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GNU is Not Unix

GPL to be Modified to Penalize Patents and DRM 665

null etc. writes "MSNBC is running an article about how upcoming changes to the GPL will retaliate against companies that patent software or produce DRM'ed products. "Software patents are clearly a menace to society and innovation. We like this to be more explicit. The basic idea is that if someone patents software, he loses the right to use free software. It's like a patent retaliation clause.""
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GPL to be Modified to Penalize Patents and DRM

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  • Taxation? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nokilli ( 759129 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @11:51AM (#13490787)
    From the article:
    "We're fundamentally opposed to DRM. We think it's a dead end for society," Greve said, adding all software should be free to use and that artists could be paid for their films and music by a general 'taxation' on Internet connections.
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't the kind of freedom being espoused here necessitate doing away with WiFi? I mean, how can you tax the connection if it's available to anyone, anonymously, at any time?

    I'm a big fan of the GPL, and of course I'm opposed to software patents, but to divine from the two the need to tax everybody for everything just smacks of totalitarianism. Who then decides how this money gets doled out to the artists, for one thing? And how does this model work for movies, when they cost millions of dollars to produce? I just don't see it.
    --
    You didn't know. [tinyurl.com]
    • From the article: The free software association said on Tuesday it would start adapting rules for development and use of free software by including penalties against those who patent software or use anti-piracy technology.

      This means that people who were using older GPL'd software are free from obligations of the upcoming license. This obviously doesn't solve the problem because you can always use older GPLed software and modify it yourself to keep it up to date. The whole idea of free software is that it
      • by jarich ( 733129 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:03PM (#13490907) Homepage Journal
        All software should be FREE!

        So we're going to freely share it with everyone we agree with.

        This marks the end of any relevance the GPL has. I wonder what will replace it?

        • by jdhutchins ( 559010 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:11PM (#13490999)
          I wonder what will replace it?
          Probably GPL v2. For many projects, if you don't like the new GPL, just don't use (you do have to remove the "or any future version" clause as the linux kernel and others have already done though).
        • BSD license. Works well for OpenSSH.
           
        • All software should be FREE!
          No you are wrong. The developer should have rights on what they do with their software. I am a fan of GNU software and many of the idea, but the one thing that I hate is the idea that all software should be this way. I would rather put more focus on the fact that Software can be Copyrighted and Patented, where both rules affect each other, we should settle on one form and reject the other, My vote would be on copyrighted. Say I make a program that is used for military reason
      • When you create software you choose its license. Many people will probably continue to use the old GPL simply to avoid this "feature". IBM for example wouldn't dare touch this new GPL. This will most likly cause the kernel to use the old GPL, as well as any project that hopes to get corperate help.
      • From TFA:

        Stallman will write a draft version of the new GPL by December, after which it will be evaluated by thousands of organizations, software developers and software users in 2006.

        So it doesn't look like we need panic just yet. The draft isn't yet written, and there's going to be plenty of time to offer feedback once that happens.

        The whole idea of free software is that it gives people the freedom to do what they want with it. The new license will be saying something like: "Hey, you can have thi

      • This means that people who were using older GPL'd software are free from obligations of the upcoming license.

        You can't retrospectively change licences. And indeed, software authors can happilly still release software under the old GPL if they want.

        The whole idea of free software is that it gives people the freedom to do what they want with it.

        No, really it doesn't (in the case of the GPL). GPL'd software gives people the freedom to do what they want with it within limits. If I was allowed to do what I wa
      • by tambo ( 310170 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:43PM (#13491304)
        This means that people who were using older GPL'd software are free from obligations of the upcoming license.

        Correct. Section 9 of the GPL reads:

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

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

        So, this threat only has teeth if the latest version of the GPL does away with this retroactivity. It would have to allow users to elect only a version including the "patent punishment" clause.

        But that's not the biggest issue. Here's the biggest issue: Does the "patent punishment" clause trigger if the company patents (A) software related to the GPLed software, or (B) any kind of software?

        Either option has issues:

        (A) If the clause only triggers for software derived from the GPLed code, then that's fair and straightforward. It's also completely redundant with Section 6 of the current GPL:

        6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein.

        Thus, this option is non-newsworthy.

