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GNU is Not Unix

FSF Statement on Violation of GPL by RTLinux 256

bkuhn writes "The FSF has issued an official statement on the GPL violation by RTLinux." nothign surprising here, basically they say that RTLinux is violating the GPL by not releasing the source to their Linux kernel mods, but since the FSF isn't the copyright holder, they can't do much about it. Now it's up to RTLinux to decide if they are gonna do the right thing or not.Update: 09/16 00:48 AM GMT by H : Please check out these comments for more information - it's not a source code violation, but a patent issue.
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FSF Statement on Violation of GPL by RTLinux

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  • Has the GPL ever been successfullly enforced?

    Has it even needed to be enforced?
    • Has the GPL ever been successfullly enforced?

      In fact, this has nothing to do with the GPL. This is how the copyright laws work; you cannot distribute a program that you don't hold the copyright to, unless the copyright holder has granted you permission to redistribute the program.

      The GPL gives everyone the permission to redistribute the program, provided that they follow the requirements stated in the GPL. Those include, among other things, that it must be possible to obtain the source code for the entire program, including modifications.

      So, this case does not really have anything to do with the GPL. It is a standard case where copyright has been breached.
      • This is 100% about the GPL.

        Without the provisions in the GPL about making the source for any midifications open this case would not exist.

        If this isn't a test of the GPL, what would be?
    • by WolfWithoutAClause ( 162946 ) on Friday September 14, 2001 @05:01PM (#2300284) Homepage
      Yes. It has always been successfully enforced. It has never come to court though.
    • Never in court. It has, to date, never been necessary.

      Although there is some doubt that some of the provisions of the licence are legally enforcable (particularly the "contagious" aspects thereof), counsel for most decent-sized companies are very paranoid about GPL, as the consequences of integrating GPLed code with proprietary stuff and then losing subsequently in court would be quite severe. They plainly think that GPL is sufficiently well drafted that its enforcability is credible, and they're not taking any chances.

      In the last couple of years, management in larger tech companies has recognised the PR value of free/open code, and recognised also how damaging being seen to violate GPL or similar licences would be, so that's another reason larger companies are careful not to intentionally violate GPL.

      I'd venture to suggest that the great majority of cases where the GPL is broken are done through ignorance, either that the code in question is GPLed or ignorance of the implications of the licence itself. I'd be willing to give the RTLinux folks the benefit of the doubt, and say that, while they have a different interpretation of the GPL fom FSF's, they're not acting in bad faith.

    • Ask Avery of VirtualDub [] fame whether or not this has been sucessfully enforced []:

      Yes, folks, it's true. The Vidomi encoder has been released as free software under the GPL, thus ending the conflict -- despite my reminders that the conflict could have been ended by dropping the GPL linkage, the makers doggedly insisted on becoming part of the GPL community! The FSF has verified the current implementation GPL compliant as well; it's not the same as holy penguin pee, but it's more than good enough.
    • Actually, most GPL violations are not large enough to show up on the FSF's radar screen at all. I have personally seen several flagrant violations (such as this one []), that are not pursued just because nobody has heard of the product or the company behind it.

      -all dead homiez

  • Copyright Holder? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zwack ( 27039 ) on Friday September 14, 2001 @04:50PM (#2300228) Homepage Journal
    So, Who IS "THE" copyright holder? Linus? A consortium? Would some of the larger distributions be interested in combining together to fight this thing? RedHat/SuSE/Mandrake would do for a start...

    I wonder what RTLinux have to say too...

    Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

    • Linus holds the trademark on the "Linux" name, but I'm not sure if he holds a copyright on the actual kernel code.

      Anyone know?
    • I belive there isn't a single copyright holder, but everyone who has done something on the linux kernel holds a part of the copyright and should be a able to sue them.
      • This is something of a problem, in that organising these people into a group or class of litigants is difficult.

        It's for this reason that FSF requests that it be made assignee (or co-assignee) of copyright on GPL/LGPLed code, so that it can be a party of standing (i.e. that it can itself sue) in court.

      • Re:Copyright Holder? (Score:2, Informative)

        by hey! ( 33014 )
        I belive there isn't a single copyright holder, but everyone who has done something on the linux kernel holds a part of the copyright and should be a able to sue them.

        IANAL, but I don't think it works this way.
        THe original copyright holder retains the copyright to the work and to all derivative works.

