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Will Stallman Kill the "Linux Revolution?" 741

frdmfghtr writes "The October 30 issue of Forbes Magazine has an article speculating that Richard Stallman's efforts to rewrite the GPL could threaten to 'tear it apart.' The article describes how the GPLv3 is expected to be incompatible with the GPLv2, causing trouble for Linux vendors such as Novell and Red Hat. The article wraps it up: 'And a big loser, eventually, could be Stallman himself. If he relents now, he likely would be branded a sellout by his hard-core followers, who might abandon him. If he stands his ground, customers and tech firms may suffer for a few years but ultimately could find a way to work around him. Either way, Stallman risks becoming irrelevant, a strange footnote in the history of computing: a radical hacker who went on a kamikaze mission against his own program and went down in flames, albeit after causing great turmoil for the people around him.'"
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Will Stallman Kill the "Linux Revolution?"

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  • by Eric Smith ( 4379 ) * on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:22PM (#16540662) Homepage Journal
    Linux is going to stick with GPLv2 regardless of what the FSF does with GPLv3. That has little to do with Linus disliking GPLv3, and much do to with not being able to track down all the contributors and get them to agree to a license change. GPLv3 is not going to cause any trouble for Linux vendors. It's certainly not going to "kill the Linux Revolution". There is nothing in GPLv2 or GPLv3 that prevents a Linux distribution from containing various programs under various licenses, just as Linux distributions today contain code under GPLv2, BSD, MIT, and other licenses. And GPLv3 doesn't make Stallman himself any more or less relevant that he's been in the past. The only point of bone-headed sensationalist reporting like this is to try to sell more copies of the magazine. Next month they'll tell us the GPLv3 will contribute to global warming, and the following month that it will promote slavery.
  • There's always BSD. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:32PM (#16540756)
    Many of us have already moved away from Linux to BSD. Besides the many technical advantages of FreeBSD, the portability benefits of NetBSD, the extreme security of OpenBSD, and the massive scalability of DragonFly BSD, we don't have to deal with unreasonable licensing nonsense.

    If somebody wants to take BSD code, modify it and not release those changes, then so be it. It doesn't hurt the rest of us, as we still have FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD and DragonFly BSD to use. Beyond that, such use may make somebody else better off. Thus, there's a net benefit overall. We lose nothing, yet others gain.

    And I'd be very happy if Microsoft were to use more BSD code in their products. Doing so would result in a vast increase in the quality of their codebase. That, in turn, will result in fewer infected Windows systems that send terabytes of spam to my mail servers. The less spam my servers have to filter, the more money I save in bandwidth and processing costs. I may even be able to reduce the number of mail servers I have.

  • by Eric Smith ( 4379 ) * on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:44PM (#16540836) Homepage Journal
    but there is the issue of the rest of the toolchain (gcc, binutils, etc.)
    So what if the next release of GCC or Binutils is under the GPLv3? That won't prevent Red Hat (or anyone else) from including it in a Linux distribution, or from using it to compile the binaries for that distribution.
  • by jmv ( 93421 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:44PM (#16540838) Homepage
    The Linux kernel may not switch, but that will not doom V3, nor will it doom the FSF or Stallman.

    That's not the issue. The problem is that it's becoming likely that GPLv3 will split FOSS software in two, with half the people going with GPLv2-only and the other half going with GPLv3-or-later. This means no possible exchange of code between the two pools and possibly lots of forks, especially for libraries. I hope the worst case scenario doesn't happen, but GPLv3 has potential for doing much more damage than any gain it can provide (even it you think it's good in itself). As far as I'm concerned all the (L)GPL software I write will be GPLv2-or-later, making GPLv3 useless, but mitigating the incompatibility problem.
  • Is Forbes Credible? (Score:5, Informative)

    by femto ( 459605 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:53PM (#16540932) Homepage

    I find it hard to take Frobes seriously when they start out by misrepresenting the postion of the person they are talking about (Stallman).

    "Richard M. Stallman is a 53-year-old anticorporate crusader who has argued for 20 years that most software should be free of charge. He and a band of anarchist acolytes long have waged war on the commercial software industry, dubbing tech giants "evil" and "enemies of freedom" because they rake in sales and enforce patents and copyrights--when he argues they should be giving it all away."