        (B) If it's a threat to punish companies that seek any software patent, then this raises a host of untenable issues. Obvious problems:

        • It's really difficult to characterize "software patents." Some patents clearly claim a computer-implemented algorithm; most don't (in part, because the USPTO was rejecting such claimed inventions out of hand as "nonstatutory" until about 1998.) The difference between a "process" and a "computer-implemented process" is infinitely gray.
        • Virtually every large software company has patents on software. The world's largest software patentee, by far, is IBM - a strong Linux advocate. Patents are acquired for a variety of reasons, including defensive purposes. The critical issue isn't whether or not a company patents software, but what it does with those software patents. Simply punishing all "software patentees" is an untenable oversimplification.
        • I recognize that the Slashdot view of software patents is that Microsoft wants them in order to protect its fat, bloated monopoly. That's not untrue. But another beneficiary of software patents - arguably the most important one - is the small tech startup. And since cash-starved startups are more likely to use GPLed software than established firms, this penalty clause disproportionately impacts startups. In effect, this would discourage innovation and promote tech stagnation.
        • This penalty clause would be a huge blow to the free software movement. Remember when BillG began touting the GPL as a "virus" that threatened to eviscerate companies' IP? This would lend much credence to that argument, and would send tech companies running away in droves.

        Thus, this option is extremely problematic. It probably poses a much greater threat to small companies, and GPLed software itself, than to the stereotypical "bad guys" in the software patent biz. You can almost hear the industry fat cats rubbing their hands in glee, muttering, "Yes, please go ahead and kill the concept of GPL."

        - David Stein

    • Re:Taxation? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Elf-friend ( 554128 )
      ...to tax everybody for everything just smacks of totalitarianism.
      Specifically, it smacks of communism (which is just great, given that we've been trying to counter the "free software is communistic" argument for years). Oh well, like others have said, I'll wait for a better source than MSNBC before I start running around like a chicken with it's head cut off.
      • Re:Taxation? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Swamii ( 594522 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:45PM (#13491323) Homepage
        Oh well, like others have said, I'll wait for a better source than MSNBC before I start running around like a chicken with it's head cut off.

        Except, the quotes are direct quotes from the EU Free Software President. And besides, Microsoft sold the off its stake in MSNBC. Also, you'll notice the register has the story as well.
    • Re:Taxation? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Desert Raven ( 52125 )
      adding all software should be free to use and that artists could be paid for their films and music by a general 'taxation' on Internet connections.

      Ah yes, the "everyone should pay for my stuff" theory.

      What about the very large number of people who *don't* download music? The small amount of music I buy, I prefer to have uncorrupted, on physical media.

      I really don't see why I should be paying for other people's recreation, and I especially don't see why my money should be going to *crap* musicians/bands, sin
    • by ciaran_o_riordan ( 662132 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:48PM (#13492602) Homepage

      Here's a statement from Georg Greve [fsfeurope.org]:

      there seems to be confusion spread about the GPLv3, based on a Reuters article published today and copied to several locations, including MSNBC from where Slashdot grabbed it. Unfortunately in this article Reuters displayed some items of pure speculation as facts and in doing so oversimplified them to the extent that they became false.

      The true news is what you can see in this release: We have begun preparing the GPL Version 3 process for real and there will be a long discussion throughout 2006 about the changes made. Since that process will be quite a lot of work, the Free Software Foundations are very happy that Stichting NLnet supports this process and hope that others will do the same.

      As to what the GPL version 3 draft will contain: Noone has that information right now, it is all in Richard Stallmans head, who has to gather the ideas and get to work on the draft. Until that draft has been published, everything is pure speculation and your guess is as good as mine.

      Reuters picked up strongly on two of the the points which were made before by Eben Moglen in the eweek article and quoted me falsely. They later did some slight improvement in terms of reducing the oversimplification, but still portrayed things in a rather one-sided way, in particular making mere speculation seem fact, while ignoring the true facts.

      So the best thing you can do is to ignore that article.

      It is FUD and I am deeply sorry for this, for I have been centrally (if falsely) quoted as the contributor of it.

      That has been a most unpleasant experience.

      Regards,
      Georg Greve
      FSFE, President

  • A bold one (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Metteyya ( 790458 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @11:52AM (#13490795)
    That one is bold. And is not a good idea IMHO. Almost every company today uses GPLed software, also those with software patents (e.g. Nokia, Motorola). Making it illegal for them will only make GPL enforcement harder.
    • If you have code that is using some patented aspects, and you make that code GPL - what good is it? No-one else can work on it. It's not Free in the GPL sense so you might as well not have bothered to use that licence.