        Suppose I rush off my own sequel to Harry Potter. Who owns my derived work? J K Rowlings. She as copyright holder owns the original work and has exclusive right to all derivative works. I can't say "You can't kill so and so because I did it in my work" -- because the new work is not mine. Linux doesn't belong to Alan Cox, or Red Hat or anybody else but Linus.

        This describes the default situation with respect to copyrights. The complication here is that we have a license. The license, by definition, grants rights over and above what is allowed by fair use. GPL is intended to grant rights to creation of derivative works to recipients, and transitively to the recipients of derivative works. There are several possible outcomes:

        (1) GPL works essentially as intended and exactly the rights intended are bestowed.

        (2) GPL grants rights but the transitivity features are broken (e.g. more rights are bestowed, or at least fewer responsibilities are bestowed).

        (3) GPL grants no redistribution rights to the immediate recipient at all, due to section 5.

        In some ways (3) is preferable to (2), because many programs are distributed with the proviso that "any later version" of the GPL can be used. Thus the missing rights can be restored by choosing a fixed up license. However once rights are given, they probably can't be got back.

        • > THe original copyright holder retains the copyright to the work and to all derivative works.

          Nope. You retain full copyright to any of your own work. If you write a sequel to Harry Potter, you own the copyright to your original work. However, J K Rowlings owns the copyright to the characters and what not. So neither of you can copy the book without permission of the other. You can't say "you can't kill so and so" because that's not the way that copyright works; but if you could prove that her work was a ripoff of yours, you could sue her over it - the reason a lot of authors don't like to read unsolicited submissions.
        • Nope. Sorry.

          The original copyright holder retains the right to license others to create derivative works. Others own their own copyrights but distribute the derivative work under license. But everyone is an original copyright holder in the case of Linux, not just Linus. They are all under license with each other.


          • Well, thanks I think.

            I had originally believed it worked the way you describe, but was subsequently corrected (possibly mis-corrected).

            Also, does it make a difference whether the derivatives are properly licensed or not?

    • Re:Copyright Holder? (Score:5, Informative)

      by JesseL ( 107722 ) on Friday September 14, 2001 @04:54PM (#2300257) Homepage Journal

      I think Linus is the original copyright holder, but much of the kernel code now is copyrighted by it's respective contributors.

    • And it's not Linux. It's GNU Operating System or something like that.
    • So, Who IS "THE" copyright holder? Linus?

      Whoever wrote that part of the kernel. For some of it, of course, that will be Linus Torvalds.
    • The copyright holders are, in most cases, the actual author of each particular section of code. Linus does not ask contributors to assign their copyright to him or to anyone else, as many others do. By leaving the copyright fragmented among the numerous original authors, it was his hope to make it impossible for anyone to ever use the source in proprietary software. This was not only to make it perfectly clear that he had no intention of unilaterally making a deal to allow such use, but also specifically to create a situation where it would literally be impossible to hunt down all the copyright holders and get their permission individually for such use.

      IANALS (I am not a land shark) but it is my understanding that any of these copyright holders would have standing to sue the violator, however the violator could possibly moot such a suit by removing only the code copyrighted by the individual who filed. This is the possible downside to Linus' strategy - if the majority of the kernel is copyright of people who cannot be located, then the majority of the kernel source possibly could be used in a proprietary product, without consent, because the only people with suit to apply for legal enforcement would be the ones who cannot be located.

  • by Win-Developer ( 316016 ) on Friday September 14, 2001 @04:50PM (#2300230)
    C'mon...I hope they take a stand. I'd like to see someone rock the boat. They obviously don't want to give up their hard work to the general public. Let's see how it pans out. What's the worst that could happen?

    Is it possible for someone to sue these guys over something that's free?
    • by Azog ( 20907 ) on Friday September 14, 2001 @05:57PM (#2300577) Homepage
      Actually, I think there's a much more serious copyright violation of the GPL license going on. At least RTLinux makes the souce code available (contrary to the posted story, sigh, usual Slashdot fact checking...)

      Anyway, the company LinuxDA has made modifications to Linux (the kernel) to run it on Palm Pilots. A demo version is freely available for download. (see [])

      There's a "Coming Soon" spot on that page for "Source Code For Linux Kernel". But it has been months, and no source has shown up.

      Not only that, but they have been asked (by Rick Van Riel, one of the significant contributors and copyright holders of the Linux Kernel) to provide source.

      They still have not provided source.

      I sent them an email about this, and got the following form letter:

      Dear User:

      We are committed to the Linux Open Source Movement.

      We are currently working on making the source code for the modifications to
      the Linux kernel available. Please continue to check for
      download availability.

