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GNU is Not Unix

RMS Condemns "UnitedLinux" per-seat License 749

dep writes "Likening the practice to Windows, Richard M. Stallman has issued a brief statement condemning the per-seat licensing that it appears will be employed in the "UnitedLinux" core distribution. He calls upon developers to refuse to allow their work to be used by such a distribution."
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RMS Condemns "UnitedLinux" per-seat License

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  • by jeffy124 ( 453342 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:20AM (#3616907) Homepage Journal
    he's actually pissed it's not called GNU/UnitedLinux
    • Shouldnt that be GNUnitedLinux?
  • Refuse? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:24AM (#3616929)
    If the code's been GPL'ed, how are developers going to stop UnitedLinux from using their code?
    • Re:Refuse? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mjh ( 57755 ) <mark.hornclan@com> on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:34AM (#3617019) Homepage Journal
      If a violation of the GPL can be shown, then of course developers can stop UL from using their code. And a violation of the GPL would occur if UL is prohibiting re-release of GPL'd code, either in binary or source code form. IOW, if UL requires per-seat licensing on GPL'd code, that is effectively preventing re-release of GPL'd code, and would seem to be a violation of the GPL.

      The only question is whether or not UL is violating the GPL. As far as I can tell, they're not, because the thing that requires per-seat licensing is their own code, not GPL'd code... but I haven't looked very hard. If they aren't violating the GPL, then there's no way that a developer can prevent UL from using their GPL'd code without violating the GPL themselves.

      But I'm not a lawyer, and I don't really claim to fully understand all the implications of the GPL. This is just the way it seems to me.

      • Re:Refuse? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by morcego ( 260031 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @01:35PM (#3618294)
        Here are the facts that I could gather. As far as I can tell, this is not a GPL violation:

        1) United Linux core source code will be avaliable for free. Anyone can recreate the system, but will not be allowed to call it United Linux (this is only a Copyright matter, ragarding the *brand*)

        2) United Linux binaries (full distribution) will come bundled with proprietary software. Many of these softwares are not controled by the United Linux members, and cannot be released or distributed in any other way. Many of these software only offers per-seat licenses. So, United Linux MUST be licensed per-seat. (again, this is not a violation of GPL. See [1])

        3) The original distributions will still have their releases, with the core United Linux technology. This means, as I see, that it will follow the same standards of United Linux. Any software certified for United Linux will run on these distributions. Looks like that even the 1st CD of these distributions will be pure United Linux. The distributions can follow the licensing scheme of their choice, based on the licenses of the software they provide. (No GPL violation here either)

        As far as I can see, United Linux main distribution can very well come bundled with Oracle, LinuxCAD, StarOffice etc. Many of these comercial softwares have per-seat licenses. The choice United Linux have is either to have per-seat licenses, or to not provide these softwares.

        About [1], think about this. If you download all .src.rpm from RedHat and rebuild them, can you still call it RedHat ? You cant, couse it is not RedHat anymore. Same thing for United Linux.

        As far as I see, United Linux plan does not violate anything. It only provides what the marketing (big players) is asking for. And that is a Linux distribution there they can run their full scale, proprietary, applications, on certified hardware, with a contract support. Theirs is a good plan, and something we have needed to be able to further Linux adoptions in big corps. Does that mean that Linux will be non-free ? No. Does that mean that they are evil ? Again, no. Does that mean that corporations will have no other choice ? Again, no.

        People talk a lot about freedom. Can it still be freedom if it is forced uppon you ? Are the corporations not FREE to choose ? Are these companies not FREE to choose a business model ?

        As long as they does not violate any law or copyright (as you can be very sure that considering who they are, they wont), I think United Linux is something we should be extremely proud of.
    • > If the code's been GPL'ed, how are developers going to stop UnitedLinux from using their code?

      Just by complaining that their software, which was released under the GNU GPL, can’t have its use restricted in any way except as prescribed by the GNU GPL. It’s that simple.

  • by Limburgher ( 523006 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:25AM (#3616947) Homepage Journal
    I guess I'll just have to stick to RedHat, TinyLinux and Lycoris.

    Hang on, I was going to do that anyway. . .

    • by JWW ( 79176 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @11:24AM (#3617408)
      Yep, I dumped Caldera for Red Hat when they pulled this per seat bullshit.

      All Red Hat has to do to blow the doors off so-called "UnitedLinux" is not go to a per seat license.