    • Stallman does not argue that "most software should be free of charge". The GPL, which he wrote, specifically says one is allowed to charge for GPLd software.
    • Stallman doesn't argue that "they should be giving it all away." He does argue that they shouldn't have a monopoly, which is very different to "giving it all away".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:55PM (#16540954)
    C'mon, people! This is a Dan Lyons article. He's been writing anti-Linux FUD for years. Groklaw and /. have eviscerated this guy's credibility on this subject repeatedly (do a search, you'll see). Quoting him on this subject is like asking Bill Gates if he thinks Linux is going to beat Windows in the marketplace: you know the answer before you ask the question.
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:11PM (#16541084) Journal
    Or do you seriously believe that Linus hasn't consulted with attorneys on this?

    I wouldn't be at all surprised. Considering how he's managed the Linux trademark, and the general lack of understanding of the GPL he's publicly displayed, I'd almost be surprised if he even knows any IP lawyers. In contrast, RMS has had Even Moglen [wikipedia.org] on board from day one.

  • by JoeCommodore ( 567479 ) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:32PM (#16541242) Homepage
    The article is from a Daniel Lyons talking about "restricting business"
    though the real point of GPL v# seems to be is to keep free software from
    restricting users (at the expense of shady business lock-in practices).

    Lots of FUD about how this will hurt the (business) economy, etc. A
    lot of the gist sounds like a push to privitize the previous work of
    the community.

    Also a bunch of exploitave tabloid-style character attacks on Stallman.

    Seems Daniel uses this simliar muck raking style with other platforms:
    http://www.forbes.com/2006/03/22/vista-microsoft-b allmer_cz_dl_0322mi [forbes.com]...

    Some people have written about the author:
    http://www.thejemreport.com/mambo/content/view/174 [thejemreport.com] sounds like he
    equally pisses off eveyone he reports about.
  • Lyons Again (Score:3, Informative)

    by mmurphy000 ( 556983 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:39PM (#16541292)

    The author of the piece, Daniel Lyons, has a history [groklaw.net] of not exactly being friendly to Free Software and open source.

  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:43PM (#16541316) Homepage Journal
    Or do you seriously believe that Linus hasn't consulted with attorneys on this?

    See, now that's funny. Linus is the guy who claims that a device driver isn't a derived work of the Linux kernel if it was originally developed for a different operating system and then ported to Linux. This, of course, is not based on any legal principle.. it's just his opinion, but it doesn't stop people from quoting Linus like they're referencing case law.

    What's more funny is that when Linus added the "userland exception" to the Linux kernel he was absolutely clear about what he wanted.. he wanted people to be able to write proprietary apps that can run on the Linux kernel. He didn't want people to be able to write proprietary extensions to the Linux kernel. Now he's changed his mind because his "pragmatism" is telling him that graphics card manufacturers will never open source their drivers and he really wants all those pretty 3d games.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:47PM (#16541338) Homepage
    That has little to do with Linus disliking GPLv3, and much do to with not being able to track down all the contributors and get them to agree to a license change

    Well, if they all saw it as a major advantage, they'd probably check how many were willing to relicense, and how much would have to be rewritten (where they can't be reached or otherwise). They did do a poll in the kernel core though, and all but one (which was netural) of them was negative to the GPLv3, some of them strongly.

    There is nothing in GPLv2 or GPLv3 that prevents a Linux distribution from containing various programs under various licenses

    No, but the libraries might. Take for example Trolltech, which holds the copyright to all of Qt. If they say "GPLv3 is a disaster - we're going GPLv2 only" then suddenly you could have quite a few problems. Or if projects don't agree on whether to use the "and later" clause, maybe someone starts a GPLv3 fork and others get pissed and create a GPLv2 only fork - which are now incompatible code bases. Suddenly you're rather screwed if you have an application, but want to use one GPLv2 only library and one GPLv3 library. What's nice about the GPL is that there is in practise only one GPL (I don't see the first version anywhere) and it's all compatible.
  • by Thomas the Doubter ( 1016806 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:01PM (#16541436)
    Mr. Bungi, I do not know why you defend this obvious hatchet-job published by Forbes. But the author of the article truely does not know (or care to know) what he is talking about. "Richard M. Stallman is a 53-year-old anticorporate crusader" This is not what RMS is about - he really does not give two hoots about corporations as such, much less "crusade" against them. Here is where the author engages in misleading non-truth ("specious lies?) "who has argued for 20 years that most software should be free of charge" Assuming the author knows anything at all about RMS and the Free Software Foundation, he knows that this is not true. Similarly: "He and a band of anarchist acolytes long have waged war on the commercial software industry" First, Stallman (unfortunately?) does not have acolytes - If there are such unthinking followers, I have not met them. Second, and mentioned above "war on the commercial software industry" is a complete fabrication. RMS, as far as I can tell, has little interest in damaging the commercial software industry. Yes, he is an ideologue, but put the emphasis on ideals. "dubbing tech giants "evil" and "enemies of freedom" because they rake in sales and enforce patents and copyrights--when he argues they should be giving it all away." Again, utter nonsense. Yes, I wonder why the Forbes piece was written - I am asking - and I wonder why you defend this object of malice.
  • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:01PM (#16541438)
    Umm, you're wrong on both counts.