      This change is just pointing out a situation that already exists, and ensuring that if you pick up some GPL code that it is at least as patent-trouble free as the creators could make it, that nothing is hidden by the makers to trap you later.
    • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:01PM (#13490891)
      That one is bold. And is not a good idea IMHO. Almost every company today uses GPLed software, also those with software patents (e.g. Nokia, Motorola). Making it illegal for them will only make GPL enforcement harder.

      Enforcement might be a better clause, and since the article doesn't reveal the exact wording, that may in fact be what is intended. I.e. filing for and receiving a patent may not invalidate your license to use GPLed V. 3 software, but enforcing the patent might be. An additional clause allowing a patent to be enforced if it has also been granted without strings attached to any and all GPLed software might be another stance.

      You definitely don't want to hamstring GPL friendly companies from enforcing patents if they are attacked by Microsoft's patent portfolio, or make it impossible for companies to use GPLed software because they feel they have to file defensive patents, but you also don't want to allow Microsoft et. al. to use GPLed software when their policy is to destroy it via software patents.

      So, perhaps the best approach:

      "This License (GPL V. 3) is revoked if a person or company files for and receives a software patent and does not explicitly license any and all use of that patent to all GPLed software free of any requirements (monetary or otherwise) except those stated in the GPL, and if they ever seek to enforce that patent in a non-defensive matter. I.e. the only enforcement of said patent which will not revoke this license is one that is in direct retaliation of a patent enforcement action by another firm or person."

      Of course, the lawyers would need to clean up the language quite a bit, but you get the gist.

      GPL friendly companies can then patent software, use it to defend themselves against the depridations of Microsoft, Apple, etc., but any and all Free Software released under the GPL would be protected in perpetuity.
      • The question is would IBM and other major companies be willing to use this new version of the GPL?

        What would IBM, Sun, and MySQL gain? What would they lose?
      • It'll also make the company's patents next to worthless. If I can blatantly rip off their patented inventions without any fear of retaliation, it's as if the patents don't exists. Other companies would trample all over them. If you can charge nothing yourself, whereas everyone else will force you to license their patents (or be sued) you end up with a big net loss. Patents are bargaining chips both in terms of cash and mutual licensing agreements.

        It is also trivially defeated by a shell company. Microsoft I
    • Re:A bold one (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:12PM (#13491013)
      And it will make widespread adoption of GPLed software impossible. Picture a world in wich Linux could not be used by the Fortune 500. What are they going to do, stop using patents or not adopt Linux? It's simple, GPLed software, just like any other non-licensed or non-licensable software, would be banned from the company.

      If you don't have adoption by the big boys, then you don't have adoption, period. Even Microsoft has both a Mac and Linux department. If you remove their ability to load Linux then you remove their incentive even to attempt interoperability.

      If this is adopted as stated (dobtful since it wasn't very specific) either the GPL version that includes these clauses will die, or GPLed software will die. Personally, I hope for the former.

      TW
      • Re:A bold one (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LurkerXXX ( 667952 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:15PM (#13491042)
        Far more important, doesn't IBM have software patents? Making Linux unusable by it's largest corporate sponsor is kinda... stupid.
        • RMS + shotgun (Score:3, Interesting)

          Let's just say that due to errant marksmanship, Stallman doesn't have any toes left. As such, I'm dismayed but not surprised in the least by this development

          However, the more likely scenario (compared to IBM just quitting Linux) is that the Linux kernel would continue to be distributed via the old GPL - with one possible modification - the "or any newer version" clause. Not sure how that would affect newer versions of many of the GNU tools released with most versions of linux. I expect much forking.

          Aft

      • Re:A bold one (Score:3, Interesting)

        by maxpublic ( 450413 )
        Picture a world in wich Linux could not be used by the Fortune 500.

        Picture a world where Linus Torvalds would be fucking stupid enough to adopt this bullshit. Can't? Yep, it'd only happen in a Twilight Zone episode.

        Linux ain't going GPL 3.0 if this is how it's being designed, and I'm willing to bet 99% of open source won't employ it either (discounting all the unfinished projects on SourceForge, of course). Only a few fanatics will adopt the license, and we can just ignore them - as all fanatics should b
    • Re:A bold one (Score:4, Insightful)

      by xiaomonkey ( 872442 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @01:51PM (#13491981)
      There seems to be alot of comments on how this is a bad move on the part of the Free Software Foundation.

