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GPL 3 May Require Websites to Relinquish Code 574

Vicissidude writes "At present, companies that distribute GPL-licensed software must make the source code publicly available, including any modifications they've made. Though the rule covers many businesses that use GPL-licensed software for commercial ends, it doesn't cover Web companies that use such software to offer their services through the Web, as they're not actually distributing the software. GPL 3, the next version of the free software license, a draft of which is expected to be released in early 2006, may close this loophole, GPL author and Free Software Foundation head Richard Stallman said in an interview."
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GPL 3 May Require Websites to Relinquish Code

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  • Loophole? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ziviyr ( 95582 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @01:38AM (#13682580) Homepage
    Sounds like a sane byproduct of a sanely limited feature of the license to me.
    • Re:Loophole? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Raul654 ( 453029 )
      The purpose of the GPL is the encourage people to make their contributions available to the community. If you take some GPL'd code, modify it, and use it to sell stuff over the web, why shouldn't you be obligated to give back to the community whose work you are using to make money?
      • Re:Loophole? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ziviyr ( 95582 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @02:25AM (#13682725) Homepage
        Because it vastly complicates a simple ruleset that already does a great job at forbidding the unavailability of source code to applications you use.

        When this ruleset is extended partially to include recieving output of a program as a basis for the right to have its source code, the option for much worse loopholes is created. Loopholes which will terrify and drive away developers, especially when that one loophole is expanded to cover disclosure avoidance loopholes.

        Simply put, its the gateway from which a huge mess will sprawl forth. (And I'm curious how they'll handle taking a snippet of GPL3 code from an app with the upload "feature" and putting it into GPL2 code. Nevermind basic concerns about an upload feature which cannot be removed may pose as a great means to DoS a site, or the ruleset that explains throughout the various possibilities what throttling options are available and to what extent. ...etc...)
      • Re:Loophole? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Balp ( 7960 )
        If you take a free editor, Emacs/Open Office/Gimp and make an output that make you gain money? How much should you be forced to release? You own macros? I.m.h.o. the focus of FSF should shift from making the most virus like licence to make the best software. The think that wins the world will be really good software, not really sleek licenses.

        And what the heck is web-based applications, the TCP/IP stack that makes it all possible? The web-server code? I think adding this into a general clause in GPL3 would
        • Re:Loophole? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @04:49AM (#13683045) Journal
          The FSF (well, RMS) has stated in the past that Free is more important than Good. This is where they disagree with the Open Source people, who believe that Free eventually produces Good. My personal view is that Free has a certain value, and Good has a certain value - which is more valuable depends on the individual application, and the respective quantities of each.
          • Re:Loophole? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Tassach ( 137772 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @06:45AM (#13683281)
            [RMS] has stated in the past that Free is more important than Good.
            Which demonstrates that he's an ideagogue, not an engineer. This kind of rabid, single-minded outlook is something I'd expect to be coming from a right-wing radio talk show host. The best way to make free software the norm is to make free alternatives to propriatary applications that are as good as, or better than, the products they are replacing. People use software because they want to get something accomplished, not to promote an ideology. If a propriatary tool does the job better, a smart person is going to choose it over the free alternative. Good always trumps free.
            • by flosofl ( 626809 )
              ideagogue

              Did you just combine the words pedagogue and ideologue? Because I can't find it in any dictionary. Interestingly, both words seem to fit RMS.
            • Re:Loophole? (Score:3, Insightful)

              by vertinox ( 846076 )
              Good always trumps free.

              But million dollar marketing campaigns, FUD, and 800lb gorillas always trumps good. :(
            • Re:Loophole? (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Krach42 ( 227798 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @09:53AM (#13684624) Homepage Journal
              This comment regards your sig, and what you're addressing in your comment. Because they contradict each other:

              Why do the folks who insist on keeping "God" in "one nation under God" want to get rid of "liberty and justice for all"?

              You speak here of fundamental rights and freedoms in the US. Yet, it your post you say, "Freedom isn't a big deal. Who cares about it? No one. What people want is good software."

              That's true. Did you know that the USSR had a 0% unemployment rate? Everyone had a job. Did you see the unemployed from capitalist, and socialist countries moving to the communist USSR? No.

              Because Good just isn't good enough. At some point you have to lay down that you feel that people have a Right to your code, because you said so, and that no amount of "better" that can be tacked onto that program trumps that Right to keep seeing the source code.

              Yes, it's advancing an ideology, and not advancing good software, but that's not the point. The F/OSS community doesn't have the mission statement "A computer on every desk running F/OSS." So our goal is *not* to force our software on everyone. F/OSS is driven by the goal of Free (as in Speech) Software For All Mankind.