      Scratch them off the list of distros other than Red Hat and Mandrake that I will try. Someday, though ... I will have to give Debian a try.
    • Exactly. If I write software, and release it under the GPL, it says alot about MY character and politics. Mainly, I am writing software for the end-user. If that user CHOOSES to pay ANOTHER company a per seat license agreement, why should I interfere? This is alot like sticking my nose where it doesn't belong. Part of the reason that code is given out is because people are supposed to be free - free to modify to suit one's needs, free to choose software based on the strength of its code, and CERTAINLY they should be free to execute that code on ANY platform they wish. Somehow it seems as though Stallman is leaning less towards the free as in speech and focusing more on the free as in beer....
  • by dmccarty ( 152630 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:26AM (#3616955)
    Woah, I read "RMS" and "condoms" and didn't want to read any more about that!
  • Mandrake can stay independant regarding United Linux. I know that they are a really open Linux distribution and I hope they can do another United Linux-like with smaller players, but a free and open one. This would create a major and killer alliance.
  • He's right... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Pii ( 1955 ) <`jedi' `at' `'> on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:27AM (#3616967) Journal
    I have never commented on anything related to RMS before, but his point is hard to argue with here.

    If Caldera and Company want to license support on a per seat basis, that's fine and dandy.

    Licensing the software itself on a per seat basis is absurd. It's not their software to begin with.

    Go RMS!

    Go Away, Caldera!

    • Re:He's right... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by motorsabbath ( 243336 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:31AM (#3616996) Homepage
      Yep - I've never jumped in on an RMS thread before either, but I hafta agree with him here. It's odd that they've banded together to increase market share, and are now flirting with the licensing concept that kept Caldera from getting any market share in the first place.

      I hope RedHat and Mandrake and Slack and (insert you distro here) avoid this like the black plague. It's unfortunate, SuSE is a really nice distro. I hope they don't shoot themselves in the foot here.

      • Re:He's right... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JWW ( 79176 )
        However if RedHat and Mandrake and Slack, don't avoid this. We will end up with a truly "united" linux.

        Everyone will run Debian.
    • Re:He's right... (Score:3, Informative)

      by andyr ( 78903 )
      All United Linux are saying, like Caldera did, is that the binaries will have per-seat licensing.

      The source code would, naturally, be freely downloadable, if you want to roll your own.

      Cheers, Andy!

      • Re:He's right... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mjh ( 57755 ) <mark.hornclan@com> on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:39AM (#3617069) Homepage Journal
        But they can not restrict someone, who gets the source, from re-releasing binaries of the packages, as long as they also include the source. And if they release the binaries, they can not restrict the person who receives those binaries from re-releasing them. This is what the GPL guarantees. That if you get a copy of the code, either in source or binary form, you can give it away. Which means that per-seat licensing of binary GPL'd code is a violation of the GPL since it prevents the receiver of the code from re-releasing that code.

        I don't know, but it seems to me that UL are saying that you can't re-release their own code, not the GPL'd code on the system. And if that's the case they're no problem. But if they're restricting the usage of GPL'd software (in either binary or source code form) then that's a violation of the GPL which provides that once you receive code you can give it away.

        But, IANAL, so take my opinion as such.
    • None of it? (Score:5, Informative)

      by drew_kime ( 303965 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @11:01AM (#3617237) Journal
      Licensing the software itself on a per seat basis is absurd. It's not
      their software to begin with.

      The GPL code isn't theirs, but is that all that's in their distribution? I thought they included a bunch of other software with it. No wait, I know they include a bunch of other stuff with it.

      If you buy Caldera Linux, powered by UnitedLinux, you are free to copy, modify and distribute any of the GPL code that comes with it. If you only purchase the binaries and choose not to accquire the source, it may be difficult to separate the two classes of software (or even identify the difference). But as long as source is provided for all GPL parts I don't see the problem.

      • Re:None of it? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by leandrod ( 17766 ) <`l' `at' `'> on Friday May 31, 2002 @11:16AM (#3617349) Homepage Journal

        > If you buy Caldera Linux, powered by UnitedLinux, you are free to copy, modify and distribute any of the GPL code that comes with it.

        You are also free to run it as you like, including let several people access it. That makes a per-seat restriction in GNU GPL a breach of contract.

        • Re:None of it? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SN74S181 ( 581549 )
          But, say (and this is reaching) the init program used by this OS is proprietary, not the GPL'd version. The whole OS falls apart, and/or has reduced value, if the proprietary init binary isn't run. The publisher is certainly within their rights to require per-seat licensing of said proprietary init binary.

          To say otherwise, to claim that the GNU software can ONLY be run on all-GNU platforms, would require the removal of all GNU software from any 'un-pure' OS, and that's just NOT gonna happen anytime soon.
  • by Sunkist ( 468741 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:28AM (#3616978) Homepage

    If United Linux thinks they can "unseat" RedHat by using a per seat license, they are dead wrong, regardless of what RMS thinks.

    Good luck at your going-out-of-business sale, United Linux.