      However, it seems that this is just a way to update the GPL for the times and completely consistent with its original goals. That is, the GPL exists to ensure that people both have the freedom to extend and to share the software that they're using with others. Originally, copyrights and lack of distribution of the original source code were the means that commercial vendors would use to prevent such extension and sharing. Consequently, the GPL was written so that anyone given a copy of the code was also given the right to obtain the source as well as share the code/program with others.

      Today, software patents figure much more prominently into the picture, and are being used in a way that undermines the sprite and goals of the GPL. For example, a company like IBM/Sun/Microsoft can release two versions of a product. One being a slightly crippled GPL'ed 'community edition' and the other being full featured non-GPL'ed edition. Now, without software patents, diligent programmers could extend the community edition so that it would have all the features of the commercial non-GPL'ed version. However, with a handful of software patents, the company in question could easily block such a move with the threat of legal retribution.

      Additionally, software patents allow some companies (*cough* Google *cough*) to make extensive use of GPL software, and then proceed to make extensive use of the patent system and obtain/file-for patents that could in principle be used to block the development of some types of Free/GPL'ed software (e.g. in Google's case, think a GPL'ed enterprise search appliance, desktop search tool, or even just a plain old open source web search engine package).

      So, the proposed ways in which the GPL might change just seem like reasonable efforts to protect from those who would use the patent system to undermine the original spirit while simultaneously gaining a competitive advantage by making us of GPL software.
  • Non starter (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fulcrum of Evil ( 560260 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @11:53AM (#13490800)

    I bet a lot of people will start releasing their stuff with a specific version of the GPL. Political wrangling like this doesn't belong.

  • IBM (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pete-classic ( 75983 ) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @11:53AM (#13490804) Homepage Journal
    Later IBM. It was good while it lasted.

    -Peter
    • No shit (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MAXOMENOS ( 9802 )
      This is going to lead to an anti-GPL revolt. I know I'm considering it right now.
    • MOD PARENT UP (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Seriously. Shouldn't the GPL provide a reason for businesses, which are already skeptical of GPL'ed software, with MORE reasons to contribute, not less?

      Instead, RMS decides that punishing the largest contributers is a pretty good idea.

      So long, and thanks for all the code. So sad that you should have to go.
    • There is no way a company IBM's size has so many projects and patents there is no way they could comply with this. For example, most (all?) Thinkpads have a DRM chip in them. Sure, these are technically Lenovo now, but still. Ironically, the only support of the DRM functions I'm aware of is via a Linux kernel module with was/is made freely available by IBM and is open source. (Dunno about the license offhand)

      And what about the customers of companies who insist (in some cases for good reason) on either

  • Isn't it childish? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by russianspy ( 523929 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @11:54AM (#13490816)
    I guess that will also make developers think a bit. The "normal" GPL allows the user to select eg. GPL version 2 *or at his option a later version*. That is really a recipe for disaster. Who's to say that there will never be a version of GPL that assigns all rights to a commercial entity? Or that drops the requirement to share source code?
  • by Stradenko ( 160417 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @11:55AM (#13490819) Homepage
    Without seeing a draft of the new GPL, how can they speculate?
    And once drafted, the FSF will most certainly be accepting feedback from the community.

  • $0.02 from me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dark Paladin ( 116525 ) * <jhummel AT johnhummel DOT net> on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @11:55AM (#13490820) Homepage
    If this is accurate, then I honestly feel this is a bad idea. One of the strengths of the GPL is its ability to bring people in, while still enforcing the idea of Free (as in Freedom) software while keeping it Free (as in Beer). By forcing companies to choose either patents or GPL, I believe we do a disservice to both.

    Now, if they want to put in the clause that says "If you try to patent something that's in GPL software, then turn around and use said software, *then* you lose the ability to use it". This would prevent SCO like actions of "We'll use what we want, and sue you anyway" (yes, I know they're sueing off of contract or copyrights or whatever it is this week - but just go with me here).

    Anyway, as stated, that's just my $0.02 after reading the article. IMHO, so on and so forth, so I could be wrong.
    • Re:$0.02 from me (Score:3, Insightful)

      by johnjaydk ( 584895 )
      Flat out prohibiting use of GPL software to companies that us DRM and/or Patents seems a bit extreme. Sure I would love to see both go, but this overreaching and do us more harm than good. We simply don't have the strength to do it.