      Thank you for your continual patience and support.

      Best Regards,
      Linux DA Customer Support Team

      I sent them another letter asking them if they thought they were violating the terms of the GPL by allowing months to go by without releasing the source, and if not, why not, but got no reply.

      I also pointed out that it's not difficult to provide source (make mrproper, tar cvzf linuxda.tar.gz *, then ftp the file to the web site... it would take about 10 minutes.) Obviously they are purposely dragging their feet, and I'm a lot more worried that someone is getting away with that than the RTLinux patent thing.
      • Maybe you should read the DMCA and see if there is something there to use aginst them. Its got engouh crud in it that there should be something.

        I've found another GPL violation and right now I'm waiting for the very well known company to dig themselves in a bit deeper but I ran into a problem. How do I know its GPL'ed? I can't reverse engineer their code so how would I ever know? If they have as part of their license that I can't run "strings" on the code and I do, I can go to jail for using a hacking tool on their binary image. The GPL does not give you the rights most people here think it does and it only gives your rights to change a program if you have the full source code and can compile it from scratch. The GPL needs to be extended so to explicitly allow thouse bits that the DMCA have now made illegal such as the ability to take a debugger to the resulting code.
        • Any Linux kernel copyright holder can send a DMCA takedown to the ISP for the firm that is (being alleged to be) infringing the GPL.

          Use whois to find the ISP, and look at the DMCA [] itself for what you need to do. You might want legal advice before you actually do anything though.

          Just because we hate that law doesn't mean we shouldn't use it when we have the legal and moral right to do so.

        • I've found another GPL violation and right now I'm waiting for the very well known company to dig themselves in a bit deeper but I ran into a problem. How do I know its GPL'ed? I can't reverse engineer their code so how would I ever know?

          Send the FSF mail at They will investigate it and take the proper action.

      • (Replying to my own message on September 21, one week after the original Slashdot story and my posting regarding LinuxDA...)

        For the record, I just got an email message from LinuxDA and they finally did put up the source code for download - I'm pulling it down now.

        I don't know if the +5 post on Slashdot got someone's attention, or they just did get around to it eventually, but it's good to see that they did the right thing after all.

        So, there's one less worry in the world...

  • Well, RTLinux has already decided what its doing. It is time for the copyright holders to decide what they are doing.
  • by mblase ( 200735 ) on Friday September 14, 2001 @04:51PM (#2300235) listed on their site here []. Anyone who can translate this into plain English, please do so. IANAL.
    • I'm not fluent at legalese, but as far as I can see it means ALL YOUR CODE ARE BELONG TO US.
    • by TheFuzzy ( 140473 ) on Friday September 14, 2001 @05:19PM (#2300379)
      As an unlicensed contract lawyer, it's actually pretty clear ...

      The patent restriction requires all users of the RTLinux code to comply with the GPL or make a seperate commercial license with Yodiaken. This is, IMHO, a good thing that extends "copyleft" to the patent world.

      On the other hand, the Patent adds some additional restrictions not normally contained in the GPL:

      5. To require any recipient of your product based on RTLinux code to send an e-mail to Yodiaken with their contact info;

      6. To keep detailed records of commercial uses of RTLinux, to be furnished to Yodiaken on demand.

      All of the other clauses either repeat the above or support the terms of the GPL.

      Frankly, overall Yodiaken seems to be a staunch upholder of the GPL and using his patent to uphold it. I can't understand why Stallman is freaking about Yodiaken's demand to collect a little demographic information.

      Surely this is something that could be worked out with Yodiaken or simply ignored? Sheesh!


      • The problem is that if people start adding little clauses like that everything can spin out of control. You decide to take RT linux and make your own modifications and then you add a rule saying that in addition to the GPL, people must mail you a postcard. If a product is GPL, then it's GPL, and you know what you are getting into.

        If you don't enforce the GPL here, when do you do it? There's no blurry line in the GPL that let's some things slide, it says, no additional clauses, end of story. If he doesn't like it, tough, go modify a different OS.
      • Surely this is something that could be worked out with Yodiaken or simply ignored? Sheesh!

        And you call yourself a lawyer? Sheesh!

      • Frankly, overall Yodiaken seems to be a staunch upholder of the GPL and using his patent to uphold it. I can't understand why Stallman is freaking about Yodiaken's demand to collect a little demographic information.