              If you don't like it, go back to using Windows, because that's Good Software. Meanwhile others who agree with the ideology will keep using Linux, because it's Free Software. Not because Linux is better than Windows, but because you feel that access to the source code should be a Right, not a Priviledge.

              (Statements are my own, and do not reflect those of the company I work for.)
              • by Castar ( 67188 )
                If you don't like it, go back to using Windows, because that's Good Software.

                Wow, Slashdot is different these days...
            • Re:Loophole? (Score:3, Insightful)

              by dasunt ( 249686 )

              Two decades ago, RMS was a nut who talked about making a free clone of UNIX.

              With a few notable exceptions (such as Gnu Hurd), that task was accomplished. Even today, GNU software makes up a large portion of most modern Linux distributions, and the GNU Compiler Collection is even used to compile the open source BSDs.

              So he's a talented nut, but he still had strange ideas about how corporations and government would control the right to access media.

              Now, with Trusted Computing, DMCA, Broadcast Flags,

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

        by stuntpope ( 19736 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @05:41AM (#13683163)
        The article didn't go specifically into whether this would apply to non-commercial sites. I currently develop web apps using GPL'd software for the defense department, some of which are publicly available. You know what will happen if GPL 3 says I have to have a link to "download the source of this application" on my sites? A directive that forbids use of GPL software, that's what, and hello Microsoft.
      • Re:Loophole? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @07:20AM (#13683395)
        The purpose of the GPL was to ensure that if someone gives you software for trade or for free, that you don't end up screwed because you have some unmodifiable binary - that instead you have the source. In this case, these web companies are not giving you software. And I'll repeat an argument that's already been made, namely how is this different than a store that's not online? Or is this just another version of "Anyone who actually makes money has to pay to use GPL'd software even internally"?

        The GPL, if it includes all the things it's been alleged to have planned, will alienate every single corporate user it has. At that point, it really will be for hippies living in their parents' basements.

        • Re:Loophole? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Crayon Kid ( 700279 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @07:44AM (#13683509)
          And you know what I find even more worrisome? IIRC, software licensed as GPL v2 includes a notice saying "either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version". It was all very nice for as long as there wasn't any later version, or it was assumed that a later version would automatically be better and desirable. But how does this work out if the presumption fails? What happens if I've published my code under v2 and the users everywhere decide to apply v3 to it? What if I don't find v3 particularly appealing?
    • Re:Loophole? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fferreres ( 525414 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @02:15AM (#13682699)
      Did you read the interview? It's not like that. The idea is that an author may license some GPL code that has code to allow the source dto be downloaded, and the license may say you have to keep that feature. You can safely avoid software that has no such nonse...

      First, it is an idea R.S. gave, second point, i think itnot bad per se if some developer wants his code open even if you do not redistribute: in the end, it he chooses users must disclose all changes just by using the code in a away an end user faces it.

      Anyway it's ridiculous and i would call that whatever by GPL in spirit. That should go on another license not a GPL one IMHO.
      • That tries this stunt (if the code is in a website, publically accessed and has the option to download the source, then your derivative must have equal option). And you know what? It hurts (meaning it's not Free). Because if I want to take the code and make a derivative that is *not* a website, I can't make the option available.
    • Re:Loophole? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by runderwo ( 609077 ) <runderwo@mail.w i n .org> on Friday September 30, 2005 @02:47AM (#13682770)
      The article is a troll. What is actually happening is that GPL3 will protect server packages that already have an offer for the source code embedded in the output to the client. With previous versions of the GPL, these offers could be removed with impunity since nothing in the license required that they remain.

      Yes, obviously this can be circumvented by not distributing the modified software, such as keeping it on an in-house web server only, and then simply rejecting the GPL terms. But if you wish to distribute copies of it, you will have to leave the offer for the source code intact on any copies you make.

      This new development IN NO WAY requires anyone to release source code for a server application that they are not distributing binaries for.

      • Re:Loophole? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Bogtha ( 906264 )

        What is actually happening is that GPL3 will protect server packages that already have an offer for the source code embedded in the output to the client. With previous versions of the GPL, these offers could be removed with impunity since nothing in the license required that they remain.

        This is not true. From the GPL:

        1. You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program's source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy a

    • Re:Loophole? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @03:17AM (#13682823) Homepage Journal
      No. While this change makes me uneasy, to think of its lack as a "limited feature" totally misses the intent of the GPL.

      To understand the GPL (version 3, but really this applies to previous versions as well) you have to stop thinking as a programmer, and start thinking as a user. (It has always surprised me that hackers (of all the people in the world?!) have been the advocates of GPL. Hackers and programmers have the least incentive, of all the population, to need this. GPL is for users.) Preferably, as a helpless user whose ass has been bitten by proprietary software. (Remember RMS and his damned printer driver in 1983.)