    • by truesaer ( 135079 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @12:32PM (#3617894) Homepage
      Are you sure? A lot of companys are more familiar with per seat licensing. Having to pay for every copy makes it seem like it must be useful and productive software. In a bizarre, twisted sort of way this could be the way to get people to switch away from MS!
  • United Gentoo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jeffphil ( 461483 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:30AM (#3616992)
    From the (now /.'d) Linux and Main article: the companies will allow source to be downloaded, but not binaries.

    Isn't that what the `emerge united-linux` command will be for?

    I guess Gentoo Linux [] becomes more and more important everyday.
  • by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:33AM (#3617010) Journal
    "...He calls upon developers to refuse to allow their work to be used by such a distribution."

    I would refuse to allow my work to be included, but I licensed it under the GPL, so I can't.

    • by huberj ( 12015 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @11:08AM (#3617296) Homepage
      Insightful, huh?

      RMS says:
      "[...] Free software developers, please don't let them license YOUR program per seat. Use the GNU GPL!"

      The point RMS is making is that this use is NOT permitted under the GPL, so by using the GPL for your own software you are refusing!

      Did you read the article? His statement is only 3 sentences, after all.
      • Reading the article impedes Karma.
      • "Insightful, huh?"

        Yes, insightful. Regardless of the perpetuation of the RMS misquote from the article summary, the actual content of the message is still somewhat relevant. There seem to be a number of people who understand the situation (RMS is pushing the GPL, as typical; UL is presumably only doing the per-seat license on the parts of the distribution they develop from scratch) who are still upset because they feel it's exploiting a loophole in the GPL to build a semi-proprietary gestalt off of free components.

        The comment you responded to essentially points out that this is one of the few cases where the GPL could be seen as having a similar degree of commercial exploitability as the BSD license. The BSD camp is used to accepting this issue in their quest for freedom of the end user, but it's just odd seeing it with the GPL camp and their quest for freedom of the code.

      • Using the GPL does not disallow them from licensing your program per seat. It does require that they give you the source, though, which will let you un-per-seat-license it.

        Remember, you can sell GPL software, but you must make the source code available. You can sell it under any terms you like; YOU produced the binaries. However, you can do as you like with the source.

  • RMS off base? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by toupsie ( 88295 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:35AM (#3617034) Homepage
    RMS is griping about a per seat license being charged by the UnitedLinux group. Ok, RMS griping is nothing new, but according to the GPL (as best as I can understand it) as long as the original source code is released with the binaries, UnitedLinux is free to charge a price for their distribution. I have never heard gripes about RedHat or Mandrake selling CDs from RMS. Why should selling binaries with access to the source code be a violation of the GPL? UnitedLinux is not limiting freedom as Microsoft does contrary to the (outrageous) claims of RMS.

    What am I missing? Is UnitedLinux truly as evil as Microsoft for selling a standardized binary set with source code on the side? Or is RMS just tired of capitalism?

    • by jdavidb ( 449077 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:55AM (#3617184) Homepage Journal

      What you are missing is that the GPL allows (and encourages) selling free software [], but it forbids taking away the rights of the recipient to further modify or redistribute the software. Caldera (UnitedLinux, by this philosophy, shows that they are just Caldera; Caldera has always done this) can't get around the GPL so I presume what they are doing is distributing source to all the GPL'd parts of the system and noting your rights in fine print somewhere while adding a few proprietary parts such that the whole integrated product cannot be redistributed and you have to pay a per-seat license. This means you're really just paying the license for a tiny amount of the product and not the whole OS.

    • ...that for that amount you bought a UnitedLinux image for, you can't give it to someone else or install it on multiple machines- because they're not licensing the distribution to you in that manner. One seat, one copy.

      The GPL places no restrictions on use of the binaries, etc. and prohibits distribution with systems that do unless you add exception clauses at the end of the license to allow the same- UnitedLinux states flatly that this is the case, that you can't use the distribution on more than one system.

      It boils down to the fact that anyone trying this is really violating the GPL license grant on several levels and the group should be told that they can't distribute the same.
      • If they are violating the license, the owners of said license can sue them for damages.

        And that won't happen, but Linus Tordvalds doesn't seem to care about anything and the Linux user community is too fragmented to get money together for a lawsuit.

    • Not true, GPL states that you cannot take away the right to copy/use/alter from the user. So if I buy one seat from them GPL allows me to install in any number of machines I want. The problem is that this distributions have some part of them, probably an indispensable one, that was created in-house, this part is lisensed so you can only legaly be used in one seat, without it the distro won't work. :-/

      It seems that someone has finaly found a loop hole in GPL.
      • Re:RMS off base? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jdavidb ( 449077 )

        This is nothing new; Caldera has been doing this since day one. They've also been failing since day one. Most software developers know that if you keep using the same methods you'll keep getting the same results, but Caldera hopes it will be different with a new name.

