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Ubuntu Open to Aiding Derivative Distributions 78

lisah writes "Bruce Byfield wrote recently of a GPL requirement that may have unintended consequences for derivative distributions. Ubuntu's technical leader Matt Zimmerman responded with the suggestion that the folks at Ubuntu might be able to assist. From the article: 'It's less clear to me whether a legal agreement with the upstream distributor could satisfy this requirement," Zimmerman says, talking about the obligation to provide source code for everything that a distro ships, "but given that Ubuntu is already obligated to continue to distribute source code for as long as we distribute binaries, it's possible that we could offer that kind of assistance if it would help.'" Newsforge is also owned by OSTG.
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Ubuntu Open to Aiding Derivative Distributions

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  • This is mostly a non-issue. Why would anyone be wanting the source-code specific from a distrobution based on debian/ubuntu? the binary packages havn't changed, all they really need to do is hunt down the version of the software they wanted the source from. This whole providing the source thing is a bunch of FUD from a small group of people trying to make things difficult for small time distros. Props to the ubuntu for offering to help out, and make the FUD go away.
  • Storm in a teacup (Score:4, Insightful)

    by julesh ( 229690 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @05:56PM (#15725848)
    It isn't hard to distribute source. Why not just do so? (e.g. by copying the distribution you've derived from's source packages, as well as the binary ones that you aren't modifying).
  • What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Visceral Monkey ( 583103 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @06:08PM (#15725886)
    I must be missing something here. Don't they just have to provide the source or a way for someone to request the source? Just make it part of your SOP to have the source available for everything you do.

    Again, I'm no expert on these things, so maybe I've missed something?
    • Ahh, I think I see. It's the cost involved with getting the source out when you're a small shop doing it's own brand of linux.
      • yes, that's it, which should make small shops think about making a "me,too!" version rather than just working with an existing one. If they can't afford it, maybe reconsider the whole project or look to additional startup funding before proceeding.
        • Re:What? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
          Which is oh so true. I think that most projects would be better served trying to maintain and produce application packages that could be run on other distros. If you're only going to edit 3% of the code, then why are you distributing an entire distro? Shouldn't you just be distributing packages that run on the distro that you're working off of?
  • Does anyone know of any [graphical] tree representations of all the linux distributions. This would look great, it's fantastic to see how the hundreds of distributions we have now are the forks of forks of only four maternal Eve's.

    Those are Debian, Gentoo, Red Hat, Slackware.
  • by Umuri ( 897961 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @06:14PM (#15725905)
    A lot of comments right now are to the effect of, "Why is it so hard to distribute the source?". Well, let me ask you this, do you run or rent a web site at this time? Do you have any clue how massive the original sources for some of these derivative projects are? Imagine, for instance, you're a small freelancer who writes say, 4 mb of changes to a project, but then you find you have to provide the source for the 500 mb+ original. Most people cannot afford that kind of bandwidth. And before everyone jumps on me that you can just mail out a cd/dvd with the source on it after charging handling, yes that's legit, but thats not what the original people were asking, i'm just trying to clear up some of the confusion.
      • Mod Matt down, his Karma is too good.

        No one mentioned the deliberate mistake in the article, Ubuntu have to distribute the source for 3 years after they stop distributing the binaries, not "for as long as they distribute binaries".

        I agree with the "it isn't difficult line". My Desktop PC has enough disk space to store all of the Debian mirrors and archives (and I'm not planning on doing a distribution with three kernels and 11 architectures), I might have to switch off mirroring, but the disks weren't the e
    • RTFGPL (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      A lot of comments right now are to the effect of, "Why is it so hard to distribute the source?". Well, let me ask you this, do you run or rent a web site at this time? Do you have any clue how massive the original sources for some of these derivative projects are?

      Well, have you ever actually read the GPL? The GPL does not require that you offer the source for free, only that you guarantee that the source will be available for a reasonable fee for the effort to provide the source. There's nothing there that
    • Just because you put 500M of source on-line doesn't mean anybody will bother downloading it.

      Furthermore, the site doesn't have to be a free-for-all: you can have people sign up an charge a few bucks for the download; except for setting it up once, there is no additional work for you.
      • Just because you put 500M of source on-line doesn't mean anybody will bother downloading it.