      How about something along the lines of prohibiting companies from using gpl stuff in building drm schemes ?

  • by saterdaies ( 842986 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @11:55AM (#13490828)
    I wonder how this will effect Linus and his sizable patent portfolio.
  • This kind of BS will drive away companies that have been very supportive of free software, like IBM and HP. Do you think they're really going to renounce their existing software patent portfolios? No way, they'll just use a different license.

    "Free as in speech -- as long as you're saying what we want you to say". No way is this going to work.

    • Two points (Score:3, Insightful)

      Two things here:

      1/ I think this "kind of BS" is far less revolutionary than the "kind of BS" the original GPL was in its time.

      2/ Corporations need open-source, not the opposite.

      I share this attitude of restricking the rights of people who try to prevent me from coding certain algorithms. They hurt me, I don't want them to use for free the stuff I make. It makes a lot of sense to me.

  • by WinDoze ( 52234 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @11:56AM (#13490835)
    This will result in some very talented developers simply stopping their contributions to open source. Not everyone makes their living with open source. A lot of the best talent does commercial work for their day job.
  • The GPL already seems scary enough to me already, being that if Stallman wants to change the GPL then the license for your program changes too...

    So what happens if someone makes a load of GPL'd software then comes up with some brilliant ideas and patents it? What happens to all his previous work?

    I don't see how this is going to help free software at all. It just makes the prospect of it more scary, IMO - I'm all for free software, but I still think that closed source and proprietary software (to an exte

  • by ari_j ( 90255 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @11:57AM (#13490846)
    This defeats the "free" part of Free Software. I sure hope that the article is wrong, that the GPL does not adopt these provisions, or that nobody uses the GPL when it does. This is like making it illegal to watch broadcast TV if you have ever watched satellite. It's impertinent, out of place, and a fundamental corruption of the whole point of the operation.
  • by HotNeedleOfInquiry ( 598897 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @11:58AM (#13490848)
    Stallman will write a draft version of the new GPL by December, after which it will be evaluated by thousands of organizations, software developers and software users in 2006.

    The draft version may contain a proposal to penalize those companies which use digital rights management (DRM) software which protects songs and films against piracy, and which is seen as an anomaly by the free software association.


    So it appears that what the article quotes as fact is something in RMS's head that may or may not end up on paper and then may or may not become a new license. Sensationalism at it's best.
  • Theo De Raadt has chutzpah: he dropped support for adaptec hardware in OpenBSD, because they strung them along about giving him docs. Not code/binaries -- documentation.

    And although I don't like the GPL (I prefer MIT/BSD terms), I really appreciate that RMS and the GPL crowd have such balls to do this one.

    It is a long time coming -- finally the GPL people figure they are big enough to make a difference where it really counts.

    They really care about this stuff!
  • Honestly, this is speculation and FUD.

    Nothing to see here, move on.
  • If such changes are made in the next GPL, we probably won't see very many people using it. The release of a new version does not automagically upgrade all software licensed under v2 of the GPL. Among other things, it violates the discrimination clause of the OSI policy, as well as the debian policy.
  • Not a good idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by scronline ( 829910 )
    Yeah, this is really going to help the take up of the GPL and OSS. Many software producers write software for both Windows AND *NIX. So now they'll be forced to just completely stay away from *NIX.

    For example, mp3...out the window for using OSS, so why should they bother making their codec linux compatible?

    What about all that stuff that IBM is putting out? For that matter, now Novell, Redhat.....WHOOPS. Guess the GPL will effectively kill off several major players....

    Stallman, I hate to say this, but yo
  • by molarmass192 ( 608071 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:00PM (#13490870) Homepage Journal
    You can't just lock out anybody who patents software. Lock out those who enforce patents, threaten with patents, sit on patents, etc ... but simply owning a patent? A lot of these patents are used defensively. This new license would bar IBM, Novell, HP, etc from using software under the new license ... heck ... I think even RedHat has a few patents.
  • I don't know if this is a good idea or not. They are right in patents leading to a dead end. Eventually you won't be able to code anything without violating a patent and opening yourself up to lawsuit. At least, if the software companies had it their way...

    Its no longer about innovation. Its about a landgrab. "Method for drawing on screen graphics using a video device." for example. That is a lot of land! It would be like me laying claim to area enough to cover six of today's states back in the days
  • No way (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fliplap ( 113705 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:00PM (#13490876) Homepage Journal
    Wow, I must say I agree with nothing in this article. I might not like DRM, but there's no way I would agree with an "Internet Tax" to pay artists. I don't agree with software patents either, but I can tell you that my code will continue to be licensed under the current GPL.