    1)Having to spit out your source code

    No, thats not in there. What it does say is that if the app already does that, you are not allowed to remove that (and distribute the new version). You don't have to make it do so in the first place though.

    2)Can't use encryption

    Sure you can. However, if you cryptographically sign your code and make hardware that only works with the signed version, you must provide your keys so that people can alter your code and use the derived version.
  • by grylnsmn ( 460178 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:33PM (#16541622)
    Well, it's hard to say how it will function. If software producer A sign their binaries, and hardware company B produces hardware that only reads binaries signed by A, the GPLv3 is somehow supposed to magically supply me with A's private key so that I might run modified versions of the application. But A isn't doing anything to demand release of the keys, and B isn't bound by the GPLv3 because they don't ship software. If a company can find a way to ship the software and hardware separately (or under the "mere aggregation" clause, or claiming that the software and hardware is not a derivative work according to copyright law), then the GPLv3 is screwed.

    Well, the GPL is a distribution license, so it would only affect B if they are distributing the software.

    If they don't have the key from A to distribute, they still have the option of getting the source (we are talking about GPL'd software, after all) and signing it themselves with their own key, then distributing that key with it.

    In short, your example is pretty bad overall.

  • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:40PM (#16541686) Homepage Journal

    but calling him "a strange footnote in the history of computing" is just idiotic.

    Anyone who polarizes people to such a large degree, has generated so much passion, and has served as the point man of the free software movement deserves to be regarded as a towering figure in the history of computing. Whether GPL 3 succeeds or fails, Stallman has already left his mark. Again, it doesn't matter if you agree or disagree with him; he's no footnote.

  • by Telvin_3d ( 855514 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:54PM (#16541790)
    I think you are missing the point to some extent. Almost all of the 'legal language' that gets argued over was, when it was originally written, "present-day common usage". In 50 or 100 years, what you are suggesting would only lead to lawyers fighting over the interpretation of our "common day language" interpretation of laws that are another 100 years old. Just from your own example, I could see the meanings and usage of a word like 'duplicating' shift significantly in 50 years time.

    I am not a lawyer, but I know enough to think twice about complaining about the specialized language of another profession. No one goes to work wanting to use obscure and hard to understand terms. Every odd usage and non intuitive phrase has a reason for existing and most of the time I would be willing to bet that it is a good reason.
  • by leoxx ( 992 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:26PM (#16542016) Homepage Journal
    Early on in the lawsuit, Daniel Lyons [thejemreport.com] writing for Forbes heavily backed SCO against IBM [forbes.com], however like SCO they cited no evidence to back up the claim that Linux developers stole code from Unix and put it into Linux. They simply assumed that since the people behind the SCO suit were successful with lawsuits in the past they would be successful again.

    And of course like many of us called it back in 2003, SCO's stock first skyrocketed on the hype from articles like Forbes' and then plummeted as it has become public knowledge that their case is completely without merit. Naturally those people in on the action early cashed out early and big [zdnet.com], leaving the pointy hairs' who listened to Forbes holding the bag. So they may well have had some level of credibility in 2003, but the zealots wearing the blinders at Forbes called it wrong, and they didn't miss by a hair, they missed by a mile.
  • The thing is, that FOSS doesn't make it's money by "selling software". It makes it's money by selling "non-copyable" services.

    It seems true that few - if any - open source companies make money by just "selling bits." But it could be done. If a company creates a GPL'd program (let's say it's a case where it's GPL by virtue of incorporating other GPL'ed works) they are not required to give free binaries to anybody. They can sell the binaries for a bazillion dollars if they want... but must distribute the source, under the GPL, *with* the binaries (or include a written offer to provide the source).

