rot.
    • Um, no its not. If you want to take their hard work and make money off of it, then their going to make some money off it as well. If you don't charge for it (product or service) then use as you'd like!
    • if you use their product in a product that makes money, you have to pay them a tax. this discriminates against business.

      No more than having to pay a songwriter royalties if you play a song on the radio, or in a nightclub, but not in your house.

      I have my doubts about the specifics, and about its use for software, but for other sorts of digital "content" this is generally the right direction.

  • OpenGFS (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Anonymous Coward
    No, it is the commercial version that Sistina supports that is the "fork". The true, GFS, the free one, is the one that lives on in OpenGFS. I wholeheartedly endourse OpenGFS and will purge my systems of the Sistina infection.
  • With many.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Adambomb ( 118938 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @06:09PM (#2241226) Journal
    With many companies unable to come up with a decent business model that allows them to be profitable while licensing their software under gpl, its not surprising that Sistina is taking an 'easier way out'. This allows us to still play with clustering projects if we feel like it, but if we ever want to sell out services based upon they get a cut of the action.

    If we're profiting from their work I see this as only fair.

    Of course I'd prefer if they'd just develop a better business model rather than a different license, but I still understand their position
    • Of course I'd prefer if they'd just develop a better business model...

      That's probably what they think they've done. And along with that better business model came a new licensing model. I'd have a hard time seeing any reason for 99.99% of the readers here to complain about this. How many of us are using GFS for commercial products? Very few I bet. Meaning our end of the stick is pretty much untouched.

      The gripe seems to be that if you make money while employing GFS, why the hell should I give them any? Well what do you think they deserve. A firm handshake and some flowers? I say pay your respects.

  • Interesting.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @06:17PM (#2241256) Homepage Journal
    From the article:
    In addition, like Ghostscript, GFS is a technology that has a clear OEM market. GFS has attracted OEM vendors who are embedding the technology into their storage appliances and their commercial software offerings. Under the GPL, these commercial vendors are less likely to provide funding for GFS development and maintenance because of the free-rider problem; competitors who don't pay will directly benefit from those who do. The Sistina Public License solves the free-rider problem by creating a level playing field for all OEMs.

    OK, the above partially makes sense if the OEMs have given them this feedback and have shown that this is a way for the company to generate revenue. I'd much rather that Sistina stayed alive and was Open Source instead of Free Software instead of them sticking to their ideological guns and ending up teetering on the brink of death like Caldera, Loki and VA Linux.

    On the other hand some of the conditions of the Sistina Public License strike me as excessive. Specifically I point to the section below:

    3.2. Additional Sistina Rights.
    You agree to provide Sistina with a complete copy of the Covered Code and related documentation for Modifications created or contributed by You (according to the procedure set forth at even if such Modifications are not distributed in Source Code or Executable form.

    (a) To the extent you do not distribute the Modifications in Source Code form, You hereby grant Sistina an unrestricted, nonexclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free right, to use, reproduce, modify, display, perform, sublicense and distribute and otherwise exploit such Modifications, and to grant third parties the right to do so, including without limitation as a part of or with the Covered Code under all intellectual property rights (including any patent rights); and Sistina has the right to license or to otherwise transfer to third parties its rights to such Modifications without notice or any obligation (including without limitation the obligation to account for any profits obtained by Sistina) to You.

    (b) To the extent you distribute such Modifications in Source Code form, you hereby assign to Sistina all right, title and interest in and to such Modifications (including the right to sue for past, present and future infringement) under all intellectual property rights (including any copyrights and patent rights).

  • The GFS is a great idea, much like having DirectX support switched on automatically in Outlook Express is a good idea, but it is too open to abuse. As the internet stands, we have many little islands connected together, but each island is seperated by water. If GFS is used, the islands will connect and become continents, and it will be hard to know where one computer ends and another begins. Some optomists might think this is a wonderful idea, the sort of people who support Napster and Gnutella, however for the business minded it is but a step to disaster, for it opens corporate networks to disaster should any slip in security become evident.