        That's a simple issue. The most significant aspect of the GPL is that the modifier release the mods to the public. The GPL is a "stone soup" community project. People are expected to know and understand that much from the very beginning.
  • how would the GPL actually be enforced, what exactly would happen?
  • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Friday September 14, 2001 @04:51PM (#2300237) Homepage Journal
    Why didn't the RTLinux team focus on an xBSD solution?
    Linux was intended to be incompatible with "Free for me, but not for you."

    jeremiah cornelius

    • The RT part of RTLinux is a microkernel that runs Linux as a subordinate task. The RTLinux folks do also provide this microkernel layer under NetBSD, this is plain to see on their web site []. So it depends what you mean by "focus." If you mean why don't they support a BSD, they do. If you mean why don't they pay more attention to BSD than to Linux, I don't know why you'd as that, and the answer probably involves customer/market demand.
  • Linus needs to do somthing about this!!! if it is done to the core code that Linux himself has developed then he needs to enlist the FSF to prosecute RTlinux, if it is the code of another kernel hacker then Linus needs to emplor him to do what I have said above.

    I this does not happen, the GPL will be a lame duck licence.
    • damn.....I typoed even after I double checked
    • "the GPL will be a lame duck licence"

      I hope it does. There are so many holes and flaws in the GPL that it basically puts a Nazi'ish stranglehold on developers.

      If this guy's changes are for the better, than let's see some l33t d00ds reverse engineer it like they've done with Windows stuff.

      Oh, but I's easier to bitch and complain than actually do something.
  • It's my undestanding that with patents you have to disclose the nature of the patent ANYWAY. Why should this keep them from abiding by the license of the software they are building on top of?
  • Linus involvement? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jeffy124 ( 453342 ) on Friday September 14, 2001 @04:53PM (#2300248) Homepage Journal
    since the FSF isn't the copyright holder, they can't do much about it

    Could Linus Torvalds become involved in this case? I am not familiar with RTLinux, but since Torvalds is the trademark holder of the name "Linux" and provides the license for using and modifying it, would he be the one to push something like this further?
    • Linus could get involved but not because he owns the rights to the trademark "Linux". This a copyright issue, not a trademark issue.

      • Ummm... But RTLinux is trading on the goodwill of the trademarked operating system name Linux isn't it?

        Interestingly you don't have to run Linux on RTLinux you can use NetBSD instead. So, other than trading on the good name of Linux (in contravention of the trademark) Why is this called RTLinux?

    • ... but since Torvalds is the trademark holder of the name "Linux" [...] would he be the one to push something like this further?

      Not sure about the other points you mention, however in regard to the trademark issue - I don't think that it would work.

      The problem is that although Linux is trademarked, he has not defended it as such. And when you don't defend your trademark, it becomes "common use". Sort of like how everyone calls tissues, Kleenex.

      Of course IANAL, and I'm talking out of my ass here (like everyone else on /.) So I'd take my advice with a big-ass grain of salt.

  • by bkuhn ( 41121 ) on Friday September 14, 2001 @04:54PM (#2300254) Homepage
    CmdrTaco made a factual error in his statement above, so please do follow the link and read the details [].

    The violation has to do primarily with a patent license that imposes terms not allowed by the GPL.

    This isn't much different matter than failure to distribute source code.

  • Just don't download/buy their kernel/distribution. If they don't make any money, they go bankrupt, plain and simple. Violators of the GPL, if they cannot be forced to comply via legal action (or threats of), can only feel pressure through the users of the product. Since the majority of GNU/Linux users uphold the GPL religiously, if this company decides to violate, the users will let them know of their displeasure. Wether that be through email, phone, or simply lack of revenue from product sales.
    • Well, that's a nice thought, an' all, but if it's any good, and fills a commercial void, people will use it whether it violates the GPL or not.

      The true free-market outcome would normally be to fork, but if they are using patent laws to protect against this, that may be impossible.
  • by jd ( 1658 )
    ...What this means is that RTLinux guys can be prohibited from using any GPL software until such time as they are "forgiven". After all, wasn't that the upshot of why the KDE people were "forgiven"? To formalize that the FSF would not take any action over prior GPL violations?
  • by SurfsUp ( 11523 ) on Friday September 14, 2001 @04:57PM (#2300270)
    basically they say that RTLinux is violating the GPL by not releasing the source to their Linux kernel mods

    The violation has nothing to do with source code, which is freely available [], it has everything to do with restrictions on use of the software - it is free only for non-commercial use. If you want to sell your program you have to buy a license. Interestingly, this is a case where GPL fanatics are sticking up for the rights of commercial users.