    The only real fly in the ointment here is that there customer can take the program and turn around and redistribute it, for any price they wish, including free. So most people look at that as precluding making money from selling GPL'd programs... but if your customer(s) have no real incentive to try and undermine your business by redistributing your program, it's entirely possible that it will never come up. And the more niche / specialized (and therefore less generally useful) your program is, the less likely it seems that your customer would want to bother with doing something like that.

    The counter-argument, of course, is that you have no way of knowing whether or not your code will eventually leak into "the wild." And you have no way of guaranteeing that it won't happen. But even if it does, that still doesn't necessarily mean you can't still make money. Red Hat makes money selling RHEL Subscriptions, where part of what you're paying for is an entitlement to download ISOs, even though CentOS binaries are freely available.

  • Linux Revolution? (Score:3, Informative)

    by _iris ( 92554 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:48PM (#16542184) Homepage
    There is a Linux revolution? Last I checked, Linus is still in control, as much as ever anyway, and Alan Cox stepped down peacefully, without any coercion :]

    Joking aside, let's all keep in mind who is publishing this garbage. Do you think the readers of Forbes are, just maybe, on the capitalist, monetize everything, even if you can't possibly hold an exclusive license side of the debate?
  • by BootNinja ( 743040 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `yleencm.kcam'> on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:07AM (#16542280) Homepage
    You do realize that a large portion of the system utilities in linux come from FSF, right?
  • by viscous ( 455489 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:28AM (#16542446)
    Sure, you can sign over your copyright to the FSF, and people even have. You could also sign your copyright over to your employer or your mother. But nothing about the GPL requires you to reassign it to anyone. The original poster sounded like he might not realize that.
  • by Rudolf ( 43885 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:43AM (#16542524)
    Actually, yes, Stallman is opposed to copyright, _per se_, at least as far a software is concerned. He's quite open about that; he believes deeply in something he refers to as "the freedom to tinker". Copyright, if it applies to software packages, completely breaks the freedom to tinker.

    Then why does he copyright all his stuff instead of releasing it into the public domain free of copyright?
  • by Arker ( 91948 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @01:14AM (#16542754) Homepage

    Then why does he copyright all his stuff instead of releasing it into the public domain free of copyright?

    Because, all the fashionable slashdot trolling to the contrary, he's an eminently practical man. If he released it PD he knows someone would just grab it, modify it a little, and close it off. He knows this because he learned the hard way - this was done with much of his early work.

    He'd like to change copyright law, but being unable at least for the moment to do that, he came up with a way to hack copyright law to serve his purposes instead.

  • by The Bungi ( 221687 ) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Monday October 23, 2006 @01:59AM (#16542980) Homepage
    Please don't insult my intelligence with the "but we're all good and they're all evil" party line, OK? Richard Stallman has an agenda and he pursues it by pushing a license that restricts what developers can do with the source code while claiming "maximum freedom" and the like. Of course no one forces me to use GPL'ed code, but then no one forces me to buy Microsoft Word either, so a EULA is no different than the GPL since none of them involve coercion.

    But this begs a rebuttal:

    the other for cooperatively universal benefit at the expense of none

    Let's do this. Let's imagine for a second that a popular piece of software in the Windows world was released as free software under the GPL. Let's pick PaintShop Pro or DOOM or WinZip or TextPad or any other one. Now, explain to us how exactly the authors of those products would have made any money if they were licensed under the GPL. Specifically after some kid in Romania with loads of time in his hand decided to put up his own version for download and give it away for free. Please, enlighten me.

    While you're doing that, remember that there is no difference whatsoever between Stallman calling nVidia "nVidious" because they dare keep their source code to themselves and someone from Microsoft calling the GPL "viral". Stallman doesn't like what nVidia does, but he can't do squat about it, and Microsoft doesn't like the GPL, and they can't do squat about it. So they must resort to FUD. FUD works both ways.

    Oh, and I live how you spell "MicroSoft". Hilarious.

  • by shades66 ( 571498 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @04:02AM (#16543592)
    >This is Forbes magazine.

    No it's worse than that.. It's Forbes magazine with an article written by Dan "SCO is going to win, Linux users are terrorists etc.." Lyons.