    Code Red III on GFS doesn't bear thinking about.

    GFS is like Free Love, a good idea in principle, but leading to all sorts of nasty infections and jealousies. Do you want your computer to be the neighbourhood slut?

    This may seem controversial [], but people said the same of Gate's 640kb prediction, and look at where he is now.

    • God damn moderation system....

      This is an obvious troll people.

      GFS has NOTHING to do with internet wide filesystem ala distributed sharing clients..

      And EVERYTHING to do with a shared file system between servers ala AFS/CODA.

      Example (a).

      I just setup 3 node GFS setup ( fibre array storage, and three servers connected via fibre ) to have three database servers share the same file system ( one read write server, two read only servers ).

      So please, when you get some moderation points,
      and have NO IDEA of what's being posted, keep the point to yourself...


      ( yes on rare ocasions, even this hardcore FreeBSD user has been know to use linux... but the keyword is rare ;) )
    • "...much like having DirectX support switched on automatically in Outlook Express is a good idea, ..."

      I think you tried to say ActiveX

    • Do you have any idea what GFS is? Or are you just basing your comment on its name. It is most certainly not intended to be an internet file system. It is intended to be a very high performance filesystem for clusters and linux supercomputers. It doesn't even work with IDE harddisk drives. If your are dumb enough to not firewall or completely isolate a super computer or cluster then you get what you deserve. Much like NFS, SMB/CIFS, NWFS, and Appletalk filesharing, it is not designed to be used across the internet. It is much better suited for gigabit ethernet, fibrechannel, or Miranet LANs. Runing it across even a T3 would mostly be a waste of the GFS (and your expensive Fibrechanel and SCSCI RAID systems).

      I used to work for Dr. O'Keefe (the CTO and founder of Sistina) when I was a student at the University of MN. I did not work on the GFS project, and had little contact with it, as it had mostly become Sistina at that point and had it's own offices outside of the Univesity.
      I worked on the Secure Filesystem Project which was financed soley by StorageTek.
      My opinions do not reflect those of Sistina, the UofMN, or StorageTek.

    • Okay, that comment must be rated up as `funny', as it's nothing like what GFS is meant to be.

      GFS is designed for clustering applications, not for sharing over the Internet. It might work over the Internet, but performance would be terrible.
  • I'm sorry, but this action by Sistina is both unethical, and, in fact, illegal (as far as I know--IANAL).

    How many of you have read the GPL? If you have read it, I think you'll see that Sistina have clearly violated it; I think we should be quick to report this violation to the FSF enforcement team [mailto]. Sistina has truly betrayed the trust of the community. Now that they've strayed from the GNU path, they must be dealt with in a swift and severe manner.

    We're at a precarious stage in the Free-Software revolution. Stallman, the Lenin to our revolution, is slowly fading into the background as senility and decripitude encroach on his ruling abilities. A Stalin, so to speak, must rise up to fill the power vacuum. There are simply too many enemies-of-GNU about these days, most of them within our own midst (e.g. Sinista; or, for that matter, ESR, the Trotsky of our scenario). There is no place in the Free Software movement for backstabbers and counter-revolutionaries.

    • >>Stallman, the Lenin to our revolution, is slowly fading into the background as senility and decripitude encroach on his ruling abilities. A Stalin, so to speak, must rise up to fill the power vacuum.

      What a stupid analogy, using Lenin and Stalin! That system (the Soviet Communist one) was anything BUT free and open, which are the Hallmarks of GNU and Open Source.

      Perhaps Stallman is the Yeltsin of this movement, but not the Lenin. ;-)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      and, in fact, illegal (as far as I know--IANAL).

      This is an abuse of the term "in fact" then, isn't it?

    • You've managed to be a Karma Whore and a troll all in one post! I am simply amazed, and in awe, at your accomplishment.

      I mean, I've seen good trolls before, but your alluding to the Communists is superb. A lesser troll would have blown his wad and turned the post into a anti-RMS rant that would have been modded through the floor, but you walk the knife edge just so as to leave the moderators reeling.