    Next post could you please consider checking both your facts and your spelling? ;-)

  • Yodaiken's trying to patent his kernel mods. Not only is that a violation of the GPL, it absolutely flies in the face of the idea of using GPLed software.
  • Just put the RTLinux kernel up for sale. That puts the shoe on the other foot; they would have
    to prove that its not GPL and they would be the
    ones spending the big bucks on the lawyers. IANAL
    • They still own the copyright on their code. If you distribute their code then you are violating their copyright, and they can rightly sue you for that. The fact that they are breaking the law by violating someone elses copyright/license by distributing GPLd code does not make it OK for you to do that with their code.

  • Here is a significant innovation which was created in hopes that it would be protectable and thus profitable. That is the traditional rationale for patents: by allowing intellectual property to be protected for a limited period, they create an incentive for innovation.

    Now we see that the GPL's anti-patent stance appears to be trying to stifle this innovation unless the inventor consents to its terms, which would deprive the inventor of profit.

    A clearer example of the anti-innovative tendency of the free software movement could not be imagined.

    • > Now we see that the GPL's anti-patent stance appears to be trying to stifle this innovation unless the inventor
      > consents to its terms, which would deprive the inventor of profit.

      > A clearer example of the anti-innovative tendency of the free software movement could not be imagined.

      yeah right. The GPL stifled the development of linux too.

      As other folks have said, they could have chosen FreeBSD as their starting point. By your measure BSD should be light years ahead of linux because it has been around much longer and doesn't stifle innovation with an anti-patent license.

    • Please.

      Nothing stopped the RTLinux people from "innovating". Unless you define "innovating" as "using copyright to prevent distribution".

      Nothing forced the RTLinux guys to use the Linux sources as their basis, and thus accept the terms of the GPL -- they could have used BSD sources and avoided these issues. Instead, they used the Linux sources, and accepted the GPL license they came with. Plain and simple.

      Noone is saying that they couldn't innovate, or turn a profit. They just have to abide by the terms they agreed to when they used the Linux sources =)
    • Would you like it if I patented a derivitive work of yours after I expressly forbid you to.

      What they are doing is stealing code!
    • I've got little sympathy with the guy. Whether his patent is valid or not- the licence he agreed to when he took (took as in stole) the GNU/Linux software and added his patented code to it is pretty clear; and there's descriptions of the GPL all over the net. He could have written his own OS, or distributed patches or closed source modules or device drivers. Or he could still go around and ask every single designer of every single patch to the Linux OS to relicense their code for him to use. Good luck with that.

      Now, this version of his software is going to be GPLd. The GNU/Linux designers licensed him their code on that basis. He took it and used it, and he has to pay for what he took. He doesn't have a legal leg to stand on.

      Unfair? Probably not. You work out the ratio of the code that he wrote to the code they wrote.
  • RTF-GPL (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darth RadaR ( 221648 ) on Friday September 14, 2001 @05:01PM (#2300287) Journal
    If RTLinux wanted to patent something, why the fsck base it off of a GPL'd product in the first place? It can only become a legal mess, and if FSM Labs wins in court, it's gonna piss off the FSF, OSS, and anything else slightly connected to Linux.

    You'd have to be insane to invoke that sort of bad kharma.
  • If the FSF sends letters to RTLinux customers stating that the code they bought is of questionable legal status, then I'd expect the customers to drop use of the product immeditately. No customer wants to be sucked in to a vendor's lawsuit.
  • by Sabalon ( 1684 ) on Friday September 14, 2001 @05:04PM (#2300303)
    I think the case has been clear cut before that you can make modules binary only. So if that was the case, they should have every right to impose whatever restrictions on their module they want.

    HOWEVER, I can not imagine that making Linux real-time could be done in a module and no changes whatsoever to any of the rest of the kernel - unless all the changes are GPL'd and released and they have a free and a professional version of a module which has some of the tweaks/functionality there.

    I'm not saying that they are right, but given the nature of the legalise on the agreement on their site, either they have some major lawyers there, or they have an english->legalise filter, so I would think they hopefully understand the GPL.

  • by Merk ( 25521 ) on Friday September 14, 2001 @05:09PM (#2300330) Homepage
    GNU is a Free Software Unix-like operating system. GNU/Linux is the integrated combination of the GNU operating system with the kernel, Linux.

    I thought that GNU was a project, a recursive acronym, and a bunch of utilities (GNU Software), used in operating systems like Debian, RedHat, Slackware...