  • by ignavus ( 213578 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @04:52AM (#16543776)
    Let me see ... how many Ecumenical Councils were there? So the Nicene Council around 325 - oh, wait, the Nicene Creed was amended a little at the later Constinopolitan Council ... so it has only been unchanged in the last 1500 years. Besides the creed itself, they passed a whole lot of provisions of canon law. Then there were the provisions of the other councils, and the later Orthodox and Catholic Councils that still have force as canon law. The laws of England include provisions going back to the reign of Edward III (1300s) that are still in force (or were until recently). Hmmm Magna Carta - now there is a document to make your Constitution look like a juvenile.

    History wasn't invented in America. Some places have been around longer, and have a longer tradition of unchanged principles. Jewish law goes back, in some matters, over 3,000 years. America is just a Johnny-come-lately in the world of legal history.
  • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @04:56AM (#16543800)
    Show me where in copyright law, I can before expiration, remove my copyright.

    You know how on a lot of things there's a line that says "All rights reserved"? You just do the opposite - you publicly waive all rights and considerations concerning the thing you want to release into the public domain. For example, "I hereby release this comment (the one you are now reading) into the public domain, and renounce all claims to copyright upon it" should work (IANAL, etc).

    Copyright law confers rights upon you; if you want to give up those rights, just say so.

    The reason Stallman doesn't is the same as the reason why he doesn't use the BSD licence - because then others could build upon his work and not release the source back to the community.
  • by DrSkwid ( 118965 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @05:36AM (#16543982) Homepage Journal
    Postgresql is BSD licensed.

    Most of the Licenses that xorg is released under are based on the MIT, X Consortium, or BSD (original and revised) licenses.

    bash & grep are rips offs of BSD software

    Mysql is multi licensed, including a FLOSS exception for BSD (and other) compatibility

    That just leaves you mplayer.

    nice try though :)

  • by LinuxIsRetarded ( 995083 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:27AM (#16544228) Homepage

    It has never changed. The translations from the original Hebrew are slightly different. Exodus 20:13 in various translations:

    NIV: "You shall not murder.
    KJV: Thou shalt not kill.
    The Message: No murder.
    NKJV: "You shall not murder.

    It seems as though the most widely agreed upon translation from the original Hebrew is "murder." Despite the various translations, I don't think anyone has ever misunderstood this or any of the other Commandments.

  • by kraada ( 300650 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:31AM (#16544246)
    It was always that way. Killing is perfectly justified for a large variety of reasons in the Torah. Capital punishment is common, there are fairly complex rules for retribution, and plenty of times G-d Himself says "go out and win a glorious victory" if you read the assorted Prophets and Writings. If all killing were outlawed, there'd be a heck of a lot of contradiction here.

    Murder, though, is unjustified killing. It breaks one of the Ten Commandments to pick a child at random and bash his head in. It does not break one of the Ten Commandments to kill your enemy in battle.

    I prefer to reading which doesn't cause G-d to be commanding His people to break the Ten Commandments, personally.

    For the nitpickers:
    The Hebrew word in question is 'ratzach' (which is conjugated to tirtzach in the text; Exodus XX, 13). Modern usage (according to my dictionary) clearly indicates murder as the first definition, and 'kill' as secondary. There is another verb 'harag' which can also mean 'kill', unfortunately I'm not as up on my Hebrew, so I can't say for sure whether this word is: a) used for more general killing, b) used more for killing of animals, or c) a modern invention.
  • by WillerZ ( 814133 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:49AM (#16544330) Homepage
    According to the westegg inflation calculator [westegg.com]:

    What cost $20 in 1800 would cost $216.86 in 2005.

    Also, if you were to buy exactly the same products in 2005 and 1800,
    they would cost you $20 and $1.84 respectively.

    It's different, but not all that different really.
  • by senatorpjt ( 709879 ) on Monday October 23, 2006 @08:57AM (#16545260)
    Practically everyone recognizes that, if private individuals are allowed to own fully-automatic AK47s, there will be serious problems enforcing civil order.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_Switz erland [wikipedia.org]

    " it is noted that there are about 420,000 assault rifles stored at private homes, mostly SIG 550 types."
    I never hear about any serious problems enforcing civil order in Switzerland.
  • Some landowners did own cannon.

    That doesn't mean their right to do so was protected by Amendment II.

    the last thing they wanted was a government with enough of an advantage over private citizens that it could suppress another revolution!

    Of course that's what they wanted. One of the first significant things the new federal government organized under the Constitution did was go suppress a rebellion [wikipedia.org].

A bug in the hand is better than one as yet undetected.