      Imagine you are a user of proprietary software. One day, you need maintenance. Maybe you need a new feature, or maybe you need a bugfix, or maybe an update removed a feature that you still need. And imagine you're dependent on this software. You have lots of existing documents stored in a proprietary format that only this software can use. You have been trained to use this software and not trained to use its competitor. You need it.

      But the company who made this software went out of business 4 years ago. Or they simply don't give a damn about you and will not customize their shrink-wrapped product for your obscure pathetic little whiney need, because you're as insignificant as a cockroach to them. Or they want to charge you $500 per hour for their work. Or the feature that you want happens to be against the law in their jurisdiction. Or they're just incompetent.

      You're fucked. Nobody can (or will) help you. Do you really give a damn whether the software happens to run on your local machine (it was "distributed" to you) or on a remote machine? And get this: if it runs remotely, then even if it's Free Software instead of proprietary, then you're still fucked, unless the programmer happens to be a nice guy.

      GPL is about freedom of maintenance. It should be a guarantee that you can always get maintenance. As a last resort, you can always do the work yourself or hire whoever you want who is qualified, to handle whatever you need done. GPL is a major development in safety from ever being orphaned or exploited. It forces software maintenance into a free market.

      As a programmer, if you build derived works of GPLed code, and have users who merely use your software (without distributing it to them) you are creating a situation where those users are dependent on you. They are unable to modify the software or hire someone else to do that. If you die, lose interest in the project, get in a dispute with them, etc, then they're screwed. That's totally contrary to the intent of GPL, and that's why it's a loophole.

  • Not really (Score:5, Informative)

    by dtfinch ( 661405 ) * on Friday September 30, 2005 @01:38AM (#13682582) Journal
    If they want to stick with their own GPL2 fork, they can still keep it locked up.
    • I think that this is only the case if you are the developer of the original open source application.

      The situation that this change is probably aimed at is one where someone takes a FOSS web application (eg BugZilla - assume it uses GPL, though it may not), then modifies and enhances it and releases it as a commercial product that is hosted.

      If the BugZilla licence has this clause in it, and you want to enhance it and provide it as a hosted service, then you will have to either release the source code, o

      • Re:Not really (Score:4, Informative)

        by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday September 30, 2005 @03:46AM (#13682889)

        I think that this is only the case if you are the developer of the original open source application.

        No, so long as you take the fork from the codebase before the license change, you get the origional license. This is exactly what recently happened with Xfree and Xorg - the license changed to one that people didnt like, so a fork was made of the last known codebase with the acceptable license and further developments have been done on that, becoming the dominent fork.

        What worries me personally about this amendment to the GPL is that it ceases to be a distribution license only and adds in limitations as to what you can change in the source code. The Gnu Documentation License tried doing this with invariant sections and this was declared to be nonfree by many linux distributions who then refused to carry those documents.

  • Erm... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Moth7 ( 699815 ) <mike.brownbill@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Friday September 30, 2005 @01:40AM (#13682590) Journal
    And we've known this for how long? Granted, the story itself isn't a dupe (afaik), but every article on the GPL3 in the past few months has mentioned the idea of websites running GPL software being required to release their source code by some means. It's hardly news.
    • Partially (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mark_MF-WN ( 678030 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @01:58AM (#13682651)
      I think that's only partially true. As I understand it, the derivative software will only have to allow the source code to be accessed if the original did as well. In other words, if google creates UltraSearch.com and licenses it as GPL3 AND includes a mechansism to download the source, then anyone who creates a derivative work would have to retain that mechanism or a comparable one. But if google had kept their sources private, then anyone who created a derivative work would presumably be allowed to keep their source private too. Of course, this is all confined to web-apps. Any software that is actually distributed will still have all the normal GPL conditions applying to it.
      • Re:Partially (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @02:19AM (#13682708)

        But if google had kept their sources private, then anyone who created a derivative work would presumably be allowed to keep their source private too.

        If Google keeps the source code private, how can anyone create a derivative work ? Unless you meant Googlefight [googlefight.com] ;)...

      • Re:Partially (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dannannan ( 470647 )
        If UltraSearch.com has a bug whereby a crafty HTTP request can allow me to download the source script instead of the output thereof, does that mean that I'm not allowed to fix the bug in derivative works?
      • Re:Partially (Score:3, Interesting)

        by horza ( 87255 )
        Effectively this would add an option (b) to:
        (a) source must be provided when distributing but modifications may be kept secret when used privately
        (b) source must be provided when distributing and modifications must be made public for private usage.