      I really thought slashdot trolling had decended to the level of twelve year olds posting penis birds and links, but you've proved me wrong.

      So you're still a troll, and a karma whore, but you deserve all the karma you're going to get from this just because of your outstanding style.

      I salute you sir.

  • Unlike previous releases of GFS that were available under the GNU General Public License, GFS 4.2 will be available only under the terms of the newly created Sistina Public License. This license is similar to the Aladdin Public License used for Ghostscript, a program developed by L. Peter Deutsch to interpret PostScript documents. Like Ghostscript, GFS was developed by a single entity (originally a research group at the University of Minnesota and later by Sistina Software), rather than a disparate community of free developers.

    In addition, like Ghostscript, GFS is a technology that has a clear OEM market. GFS has attracted OEM vendors who are embedding the technology into their storage appliances and their commercial software offerings. Under the GPL, these commercial vendors are less likely to provide funding for GFS development and maintenance because of the free-rider problem; competitors who don't pay will directly benefit from those who do. The Sistina Public License solves the free-rider problem by creating a level playing field for all OEMs. The SPL provides Sistina with a means to attain a sustainable revenue stream to continue to develop and support GFS and other software.

    Sistina is also currently certifying hardware to be supplied by a network of qualified re-sellers. For this reason, it is important that Sistina's licensing policies enforce standards for hardware certification, user support, and important customer service issues.

    This is sort of like those stem cells which are free to researchers but have a fee tacked on to any profitability. Unlike the beer-free and speech-free GPL, the nonprofit only, and hence only speech-free, SPL will remove profitability incentives for developers.

    Both of these aspects of freedom, in capitalism, are twined together; the right to utter information is negligible, in the mainstream world of research and development, if there is no profit incentive. Neither the programmers who develop for political reasons nor they who develop for profit reasons will touch this one.

    If a company has a 10 percent chance of duplicating the success of a GPL tool with a closed source and licensed replacement product, it will try. Instead of using the free knowledge base and extending for-profit development from there, a company will pour development dollars into re-inventing the wheel.

    Sistina's new GFS release is the worst of both worlds. It's open source to university geeks, but anyone who wants to spend the money and time making a product good enough for commercial release will be scared off.

  • Question... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by supabeast! ( 84658 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @06:26PM (#2241299)
    Bankruptcy or GPL'ed code? If it were my company, I would be choosing the former.

    I mean, really, given how many other companies releasing software under the GPL have croaked, can you blame them?

    It is one thing to fund the development of something that is already or making you money, or has a plainly obvious market (ie IPTables, PERL 6.), but to try and build a company on GPL'ed software is pretty much idiotic. I could never put the jobs of all my coworkers at risk by making the assumption that businesses would pay for free software enough to keep me in business, and I can't honestly oppose this decision.
    • Bankruptcy or GPL'ed code? If it were my company, I would be choosing the former.

      That sure sounds like a great business model you've got there.

    • ... given how many other companies releasing software under the GPL have croaked, can you blame them?

      GPLing code allows the code to survive the death of the corporation, rather than go down with it. This keeps the customers from being totally unsupported. So a company may chose to GPL the code when it encounters financial difficulty (or to escrow it to be released GPL in the event of cessation of operation), to give potential customers less reason to resist purchase.

      Provided the investors are OK with it, it also allows the former employees to do spinoff works later without legal hangups from the IP being tied up as an asset of a bankrupt company.
  • So... Is it OK for me to use the software if my company is losing gobs of money?
  • by Caballero ( 11938 ) <.ten.llyrad. .ta. .llyrad.> on Friday August 31, 2001 @06:38PM (#2241346) Homepage

    Once again, people are confusing the concept of ownership versus licensening.

    Any code Sistina wrote is owned by Sistina.They can license it any way they want. The license indicates how you're allowed to use the code that they own.

    IF Sistina wrote all the code, (I don't know if they did or didn't) then they can choose to relicense future versions any way they choose.