    IBM holds piles of software patents, but most of us will agree that they've done much for the OSS community
  • It sounds like this is just a general lashing out at big corporations. "We're taking our free software away from you" type mentality.

    Well, bravo. Push the big corporations back into Microsofts waiting arms.

    Set up "JUDGES" to will decide who in society can use GPL and who cannot.

    And then the hackers will just come up with REALLY FREE software when Linux becomes to burdened with legal and governmental restrictions.
  • How about Media-S [sidespace.com], which is a GPL'd DRM?

    It's almost a philosophy question. Will Media-S dissolve in a puff of logic? Can the GPL create a rock so big it can't lift it?

  • by Knome_fan ( 898727 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:01PM (#13490889)
    No, the GPL3 will not have these provision?

    How do I know?
    Because the process of drafting and discussiong the GPL3 has just started.

    Here's todays press release from the FSF Europe
    http://mail.fsfeurope.org/pipermail/press-release/ 2005q3/000116.html [fsfeurope.org]

    and here:
    https://mail.fsfeurope.org/mailman/listinfo/gplv3 [fsfeurope.org]
    is the mailing list, in case you want to participate in the discussion.
  • by scovetta ( 632629 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:03PM (#13490913) Homepage
    Ok, so let's say I'm a big ass software company that has started to roll out Linux. I've got a couple hundred patents to protect my IP (without which I could not sustain my business). Now the New GPL comes along and tells me I can't use Linux, Apache, Tomcat, etc.

    What am I going to do?

    That's right ladies and gentlemen, run to Microsoft or another non-GPL vendor. I'm sure Bill would be happy to have me back.

    Seriously. What if Microsoft added a clause to their licensing that says you can't run it on a network with any other operating systems?
    • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:21PM (#13491102)

      Now the New GPL comes along and tells me I can't use Linux, Apache, Tomcat, etc.

      None of those applications will be affected - Linux is specifically under version 2 of the GPL, Apache and Tomcat are under the Apache License. Even so, If any major opensource project were affected, you would see forks of the codebase happen at the last viably licensed point, just like what happeend with Xfree.

    • by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:48PM (#13491360)
      I've got a couple hundred patents to protect my IP

      More likely, you're a company that has done little more than lay claim to various methods of software implementation. Unless it's something fairly unique and truly innovative, calling it "IP" is a little presumptuous. From what I've seen, most of what's patented doesn't qualify.
  • Another link... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Fungus King ( 860489 ) <(mjlacey) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:04PM (#13490917)

    There's another article here [channelregister.co.uk] for anyone who's interested.

    TFA might have overstated it a bit - and they also say that it's not certain that it'll be put into the GPL either.

  • by dfl ( 808355 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:06PM (#13490939) Journal
    FTA:

    "Stallman will write a draft version of the new GPL by December, after which it will be evaluated by thousands of organizations, software developers and software users in 2006."

    In other words, the story should say that a new *draft* of the GPL will... yada. yada, yada. And we can all think of thousands of powerful opponents who will not evaluate that draft favorably. It will never move past the draft phase.

  • by FlorianMueller ( 801981 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:09PM (#13490967) Homepage
    The MSNBC article is based on the first version of the Reuters report, which misquotes the FSF on the provisions concerning software patents. Reuters has meanwhile updated the story. Here's a few links to the new and corrected version of the story:
    Washington Post [washingtonpost.com]
    eWeek [eweek.com]
    Reuters.com [reuters.com]
  • by dillon_rinker ( 17944 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:10PM (#13490986) Homepage
    "Free software is a matter of liberty not price. You should think of 'free' as in 'free speech.'"

    They want to deny some people Freedom 0 [gnu.org], the ability to run the software; never mind viewing or editing the source. I fail to see how curtailing some people's access to software moves the world closer to software freedom for all. This reaction is the sort of thing I expect from the pragmatic OSI folks, not the idealistic FSF folks.
  • by Sir Pallas ( 696783 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:11PM (#13490996) Homepage
    Maybe the draftes of this next revision have forgotten that popularity among corporate benefactors is essential to free software today. And what about companies that have patents but allow free software groups take advantage of those patents free of charge? What's so bad about DRM? The problem isn't DRM, per se; it's DRM that isn't open and isn't fair. It just seems like they're losing it over at the FSF. I thought the GPL was created to help protect the rights of software authors, not to wage a holy war.
  • Sounds like.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheCabal ( 215908 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:18PM (#13491067) Journal
    Sounds like the GPL is getting to be as restrictive and the patents they seem to be complaining about.