        I personally am against adding this option as I don't think this should be encouraged (and I used the word encouraged because authors don't have to use GPL, there are a wide range of licenses, but GPL is popular because of the simplicity and the principles behind
    • by Chuck Chunder ( 21021 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @02:01AM (#13682660) Homepage Journal
      A simple "websites running GPL software being required to release their source code by some means" is quite scary and if it's that simple it could be quite burdensome as "running GPL software" is a very wide target.

      If I have an (otherwise proprietary) web application that makes a call to a GPL3'd grep command then I'd have to distribute grep to people if they asked. That sounds silly and unnecessarily burdensome and would create the sort of administrative overhead that would push people to a non-free solution.

      However the mechanism Richard Mentions:
      We're looking at an approach where programs used (on a public server) will have to include a command for the user to download the source for the version that is running," Stallman said. "If you release a program that implements such a command, GPL 3 will require others to keep the command working in their modified versions of the program.
      seems vastly more sane. GPL3'd applications that aren't web-apps won't suddenly require distribution if they are used in a web-app, only applications coded with such use and distribution in mind will.
      • But how do you deal with modules? As thats written, all that you can't do is change the part of the code that sends its own source, but all you'd have to do is add in your own module loader and keep your private code seperate. The source-sender knows not of your new code, and thus most likely won't be able to release it. The only ways around this would get tricky as they could just as easily leak passwords/other sensitive info.

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

    by Arimus ( 198136 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @01:41AM (#13682595)
    That might make life interesting for Google (and probably Yahoo) as I'd bet a large chunk of googles operations are based on FOSS code including their clustering software, mail etc.

    While I can see the point of making distributors in the conventional sense having to release the source I've a nasty feeling making web service companies reveal their source might only harm the OSS movement in the longer term... Google might be Okay as they've got the bandwidth to be able to release the source code for all OSS code used internally but not sure about the smaller providers...
    • Re:Google time.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cyberformer ( 257332 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @01:44AM (#13682601)
      All existing users (including Google) would be okay, as they received Linux, etc. under the current version of the GPL. Rights already granted can't be taken away by subsequent versions.

      This is just an option for authors of new code. Seems like a good idea.
    • GPL3 doesn't mandate that sites distributing GPL3 licencsed code distribute the source to the website. It mandates that, if the code running the site is GPL3, that the code is accessible.

      So you can distribute proprietary code over a web interface which is GPL3. You can distribute GPL3 code over a proprietary website. But, if your website uses GPL3 code in the HTTP arena (eg. custom GPL3 webserver, GPL3 applets), then you must distribute the source for those applets.

      I don't see any problem with this. If
    • Re:Google time.... (Score:5, Informative)

      by chrisd ( 1457 ) * <chrisd@dibona.com> on Friday September 30, 2005 @02:20AM (#13682712) Homepage
      We are releasing some code, but remember that the redistribution requirement noted in the story applies to GPL v3 code, which doesn't exist yet. A lot of code won't be going to v3 (The linux kernel, for one).

      Also, I think that the open source community has to handle this very carefully, and clearly, otherwise there will be a lot of confusion around who has to post code and when. That said, we're just seeing drafts now for a license that won't officially exist until January 2007, so making any kind of substantive commentary on it is difficult.

      One last thing, the web server (apache) that most people use isn't released under the GPL, so this has nothing to do with that.

  • Wait a minute (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Frogbert ( 589961 ) <frogbert AT gmail DOT com> on Friday September 30, 2005 @01:42AM (#13682597)
    I'm no expert but wouldn't it be more likely that they would stick with their previous code that only has the V2 license attached? Whats forcing them to upgrade?
    • Re:Wait a minute (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nasarius ( 593729 )
      A great deal of GPL'd software uses the recommended "v2 or later" line. It certainly doesn't force anyone to upgrade, but it has the potential for creating a great deal of confusion. I just hope that they're compatible with each other.
  • by Flaming Foobar ( 597181 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @01:44AM (#13682604)
    If you are embedding, say, GPL md5 checksum calculator in otherwise proprietary software, will you need to publish the whole source code? If so, I'm willing to bet most companies would rather re-invent the wheel and rewrite it. I wouldn't want to publish the source code to a production web site for obvious security reasons.
    • by Ziviyr ( 95582 )
      Should be able to safely call md5sum and pipe in the results.
    • Isn't this what's termed as the virus effect of GPL software? I personally think the "you give away the program, you have to provide the source code" clause is sane. But having a "you use the program, you have to provide the source code" is insane. Let's say I use GPL3 software for my webcomic site.

      I edit it so it has a different skin then the default one. I now have to provide the source code for my website? Fsck that! Does that make my images and content on the website released under the GPL as well?
      • While I agree that this GPL3 implication isn't so great, I think you may be lackign some perspective. Do you really care if other people get hold of you theme modified web comic source? I mean, is a modified theme coveted intellectual property? I can see companies like Google being affected by this. They have probably made a significant invenstment of man hours into customizing GPL'd software, but for your webcomic site? Who cares?