    Users have to submit "substantial" patches for Sistina to lose their ownership. Substantial is defined by the courts. Sistina could choose to rewtite those parts and regain complete ownership.

    Because their previous code was licensed with the GPL, it remains free. People are free to work on that code in a separate repository, as they have done with OpenGFS.

    It sounds like no one broke any rules. You may not like that outcome, but it is legal. I do understand it from a business perspective. It is really tough to keep a business running if you don't find some way to protect your IP. I've spent the last year and half trying with XFree86/3D and we weren't particularly successful.
    • Can I second that? To trumpet my old example of id software.

      They released QuakeI under the GPL but since they own it they can resell it to anyone they want for as much as they want, period.

      When you author something in a transmittable medium it becomes copyrighted etc.

      Just like VA taking source forge and selling it to other sources. They are legally allowed to do this because they own the product. People are friggin spazzing out that it is illegal because they contributed to the source forge code base. Well guess what, if I contributed too any open source project I can't instantly expect the ownership of it to no longer be the original authors because I gave him a piece of code. As with sourceforge VA owns the copyright on the work, when you contribute it becomes copyright VA, you don't own any of the contributions, VA does. PERIOD. If this ever went to court the results would be very predictable.

      Anyways, enough of that soapbox.

      • Hmm... depends on how much you write I suppose.

        IANAL, but I'm sure that if I write a c/c++ source file and put "Copyrighted by me" (obviously where me happens to be my name) at the top of it, then if it get's submitted, I still "own" that piece of code, and it could not be un-GPL'd without my express permission, even if it later got split up and placed into several c/c++ files written by someone else. Obviously, they could remove my code, rewrite it themselves and I wouldn't have any say over it then.

        Hmmm... IANAL, whenever I see that, I always want to add comma-space in the relevant place...
        • Developers who accept patches could just consider the patches as public domain contributions in order to avoid this problem.

          For instance, if I ever got a patch from someone for one of my programs, I would only accept it under the condition that I gain ownership of the submitted code. No way am I losing my ownership over a 3 line patch. Only if the changes are huge would consider joint ownership of the program.

          • You can't just consider patches to be public domain. The author has to explicitly put them in the public domain, or otherwise give you free license or whatever. They don't strictly need to give you the copyright -- a BSD license is fine. Then you both have the right to do whatever you want with it.

            But you really have to be explicit about that situation. You can't just go putting a line at the bottom of some web page saying "hey, and by submitting a patch to me you give me exclusive rights to that code." You need to *ask* the contributor. Personally, I might or might not let you do that. Only if it was really important to me would I assign you ownership. I'd put it under BSD if the entire project was BSD, and it wasn't a seperate component that I wrote.

            Three lines doesn't mean anything, though. I don't believe there's been any precedence as to what the limit is -- like there is with sampling a song -- but 3 lines definitely falls below the limit. I believe some of the GNU/FSF position papers reference this.

      • Actually.. I'll contest that.

        If I contribute code to a GPL project, I don't expect ownership of the project, but I am only permitting them to use it under the terms of the GPL; that's why they can continue to use it. The derivateive work *I* have created (their code plus my additions, patches, etc) is then licensed back to them, via GPL, and things continue.

        I fail to see how they can then say 'we own all you work'.

        Witness linus; can he now turn around and say 'all future versions of the linux kernel are closed-source and licensed by me? NO, because he doesn't hold the copyright on all the code anymore.

  • It seems that a checklist of warning signs is in order to help guard againt commercial entities acting in bad faith:
    • Does the company insist on copyright assignment of all contributed code?
    • Is the current codebase not available via anonymous CVS?
    • Are all of the key developers employees of a single company?
    • Does the company not state up front whether the code is available for commercial re-licensing?
    • Does the company not have a clear service-based business model?
    • Is the codebase in question the company's only form of intellectual property?
    • Are the company's developers participating in the public mailing lists and newsgroups, or is it just a 'community liason'?
    • Is this the first open source project this company has done?
    • Is this the first open source project the company's developers have done?
    • Does the project share its name with the company?
    • Is the company self hosting the project, or are they using Sourceforge?
    I can't think of any more just now, feel free to add to the list.

