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Corel Sticking to Closed Source Beta Test? 264

Tro^ble sent us an article over at ZD Net that talks about the recent Corel Fiasco that was originally covered by us yesterday. The major point is that they seem to be trying to stick to the non GPL license claiming that the release is "Beta" and therefore "Internal" so it doesn't violate anything. Insert irritated remarks here.
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Corel Sticking to Closed Source Beta Test?

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  • #include

    Well, the way I see it, MS has gotten NT installed in several federal gov't institutions. Given the security holes and trojan horses that abound in NT, this could qualify as an act of war against the United States.

    TREASON !!! The only crime addressed directly by the US Constitution, and still punishable by death. =)
  • So that's why people put "humor.h" in quotes instead of HTML-like brackets. And that's why there's a 'preview' button also. =/
  • No, betas certainly should *NOT* be uploaded to FTP sites anywhere.
    *IF* they are violating the GPL with their license, then they CANNOT DISTRIBUTE THE CHANGES AT ALL, and NEITHER CAN YOU.

    BTW.. what constitutes distribution? If I make a change to some GPL code, and compile it to a binary, am I *FORBIDDEN* from letting anyone but myself see or use it unless I am willing to give them the source?

  • If you look at Corel they company is fighting the good fight with M$. It supplies Office software. It supplies Draw! It supplies clipart. Now M$ supplies all of those things. (I think Corbis [] has better images for most applications)

    Corel is hard pressed to have a product that it does not compete directly with M$ with. So here is Linux(TM) (hehe I put in the (TM)), it has to compete indirectly with M$ but more to the point it needs to get a share from the Redhats etc. Or they will yet again miss the boat, IE office suite. There was a time not to far in the past that they had a chance to grab a good share of the market while M$ was busy building that thing called NT.

  • > To:
    > Subject: SERIOUS BUG in license!!!
    > Hey guys, the agreement attached to this distro is all wrong.
    > It goes against the GPL which covers a lot of this software. This
    > is sure to infuriate a lot of the developers who wrote the stuff,
    > and could result in legal action and terrible PR. Please fix ASAP.

    Thanks for spotting the bug, it will be fixed in the next release.
  • 4.You may _*NOT*_ copy, modify, _*SUBLICENCE*_, or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under this License.
    It doesn't say "not sublicence IF you distribute" it says "Not sublicence PERIOD!!".

    LINUX stands for: Linux Inux Nux Ux X
  • Since for your friends to have a useful opinion about your change, you'd almost certainly send them the source.

    You would be in violation of the GPL if you did either of:
    • refusing to give them the source, on request
    • insisting that they never redistribute the source you send them
      (rather than just mentioning that you'd rather they didn't until it was tested, and relying on their good sense)
  • Hmm.. I could be mistaken, but I believe RMS has complained about RedHat stealling brand name value away from GNU.. same as with the GNU/Linux stuff. Plus, I was under the impression that he was somewhat sparing in praise for the Linux co.'s in general. I could be compleatly wrong however.. I dont really know anything specific.. just gossip. No disrespect intended to RMS by the post, but the point about the value of testing the GPL in court still stands.. RMS was just a victim of my tring to make the point that it dose say soemthing for a co. to be willing to foot the bill to create the precedent.

  • . If they do, PCweek or some other bottom-feeding computer magazine is gonna through it on a lab box, test it, and tell the world that the product is crap.

    You don't think they will give review copies early in the process to members of the press as well? I suspect journalists (probably select journalists, of course) will get their hands on the beta release as early as anyone else.
  • "Can this be read as "all third parties except third party contract beta-testers" ? "

    I kind of doubt it, but I assume you were being sarcastic..?

    "It sounds like a company could permanently lose the right to do anything with a GPL'd program if there was any slip-up in complying with the license. And presumably anyone who contributed code would be able to apply for an injunction."

    "Seems a bit extreme to me."

    Sounds reasonable to me. I believe Stallman was rather serious about keeping his software free, and that section is about as threatening as a license can get to a lawyer's eyes. I haven't been keeping up with this as well as I could have, but I'm sure if Corel's legal department had taken just a glance at the GPL before this fiasco, they would have strongly recommended against any silly sublicense to beta testers (or recommended against developing this software at all.. lawyer's seem to like to play it safe, unless they are coming from a position of dominance).