        Believe it or not, RedHat seems to have a great commitment to freedom. With RedHat and Debian available, I don't see a whole lot of room for other distributions; especially not for non-free ones.

    • No, they can charge a reasonable packaging fee, which is very different from a per seat liscensing fee. Assuming all the code is GLP'd then I could according to the GPL pay them for one physical copy of the cd and then redistribute the contents to every user on my network. The way they get around this is that they have closed source installers or other 3rd party utilities that do not follow the GPL and you therefore cannot distribute without obtaining some kind of a liscense, in this case a per seat one. The way RMS sees it though (I think) is that the packaging effectivly puts a constraint on the GPL'd code that is not allowed by the GPL (namely further restrictions of the users freedom to redistribute the code). I believe that the point is moot as the market will decide that this is not a tenable model for the same reasons that it rejected it when Caldera used it and why redhat used to get so much flack about their non open components in older distributions of RHL.
  • Uh, no... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:36AM (#3617038) Journal
    He calls upon developers to refuse to allow their work to be used by such a distribution.

    No he doesn't. He calls on developers to use the GPL, so as not to offer distributors a target to make proprietary. Hell, it's only three sentences long -- I'll just quote it:

    "'Licensing per seat' perverts the GNU+Linux system into something that respects your freedom as much as Windows," Stallman said. "They cannot restrict the GPL-covered programs in the system that way, because that would violate the GNU GPL, but the system also contains non-copylefted programs which are points of vulnerability. Free software developers, please don't let them license YOUR program per seat. Use the GNU GPL!"

    Whether or not you agree with this (he seems to suffer from the Slashbot notion that developers who use a BSD license, for instance, are too stupid to realize they're allowing their code to be relicensed instead of grasping that the point is to offer code for use to whoever wants it), it's not as obviously unreasonable as what the writeup suggests.

    • Re:Uh, no... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @02:07PM (#3618512) Homepage Journal
      he seems to suffer from the Slashbot notion that developers who use a BSD license, for instance, are too stupid to realize they're allowing their code to be relicensed

      As a user of the BSD license, I wondered if Ransom could relicense my code under a per-seat license. The obvious answer is "yes". The not so obvious answer is "yes, but so what?"

      No matter what Ransom does to my code, my copy and my users' copies will still be free. Nothing he can do can alter my cvs repository. Furthermore, the users of Ransom's per-seat version are still going to know that there's a free version out there. That's because Ransom can't remove my copyright or permission notices.

      But what if Ransom makes a derivative of my code and licenses that per-seat? The answer is where RMS and the BSD advocates part ways: code that I didn't write does not belong to me. His derivative bits are not mine and I have no ethical claim over them. His version is not my version. If RMS is correct in saying that "software should not be owned", then derivative software should be owned even less.
  • The basic concept of Linux does not mix well with the concept of per seat licenses. Businesses often turn to Linux partly because they don't have to mess with licenses and license counts.

    Hasn't Caldera been losing buckets of money since they switched to a per seat licensing scheme?

    This whole concept of United Linux reeks of desperation. These four companies are going to collaborate on United Linux while continuing to put out their own distros? What a muddle.

    Reading about United Linux has done nothing except make me decide to go check out Red Hat again.
  • huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dirk ( 87083 ) <> on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:37AM (#3617049) Homepage
    Okay, so this "per-seat licensing" consists of them not offering the binaries for free download. The source will still be "freely available". You will have to pay to get the binaries, and I would assume once you have the binaries, you can freely get the source. Where exactly is the problem here. this is all abiding by the GPL exactly. Nowhere does it say you cannot sell your software, nor does it say you must give your binaries away for free. It says if someone gets the binaries, the source must be available to them (which in this case it will be). Where exactly is the problem here? Oh wait, it's RMS, so the problem must be someone might make money off of software, so he has to object.
    • Re:huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by leandrod ( 17766 )

      > Okay, so this "per-seat licensing" consists of them not offering the binaries for free download.

      If it was, it wouldn’t be per-seat. Per-seat means each potential user has to pay to have the right to use. Even if it’s binaries, GNU GPL software can’t have its use restricted in this way. Distributing GNU GPL’d software under such a condition automatically revokes your rights to use and distribute GNU GPL’d software, thus making such lincensing illegal.

      > The source will still be "freely available".

      Unless it’s available in a manner compliant with the GNU GPL, that is not enough.

      > it's RMS, so the problem must be someone might make money off of software

      Don’t put words in anyone’s mouth. RMS doesn’t object to people making money, he (and I) does object to restricting other people’s freedom.

    • I am getting the feeling the issue here goes something like this:

      As the creator/author/maintainer of WidgetApp which is licensed under the GPL, I want everyone to not only use the software freely but contribute to it.