        Indeed. In my case, I start with a basic setup of my preferred distro (in my case, Slackware) and build most of the other stuff I use with the best packaging system of all:

        ./configure --prefix=/usr/local && make && make install

        ...using the sources direct from the original developers. I find this to be an easy way to keep abreast of current releases (so I don't have to worry about whether my dist
        • I'm curious, as a fellow Slack user:

          Do you not use checkinstall? I find that the minor quirks (occasionally resetting the permissions on /tmp to 755 for some reason) are worth dealing with for the ability to remove a package later (for updating, security holes, filesystem cleaning, etc...).

          Like you, I prefer to hand-roll my software. This is one of the big reasons my private server is being migrated from FreeBSD to slack, too.[0]

          [0]Warning: Do NOT mention ports to me as a "solution."
          • Do you not use checkinstall? I find that the minor quirks (occasionally resetting the permissions on /tmp to 755 for some reason) are worth dealing with for the ability to remove a package later (for updating, security holes, filesystem cleaning, etc...).

            Ummm... well, no, not really. I don't use checkinstall mainly because it isn't always a very useful option. I have found (the hard way) that not all programs are amenable to such "easy" packaging solutions when kept separate (in /usr/local) from the stuff
    • And before everyone jumps on me that you can just mail out a cd/dvd with the source on it after charging handling, yes that's legit, but thats not what the original people were asking, i'm just trying to clear up some of the confusion.

      What people were asking was how to comply with the GPL and mailing a disk (where they pay the cost) meets the requirements. You don't have to have the source on line and you don't have to pay for bandwidth. It's nice if Ubuntu wants to help but making the source available s

  • by cperciva ( 102828 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @06:19PM (#15725914) Homepage
    A lot of people here don't seem to understand the problem with this GPL clause: Archives.

    Suppose I redistribute binaries for a GPLed program, and the package I distribute is updated every week. On the server where I distribute the packages, I only need to distribute the latest version of the compiled code; however, due to the GPL requirements, I have to keep source packages available for the next 3 years -- that is, I need to keep 150+ source packages available.

    It's easy to make the source code available in the same place as the executable code. Making the source code available in that same place for the next three years gets expensive.
    • What if you make the source control system available using cvsweb or a similar system. People can still download the current version easily, and they can use a tag to get a specific version if they really want that.

    • ### however, due to the GPL requirements, I have to keep source packages available for the next 3 years

      You only have to make the code available for 3 years if you did *not* distribute the source code along with the binary. So just upload the source code together with the binary, and problem solved.
    • You have to have the source packages available upon request for the next 3 years. Nothing requires you to make them available for download from your distribution site.

      archive them and provide the source on cd for the cost of the cd + the cost of mailing it out for older versions of the distro.

      Since you are allowed to pass along the physical costs of providing the source code to the person requesting it, the costs to the maintainer are insignificant.
    • by Xtifr ( 1323 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @07:20PM (#15726073) Homepage
      > "On the server where I distribute the packages, I only need to distribute the latest version of the compiled code; however, due to the GPL requirements, I have to keep source packages available for the next 3 years -- that is, I need to keep 150+ source packages available."

      No, that's not true! I don't know if you're merely ignorant or trying to FUD, but bottom line is that you're simply wrong!

      If you're making the source available with the binaries, then you don't need to make the source available for three years. The three-year clause (clause 3b) only applies if you're not providing source when you provide binaries. You can either (3a) provide source with the binaries or (3b) include a three-year written offer to provide the source or (3c) pass along a 3b offer that you received (non-commercial distributors only). Those are alternative options, not simultaneous requirements. And nobody with any sense uses anything but clause 3a! (Note: I've used all three.) :)

      Look at the last paragraph in section 3: "If distribution of executable or object code is made by offering access to copy from a designated place, then offering equivalent access to copy the source code from the same place counts as distribution of the source code, even though third parties are not compelled to copy the source along with the object code." (Emphasis mine.) This is the famous "equivalent access" clause that almost all non-commercial distros rely on, and have for years. (At least, all the ones run by people with any sense.)

      So having source and binaries on your site qualifies as complying with clause 3a, and you don't need to worry about the three-year feature of 3b!

      If you're distributing on CD/DVD, the same reasoning applies. Just ship the source too! Yes, it may double your up-front media costs, but those are trivial compared to your other costs, and it's going to save you a lot of trouble down the road.
    • Okay, suppose you do update every week. You can make the original source available along with weekly patches (the "diff" files). I don't see what the big deal is in doing that.
    • Options:

      1. Archive source locally and offer to sell (for $10 or less) CDs for archived versions.
      2. Use SourceForge or Savannah rather than your own personal website for distributing source and binaries.
      3. Include the source code with the binaries in the same package.