    When you take something Free (as in speech) and place any kind of restriction on it, it is no longer Free. Then it's just free (as in beer), with value to nobody.
  • Forking the GPL (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tbo ( 35008 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:18PM (#13491073) Journal
    As a developer of (specialized, scientific) Free Software, I have to say this sounds obnoxious and stupid, and I predict it leads to a "forking" of the GPL. The article was thin on details, but if it's as it sounds, I will not license my software under the new GPL. The next commit to my project's CVS is going to be changing
    This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

    to
    This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License version 2 as published by the Free Software Foundation.

    I hate software patents as much as the next guy, and I think a lot of DRM implementations are stupid and evil, but it's not such an absolute that I want to tether my software to an ideological fight against those things.

    For one, I *can* see some cases where DRM is not totally evil. Apple's iTunes Music Store (iTMS) is a good example--they struck a decent balance between usability and convincing the music execs the service was safe. Now, I know people have legitimate objections to the iTMS DRM (FairPlay), but if Apple hadn't gone with DRM, the iTMS would never have happened. I don't think Apple deserves to be penalized for that--they've done the best with the cards they were dealt. Apple has also made significant contributions to the Free Software community--do we really want to shut them out?

    As another example, I do research in quantum computing. Suppose I develop some sort of new process or technology relating to quantum computing, and my university pushes for a patent on it. In the world of quantum computing, what is "software" and what is "hardware" is very fuzzy. Could I get shut out of using GPL'd software over that? I might not even have a choice about whether to patent or not--I had to sign a patent agreement when I enrolled here.

    The FSF should stick to their original mission for the GPL. By trying to make it too broad, they're going to hurt everyone.

    Oh, and "cultural flat fee" with internet access? What the hell? This is like Canada's levy on blank recordable media that goes to pay Canadian "artists" like Celine Dion. I can't think of a worse system for music than putting the government in charge of it. If you thought the RIAA was bad, just wait until Uncle Sam is in charge. Get ready for the "War on Inappropriate Rap Lyrics", the "War on Peer-to-Peer Networks", etc.
  • by ratta ( 760424 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:19PM (#13491081)
    about what the GPL actually means.
    Probably the GPL will state that you cannot enforce patents or apply DRM to a something that you are releasing as GPL, and i think that this would make a lot of sense today.
  • by virtigex ( 323685 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:27PM (#13491154)
    Software that is "free" to only a subset of organizations is not free. Such a clause would put the GPL in the same class as any other restrictive license, thereby defeating it's whole purpose.
    I remember that, about 10 years ago, the FSF was unhappy at Apple and such using FSF software and tried to limit it's use at such companies. However, any wording (except maybe "software cannot be used by XYZ corporation") that attempts to restrict use to only a certain subset of orgaizations only serves to decrease its appeal to all organizations.
  • The kernel... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rongage ( 237813 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:28PM (#13491170)

    Um... wouldn't this work against the Linux Kernel as well?

    As we have seen in the past, there are probably some 200+ patented technologies embedded within the Linux Kernel. One we know about is RCU(Read/Copy/Update). There are no doubt others...

    Since the kernel contains patented technology, does this mean that the kernel can not be covered under the GPL? Hmm... maybe Stallman *IS* trying to do us a favor...:)

  • Ugh. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mr Z ( 6791 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:35PM (#13491225) Homepage Journal

    One bright point is that most software packages will probably offer you a level of choice as to what restrictions get placed on GPL code. Recall this paragraph from GPL v2:

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

    So, for instance, jzIntv [spatula-city.org], my Intellivision emulator, is offered under "either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version." Unless GPL v3 offers my users something that GPL v2 doesn't, my users can decide not to subject themselves to GPL v3.