    I should also point out that I don't think that this company in particular exhibited all of these warning signs, nor are all of these signs necessarily bad (failure to request copyright assignment for contributed code could be considered a warning sign of inexperience, for example).
  • I was wondering why Sistina haven't raised they voice when all those articles compared "The four (ext3, reiserfs, xfs, jfs) journalized file systems for Linux" to say "There is another one"... Now I understand.

    And I still wonder if Jes Sorensen, Andreas Dilger et al. whould not have started this thread April/006686.html if lvm would not be under SPL as well now.

    I don't know what to say. A lot of people contributed feedback and patches to those projects. They have developed inside the community, under the assumption that they will be GPL.

    Oh well, I guess the community will stick with the four jurnalized filesystems and leave Sistina carry it's cross...

  • by eam ( 192101 )
    So is GFS 4.1 available anywhere?

  • Just because you license something under the GPL, does not mean you loose rights to it.

    Sistina is Free to do whatever they please with their code, even relicensing it.

    Now what they cannot do is retroactively license any previous works, but going forward they can do as they please.

    AFAIK, GFS, and even LVM ( although am not so sure about LVM ), was solely developed by Sistina. Most of the patches submitted where bugfixes... and there were not many of those. So whats the queryl?

    That a company/individual decides to relicense THEIR code, that THEY developed under THEIR license? maybe am missing something here? or do these screaming gpl violation gpl violation don't have a clue?

    YOU might not like it, and some would say it's unfair,s ince they did benefit from the community's bug testing.. but it's NOT for YOU to decide.

    It's a company tryign to do what companies should do, make money... maybe you people forgot that point.

    Kinda reminds you of the whole ipf fiasco.... where he develops all the code, never gets any substabtial help from anyoen in 10 years, then when he relicenses to cover hsi ass, people scream and whine, about something they had not right to.

    Some of the opinions expressed in this article are jus plain obvious and even from time to time, right.

    • That's the point I think.. many people are under the impression (right or wrong, I don't know) that the community contributed work to this project, therefore their work has been 'stolen'.

      Even if they are 'bugfixes', and not technically copyrightable.. one could claim fraud. They would not have worked on it had they not thought it would be GPL.

      I can see how sistina can get away with this.. it makes sense, and is perhaps a pitfall of the GPL to watch for.
  • The tough economic times have created a curious tension in the Open Source world... on the one hand Open Source is becoming more interesting to everyone because enterprises are trying to keep their costs down, on the other hand companies trying to make money off Open Source feel greater pressure to find ways to ensure revenues, thus being pushed away from Open Source!

    My feeling is that the public would be more tolerant of "free for non-commercial use" licenses if those had a built in time-horizon after which they reverted to pure Open Source (like ghostscript). It seems to me that this gives us the best of both worlds... the company has a greater assurance that they'll be able to make money, and the community would be more willing to contribute because they'd know that eventually it would be "public" property.

    I'm kind of puzzled why more people don't see this. Any thoughts on that?


  • by Eric Seppanen ( 79060 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @07:40PM (#2241526)
    So here we have a bunch of filesystem code, distributed as a patch to a GPLed kernel. And the filesystem code is not GPLed, and not GPL-compatible.

    So is it legal for company X to buy a license to GPS, and distribute a patched linux kernel?

    My feeling would be no, because it's not legal to distribute GPLed binaries without distributing (or offering) all the sources. Which company X can't do.

    If GFS is built using standard exported kernel-module interfaces, it _might_ be legal (though some kernel heavyweights disagree), but if the GFS patch touches kernel internals, anybody distributing Linux+GFS is in violation of their GPL agreement with Linus Torvalds (and others).

    And this is somehow going to make Sistina money? By inviting their customers to pay up for the possibility of getting sued by anyone holding Linux kernel copyrights? I'm not impressed.

  • Why do people think commercial companies contribute to open source? It's because they develop tools to keep their business running, but they don't have any interest of getting into the software business. The GPL addresses this.