        -matthew
      • Fair warning: Unlike most of the people posting comments, I've actually read the fine article. Please forgive me for interrupting all the fun with a few boring facts.

        I edit it so it has a different skin then the default one. I now have to provide the source code for my website? Fsck that! Does that make my images and content on the website released under the GPL as well?

        If the original software had a "download source" function in it, you'd have to leave that function intact in the copy you use. For t
    • Well, something like that would be solved by the LGPL which allows you to link to GPL libraries without making the whole project subject to the license. Assuming you use a library and don't actually embed it into your code. In most cases this isn't an issue, I don't imagine.

      -matthew
    • If you distribute the code to a third party then you have to give *all* the source. Currently if you are using mixed code for say a webserver you don't, as that doesn't count as distribution.

      As most GPL code says you can use version 2 or later, they will either stay using version 2, or replace the code with a BSD version. Linux is fairly unique in that it is only licensed under GPL2, so this will not affect companies like Google that modfiy Linux for in house use.
  • Loophole? (Score:2, Insightful)

    This doesn't exactly seem much like a loophole, more a feature (It's not a bug - it's a feature!)

    By closing it off, does this mean that any CMS that's using the GPL will need a link hard-coded and un-removable back to the source for it to be valid?
  • by ReformedExCon ( 897248 ) <reformed.excon@gmail.com> on Friday September 30, 2005 @01:47AM (#13682616)
    There is a very strong "gimme gimme" theme that runs deep within the GPL community. It says, give me the source code you have because I want it. The GPL, in fact, guarantees that if GPL'd software is used in another product, both products then become infected by the GPL and the resulting work is then covered by the GPL. In a very logical sense, this makes a lot of sense. We want people who use our work (GPL'd) to also be compelled to give back their work. The payment we demand is not monetary, it is to be paid in sourcecode.

    So the loophole exists that someone may be able to make available a software package through an interface like the web which does not export the actual software to the client. The application, though, is absolutely in use by the client, he just can't see the source code. The user can't even request the source code (which the GPL forces the distributor to release to the asker). This is way outside the theme of the GPL, and it is not what the GPL writers had in mind when they originally (and revisedly) wrote it. The user should have the freedom to read, learn from, and change the code to the products he uses, that is the spirit of the GPL. By hiding the code and program behind the safety of a webserver, the companies exporting the application via the web interface are restricting the users' ability to do those things.

    I don't support Stallman in this. I think it is absolutely the right of these companies to do this sort of thing. And I think that changing the GPL to include such egregious usurpation of rights is a blow to Free Software, both spiritually and tangibly as we will see more people decide to either stick with GPL2.0 or go with a more lenient license.
    • by TrentC ( 11023 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @02:23AM (#13682722) Homepage

      The GPL, in fact, guarantees that if GPL'd software is used in another product, both products then become infected by the GPL and the resulting work is then covered by the GPL.

      This is, sadly, a common misunderstanding when it comes to the GPL. By using the term "infected", you are either misinformed or attempting to misinform; I'll assume the former...

      If you use code licensed by the GPL in your closed-source work and you get "caught" distributing it, you have four options:

      1. You can try to obtain an exception to the GPL from the copyright holder(s) of the GPLed code for your particular work.
      2. You can change the license of your work to the GPL (or, possibly, one of the licenses deemed "GPL-compatible"; IANAL, so consult a lawyer first).
      3. You can rewrite the affected portion to remove the GPLed code from your work.
      4. You can stop distributing your work so long as it contains the GPLed code.

      The copyright holder of the GPLed code can not force you to pick any particular one of the options (except, by the definition of the GPL, you must do #4 if you can't or won't do #1, #2 or #3). You are the copyright holder of your code, and cannot have your license changed against your will any more than they can have the license of their work changed against their will.

      Jay (=

    • by swillden ( 191260 )

      The GPL, in fact, guarantees that if GPL'd software is used in another product, both products then become infected by the GPL and the resulting work is then covered by the GPL.

      Keep in mind that it's copyright law that is viral, not the GPL. Any time you copy a chunk of one copyrighted work into another copyrighted work, you have created a derived work whose copyright is jointly held by both of the original copyright holders. It is illegal to distribute this work unless you have the permission of both.

  • by stygar ( 539704 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @01:51AM (#13682629)

    ...to the following questions:

    What can we do to make sure that for profit enterprises won't ever consider using GPL3 code in any projects?

    How can we best add legitimacy to Microsoft's FUD about the GPL?

  • Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tweek ( 18111 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @01:51AM (#13682630) Homepage Journal
    I have a feeling this will do more harm than good to F/OSS usage out there.

    I can't really codify my feelings into words since my examples are all licensed under something OTHER than the GPL (apache,php) but I think everyone sees where this would stiffle GPL-based software growth.

    It's like saying that anyone who uses foo shopping cart (licensed under the GPL) to sell t-shirts online must now release any code changes they make to foo shopping cart just because the business uses it to sell t-shirts.

    This has been the biggest FUD from Microsoft for the longest time. You shouldn't write an application to run on Linux because you'll be forced to give your code away! With this type of change, that might become fact rather than fud.
    • I'm not refuting your analysis, but I'd like to point out that keeping the code changes hidden is seldom critical... Think about your t-shirt seller -- how is he hurt by having to show the changes he made with the shopping cart? Is the shopping cart really the part of his business that separates him from the competition? (hint: if it is, isn't he in the wrong business...)
  • i can appreciate why rms et al are doing things the way they are, but it makes me kinda leary. if i used f/oss package $x as the basis for a web service and then made modifications to it to suite my business (custom tie-ins to my inventory system, etc.), i'm not certain that i would want to be forced to release that information to the world. which means that in order to keep that stuff private, i am forced to perform some very careful surgery to build an interface to proprietary code which is designed to in
  • by Knome_fan ( 898727 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @01:52AM (#13682634)
    The zdnet article is just a rehash of the onlamp interview with Stallman that has recently been on /.:
    http://www.onlamp.com/pub/a/onlamp/2005/09/22/gpl3 .html [onlamp.com]
    http://developers.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/0 9/24/1325214&tid=117&tid=156 [slashdot.org]

    Needless to say that you should read the actual interview, as things are a bit more complex than what the /. blurb to this story or the zdnet article want to make you believe.

    Well done /.
    • by aussie_a ( 778472 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @02:15AM (#13682700) Journal
      For the exact quote:
      Some companies, such as Google, use code covered by GPL to offer their services through the Web. Do you plan to extend GPL 3 copyleft to request code publication in this case too, considering this behavior like a product distribution? Running a program in a public server is not distribution; it is public use. We're looking at an approach where programs used in this way will have to include a command for the user to download the source for the version that is running. But this will not apply to all GPL-covered programs, only to programs that already contain such a command. Thus, this change would have no effect on existing software, but developers could activate it in the future. This is only a tentative plan, because we have not finished studying the matter to be sure it will work.
      Thanks a lot /. for the FUD. You sure fooled me. However I do have one question: If I edit the code that has such a "command", do I have to edit the command so it displays my derivative version of the code? Or is it fine for the command to merely publish the older version?
    • This might be a good place to correct a misconception (propagated in postings to the previous instance of this story) that since the web site isn't distributing the code, GPLv3 can't restrict them.

      Copyright law also allows authors to impose restrictions on "public performance". Originally, the idea was that the distribution of sheet music for a melody was restricted, but playing a piece on the radio was not reproducing the sheet music. The public performance clause closed that loophole. Here, public pe

  • Stallman's approach (Score:3, Informative)

    by putko ( 753330 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @01:53AM (#13682638) Homepage Journal
    I like how Stallman and Theo De Raadt both have incrmental approaches. Continually chipping away.

    E.g. here's some of the latest on OpenBSD and RAID [openbsd.org]:

    "Take Adaptec for instance. Before the 3.7 release we disabled support for the aac(4) Adaptec RAID driver because negotiations with the Adaptec had failed. They refused to give us documentation."

    and

    "But having been ignored for so long by these vendors, it is not clear when (if ever) we will get around to writing that support for Adaptec RAID controllers now. And Adaptec has gone and bought ICP Vortex, which may mean we can never get documentation for the gdt(4) controllers. The "Open Source Friendly liar" IBM owns Mylex, and Mylex has told us we would not get documentation, either. 3Ware has lied to us and our users so many times they make politicians look saintly.

    "Until other vendors give us documentation, if you want reliable RAID in OpenBSD, please buy LSI/AMI RAID cards. And everything will just work."
  • by Cronopios ( 313338 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @01:56AM (#13682648) Homepage Journal
    The information comes from this excellent interview to RMS [onlamp.com] conducted by Federico Biancuzzi, and published on OnLamp.

    This is what RMS actually said:
    Some companies, such as Google, use code covered by GPL to offer their services through the Web. Do you plan to extend GPL 3 copyleft to request code publication in this case too, considering this behavior like a product distribution?

    Running a program in a public server is not distribution; it is public use. We're looking at an approach where programs used in this way will have to include a command for the user to download the source for the version that is running.