      However because United Linux has this per-seat cost scheme it appears that you pay for the pre-built binaries. While the source code is freely available for you to download and compile yourself even under the United Linux, it makes WidgetApp appear as if the creator/author/mainters of are getting paid for their development. A person buys the seat of United Linux and will automatically believe that a "piece of the pie" is going to all of the contributors. This is a bad thing and not what was intended with the GPL.

      So while they are honoring the letter of the GPL(the source code must be available and is available) it seems to deny the spirit of making useful programs freely available to everyone.

      This whole thing shows a loophole in the GPL which may never be closed. As long as United Linux offers source code for free they can charge per seat for binaries. People who don't want the appearance of being paid are now stuck because of the GPL(ie you can't deny United Linux access to the source any more than you can to you or me or Microsoft).

      Beyond that as another poster pointed, good luck making this buisness model work. This seems to offer more headache and cost more money and will be hard to compete with Red Hat's service structure or Debian's pure free-ness.
  • by MullerMn ( 526350 ) <andy.andrewarbon@co@uk> on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:39AM (#3617068) Homepage
    It's amazing how many people can't be bothered to read 3 paragraph article before spouting off a complete load of shit about it.

    If you had read the article you would realise that Stallman, contrary to some of the fights he picks, is actually being quite reasonable here.

    What he's saying is that he doesn't approve of the licence, and that authors should beware of licences other than the GPL because they may not protect their work from being kidnapped like this.

    Also, it's worth pointing out that in this case Linux and Main went to Stallman for his opinion, he didn't get on a soap box and force it down anyone's throat.

  • It's just as well (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I have to say, over the past year, I've given every distribution of linux a try. I used to be a hardcore Slackware user and I still like slack, but I also will use redhat and mandrake depending on the situation. The 4 companies involved in this...let's just say I found multiple problems with their distribution. Caldera has already had problems and angered many of it's users, Suse...I had to get rid of it on my box as well as an attempt to put it on my girlfriend's mom's computer due to speed and errors, not to mention crashes and various other things I don't get from other distros.

    What I'm saying is that the companies involved in this united linux are probably doing this as a "last ditch" effort. I say this because I've used each one of them and each one of them didn't work all that well which means if I have problems being a slackware user, I'm sure the less knowledgeable people do. No users = no income and thus drastic measures must be taken.

    When this fails we might be a few distros less than we are now bringing us closer to a TRUE standard. What I don't understand though is why can't we actually HAVE a standard? What's so hard about it? As a linux user I'm annoyed at the fact that all of these distributions seem to think they are right. I hate to say this but 90% of the software each of them use they didn't write, so why does it matter what the directory structure is? PICK A @#$% STANDARD!!
  • First, the Rant link is broken.

    Second, in the news article link, I found this semi-amsuing:

    "The focus of this is obviously on the business customer, because we feel that for Linux to be successful over all, we have to solve the business server issue first,"

    Anyone aware of a business server issue? Last I knew we just put the distribution CD of choice in and it installs, not much of an issue on it. If we need stuff, download, compile, install and you're done.

  • by XaXXon ( 202882 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [noxxax]> on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:44AM (#3617101) Homepage
    I've posted a few replies, hoping that some people would catch on to what the article was actually saying, but these comments I'm reading are VERY disheartening.

    We all know that RMS doesn't like non-Free software, where Free means you can modify it, you can use it for any purpose, and you can give original or modified copies to anyone else.

    This new UnitedLinux distribution has a per-seat license. This license can only apply to non-GPL (or similar licenses) components. The people who buy UnitedLinux for their commercial needs can still take the GPL components and do whatever they want with them. The non-GPL components, however, cannot be redistributed. This is what RMS doesn't like.

    What he's saying is that if everyone would distribute their software under the GPL, this type of (partially) non-free distribution wouldn't be possible.

    He is in no way saying that he doesn't like the way his GPL software is being used. He is also not trying to stop other people from distributing GPL software. He's just saying what he's always said: that software should be Free and that non-Free software is bad. Since all the parts of UnitedLinux aren't Free, UnitedLinux is bad.

    This isn't necessarily my opinion, I'm just trying to help get across what RMS is trying to say.

  • by zangdesign ( 462534 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:45AM (#3617106) Journal
    If you read the article, they will be in complete compliance with the GPL - they won't make BINARIES available, but SOURCE CODE will be.

    As for the proprietary software, something has to be done to ensure that they survive. Otherwise, there will be only two Linux companies, and eventually there will only be IBM.

    Sometimes I feel like I'm watching a bad episode of Highlander when I observe the Linux crowd.
  • I've seen Linux people laugh at MS per-seat licensing, yet now that some stupid Linux distributions do the same. Ah it's not such a big deal, RMS is whining for nothing.