    The SPL removes most of the incentive to contribute. Why would I want to contribute software to a company, just to be forced to pay for my own contribution forever more? Sure, it may give me the functionality I need in the short term, but in the long term, I would have been better off at contributing to an open source project.

  • by KidSock ( 150684 )

    Take the GPL'd beta and write you're own forked version.
  • by raph ( 3148 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @08:23PM (#2241670) Homepage
    While the AFPL is a non-DFSG license designed in large part to support an OEM licensing business, it also has three important freedoms that appear to be missing from the SPL:

    1. Fork rights. You are perfectly free to take AFPL code, make your own modifications, and release that code under the AFPL. This distinguishes the AFPL from most other "almost free" licenses.

    2. Commercial use. AFPL code is free for commercial use. An example is [], which is an advertiser supported site using AFPL Ghostscript.

    3. No grantback. If you make custom modifications for in-house use, you are not obligated to grant those modifications to the original author. Further, if you release a forked version under the AFPL, you are not obligated to license that code back to the original author so they can OEM license it.

    In my opinion, the only significant right lacking from the AFPL is commercial redistribution without compensation. While people obviously disagree with this, my personal opinion is that it is not anywhere nearly as important as the other free software rights, especially now that free distribution over the Internet is ubiquitous. I frankly don't see why it's so important for Red Hat to make money from selling our code without compensating us in any way for our work.

    Ghostscript has a fourth freedom guarantee, which is that major AFPL releases are re-released under the GPL a year later. Thus, the extra rights granted to us as commercial Ghostscript developers is fairly small and definitely time-limited. As long as we continue to improve Ghostscript actively, the AFPL version is valuable. As soon as we stop doing our job, it falls into the hands of the community.

    The lack of funding for core development is a serious pragmatic weakness of the free software movement. Peter Deutsch, with Ghostscript and the AFPL license he authored, made a very good attempt to address that problem, and it's actually been working out pretty well for us.

    Even so, freedom is very important to the Ghostscript project. Thus, I feel called to respond to comparisons between less-free licensing arrangements and Ghostscript.
  • Reading through the comments Ive seen a lot of people saying that Sistina owns the code to GFS, theyre the primary author/developer, etc., so they have a right to change the license at will. Iff this is all true, they do. But, has Sistina borrowed any code from other projects that were already GPLed and used it in GFS? If they did, they cannot change the license. Or am I misunderstanding the viral nature of the GPL?
  • The GPL and the Aladdin license hurt businesses and programmers in that they make the code free to end users but unavailable to programmers who wish to be rewarded for adding value to it. But the "SPL" is even more so. It even prohibits such things as invoking the code from a CGI script that provides a for-profit service to the public.

    At this time, when companies such as VA Linux and Caldera are retreating from the GPL because it makes it impossible for them to be profitable, the SPL is a move in the wrong direction. We must shift the balance so that companies which create open source software can survive -- not so as to disadvantage them more. We must opt for more freedom -- as is provided by the Apache and MIT X licenses -- rather than less. When we see that businesses that sell products based on collaboratively developed code for which source is available are surviving and thriving, we will know that the balance is right. This hasn't been the case with the GPL, and certainly could not be with a license such as the SPL.

    --Brett Glass

  • Indeed the SPL [] is very interesting, but coding a distributed filesystem with it is certainly something I wouldn't like to do myself!

    Speak thy mind!

  • People who are driven by a profit motive have no moral leg to stand on. Why not screw them over a bit with the SPL license? After all, they are trying to screw us too (charge more than the product is worth, advertising propaganda so that people will buy who don't need the product etc.).

    If you are not doing it for the love of doing it, you are not good at it anyway.
  • by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Saturday September 01, 2001 @12:44PM (#2243250) Homepage
    Disclaimer: IANAL...

    It seems under the GPL you have a few options to actually make a bit of money in the distribution of the source, if you so wish. Let me outline the basics of what the GPL says in regards to this (and please, don't trust this or me, read the GPL [] first, instead):

    1. If you distribute the source code only, "you may charge a fee for the physical act of transferring a copy, and you may at your option offer warranty protection in exchange for a fee" (from the GPL, section 1).