      Pretty easy really. Unless your software package is extraordinarily big, (3) is probably the easiest. (And yes, SF is on the hook, not you, if they lose the source. They're the ones redistributing the binary.)

  • .. by including Kubuntu in its official project and also it may add Xubuntu for the XFCE based distro. Debian feedback is also provided as they still use alot of the same base for their bundled applications.

    • I don't understand how this encompasses an entire distro. Why would someone release an entire distro, just so people who like Ubuntu, can install a different desktop manager? Couldn't people just install Ubuntu, and then install the additional stuff to run KDE or XFCE? Maybe it would be nice if someone packaged up all the stuff they need in one easy to find place, but they certainly don't need to release an entire distro. Plus, it's not like the users of Kubuntu are getting all their code updates from t
      • It's not a different distro, just a name for what's the default WM on the CD image you download.

        Couldn't people just install Ubuntu, and then install the additional stuff to run KDE or XFCE? Maybe it would be nice if someone packaged up all the stuff they need in one easy to find place, but they certainly don't need to release an entire distro.

        Yes, that's how it works. No matter which one (Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu) you've installed, do

        sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop #To install whatever comes with

  • They are Open to Aiding Derivative Distributions since they themselves are a Derivative Distribution of Debian...
  • by rts008 ( 812749 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @07:03PM (#15726018) Journal
    I see these negative posts, but let's try it like this:
    1. they have decided to HELP out the community....+ points
    2. not all developers cna afford the bandwidth, or do not have the resources easily available to ship source or provide for download.....+points, as still available from Ubuntu
    3. this can go on, I'll not bother- but the point being is Ubuntu is trying to HELP the community-what's not to like about this?

    IMHO, this is showing the true spirit of FOSS, so unless you have an agenda against FOSS, then give 'em a hand/applause, whichever you can do!
  • by 5937 ( 986421 )
    From http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html [gnu.org]. IANAL of course, just thinking loud:

    3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following: a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

    Doubles the

    • by Xtifr ( 1323 )
      Re: clause 3a
      > "Doubles the download, but why not add source?"

      Only doubles the download if people actually download it. For downloads, making the source available is enough. You don't have to force people to download it. Search for "equivalent access" in the GPL text for more details.

      Re: clause 3c
      > "That sounds like referencing another distro would do it."

      Only if that distro comes with a three-year offer. Most use clause 3a (provide the source up-front) rather than clause 3b (provide written offer
  • This is silly. The GPL [wikipedia.org] is not that nefarious.

    All distribution ultimately relies on an "upstream" distributor.

    Let's say you provide FTP access, but use a colocated [wikipedia.org] server that you don't own -- you have an agreement with an upstream provider to provide bandwidth and disk space to provide your licensees with the source. Why does it matter if it's Rackspace or Ubuntu who serves as the upstream provider? Or if it's Memorex media and the Post Office or a floppy and delivered via sneakernet [wikipedia.org]?

    The intent here is clea
    • Not that I'm going to argue whether the GPL is or isn't nefarious... there's ample debates on that you can browse if you enjoy the firewarks... but I don't think "you have to make the source available" is all that "nefarious".

      But you see this all the time. People shipping GPLed software and not providing the source to their version, even when they have modified it. I'm not talking about Sveasoft here, I'm talking about little guys who have no idea they're doing anything wrong because they didn't read or did
  • http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html [gnu.org], 3a) says

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

    That means if i accompany the sourcecode immediate, there is no need to keep it available longer? If i write a downloader which downloads all sources immediate, ie fetches the exact versions from the repository where i got that stuff, i am ok? Would be a big d

  • by smilindog2000 ( 907665 ) <bill@billrocks.org> on Saturday July 15, 2006 @07:40PM (#15726122) Homepage
    Just compare.

    In Fedora:
    - RedHat controls the board that decides what goes in an what stays out. It's kind of like a "No Parking, Violators Will be Towed" thing.
    - RedHat directly takes over source code maintenance for any package that they decide to include. Original authors are typically out of the loop.
    - The old fedora.us was a user-created add-on package site for RedHat (which use to be free). Marketing at RedHat merged them, then toss them.
    - Enhancements to code are made by RedHat are usually only available AFTER the RedHat releases software that uses them.
    - Derivatives of RedHat software get no support, but I bet they get nice letters from RedHat legal.