    What's wrong with you people? If we wanted a Windows clone we would be using Windows, wouldn't we?

    Where have the good old days of free Linux, freedom of expression and powerfull shells gone? Nowadays all we hear about is KDE/GNOME, Redhat/Caldera, etc. and their right to charge for Linux.

    Enough is enough and its time for a change.

    For once, I stand by RMS and by the GPL.
  • RMS Again (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RWarrior(fobw) ( 448405 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:53AM (#3617170)
    He calls upon developers to refuse to allow their work to be used by such a distribution.

    But he wants people to licence software under the GPL, which allows what Caldera et al are proposing. As long as they supply the source code ...

    It really offends me when people like RMS seem to work to defeat companies like Caldera and SuSE, who have done a great deal for the Linux community, by taking away their revenue stream. By providing me with a Linux distribution, they provide me a valuable service. Yes, I can roll my own if I want to, but the time and effort that a packaged distribution saves me is worth some money to me!

    As long as UnitedLinux complies with the licences of its component parts, neither I nor RMS have any right to bitch about how much the distribution costs.

    The comparison to Microsoft is invalid because there are competing distributions of various prices, from Slackware and Debian on the $0 end to RedHat and Mandrake on the pay end, whereas there is no competition to Windows. If the distribution is done right and works well, market competition will take care of "fair pricing."

    • Re:RMS Again (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bouncings ( 55215 ) <ken&kenkinder,com> on Friday May 31, 2002 @11:47AM (#3617576) Homepage
      The comparison to Microsoft is invalid because there are competing distributions of various prices, from Slackware and Debian on the $0 end to RedHat and Mandrake on the pay end, whereas there is no competition to Windows. If the distribution is done right and works well, market competition will take care of "fair pricing."
      The comparison isn't about price. RMS and the FSF have said time and again that price isn't an issue. You can charge $65,000,000,000 for your Linux distribution and that's fine by RMS and the FSF. The problem is, "per-seat" licensing (which is a very valid comparison to Microsoft, because Microsoft was one of the first companies to introduce such an absurd concept). Per-seat licensing IS in direct violation of the GPL, and a patently Microsoft act -- Microsoft might have even patented that kind of license. :)

      I concur with RMS: Boycott all companies at all involved with per-seating licensing of GPL software.

  • by JoeWalsh ( 32530 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:56AM (#3617189)
    I'm confused - what value does UnitedLinux add versus its competitors? It seems as though it has the potential to someday come into parity with Red Hat in terms of third-party support, but if I can get Red Hat's product without restrictive licensing or buy the equivalent (but restrictively licensed) product from one of the UnitedLinux companies, which one am I most likely to buy?

    It seems like these companies have a strange way of differentiating themselves from the competition. I can only imagine the meeting this came out of:

    Executive 1: "How can we go up against Microsoft and Red Hat?"
    Executive 2: [thinks real hard, smoke starts coming out of his ears] "Uh....I dunno."
    Executive 3: "Add a free liverwurst sandwich in each box?"
    Executive 1: "No one wants that!"
    Executive 2: "I might want it."
    Executive 1: "No, you wouldn't! That's gross!"
    Executive 2: "Well, if I was a Linux user I might."
    Executive 1: "Come on, even they aren't that disgusting."
    Executive 4: "Hey, I think you're on to something! Let's include something that almost no one wants! Like...hmmm...uh....hmm..." [his forehead starts to sizzle as his brain goes into overdrive]
    Executive 2: "I know! A Microsoft-style restrictive license! Red Hat doesn't have that, and Microsoft doesn't have the Free Source software like we do! It'll give us a competi...uh...competi...uh..."
    Executive 1: "Competitive advantage?"
    Executive 3: "You said 'titi'!" [Falls out of his high-backed, cushioned chair, laughing]

    Yup, that's probably pretty much how it went. (I'll let you figure out which exec is which.)


  • Dep Misquotes RMS (Score:5, Informative)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:56AM (#3617193) Homepage
    "He calls upon developers to refuse to allow their work to be used by such a distribution."

    And here is what RMS _actually_ said:

    "They cannot restrict the GPL-covered programs in the system that way, because that would violate the GNU GPL, but the system also contains non-copylefted programs which are points of vulnerability. Free software developers, please don't let them license YOUR program per seat. Use the GNU GPL!"
  • After all, one of the big statements from MS is that OSS can't be used in a business environment. Well, isn't that what these companies are trying to do? It isn't as though we can't use Linux! Look, if they add value to where it makes sense for this kind of license then good for them! It is yet another validation that OSS products CAN not only be used in the business world, but software companies can make money building products that use OSS (which some people already know).

    It's not as though people will have to pay for Linux or people are being locked out. Personally I support the distro(s) I use financially, but not before I tried them out. I use Slack and have IBM Websphere running on it just fine even though it's not a "supported distribution". In other words, you don't HAVE to use only distro 'X', you won't HAVE to use "United Linux".