    2. If you distribute the code "in object code or executable form" (from the GPL, section 3), you must:

    "a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange" (from the GPL, section 3)


    "b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange." (from the GPL, section 3)

    There is also a subsection "c" to section 3, but it isn't of interest to this discussion, since "This alternative is allowed only for noncommercial distribution". (from the GPL, section 3)

    So, it seems you must provide the source, in a machine-readable format, on a medium customarily used for software interchange.

    Since "customarily" doesn't have any definition in the scope of this license (in fact, the word only appears twice), unless it has specific legal means (which it may, IANAL), then in theory, you could output the code on punch cards, for all the license cares!

    But let us say that "customarily" alludes to the time of distribution - that is, the source code must be on a medium "of the times" - for today, that could be an FTP site, a web site - or a floppy, or CD-ROM.

    You just have to provide access - it doesn't say you "must make it downloadable to the world" - just that if someone comes calling for it, you must provide it to them, on a medium "customarily" used for software interchange. So if you only wanted to distribute CD-ROMs - that would be PERFECTLY IN LINE WITH THE LICENSE.

    Plus you may charge a fee for making this copy. This fee is never specified, or enumerated, within the GPL, other than to say "for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution" (from the GPL, section 3).

    Now, who is to say that it doesn't cost you $100.00 (US) to create that copy? How much is you or your company's time worth? Maybe the fee might be $500.00 for the source. There is nothing in the GPL to prohibit this.

    So, let's say you are selling your office productivity suite of software to Joe and Jane Public. You sell it for $50.00 (thereby undercutting the competition). In the package, on a paper license agreement (and maybe a clickthrough), you state you will provide the source code to any individual or company, for the product, via CD-ROM through the mail, for a fee of only $500.00, should they request so within 3 years from the time of purchase (require a receipt to prove time-frame). Furthermore, state someplace that the software will only receive support if purchased from you, otherwise the purchaser is "on his own" for support.

    Should Joe or Jane Public see this, most of them will simply shrug their shoulders, and continue to play with great software. Those that do pay would probably be reluctant to simply give the code away (though they could, and your company could do nothing about it!). Those looking for a free version of the product might be able to get it, but Joe and Jane Public are unlikely to use it, since there wouldn't be any support from your company.

    A company that might pay in order to have the source to correct flaws in the software (and hopefully give you or the community back those corrections), probably wouldn't distribute the code for free, or a fee - since anyone downloading it wouldn't be able to get support, other than from the secondary distributor, at best - and most companies would want to avoid that headache. However, those that wanted to could make a better version, and distribute it and provide support, if they want - that would be the purchaser's decision, once more.

    There is the business plan and rational to sell Free, GPL'd software. The code still gets out, mods could still be made and re-incorporated back into the base product, you will probably make money off of it, and should your company go under or something, the code will still exist, for others to continue on with.

    Now, once again, I am not a lawyer, but I don't see where any of this would violate the GPL - indeed, the GPL seems to allow this. So why hasn't any company done this?

    Actually, in a way, they have: RedHat is the perfect example.

    This is a company that sells a GPL'd product. Companies and individuals are willing to buy it, and RedHat provides support. The source code is out there, and a few other companies have rolled their own distros to compete with RedHat (Mandrake), using the base RedHat distro.

    But RedHat made one mistake - they provided source with their distribution, and via FTP - for anyone at anytime to download. What would their company be doing now if they had only provided source via CD-ROM through mail, on request, for a fee? Who knows - maybe it wouldn't have worked, and everyone would be using Debian or Slackware more.

    Maybe this method could only be used for software packages. Games could easily be done this way, and I would think that a lot of money could be made, and the GPL wouldn't be violated.

    If I am wrong about all of this, please, somebody (especially lawyers!) point out the flaws in my argument. It would be interesting to see what I missed, etc...

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