    But this will not apply to all GPL-covered programs, only to programs that already contain such a command. Thus, this change would have no effect on existing software, but developers could activate it in the future.

    This is only a tentative plan, because we have not finished studying the matter to be sure it will work.

    How would it work?

    If you release a program that implements such a command, GPL 3 will require others to keep the command working in their modified versions of the program.
    This inteview is also discussed on OSNews [osnews.com].
     
    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @02:33AM (#13682736) Homepage
      Sounds like RMS is off on a completely wrong angle if you ask me.

      If you release a program that implements such a command, GPL 3 will require others to keep the command working in their modified versions of the program.

      Read: If I take a tiny piece of code from a program that implements such a command, I will have to implement one in MY program? Gun, meet foot. I expect that within every large software project there'll be enough people who don't like it to keep it at GPLv2, perhaps even GPLv2 only. GPLv3 seems to be going overboard.
  • by Rocketship Underpant ( 804162 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @02:04AM (#13682667)
    Here's what RMS said:

    "Running a program in a public server is not distribution; it is public use. We're looking at an approach where programs used in this way will have to include a command for the user to download the source for the version that is running."

    I don't think it's possible. As even RMS notes, running a program constitutes use, not distribution, and no "copyright license" can tell you how to use your software. Additionally, it's against the spirit of free software.
    • no "copyright license" can tell you how to use your software

      Oh yes they can. The trick is that use isn't an exclusive right, and so you can't hang a license on the use of the software. But if you're licensing things that do fall within the exclusive rights, such as reproducing the work in copies, preparing derivatives, distributing copies, etc. then you can throw in conditions. But this doesn't appear to be a use license anyway.

      Here, I think that what would happen would be one of two scenarios:

      A releases un
      • Consider the folowing:

        A releases under GPL3, server side software that includes a "download source" command.

        B downloads the software.

        B then makes changes to the software, and disables the "download source" command.

        B does not distribute his software to anyone else.

        B puts his software on his own public webserver, where people can utilitize the program's output.

        Now... Has B violated Copyright?

        It's clear that B is _USING_ the program in a manner in violation of A's wishes, but copyright covers cop

    • As even RMS notes, running a program constitutes use, not distribution, and no "copyright license" can tell you how to use your software.

      Right, all those EULAs must just be in my head. I don't see any limitation in copyright law which makes a "viral" EULA work any less than the GPL.
  • What license is the "GPL License" covered under (the actual legalease copyrighted text), and why cant we modify it and make public all changes?
  • This means that I need to make a link to the PHP source code available through all sites running on my server? Apache as well? How about Linux since that holds the entire thing together?

    Yes I know they may not all be GPL3, but this is the kind of thing this 'closed loophole' will lead to.
  • Sounds like lots of people would simply quit using GPLed stuff then and move to one of the BSD systems. For web frameworks and platforms the vendors would have to choose. Most Java frameworks are Apache-licensed anyway, and for other GPLed project the group would have to choose either to turn into hobby-only projects or to keep the old GPL.

    The hard part about this is that probably every single copyright holder under the GPL has the right to choose to upgrade to GPL3, so that only singly-owned project coul
  • by naich ( 781425 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @02:56AM (#13682785) Homepage
    This change would have no effect on existing software but could be added by developers to future versions of a particular program
    i.e. This will not effect existing software, only that which the developers decide to add the clause to.
    Stallman said developers may be encouraged to add a command to their GPL-licensed Web application that lets users download the source code
    i.e. it's referring to web applications, not the server, the OS or anything else.
    The inclusion of this command in modified versions of the program will then be enforced by an additional clause in GPL 3.
    All it means is if, say the developers of PHPBB decide to put a button on a page which lets the user download the code, then you cannot re-release PHPBB in it's original or modified form without that button.

    So it's not a feature that applies to apache, the kernel or anything other than the web application itself. It's not retro-active; the developer has to add it to a newly released version and if you don't like it then continue developing the existing version without it.

  • by putko ( 753330 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @03:09AM (#13682810) Homepage Journal
    This will be great for things with an MIT/Berkeley license (e.g. *BSD). The license allows you to do with the code as you please (as long as you preserve the Copyright notice) and hold the author harmless.

    That's really simple.

    There seems to be a lot of confusion about the GPL, even among people who like it a lot. The simplicity of the MIT license makes it a no-brainer.

    Also, there is some question as to whether or not the GPL is a contract or not. There is the possibility that someone could "take back' the license. As there is no apparent consideration (e.g. you didn't pay for the license, did you?), a court might say, OK, he took it back. There was no contract.

    That sort of ambiguity, until put to rest, causes trouble for some.