    The point is that if they add value to where their prices are worth it - Great! If not, then they'll have to adjust. Either way, Linux as a whole will remain "untainted", it isn't going to be torn from our hands into the corporate world where it will become a "Linux for Windows".

  • Is it just me, or does United Linux just seem like one more annoying headache for people still hanging on to the Linux distros that have lost favor as Redhat and Mandrake continue to gain market share? Why would I bother working with one convoluted mess tossed together by several market losers, when I could just go with a company that is obviously doing something right?

    To me this whole thing seems about as smart as HP and Compaq deciding that instead of revamping their product lines and just giving customers what they want, like Sun and Dell did, they decided to merge two unpopular firms into one big one.

    On the upside, this may be a good trend in the industry, as conglomerations of crap may be easier to get rid of then a bunch of small piles.
  • Cripes I just cant get over the number of conclusions that slashdotters jump to today without having a fricking clue... (Ok, I'll get laughed at for that one!) RMS's point is very valid and what he actually said is nothing like the sentaionalism lies on the story headline here.. (Slashdot=Weekly world news or enquirer now) RMS's point is rock solid and points out a hidden danger in the United linux idea..

    Yes, per seat is evil... pure evil... espically connected with linux. but we expected such debauchery eventually.. Many of us expected it out of RedHat first, but it seems that the greediest of the distros are the ones who are implimenting it. it's sad.. the ENTIRE platform that linux stands on is the fact that deployment and cost of ownership is significantly lower due to the removal of the draconian and asenine restrictions in place on existing software platforms... Adding this to the Linux mix will do one of two things, the companies trying it will fail a horrible miserable torturous death (deserved in fact) or they will utterly destroy linux.

    Basically... if WE as linux users, programmers, developers, advocates allow this viral licensing into linux it will destroy what we love. and that is RMS's response...

    it's a "HEY, look at this!" nothing more people.
  • by gregm ( 61553 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @11:08AM (#3617299)
    Which slashdpot doesn't see fit to link to.

    "Will users be able to download free versions of UnitedLinux for non-commercial uses, similar to how Linux is freely available today?

    Yes, UnitedLinux sources will be made available for free download as soon as version 1 is released. "

    FAQ Frequently Asked Questions
    I doubt very seriously that question was EVER asked. It's a leading question which are generally bad.

    I'm not thinking that the words non-commercial and the GPL go together. It's one thing for them to have a per seat license (which could be ignored as soon as a legitimate buyer re-released all the gpl'ed source), but entirely another thing for them to limit the use of the source to non-commercial use. Suse has done this with Yast since time started but Yast certainly isn't the whole distribution. If this is allowed to happen, Bill G could bundle all the GNU tools with his version of Linux windows as long as he forks over the source to the GNU parts.

    There's a fine line here.... I think United Linux is crossing the line by tying up gpl'ed software in their non-free distro. Yet I see nothing wrong with a distro including non-free software as long as the distro itself remains free. Mandrake seems to be going down this same road to a limited extent.

    Even if United Linux removes the "commercial use" business on the source it'd be trivial to obfuscate the configure parts of the makefiles to make it nearly impossible to figure out how to compile their distro into a useable system.

    I figured the world would find and exploit holes in the GPL, I didn't figure that generally good Linux companies like Suse would. I've used Suse since 5.0 and will now have to think seriously about switching.

    • Caldera have been going with 'per-seat licensing' for a while now. I never investigated further as I don't use Caldera.

      However I do use Suse.
      I'd guess the per-seat licensing is more to do with Service Contracts. Downloaded ISO's generally come with no support, this has been true for RH and Mandrake. Bought distros (like the Suse 8.0 Proffessional version I just recently acquired) come with limited installation support and after that - you're on your own.

      Since the United Linux consortium are aiming squarely at Enterprise and commercial custom, they're talking about that sector of the market as it is more likely to be profitable. They are not really interested in the home user.
      I'd guess more Corporations might take an interest in GNU/Linux if 'per-seat licensing' were in place as they'd have a support lifeline.
      Businesses need to have a support agreement (even huge corporations with inhouse knowledge) no support contract or service agreement would leave them vulnerable to problems which might jeopardise continuity.

      I'd seriously doubt they'd strangle the non-enterprise user, they'd have only small change to gain by forcing non-enterprise customers to pay non-seat and too much to loose as a lot of non-enterprise customers are the people who write most of their product.

      I doubt very much GNU/LInux is the core product that brings their revenue. I'd guess their principle resource is the knowledge of their staff.
      But then, that's true for any company.
  • Absurd (Score:4, Insightful)

    by d3xt3r ( 527989 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @11:57AM (#3617659)
    RMS' statement basically contradicts itself. If you release software under the GPL you cannot restrict your work from being distributed in a pay-per-seat distribution - I just isn't feasable.