    The software on one of my RedHat 7.1 machines includes a large number of GNU tools, as well as the Linux kernel, as well as Apache, Gnome, KDE... But according to the FSF, the operating system is "GNU"?

    It seems that not only is the GPL viral, but the GNU term itself keeps growing in what it is supposed to mean...

    • Isn't a kernel part of an operating system? Do the GNU utilities 'operate' on their own, without the Linux kernel? If not, isn't it incorrect, confusing even, to call GNU an operating system?
    • The GNU project was founded with the explicit goal of producing a Free operating system. So was Linux. When the Linux kernel got functional, GNU was done, except for the kernel -- and the Linux people bolted GNU tool after GNU tool onto the system. Linux (the cool hack) gradually morphed into GNU/Linux (the full-featured Unix clone), and the name was never "officially" changed, even after the amount of system-essential GNU code had far exceeded the amount of system-essential Linux code.

      On a Redhat system (for example),the C library, the compiler toolchain, bash, and all the command-line tools (ls, mv, chgrp, and the like) are all GNU tools, designed originally for use within an operating system called "GNU."

      You can, of course, call the OS whatever you like. But one of the reasons RMS is so adamant about "GNU/Linux" is that "Linux" fosters the mistaken impression that all the GNU tools are optional add-ons like Gnome, the Gimp, or Gnumeric. You can try "rpm -e glibc" or "rpm -e libstdc++", or find/write replacements for these, if you still believe that they are.
    • Stallman's goal for the Free Software Foundation has always been to develop the GNU operating system.

      Due to a variety of reasons, the kernel of GNU (called the Hurd) is still in early beta state -- definitively not usable. So the FSF uses the Linux kernel until the Hurd gets stable.

      Whether you call it Linux or GNU/Linux depends really a matter of perspective:

      • GNU/Linux means that you run the GNU system, and that you use the Linux as a temporary stopgap, to be dumped as soon as the Hurd is ready. (Remember that the FSF never contributed a single line of code to Linux)
      • Linux means that you consider Linux an operating system in its own right, independent of the GNU project and the Free Software Foundation.
      • And if you call it GNU? You forget that the kernel exists? As far as I know, HURD isn't ready for prime-time. The kernel is a pretty durn important part of an OS. Some might say it's the most important part.

        I call it "RedHat". RedHat is an operating system that uses the Linux kernel, GNU utilities and libraries, XFree86 as a windowing system, Gnome / KDE as a window manager.

  • Kinda offtopic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ryanvm ( 247662 ) on Friday September 14, 2001 @05:11PM (#2300334)
    This is somewhat peripheral to the story, but I have a question that revolves around the GPL and copyright holders.

    Specifically, does the original author own the copyright on a large project that other people have made minor contributions to? Also, consider that no one explicitly handed over their copyright.

    I think that one of the best ways for GPL developers to make money is by creating software under the GPL and also selling that software under a different license to companies that don't wish to use the GPL. But, I am unclear on whether the original author can do this if other people have made contributions to the project.

    I guess an example would be if Torvalds decided to sell Linux to Microsoft under the BSD license. I know, I know - I would shit myself if it happened too. It's just an example.

    • Derivative works are traditionally afforded at least some copyright protection, especially if the person who creates them adheres to the rules of Fair Use.

      This means, more or less, that when you create a program that is GPL'd and have pulled source from other programs, that as author, you hold the copyright, and can theoretically sue if someone abuses your work in a manner prohibited by the GPL.

      IANAL and whether or not this will hold up in any given court is anybody's guess at this point since its never been tried.
    • He could sell it, but he could not include the contributions of other people (unless they were in on it). Of course, other people's contributions have gotten into the kernel long enough ago that Linus probably couldn't make a coherent and modern package of only his code.

      On the other hand, he could certainly sell a particular contribution, if that's what someone wanted to buy; e.g., if he did a clever memory manager, he could sell that. Of course, they might not be able to link it with the rest of the kernel and distribute the result, making it thus somewhat useless, but if they only wanted to copy chunks out of it and port it, that would be a sensible possible sale.
    • I guess an example would be if Torvalds decided to sell Linux to Microsoft under the BSD license.

      Even if this was permissible (which I do not believe), it would be better for linus to use a very rigid license rather than bsd. Otherwise MS could turn around and release their bsd version of linux, forking it, and cutting into linus's little side business.