    In Ubuntu:
    - You are encouraged to become a "Master of the Universe", and help decide what goes in and to maintain the packages.
    - Ubuntu only takes control over core packages required for average end-users to have stable environments.
    - There's little need for a user group to build unofficial add-ons (other than EasyBuntu ;-) ... No ubuntu.us ever existed, and if it did, it would not get subverted.
    - Enhancements to open-source are fed back to the authors promptly. Authors are in the loop.
    - Derivatives in theory will be welcomed.

    Let's face it: RedHat is a public company controlled by shareholders. Their goal is therefore to suck more money out of us than ever before, and to do it in the next 12 months, so stockholders can sell their stock at a nice profit, and get out. Ubuntu is controlled by the BDFL (one man, the right man), and has been given over to a foundation for long-term viability. Their goal is to replace Windows on the Desktop, and to worry about how that translates into obscene wealth later.

    As for the value of getting real support for a derivative distribution... if I were doing a startup based on Unbuntu code, I'd sure as heck want it!
    • Derivatives of RedHat software get no support, but I bet they get nice letters from RedHat legal.

      Perhaps the parent misses the point of the GPL?

      • Nope. I get GPL... even publish some software under it.

        Lawyers aren't for keeping everything above the law. They are for harassing your competitors into oblivion. I would give you very good odds that RedHat lawyers sends nasty letters to the likes of Centos. Check out:

        http://www.centos.org/modules/tinycontent/index.ph p?id=2 [centos.org]

        Notice the fuzzy language: "CentOS 2, 3, and 4 are built from publically available open source SRPMS provided by a prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor." The old web sit
        • It was my understanding that Red Hat's problem with CentOS was because the Red Hat trademarks weren't completely scrubbed -- there were Red Hat trademarks and logos left in the distributed code and the CentOS web site was liberal in it's use of the Red Hat name and logos. The Red Hat letter was specific: "While Red Hat permits others to redistribute the software that constitutes Red Hat Linux, Red Hat does not authorize any person to use the RED HAT marks in association with such redistribution in any fash
    • What you say about Fedora is not completely true. Fedora Core (the core repo) is pretty much controlled by Redhat, but the Extras repo (which is official and enabled by default), which includes about twice as many packages, is more community-oriented. If you, as a Fedora user, would like to see a package included in Extras, then you're free to package it yourself and ask for it to be included with you as the packager/maintainer. It has to conform to a few rules though, like no non-free software, I think.
      • I probably deserved that flame bait mod :-( I'll probably get another one for this post, but all I'm saying is what I experienced.

        The short answer to your post: I need to have another look at Fedora now that version 5 is available. Up through version 4, the RPM situation was terrible. Every time I added additional repositories to up2date, I regretted it. Things would work for a while, and then up2date would just stop working, making it difficult to upgrade the system.

        I've used RedHat, and later Fedora s
  • When, 3 years ago, I started developing a FreeDOS distribution called FD-ODIN, I did what MEPIS did, and actually got called on it by the FreeDOS developers themselves (I think it was actually Jim Hall but don't quote me) - even binding my distribution to a specific release of a specific version was not enough (i.e., if all my packages were unmodified out of a final release version, I couldn't just point to that version and say "there's the source"). For future versions, such as my GrODIN project, I did
    • If you weren't commercial, they were WRONG telling you that you couldn't do it...

      3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

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

      • No, they weren't wrong! (Probably.) Read it again:

        "c) Accompany it with the information you received as to the offer to distribute corresponding source code. (This alternative is allowed only for noncommercial distribution and only if you received the program in object code or executable form with such an offer, in accord with Subsection b above.)"

        You can only accompany it with an offer you received if you received such an offer! Most GPL software is distributed under Subsection a (source included), rath
  • > "but given that Ubuntu is already obligated to continue to distribute source code for as long as we distribute binaries, it's possible that we could offer that kind of assistance if it would help.'

    So they're willing to take up the requirement of keeping the sources around for at least 3 years longer than they would otherwise have to, just for the benefit of derived distros? That's a pretty nice gesture! I hope they do realize what they're offering to do :-)

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