    All the GPL says is that if you distribute binaries containing GPL'd code, you must make the source code for those GPL'd binaries available under the GPL I am still free to distribute any binaries I created for a fee, as long as I give you the source under the GPL!

    Additionally, a Linux distribution such as SuSE and others, may contain code that is licensed under proprietary licenses. These other applications such as installers, management software, config tools, and other value-added features may be licensed under whatever schema its creator sees fit. Such tools can be licensed on a per-seat basis if chosen.

    If I buy a license for United Linux, I can take any GPL'd software distributed with United Linux and reuse the on 100,000 different machines without paying anyone for that useage.

    I really don't see the problem here. I write GPL'd software. If my software were to be distributed with commercial software that was charged for under a different license I would not have a problem with this! Hell, it's part of the reason I chose to use GPL in the first place!

    Free to use, free to modify, free to redistribute, and free to chage a fee for redistribution!!! RMS, what's the problem here? It is clear to me that if you don't want your work redistributed for a fee, you are using the wrong license!

    • Re:Absurd (Score:3, Funny)

      by BlueWonder ( 130989 )
      RMS, what's the problem here? It is clear to me that if you don't want your work redistributed for a fee, you are using the wrong license!

      Huh? RMS is actively encouraging [] people who redistribute GPL'd software to charge as much as possible.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 31, 2002 @11:59AM (#3617671)

    It's the software which counts. People didn't
    start using emacs and gcc because the license kept them from making proprietary derivatives. They use these programs because the license allows them to use the software for free. People use X11 all over the place, and (surprise!) it doesn't have a strictly GNU license.

    The GNU license is ubiquitous, not because it is on high moral ground, but because it is easy boilerplate to slap on to software projects which noone expects to make money. Back in the day, the equivalent would be to just put some random disclaimer with a statement releasing the code to the public domain. Putting a GNU license on
    something is equivalent to genuflecting at an altar. It's doesn't really require a lot of thought.

    If linux had a BSDish license, RMS and GNU would be a footnote in free (as in beer) software history. It is not GNU which distinguishes Linux, it is Linux. Its own unique mix of features and hype marks it.

    • I think that had Linux been under a BSD style license, it would have been less successful. You can search out the opinions of Linus on the matter on

      The GPL made writing code a social action -- you could guarantee that your code would always be free, and no one else would ever be confronted with the a myterious black box they couldn't screw with, that contained your stuff. It is about making technology open and transparent.

      On the other hand, if it truly is "the software that counts", why didn't BSD win out over Linux ? Isn't BSD generally conceeded to have many benefits and higher qualities than Linux ?
  • by MrResistor ( 120588 ) < minus poet> on Friday May 31, 2002 @12:43PM (#3617960) Homepage
    Where is this per-seat license laid out? I've read a lot of the articles, etc. surrounding this UnitedLinux thing, but nowhere have I seen a per-seat license mentioned by anyone actually involved in the project. What I have seen is a /. post mentioning a somewhat ambiguous phrasing in the UnitedLinux FAQ which could theoretically allow for the possibility that maybe they will use an End User License that is not quite typical of the Free Software Ideal. Nowhere is any specific licensing scheme, per-seat or otherwise, ever laid out, except by the Chicken Littles that have latched onto this ambiguous phrase and determined that the sky is falling. RMS heard the screaming and, without bothering to look up and see if the sky was actually coming down, joined the corus.

    Not that I disagree with the sentiment, quite the opposite. I know that I would go out of my way to not support a Linux vendor using per-seat licensing, and I think we've already seen that most of the Linux community feels the same. Frankly, after the beating Caldera took for bringing up the idea of a per-seat license, I'd be extremely surprised if anyone even considered such a scheme again, especially Ransom Love (he does give the impression sometimes that he just doesn't get it, though, so who knows).

    This per-seat licensing thing is just a totally unsubstantiated rumor! Get over it, people!

    There are plenty of other reasons to complain about the project, though. The fact that it's server only seems to me to be monumentally stupid. Linux seems to be doing just fine in the server market, and I don't see how this standardization effort will make much difference in that arena. Linux on the desktop, however, would derive incredible benefit from an innitiative like this. In fact, the lack of an innitiative like this is really the only thing standing in the way of Linux becoming viable on the desktop. If there were a serious effort to standardize for desktop distros, I bet we'd quickly see some of those missing apps being ported to that standard.

  • by MaggieL ( 10193 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @01:30PM (#3618244)
    ..."United Linux", it will be interesting to hear from Linus on the subject. After all, he holds trademark rights in the name "Linux", as I recall.

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears