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GNU is Not Unix

Rumours 116

Anonymous Coward writes "I must remain anonymous for fear of job security, however... Sprint is a client of ours and we have been given a contract to sign that includes (among other things) a bit that goes like this: Supplier warrants that no GNU, FSF, or copylefted software shall be used in the production of services for Sprint. I'm still trying to figure out if this means that I have to uninstall gawk, apache, sendmail, BIND, etc., from my (non-linux) UNIX systems.... Afraid I can't include a link to the exact contract verbage, but it's 100% factual, I just read the contract myself. "

I also received an email from an EE claiming that Synopsys had informed him that they would be porting their tools to Linux. This would be an important step since Linux is ideal for large simulation/synthesis farms: cheap hardware and stable OS that can be left in a computer room. In related news, Green Mountain Computing Systems has released their VHDL compiler for Linux, with a demo available for download. It is slightly faster than the NT version, with better memory performance.

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  • One word: Insane.

    If this is true, sprint would have no email, dns, routing, etc, etc, etc, etc. Who comes up with this stuff?

    And more importantly, could I had you a binary sendmail, say "Uh... it's commercial..." and make money off their stupidity ;-)?


  • The NDA will clearly apply if it worded the correct way ("may not disclose any information not available to the general public" or something to that effect). They might be afraid that they can't stop further redistribution of the code, but since they never released it, they can't be held to the GPL on that point. But IANAL.
  • it said the clause would be that "no GNU, FSF or Copyleft software shall be USED IN THE PRODUCTION of it"
    Thats an entirely different thing as saying you may not re-use GPL code. That indeed would be rational but its not what it says. According to this wording the programmers wouldn't be allowed to use Emacs to write the code :)
    It's just a thing that a lawyer figured out without really understanding what he's talking about.
  • I can see the logic in this clause, as brain-dead as it may be.

    The idea being that there needs to be *no* possibility that any of the work done for them could be considered derivatives of GPL'ed software - and therefore, Sprints license for the delivered works is safe from, intellectual-property wise.

    Sprint is a big corp. Big corps have lawyers. Lawyers are essentially useless members of society, and they know it - they're scared of people waking up and realizing this. So they do things to make themselves seem important - such as add clauses 'that will protect the future investments and assets of this company'.

    Oh well. I guess this Sprint contractor will just have to re-invent the wheel(s). Again.
  • Posted by GNUSpeed:

    I guess some suits have not read their EULAs. If you read any license agreement, you will see that the author of the software limits his liabilty to replacement of the product. There is no liabilty stated for damages caused by said software. That is the case for both commercial and GNU/FSF software. The only diffference betweent he two types of software is the cost. The liability to the author is the same.

  • Posted by Mr. Assembly:

    You have some suits who make an engineering decision. The kind that wonder if their water cooler is y2k compliant. What they are afraid of is some highschooler's ten cent hack code being used, something going wrong shutting down the nationwide network, and their satellites falling out of the sky.
    Really though open source code will prove to be more robust in the long run. AT&T learned this the hard way when a single line of bad proprietary C code crashed their eastern seaboard network - how soon do people forget? Quite frankly with the way NT is going, when it crashes somebody's mission crtical app, suing the company won't bring them back online. Nor will they get legal redress with most if not all software packages I know about come with a "AS IS" warranty that absolves the software company of any legal liability whatsoever.
    When the get tired of bloated, buggy, crashy code like I am, I have a feeling that they will forget about this contract and let the engineers make the decision and dump the suits.
  • Posted by Tony Smolar:

    It might have something to do with the fact that the GNU license is incompatible with everything else. You use some GNU software in your code, guess what? You're screwed, you must convert everything to GNU! This may not even be possible because of NDA's, patents, etc.

    I won't be surprised if there is a greater backlash against GPL in the future.

    I know GPL advocates will be seething at this message, but they need to understand how the world in general works, and it's not GNU.
  • Sprint is my local phone company and I have half a notion to call them up and give them a piece of my mind... but alas, I have none to spare...sigh...
  • They of course think this mistakenly. I know you know this, so I thought the first to say it anyway should be non-flamy.
  • by jabbo ( 860 )
    >>Something should be noted: ftp into They're proudly running (an outdated version of) wu-ftp.

    Geee, I wonder if it's vulnerable.

  • To steal Rik van Riel's Linux kernel mailing list message signature:
    If a Microsoft product fails, who do you sue?
  • No, you moron, it doesn't say "compiled", it says "used in the production of services".

    By this reasoning, writing this line of shell script wouldn't be allowed (if I wrote and executed it, say, on a linux box)

    grep -v ^# stupid.file > stupid.uncommented.file

    However, writing this line of code on this NT machine and running it would be fine:

    find /v "#" stupid.txt >

    However, find and grep are not the same. Specifically, find is a proprietary cheap ripoff of grep. This is why find has no equivalent to ^# (matching strings starting with #) and therefore I would have to write a proprietary replacement to find, or find a grep that isn't GPL'ed.

    How does using a GPL'ed utility hurt Sprint? It doesn't. There are no licensing issues for using GPL'ed software for the production of anything. There *are* licensing issues for modifying GPL'ed software, and recompiling it. (or, for that matter, stealing code, which you can't really do in the proprietary programs anyhow.)

    Solution? Treat a GPL'ed binary like a proprietary binary. Don't read source unless you're going to use the GPL.

    Basically, this contract needs to be more specific, and you need to figure out what a derivative work means. (I read the GPL, and it's not as broad or as boneheaded as that snippet from the Sprint license. (Specifically, if you need *more* explanation, the Sprint license is talking about use of programs, the GPL is talking about source code. Got it?) )
  • It sounds crappy, I don't think I'm ready to move against them though. It's going to hurt them more than anybody else, they will spend moer money on software and pass that on to consumers and stock holders who then act according to free market economics. It's also notable that a name wasn't associated with the post. I understand not wanting to reveal company secrets but this could also just be a rumor designed to make sprint look bad. (they could have picked a larger focus group that actually has more power.. but.)

    If it is real and I think it's possible, I'd want to know what the exact reasons were and not the supposed reasons. That sounds like an explicit clause excluding a specific group of software. I would think that if they were out to insure themselves and have the lawsuit option as well as the 24-7 quick support that they could word it in a manner that wouldn't prevent GPLed software explicitly.

    Now at IBM (standard disclaimer) I've heard the (L)GPL issure rehashed a number of times and it hinges on what the meaning of use is. GPL doesn't outline what it means to use a GPLed product. It sounds stupid but lawyers take that kind of stuff seriously (ie: Clinton and what sex means) I've been told by some people that I should remove emacs, cygwin32, linux, info-zip, etc.. from my computer until an IPL comes and gives the ok sign. I've also been told that as long as the GPLed software doesn't produce something that we ship or get shipped with a product then I'm cool so I can use emacs but not bison or gcc. I've also been told to do what it takes to get the job done by a few people which I'll take to mean what I need it to mean.. When your pockets are deep enough the tight rope you walk on becomes very narrow and you take careful steps because you fall a lot further. In the warped minds of those who practice law, RMS or Linus or somebody is totally likely to ignore the use of GCC or linux by small software house but when Microsoft or IBM uses it the lure of billions of dollars cause them to fabricate a law suit.

    It's also possible that this could be a new wave of anti-free software activity by companies that stand to lose a lot of money. The OSF kind of did this a few years ago. (You'll probably have to see the world through my twisted mind to fully agree with me on this one..) Some (BIG) companies got together and they produced a brand name and got more big powerful companies to buy into it, then they went out with the non-OSF excluding contracts so that some projects were exclusively 'Open' even though 'Open' was mostly a sham. There are still products and companies that brag about 'Open' products even though the OSF is hardly open, it's a codeword used to make a sale. It was a big market protection gimmick (not exactly, but that's pretty much what a lot of it was) the OSF wasn't the cheapest or easiest organization to get involved with and a lot of their technology wasn't so hot but they could force you into using it because you needed the brand to sell your product.

    It's probably just the stupidity of some suit wearing chump who doesn't understand technology who thinks that having the source code makes it wildly easier to break through security or something.

  • This is it. At first they ignored us. Next, they casually dismissed us as a bunch of high-school hacker types. Then they tolerated our existance, but never openly accepted us. But soon, our software found its way into the big companies everywhere via back door channels because our stuffed worked and worked well. Then a few brave but small commercial software houses, such as Applixware and the startup Netscape, announced support for us and ported their products to our platform. And, as the heads turned, the big boys started to realize the fantastic power we have created and they came to our side. Big names like HP and IBM. But then another big player made the decision to stop and stand against us. A monolithic last bastion of stubbornness. The last stand of the great Dinosours. This is history in the making folks. Our grandchildren will read of our great movement and of events unfolding right now before our very eyes. The clock has reached zero. The lines are drawn. The blades unsheathed. And so... the Great Battle... begins.
  • Banning GPL'ed software in
    derived products is the right thing for anyone selling proprietary software to do. However, banning its use in services is downright silly and sounds ideologically motivated (that is, if the original source wasn't garbling this.)
  • IIRC some of the -ac patches allow you to access >2GB of physical memory. I've never needed them (only having a lowly 128MB!) so I don't know how stable they are yet.

  • What services? It does not sound like production of software. If not software, why would Sprint be afraid of? Because of lack of warranty and no one to sue?
  • One cannot use emacs because the text file it created is GPLed.

    One cannot use the GIMP because images edited with the GIMP are GPLed.

    One cannot use a GPLed circuit design program because the chips so designed are GPLed.

    One cannot use GPLed CAD program to design a car because such a car is GPLed.

    That's what Sprint is thinking, I guess...
  • The GPL only covers copying. Software that is internal is not being copied.
  • Sorry dude, this is bullshit. If they don't give the software to anyone but themselves, they have no more requirements under the GPL than any other license to copy. Look at Critical Path. They've modified the hell out of qmail. But that's okay, because they're not distributing it.

    Go read the GPL before you opine on it.
  • Let me be the first, then, to congratulate Sprint for having a clue.

    If we're going to slam Sprint based on an anonymous rumor, then shouldn't we be just as quick to praise them for a non-anonymous one?
  • Much of what we do is time-critical, and with all forms of free software, immediate support cannot be guaranteed.

    Um, Cygnus [] does exactly that - it guarantees immediate support for GNU development tools if you have a support contract with us. We've got some pretty major companies as customers, too.

  • GPL is NOT a virus. A virus passes by stealth to unwitting hosts. GPL is more like a tattoo. Once you've got it, it's difficult to remove it, but you always have the choice not to get it in the first place. If you use code from any source without checking the license first you are a liability to whoever you work for and they have grounds to fire you. If you are a company placed in this situation, you have a choice; you can either adopt the GPL or stop distributing your software until you've re-written the relevant portion.

    The GPL is all about choice. It is a little bit uncompromising for some people's tastes. But, like its creator, there is absolutely nothing underhanded or secretive about it. It says what it means and it does what it says.

    Also, your interpretation of the clause in Sprint's license is rather too forgiving. Taking literally, as quoted, it does indeed imply that you couldn't at any time use GPL-licensed software while doing their work. That means no compiling with gcc, no scripting with Perl, and no Linux anywhere in the same room. If the contract is as quoted, compliance would be almost impossible in most UNIX shops.

  • Secondly, there's no one to sue if something goes wrong. As sad as that sounds, it's a fact of life.

    Give me one example of a company suing a software manufacturer and I'll accept that line of reasoning.

    Much of what we do is time-critical, and with all forms of free software, immediate support cannot be guaranteed.

    Give me one example of anything in a distributed environment (ie, not mainframe) where immediate support is guaranteed and I'll accept that line of reasoning.

    Thirdly, if we had a linux expert who set up a bunch of systems, and got his by a truck tomorrow, we'd be screwed. With SGI, Sun, HP, etc, we could bring in an expert immediately.

    Prove to me that a Linux expert is harder to find than an SGI, Sun, or HP expert and I'll accept that line of reasoning. Also prove to me that an OS expert would be of any help in this situation. Technical expertise is more a function of how expert a person is in your systems, not the OS.

    Your arguments are paranoid and dillusional. There are many institutions that can deal with problems such as you are experiancing. If that fails, there are several fine chemicals that can in fact help.

  • Bah. . .What's the point?

    If you're going to write something that's a modification of GPLed software, why bother not using it? Certainly you aren't the only people that thought of it! Why not let the other people who did all the original work get to see the changes?

    As a software author, why would *I* ever release software under a BSD style license? If I'm going to pour hours and hours of work into software, why would I want to let someone else take MY work and change it and make money off it and not let me see what they did with it? Or even publicly credit me with doing the work that is making them money?

    If your software is soooo great that it is not something that can be released, ok, then don't use GPL. But, why should we programmers be forced to continually reinvent the wheel just cuz someone else thinks their wheel is too good for us to see?

    You don't like GPL, that's you're perogative, but from a programmer who's spent too damn much time rewriting code that's already been written, I think it's the only thing that will keep software moving forward at the rate it should.

    ** Martin
  • I don't think slashdot should be a place where rumours should be posted. Once you open the flood gates of rumours, you cannot stop it. I suggest that unless somthing can be proven as facts, or the person leaves some way to be contacted for further information, it can be seen as misinformation. Maybe its me, but i have already been fed up to here (/me points to his neck) with the "mainstream" media reporting stuff that are either incorrect or from "anonymous sources" and i hope that this is the last time i see something like this on slashdot.
    How many fucking times must some cunt hole say this:
    "Secondly, there's no one to sue if something goes wrong."
    When last did you see a company get sued for selling bad software?!? Almost every so called "commercial" grade software package comes with a EULA that makes them NOT responsible for anything that the software may do to your computer, your life, your kids, your dog, or your god damn pet monkey named bob!
    Get a fucking grip you stupid morons!!!!
    i cannot take it anymore.................
  • call me when they win their case...
  • last time i checked, if you changed the code, you don't have to give naybody it, as long as you weren't distributing it. For example, lets say i get the source for some shitty program or another, and i fix it, but decide that i don't want others to have my great new program, how can i get in trouble? go learn to read you mook...
    am i being forced to give the original programmer my code changes? no! exactly... if i am wrong, someone please stop me, but since i know that the code is not leaving my computer, the source does not need to leave too... so there...
  • eTrade is being sued for failure to provide a SERVICE. That's not the same as suing a software company for providing buggy software. It's more like suing your garbage man for not picking up the trash. They failed to provide the contracted service, which cost people money. Whether they use computer software or monkeys with headset phones to provide this service is irrelevant.
  • ... don't buy a word of this BS.

    I work in a software engineering group deep within sprint, and I am part of a team that's currently getting MAJOR corporate kudo's from the big-wigs for opening up their eyes to OSS...

    We just saved them 3,000,000 smackeroos by coding an app in PHP. The original outsourced bid still canna figure out how we did it...

    sprint DOES realize the power of OSS, and Linux. Myself and the 6 others i work with are living proof of it.

    Viva Hawaii, boys. Viva hawaii.
  • If it's for their internal network, no, they need not release the sources.

  • I HATE those stupid Sprint commercials anyway.

  • Actually, you could probably do it either way. I haven't had much experience with modern Indian languages, but I'm guessing that they use a different alphabet than the Roman one we employ. From my limited experience with Vedic Sanskrit, I would imagine that modern Indian languages use a variety of different letters for sounds that would have the same letter in our alphabet, if we even use them. There's almost never only one way to transliterate words and names from one alphabet to another. Hence Japanese "konbanha," "kombanha," "kombanwa," "kombanha," and the like, or Chinese "Mao Tse-Tung," "Mao Zedong," and so on.
  • No rumours in general are anything but reliable,
    but the people at slashdot really should know better than pass on clearly wrong rumours that BIND, sendmail, etc. are covered by GPL, Copyleft or some "FSF" licence.
  • No, they will have mail, dns, routing, etc.

    All these programs are covered by BSD and not GPL licences.

    There isn't much useable GPL-ed network software at all.
  • >If Sprint is so brain dead they will lose because >of this, whether in boycotting customers (me),

    As if they cared if some user or other "boycotted them.

    >more development and debugging time, bug ridden >products, and so on. Sprint hasn't got anything I >need.

    If they have got nothing you need, then you aren't their customer (or wouldn't be) anyways so they have no reason to give a rat's ass about you.

    Oh and you claims about more bugs, more time, etc. are just that - just silly claims.
  • The 2GB wall *IS* an arbitary limit imposed by linus and friends. Among all the other things:
    a) all intel processors since 386DX have been able to address 4GB of memory
    b) PPros and Xeons have 36bit address bus
    and can thus address 64GB of memory.

  • Actually, you should probably read the GPL. Check out Section 2:

    You may modify your copy or copies of the Program or any portion of it, thus forming a work based on the Program, and copy and distribute such modifications or work under the terms of Section 1 above, provided that you also meet all of these conditions...

    If you don't distribute your copies, (ie keep them for internal use only) then the you don't have to make your changes availble.

    If you distributed your stuff, then it's a totally different ball game...


  • They feel safer about the security because they can't verify it themselves, by inspecting the code which implements it. That makes sense; after all, it works for ostriches.
  • if this thing is any good, perhaps gone are the days of mentor graphics off a remote sparc...

    then again...
  • It would seem to me that as potential investors, the ideal thing to do would be to ask the investor relations department about Sprint's policy on the use of GNU, GPL and copylefted software. After all, we wouldn't want to invest in a company that didn't meet our investment objectives, now would we?

    Would seem to be one such place to query.
  • ..but what I really need is a nice Verilog HDL compiler for linux.. know where I could get one?
  • Honest question:

    If something goes wrong with Microsoft(tm) or Oracle(tm) or any other commercial software, do you actually have a realistic chance of prevailing in a lawsuit claiming the products are shoddy?

    If so, I would think Microsoft would be filing for bankruptcy any day now.

    I mean, it's a nice theory and all, but I think all you could ever get back is the price of the software, and that's not going to help if your whole business went south.

    True, you can talk to a Support Robot, but I haven't found support robots of any stripe to be particularly helpful. :-(

  • Just buy an alpha
  • by Axe ( 11122 )
    ..if this is true - Sprint has some morons employed...
  • It would make perfect sense if you used no acronyms, but you had to use them...
  • Great, now the tools vendors are distracted
    from their main business (the one we pay for)
    of delivering _reliable_ tools. Instead they're
    off chasing yet another cheap platform.

    I'll call Synopsys Today!
  • From provision 0 of the GPL:

    "Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not covered by this
    License; they are outside its scope. The act of running the Program is not
    restricted, and the output from the Program is covered only if its contents
    constitute a work based on the Program (independent of having been made by running
    the Program). Whether that is true depends on what the Program does."

  • ... I'm interested in short-selling some.

    With losing FUD-attitudes like that, they're going
    to wonder where all their revenue went and why their
    software support costs are so high.
  • They will dearly pay for this stupidity.
  • then they fight you, then you win.


    Only one step left, fellows.
  • OK As far as I understand this statement in Sprint's contract basically means that they want to have somebody responsible for whatever part of the software fails. If they use GPLed softwre who are they gonna sue if they have some downtime. By having this statement in their contract they will sue the posters company who, by using GPLed software have broken the contract rules. They are just covering their asses this way. But bad part about it is that if they really want they can always back off from this contract because of this statement and there will always be something like a copy of running sendmail or bind.
  • Magic 6.4 is also evidently out for Linux, for those aspiring up and coming hardware designers among the Chic Geek crowd!

    Check out the link below for more info...

    Magic for Linux, BSD, etc. []


"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"