    So the MIT (modified Berkeley) license will look better than ever.
  • by Rick Richardson ( 87058 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @03:38AM (#13682870) Homepage
    4. The freedom to publish modified versions.
    versus:
    We're looking at an approach where programs used in this way will have to include a command for the user to download the source for the version that is running.
    So that becomes (in GPL3):
    4. The freedom to publish some, but not all, modified versions.

    Yech!

  • by idlake ( 850372 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @03:45AM (#13682884)
    I can see why such a feature might be desirable for some kinds of software. For example, you might want to ensure interoperability among different web services based on free software. And, after all, commercial software vendors apply even more onerous restrictions to web-based software, such as "per user" licensing costs.

    However, I think it would be a good idea to have two versions of the license, one with this provision and one without, and give them different names, say WGPL (Web GPL) and GPL. If the FSF only releases a revision of the GPL that includes this provision, I suspect many software authors will stick with the GPL2, and they'll be missing other clarifications and improvements in the GPL license.
  • Can of Worms (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Shashvat ( 676991 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @04:31AM (#13682999) Homepage
    Scenario 1: My company has a website, built in-house with GPLv3 tools and components. It is serving data to customers with web browsers. Is it required to make the code for its website software public?

    Scenario 2: My company has an internal software application built in-house with GPLv3 tools and components. This software generates research data. A summary of this data is made available to its customers as, say, PDF files. How is this different from scenario 1?

    Scenario 3: My company makes a business out of supplying critical stock trading services to its customers. The backend messaging servers are built on Linux, or use other GPLv3 tools. The application opens interfaces, be they proprietary, to paying customers, so that they can interact with this messaging server.
    How is this different from scenario 1?

  • loophole? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by glwtta ( 532858 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @04:33AM (#13683001) Homepage
    That's not a loophole, that's just plain insane.

    Though the rule covers many businesses that use GPL-licensed software for commercial ends

    Well no, it absolutely does not. The GPL covers distribution not use, if it covered use, no one would be able to use GPLed software in a commercial setting.

    Closing this "loophole" would amount to drastically changing the philosophy behind the GPL.

    Though I do vaguely remember reading something about the new rule being an edge case that covers rather rare circumstances, and not a reinvention of the GPL.

    Seirously, taken literally this says that if I run a webapp on a GPLed server or even a GPLed OS, I have to release the source code. Yeah, that would fly.

  • by Minna Kirai ( 624281 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @04:52AM (#13683050)
    The existing GPLv2 contains a different loophole. In reading about GPLv3 planes, I haven't yet seen any effort by the FSF to close it, but I wonder if anyone else has more info.

    The exploit is this:
    When you modify and distribute a GPL program, you must provide the recipient the source code, in one of three ways. Either you give an "offer" to supply the code anytime in the next 3 years, or you let her download it from the same system as the binary, or you ship the source along with the binary.

    That 3rd choice provides the loophole, although it requires two cooperating people to abuse it. PersonA hires PersonB to modify the program, and give him 100s or 1000s of matched discs of binaries and source. PersonA then takes out all the source discs and grinds them into powder, and then sells the binary-only discs to customers.

    He's allowed to do this because of "first sale" rights [wikipedia.org], which state that someone who legally recieved a copyrighted work can redistribute it, even in damaged or partial form. The customers are buying a modified GPL program, but they didn't get the source included, nor did they get an offer to request the source later.

    Note 1: To keep the loophole working, PersonA can never duplicate binary discs himself to sell. That would be copyright infringment. He must always buy new pairs of discs from PersonB, and keep on trashing the source code- although rewritable media will make it more affordable)

    Note 2: PersonA must trust PersonB, because PersonB is allowed to give out GPL copies to 3rd parties if he chooses. There is no way PersonA can prevent this, except by enticement of future profitable sales.
  • by fforw ( 116415 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @07:36AM (#13683463) Homepage
    As an author of a web toolkit [sf.net] I must say that it just seems wrong to me. As much as I would be pissed if someone would earn money by slapping a nice GUI around my tool, I don't think it's reasonable for me to expect someone to release the source code to their website just because they use my tool in it. That would be unfair and IMHO seriously reducing the number of people willing to work with/on my tool. There just is no distribution of code, 99% percent of that web site's users will just don't care about the code, the other ones can just download the toolkit themselves which hopefully also includes the fancy stuff the website owner put into his site.

    This is why I will either continue to use GPL v2 or add an permission to run a website without giving away the code to the GPL v3.

  • by MikeBabcock ( 65886 ) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Friday September 30, 2005 @07:37PM (#13690580) Homepage Journal
    Just as code generated by a GPL'd compiler should not be inherently under the GPL, nor should a document created with a GPL'd word processor be automatically GPL'd, the web sites served by a GPL'd web server need not be automatically GPL'd.

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