    Now what isn't clear by that wording is if someone could fork this "GPL v2 or later" code and make it GPL v3 only without the copyright holder(s) (me, for most of it) giving permission. I think the answer's "yes." But that won't remove the GPL v2 code from the planet. And so just as you see some projects pick the proprietary-friendly BSD license over the GPL (since each has a different notion of freedom), I think you'll see GPL'd projects split along v2 / v3 lines as well. In my case, I may not even be able to publish code under GPL v3. My hands are "unclean." Looky here, my name is on 1 [uspto.gov], 2 [uspto.gov], 3 [uspto.gov], 4 [uspto.gov] software-related patents! I promise they are not as asinine as "one-click," and much narrower in scope.

    Also, I'm one of the co-architects of several device security features that my employer will include on multiple upcoming chips. These features will be used by our customers to implement DRM! I didn't implement DRM myself. Rather, like the TPM chip, we provide an infrastructure that could be used for good or evil. But I did my best to make the infrastructure watertight. Sorry folks.

    --Joe
  • by alanQuatermain ( 840239 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @12:37PM (#13491249) Homepage

    The Register had a story [theregister.co.uk] on this earlier in the day, complete with a clarification from FSF Europe president Georg Greve:

    Reuters quoted him as saying that anyone who patented software would be prevented from using free software. Greve says this is not quite what he was getting at:

    "The basic idea is that if someone uses software patents against a Free Software program under the GPL, he might lose the right to distribute that particular software, to use it for their products. We have no interest in restricting the way people can use and develop software."

    So, not "companies using software patents lose rights to GPL software," more like "if a company uses patents to attack $GPL_SOFT_PACKAGE, they forfeit rights to $GPL_SOFT_PACKAGE". Sounds fairly reasonable to me. If you want to use the software, agree that you won't use patents to kill it off, whilst internally nabbing the copyrighted code for your own (redistributed) products.

    -Q

  • by WhiteWolf666 ( 145211 ) <sherwin@NOSPaM.amiran.us> on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @01:19PM (#13491639) Homepage Journal
    The real scoop
    The basic idea is that if someone uses software patents against a Free Software program under the GPL, he might lose the right to distribute that particular software, to use it for their products. We have no interest in restricting the way people can use and develop software.

    If you patent something related to the way that Apache serves web pages, you are no longer permitted to distribute Apache under the GPL.

    If you patent something related to the way Linux's memory management works, you are no longer permitted to distribute Linux under the GPL.

    Sounds good to me--- Basically, its an addition the GPL saying, "If you patent some aspect of your software in an attempt to restrict redistribution through non-copyright-based legal tools, your software may no longer be distributed under the GPL"

    This is a NECESSARY addition. Otherwise, whats to stop some company from patenting X related to some feature they just contributed to the Linux kernel, waiting 2 years for that feature to become widely used, and then sue everyone using the kernel into oblivion?

    • I think you are right. it basically equates to "You cannot use our stuff if you're taking us to court."

      A rare occurrence, but it does seem today that The Register's journalism actually clarifies something:

      He was speaking to El Reg after an article on Reuters quoted him as saying that anyone who patented software would be prevented from using free software. Greve says this is not quite what he was getting at:

      "The basic idea is that if someone uses software patents against a Free Software program under
  • by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @01:24PM (#13491688) Journal
    This really highlights the difference, in my view, between the "free software" (read: Free Software Foundation) and "open source" (read: most everyone else) camps. If I'm not terribly mistaken, a clause denying the use of GPL software to companies that use DRM technologies/hold software patents would violate the definition of open source software [opensource.org], according to the Open Source Initiative [opensource.org]. Specifically, I'm looking at clauses 5, 6, and 9.


    5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups
    The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.

    6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor
    The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.

    9. License Must Not Restrict Other Software
    The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software.
  • Patents and BSD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @02:06PM (#13492129) Journal
    I find it funny how people who are Pro-BSD license vs GPL think they are somehow shielded from patent suits.

    Just because you change from a GPL to a BSD license will not protect you. It's not just GPL licensed software that's in danger..it's ALL free licensed software that's vulnerable including those under the BSD license.
  • MSNBC is TROLLING (Score:4, Informative)

    by dmaxwell ( 43234 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2005 @06:19PM (#13494697)
    http://lwn.net/Articles/150464/ [lwn.net]

    To summarize:

    "Until that draft has been published, everything is pure speculation and your guess is as good as mine.

    .
    .
    .
    So the best thing you can do is to ignore that article.

    It is FUD and I am deeply sorry for this, for I have been centrally (if falsely) quoted as the contributor of it.

    That has been a most unpleasant experience."

    Regards,
    Georg Greve
    FSFE, President

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