    • Specifically, does the original author own the copyright on a large project that other people have made minor contributions to? Also, consider that no one explicitly handed over their copyright.

      IANALS (I am not a land shark) but I have researched the issue in depth.

      By default - if no other arrangements are made, the author of each contribution owns copyright on their contribution. For a variety of reasons most small contributors are asked to assign their copyright to another person - either the leader or main contributor of the project, the company they work for (in the case of RedHat for instance,) or the Free Software foundation. However in the case of Linux, Thorvalds from the beginning has asked that people *not* assign their copyrights to him. The idea being that this would quickly reach the point where no one could, as a practical matter, reach each and every copyright holder to negotiate a separate license - to make sure that the kernel would always be available under the GPL and ONLY under the GPL.

      I think that one of the best ways for GPL developers to make money is by creating software under the GPL and also selling that software under a different license to companies that don't wish to use the GPL. But, I am unclear on whether the original author can do this if other people have made contributions to the project.

      Indeed, this is a perfectly legitimate option for many projects. However, in the case of Linux, it is not, and by design.

  • 'GPL violations' (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SmileyBen ( 56580 ) on Friday September 14, 2001 @05:14PM (#2300350) Homepage
    I wish people would stop calling these things 'GPL violations'. What this is is a copyright violation. RTLinux is using someone else's copyright material without permission - no more, no less. That is illegal. Calling it a 'GPL violation', something which won't appear in any law anywhere seems silly, and just confuses the issue - which is plain and simple, and a matter of copyright.
    • But it's a copyright violation because it goes against the terms set out in the GPL. Correcting people for calling them 'GPL violations' seems needlessly pedantic and actually wrong.

      If the GPL were worded differently, it could possibly not be a violation at all. Given the importance of the GPL to the whole issue, calling it a 'GPL violation' seems to be quite appropriate.
      • But this is exacctly my point. You can forget completely about the fact that the GPL was ever involved. Who cares that it was licenced under the GPL - doesn't matter, they're violating copyright. The point of the GPL isn't that it tells you that you aren't allowed to do stuff, but that it might as well not exist if you don't follow it. Legally speaking, if you break the licence, you don't 'violate the GPL' you use someone else's code without licensing it.

        I don't know if that's clear. The point I'm trying to put across is that RTLinux has no licence to use the Linux kernel - which is very different from them having a licence and applying it incorrectly.
  • Patent link here. (Score:3, Informative)

    by small_dick ( 127697 ) on Friday September 14, 2001 @05:19PM (#2300372)
  • The Free Software Foundation could trademark "GPL" and have a "GPL Brand" of software that correctly follows its' license.

    If they don't follow the license correctly, don't allow them to call the software "GPL".

    But this would require a bit of forward thinking.

  • The GPL does not take intellectual property into account at all - so what they are basically saying is that code is completely GPL, but that the technology underneath the code is patented and is only usable under a different set of terms.

    I think that some people are going to wind up being upset here - these are two very different legal topics, and having a patent does not affect the use and protections by copyright.

    Solution? Don't allow algorithms to be patented!
  • They have yet to release their GPL modified code.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I know these people and they are a small company and have long been involved with working on Linux. One of these people is Cort Dougan who has worked on the PPC port of linux for a long time. Victor has been a supporter of the GPL and they do release the source. The patent just enforces the way that program code can be used.

    In the GPL a company cannot just take the program and make something new and not give out the source code, but what Victor is doing is allowing for a double licensing system. If you don't want to make some sort of commerical product you do things under the terms of the GPL. Which fits because to write RTLinux programs you have to create modules, which can quite often require mods to the RTLinux parts. However, if you need to do it in a closed system then he will allow that if you license the Technology from him.

    I can't see anything wrong with this because look at the cross licensing by many other products out there like QT and the OpenOffice project. Just how is this any different. I can see that you people don't even know what is going on and have become a set of rabid dogs and didn't even check into how it worked.
  • by BRTB ( 30272 ) <slashdot.brtb@org> on Friday September 14, 2001 @06:42PM (#2300828) Homepage
    Speaking of GPL violations, I found a pretty flagrant one at work a few weeks ago...

    Microtest (now XStore []) put together a mess of GPL software - a modified Linux kernel 2.0.27, Samba 1.9.x, Apache, the MARS_NWE netware emulator, and GNU C libraries (libc5), among others, stuffed them on a flash chip in a drive-bay-size embedded 486-based computer, and sells it as their "DiscZerver []" product line. Nothing wrong with the method, but there's plenty wrong in their implementation.

    The web interface, the only given method of configuring the device, refers to the various services installed generically, like "Web server," "SMB server," "NCP server," etc. - there's no mention anywhere, even in the manual, of the actual programs being used. Of course along with this is no accompanying source code or even the offer to provide any, as the GPL requires.

    I can't even get any tech support from this company, much less someone to ask about getting the source code for the software and whatever modifications they made, which include a flash-filesystem driver ("yaffs") for the kernel. I did manage to hack out the root password (which they apparently hide from all customers); with that I found a shell prompt (Stand-alone Shell v1.0 - GPL? dunno) which only increased my determination as I could see exactly what programs they managed to steal, strip out identifying info, and use without credit.

    I did contact the FSF, and they did confirm the existence of a GPL violation, but were unable to do anything specific as they do not hold copyright on any of these programs (and actually suggested I post to Slashdot to get some answers =] ) Of course xStore itself has not returned my emails or phone call.

    So right now I have a nice little piece of hardware, a bunch of GPL software that Microtest 'stole' (for lack of a better word) and no idea what to do next. I'd be happy if I could just get the code so I can fix NMBd to work properly. I've thought about trying to make my own really-small distro to load on, but it's not really worth my time - I could just load the CD images into my other Linux server, connect the CD tower, and get on with life... but I really shouldn't have to do either. Any ideas?

    • If your story is correct, the FSF does indeed have standing to sue, as much of libc5 is based on glibc version 1. Even though that is LGPL, anyone Microtest gives the binary to may demand the source to the library, plus any modifications to the library.

      And they probably have at least a couple programs from GNU fileutils or shellutils in there.

  • I'll probably get labeled as a troll for not agreeing with the masses, but right now, there are more important things to worry about than having a penis war over a software license.
  • by chrisd ( 1457 ) <> on Friday September 14, 2001 @07:32PM (#2301029) Homepage
    Please read this entire message before replying.


    • a) Victor has a patent on the methods he used to apply real time features to the (GPLd) Linux Kernel

    • b) He provides those patches under the GPL (download it and see for yourself)
      c) His Patent Licence allows for a blanket Licence, free of charge to all those who incorporate that patents process in GPL'd software.
      d) He reserves the right to charge for those incorporating his patent into non-gpl'd software.

    So if you hate Software Patents, go ahead and hate Victor (I've talked with him, he's okay with this), however, he is not violating the GPL. He has gone the extra step making his Patent non-violating against the GPL.

    Remember that a patent is -not- code. The code is the code. His patches are an implementation of the patent. And his patent licence allows them to be included in GPL'd software without paying him.

    If you were to write code that did what the patent described, and did it in a proprietary manner, then you would need to negotiate a licence with Victor, or fight it out with lawyers. You can not like this, as this is the basic software patent bad thing, but he isn't violating the GPL.

    Also note the inconsistancies of the FSFs position on Software Patents. Richard has noted that he is for them, if they are used as a pool to force other companies to share thiers, but in this release they say they are completely against them. I'd like to see a public position from Bradly Khun and RMS.

    That also said, there are undoubtably a number of places where the Linux Kernel is violating any number of software patents. Get used to seeing these kinds of stories.

    Chris DiBona

  • I'm going to get moderated down as a troll, but what the hell I have Karma to burn!

    Have you ever considered the other side effect of pressing GPL violations?

    Probably not, but anyway...

    You add fuel to the Microsoft argument that the GPL is viral and anti-business.

    It's a double-edged sword, and from that standpoint pressing on these supposed violations gives the GPL an air of being a hot potato that no company in their right mind should touch.

    Something to think about...
  • IBM Published Proir Art that embodies the same
    idea as the RTLinux Patent in releasing in 1967
    the CP67 kernal for the Cambridge Monitor System.

    CP67, VM and the IBM System/390 Virtual Image
    Facility all describe and embody a Real Time
    Kernal that runs an entire operating system
    (which may be Linux) as a process and that
    prevents the client OS (Linux) from disabling
    interrupts on the actual CPUs while giving the
    appearance of having done so to the client OS.

    This is the direct lineal ancestor of the VM/390
    and z/VM Operating System and of the System/390
    Virtual Image Facility for Linux Kernal that allows
    40,000 copies of Linux to run concurrently on a IBM
    zSeries mainframe.

    Since the Source code for CP67 and all user mods
    were published and provided freely to anyone who
    had an IBM or compatible Mainframe it could be said
    to have been the father of the GPL.

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.