    If I were Stallman, I'd want to put the hurt on someone who tried to rip off software protected by my license too. Thus, putting a clause into the license that's a little more than just a "slap on the wrist" would act as a deterrent. However, if Corel doesn't back off and such a thing was enforced against them, it would only create bad PR. On the other hand, other companies wouldn't be very likely to follow their "lead" and try to rip us off, but then again, they'd probably be too frightened to get anywhere near developing GPL'ed stuff (a la advice from their legal department). Well, some might just proceed with a little more intelligence, but at least a few would get turned off by it. I don't know. I'm not a fortune teller. :)

    And, once and for all, IANAL!

  • OK, let's assume that COREL has nice reasons not to make the code public by now. And that it will go only to a very limited number of beta testers... And that this is just like the code being developed by an internal programmer (a code which you don't see)...

    But why then do they need a beta LICENSE???

    Internal programmers don't get the code with licenses, do they? Wouldn't it be better just to say to this very limited number of testers: "it is not good for Corel to open this code now. We can't stop you from doing this, but please don't. It won't be good for the image of the company...".

    What is the advantage of using a license instead of simply asking? Would they be interested to sue beta testers if they don't follow this direction??? I don't think so. ..

    Why do we always have to think in terms of licenses???
  • Disclaimer: I'm quite bright, so I'm not a lawyer.

    Sorry, just had to.
  • > In order to get the program into shape, I email
    > it to a friend to test and report back with a bug
    > list. I admonish him not to release it until I
    > finish it. Am I breaking the law?

    If it is already under the GPL, and you try to add restrictions onto that previously-GPLed code, then yes, I speculate that you would be breaking the law. But 1) the code isn't necessarily GPLed yet; and 2) you're not changing the licensing restrictions, you're just asking your friend to do you a favor and not redistribute yet. Your friend is (I assume) under no legal compulsion to not redistribute the code, and (I assume) he could legally do so if he really wanted to (even though doing so would be evil).
  • This is a duplicate of something I posted above. But since you specifically asked me to "answer that my friend". Here's my answer:

    Even if we use Corel's definition of distribution, this license still doesn't work. Here's why:

    They put up a web site, ask for applications for testing, and send it out to people that qualify as testers, agreeing "not to distribute it". They say, relating to the GPL, that this is "not distribution."

    So couldn't you put up a web site, ask for applications for testing, and send it out to whoever you deemed worthy. Under their OWN definition in getting around the GPL, this is "not distribution." So, therefore, under the same definition, anyone else doing it is "not distribution" either.

    Whatever way you look at it, their license makes no sense. Either it violates the GPL, or it creates a definition of distribution which nullifies it. Based on simple logic, there is really no way this license can work.
  • For the past three days Slashdot has been an arena of amateur legalists arguing over what the GPL means (ignoring all other licenses in their religious fervor). Since a system of laws based upon uninformed personal opinion is highly dangerous, I think it's time for the courts to step in.

    Let the GPL see the inside of a courtroom for once. Let the experts hash it out. The FSF needs to challenge Corel legally. Then we can find out if the GPL means what it says or means whatever people want it to mean at the moment.

    Issues to hash out:

    1) What does "distribute" mean. Can two friends share GPL code amongst themselves without running afoul of the slashdotters? Can Bill Gates share his private version of emacs with Steve Ballmer?

    2) What does "beta" mean? Do I have to distribute the code even if my modifications make it unusable? Must beta testers be actual employees of the developer?

    3) Who exactly is issuing the license? The original developer from years prior? Or the current modifying developer? Can Corel, as a legal entity, be classified as a licensor, or must a licensor be an individual?

    4) Who exactly is the license granted to? Corel? Each of its individual employees?

    5) If a beta tester leaks a copy of the beta, whose rights, in reference to Corel's specific modifications, are being violated? Can a developer restrict the distribution of a modification? What if the modification is a separate entity such a a patch?

    Of course, not all of these issues would be brought up in a single trial, and some of them would be easy to figure out. Still, it needs to be done. Either do it now or do it later with someone else.
  • Despite what some think, the GPL is actually perfectly adequate, and Corel violated it.

    First off, to settle the argument about distribution, I'd like to remind people that unless otherwise stated, any words in a license refer to their definitions in the English language. That means bread means bread, and distribution means distribution. Distribution does not mean release, it means distribution.

    Second, article 2b states that:
    "You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this License.".

    Not "under the terms of a license of your choosing", but "under the terms of this License". It further states:
    "These requirements apply to the modified work as a whole. If identifiable sections of that work are not derived from the Program, and can be reasonably considered independent and separate works in themselves, then this License, and its terms, do not apply to those sections when you distribute them as separate works. But when you distribute the same sections as part of a whole which is a work based on the Program, the distribution of the whole must be on the terms of this License, whose permissions for other licensees extend to the entire whole, and thus to each and every part regardless of who wrote it."

    Hmmm... It seems anything that is distributed as a whole, and depends on GPLled software, is covered by the GPL. That means Corel Linux, because it depends on a lot of GPLled software for it to function as a unit, is also covered, as a whole, under the GPL (although this may not mean you can separately copy WordPerfect to your delight). This causes a major conflict with other licenses; the GPL needs some revision.

    Now, I may have pushed it a little too far there, but (although I'm not a lawyer), it seems that almost everything in the distribution is covered by the GPL. (This may not be true, depending on contract/copyright law.)

    On to more reasonable claims, the license also states:
    "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,
    b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,
    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.)"

    This means that if they make changes to, say, the Debian package manager, they are not allowed to distribute binaries unless they make the source available. (Restriction of binary modifications has already been done with Pine.)

    My final point, Corel seems to be forgetting a few major points in the GPL:
    " 5. You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License. Therefore, by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of this License to do so, and all its terms and conditions for copying, distributing or modifying the Program or works based on it.
    6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein. You are not responsible for enforcing compliance by third parties to this License."

    Again, if you're still thinking about distribution, look in the dictionary. You'll find that there is no distinction between anyforms of distributing. Period.

    Also, for those who still don't believe me, the GPL covers copying and modification as well, not just distribution. Surely, Corel has done that.
    "I already have all the latest software."
  • You're assuming that source code is distributed to your friends. Chances are its binary or a driver or whatever. "Here, does this work?" as opposed to "Compile this and tell me how it works." I understand the issue, I agree that something was probably violated, but I say that this is selective enforcement. In general nobody enforces this clause because a) nobody knows when its violated b) nobody cares c) if every time a beta was released full source had to be made available certain forms of development would grind to a screeching halt (such as reverse engineered drivers for obscure closed source hardware). It happens that this publicized event involves a commercial company and so everybody is screaming about something that already happens frequently.
  • One thing you should keep in mind when talking about Corel: In the Open Source Development model, there is no such thing as a Beta version.

    Release early, release often, integrate feedback. You may mark version as stable, but to take full advantage of the Open Source development model, you must keep your code available at all stages of the development process. Only this will ensure that many eyes go over the code and kill all that nasty, numerous and shallow bugs.

    Corels fails to understand this, and that is why they are failing not only PR wise. They do not get the model. I'd say, toast them, even if it is just as a deterrent for others.
  • I believe we certainly do have a right to complain about Corel's actions.

    It's quite feasible that Corel fully intend to comply with the GFL on the final release of the product, but just don't want to get a bad rep. from people reporting on the beta. But...

    The GPL is just that, and they can't just ignore it because its an 'Internal' release. If we say that this is okay, then other companies may decide to take advantage of it by saying that all of their distributions are 'Internal' releases.

    If Corel doesn't want us reporting on their beta product, then they shouldn't release it at all, and that's that. They can't have the quality of the GPL products both ways.
  • Hear hear!

    I vote we boycott Corel, or send them a swinging letter of complaint or something.

    ISTM it's totally against the way we've worked thus far to say "it's a beta, don't let it get too far". The open-source 'line' is "It's a beta, check it out and send me the diffs"!

    Pah. Commercialised linux, *spit*.
  • IANAL..

    I'd say that this does not count as distribution, because I cannot get the software from Corel right now. If fact, no-one apart from the already selected beta-testers and employees can get it, so I don't see how it is distribution.

    However, Corel has made the mistake of considering this as 'distribution', while not passing on rights associated with distribution of GPLed software. This is in fact a closed beta-test, so the beta-testers are working directly 'for' Corel. They have acquired the software as part of their specified 'job' for the company, and are now testing it for the company.

    This should be protected by a contract between Corel and the beta-testers, or a Non Disclosure Agreement. It is, very unfortunate that they have presented this contract as a licensing agreement. That is wrong.

    I ask Corel to void all such licensing, and create the same effect by passing out NDAs or Contracts to be signed, specifying what they may do with the software in their capacity of beta testers. Any breaches of it would then fall under contract law etc, which is stronger than licensing anyway.

    When Corel releases it in any way for the public (as opposed the the strictly closed beta test happening) I have do doubt they will release everything under the proper licences, which do apply to distribution.
  • 1) Many seem to think that this is ok because the beta testers can be thought of as internal (hence Ok w/ GPL). However, beta testers do not qualify as employees of Corel (otherwise Corel would be required to offer health care, 401K, stock options, etc). Notice that no one had to sign an NDA. Therefore, beta testers should not qualify as internal to Corel.

    2) According to the GPL no one may restrict your rights in distributing GPL software (section 6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the
    Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the
    original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to
    these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further
    restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein.
    You are not responsible for enforcing compliance by third parties to
    this License.)

    3) Corel can restrict the distribution of its own software (even if it is running on Linux), but it cannot restrict GPL code in anyway once it is released to non-Corel persons (beta release or otherwise)

    4) If Corel has made any modifications to GPL'd software, it is required to make these modifications avaliable to those that recieve the modified GPL software (sections 2.a and 2.b). This means that even if, by some strange techicality, beta testers did qualify as internal, Corel is still obligated to publish any changes to GPL code.

  • I doubt that Corel has any plans for releasing the full version sans GPL nor could they feasibly get away with it. This is a little different: they are the first large software developer to add a linux distribution to their line up. Obviously, they still have some of their old procedures in place, and those will be tough to convince the suits to change, but I would bet you dollars to donuts that their next beta test they do will probably come with GPL compliance. I also doubt many programmers are all that concerned about their code being used like this. It seems as it is only the religious followers of the GPL who just want stuff for free, not the ones that see the value of "free", as in liberty, software.
  • Sorry buddy, the licence as stated is a federal offence. Namely a quote from the kernel source:

    "Copyright 1993 United States Government as represented by the Director, National Security Agency."

    Corel presents its product as having no federal funding whatsoever. So besides the GPL it has also performed a fairly nice fed funding fraud which is punishable by a fairly long jail term.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    What can I say? I agree with Corel. Let them develop in private if they choose, as long as the final product is Open Source. Just my $0.02.
  • As far as I can tell, Corel's mistake was mainly to refer to this as a 'beta test'. If it is, as they claim, an in-house test then it should have been referred to as an 'alpha test'. The wider release that they are planning later would then be the beta test.

  • Officials Urge Calm? Officials of what? Did we have an election that I'm not aware of?
  • I am definitely going to get nailed for posting this three times but so what.

    Do you people ever read?

    There is a statement in this licence that no parts of the work has received federal funding. On the contrary there is quite a lot of fed funded intellectual property in linux. For example half of the linux ethernet work has been funded by NASA and is copyrighted:

    Copyright 1993 United States Government as represented by the Director, National Security Agency.

    So this corel thing is actually a fraud punishable by federal law. And that is besides the GPL

  • No, they can't use an NDA, either. When they give GPL'd software to the NDA'd party, they do so under the GPL, which explicitly states that the NDA'd party can freely redistribute the software. If they don't permit this redistribution, they are violating the GPL (by restricting the rights granted by the GPL, they violate section 6 of the GPL), and thus they lose their rights with regard to the software. So no, an NDA doesn't help, either.
  • Well, I own the copyright of a significant portion of the code involved. You can't get more official than that, can you? But the "Officials Urge Calm" was meant to be a take-off on the usual messages regarding natural disasters, etc.


    Bruce Perens

  • by Christopher B. Brown ( 1267 ) <> on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @09:04AM (#1668529) Homepage
    As per Bruce Perens' site, Officials Urge Calm. []

    It is more than likely that ZD is trying to jump on the publicity bandwagon discovered by Slashdot readers, and is merely pouring gasoline on the fire.

    It would be useful for developers to complain about abuses of their code; for advokiddies too gripe about this is a waste of bits...

  • While many people consider the GPL to be a "code to live by", we must remember that it's just a legal document and we must think in legal terms. Legally, a corporation is a single entity, and as such internal dissemination cannot be considered distribution. According to U.S.and Canadian law, transfers can only be considered distribution when it passes between entities, the number of actual people handling it is irrelevant. If a manager hands a modified Linux distro to 10 employees within the company for review, that doesn't qualify as distribution. As employees, those 10 people are legally considered to be part of the corporation, hence no new entities have received it. If Corel considers it's beta testers to be sub-contractors, then the distro is still legally internal to the corporation and no GPL violation has taken place.

    Now IANAL, but I got a little bit of experience here a few years back. The software company I was employed at licensed a bunch of beta testers for a new product. One of these beta testers was an IT Manager in a large company, who ended up distributing it to several of their other offices nationwide as well as a few subcontractors. My former employer sued him and his employer (they had signed off on his application), but the judge threw it out. Since the software had never passed to any third party, the judge said the distribution charge was bunk. The lawyer who wrote our license was an idiot who forgot to write in anti-duplication provisions (he got fired), and we ended up getting boned.

    Oh, and I read the Corel application and didn't see the word "license" anywhere...I just saw a "Beta Testing Agreement". While this may seem like semantics to some, there's a huge legal difference between the terms. They're not claiming ownership of the distro, they're just forbidding the redistribution of their own (not-yet-GPL'd) code. If you were to sign that agreement, strip out the Corel proprietary stuff, and post it on the Internet, they couldn't do anything to you (it'd just be Debian!). I just can't figure out what the flap is all about...
  • As has been previously said on slashdot - Bruce Perens & the OSI are already speaking with Corel on remedying the situation. No need to get irritated (yet).

    As a curious sidenote... somebody should e-mail zdnet and let them know to check slashdot before they post linux articles. Wait, nevermind. Who would we have left to poke fun at if zdnet got hit by a clue-by-four? Better not tell them. :)


  • Disclaimer: I Am Not A Lawyer. A Lawyer Could Show Up And Say I'm A Blathering Idiot. Listen To The Lawyers.

    As someone who said, "hey, that's clever!" upon first examining the GPL (in fact it was on a Windows program, I'd only read one other license more than a little, enough to convince me that basically anything you did after opening the shrinkwrap could be construed to violate it) I have to say that this is entirely false.

    What the GPL states is that *if* you distribute the software, or any modifications thereof, you *must* transfer all rights which you received to the recipient. Period. No exceptions unless you are yourself the copyright holder.
    This confusion probably originates from the claim and counterclaim often heard when /. readers are embroiled in a Holy War: "The GPL forces you to make all your modifications public!!" "No it doesn't you [expletive deleted] dimwit, you can make unreleased modifications for *INTERNAL USE ONLY*!" Both of these claims are partially based in fact. The GPL **DOES REQUIRE** that all rights, including the right of free modification and redistribution, are transferred with the software. This has nothing to do with internal or external distribution. I quote:
    4. You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under this License. Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under the License...
    However, the second claim also contains a grain of truth! While the GPL does require a complete transferrence of rights, it *DOES NOT* require you to transfer those rights to the world at large. Of course, distribution is difficult (to say the least) to control once it's gone beyond, say, a small development team under contract to you -- but technically, if I give Joe the software, Mary does not have the right to use it until either Joe or I give it to her. Most GPLed programs are provided for anyone to download, so this doesn't come into play much. But unless I have entirely misread the license, this is how things -- technically -- work. Unless the legal system is more intelligent than I thought, and can deduce that placing something under the GPL probably means that finding a CD lying by the side of the road is a perfectly valid way to get a hold of it. :-) [ note: I'm over my head. But wouldn't I technically be violating the copyright of commercial software if I stumbled on a CD like that?)
    Anyway -- this is all irrelevant since this is clearly not internal distribution. And even if it is, it's clearly a dumb thing to do from the point of view of playing nice; in fact, Corel *taken as a whole* is probably not this dumb. See for a furious posting from an insider about how this decision was (or wasn't) made.


  • I'm sure Corel's lawyers would insist that without a license from them, that you are not even allowed to make backup copies of their proprietary software.

    That also applies to GPLed code, so as soon as you take a copy of the program and give it to someone (be they an employee, a designated beta tester, or whatever) you are either doing it under the terms of the GPL, or you are violating the license. End of Story.

    If I copy a GPLed program and hand it across the room to someone in the same company, the only thing that gives me the right to do that is the GPL, so by doing that I agree to abide by the GPL.
  • by Buaku ( 93539 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @12:01PM (#1668534)
    Time will tell. As I said before, I don't think Corel came up with this stance by mistake. They want to privately develop a version of Linux so they can make a bigger splash when they release it to the public. I believe they feel there is enough of a grey area in the GPL here (does Beta = internal, and thus not a distrubtion) to give them room to try this.

    The reason they might want to try this is very simple - very large sums of money are at stake. Sudden release of a new version of Linux after hidden development serves several purposes. First they get more publicity and excitement over their changes. Second they deprive other distributions of the ability to incrementally (gradually) review the changes and understand them. The issue here is the ability to provide support, not merely copy the disks.

    In other words this is an issue of corporate strategy. If they pull this off, then their release will be much more newsworthy, and it is one of the few ways they might be able to make inroads against Red Hat. You can bet that Corel wants its distribution to be #1 after all. Their position in the Linux distribution food chain will directly translate into stock value, and if they dethroned Red Hat as number 1, their stock value would jump by orders of magnitude. Worst case scenario is the OSS community gets really riled up in arms and they pull back and say it was a mistake. Ooops - sorry about that we didn't mean it, let's make up.

  • You don't have to sell the software... just distributing the software means you have to follow the GPL (or else you can't distribute it.)
    What company are you talking about? (or am I feeding a troll?)
  • Anyone find it a little strange that Corel based its distro on Debian, the distro that is the most strict about levels of free-ness and using GPL'd software and then broke the GPL?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    what would it hurt to release the source, they may even get a few things fixed without having to pay a cent for the help. I'll stick to Mandrake thank you.
  • Corel is not doing anything good for "the linux community" by putting around this crappy license, and violating the GPL in the process.

    Not that the GPL is the last word in licenses, but rather that lots of the stuff in the Corel "distro" is *already* GPLd, that's the problem.
  • A precedent distinguishing between beta and final release should not be allowed to stand. Take, for instance, ICQ - today it is still in beta, yet it netted millions upon millions to Mirabilis' founders when they sold it to AOL.

    Take this potential scenario. Corel develops linux, albeit makes it better so that everyone uses it, widely distributes it, but all the time under beta (like ICQ) without releasing the code, claiming it to be beta. From then on, they can practically do anything - and potentially make mucho money out of it, by someting as trivial as perhaps putting a forced banner ad on one of their later versions of "beta" (or shall we call it gamma, or even zeta) releases. Clearly wrong when you think about it - making money off GPL'd work.

    Yet, all things considered, I doubt that a closed-source OS will prosper in the long run... and we already have a closed-source linux-compatible OS, which hasn't exactly caught on. It's called unix.
  • frendluv writes:
    If I download a bunch of GPL'd code, and change a single letter in it, am I
    immediately bound to redistribute it?
    There is nothing forcing distribution of GPL code, but if you do choose not to keep your changes to yourself, by distributing binaries, then the GPL insists that each person gets the right to ask for source, and also gets all the rights you had under the GPL, including onward distribution.

    Try reading it [] some time.
  • What other means do you suggest to bring them to their senses?

    I vote quite in favour of the upload-betas approach, myself, as long as quite a few folks do it.
  • by ansible ( 9585 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @12:41PM (#1668554) Journal

    Warning: maybe I'm overstepping my bounds by trying to speak for a large segment of the hacker community...

    I think that I and many others in the hacker/OSS/Linux/whatever community are not at all pleased with the current business and legal climate that has produced Microsoft Corporation and all it's attendent shenanigans (like the Java suit and the anti-trust trial). Mind you, I don't think Microsoft itself is the source of the problem, merely a symptom of the society and business climate that produced it.

    I'm tired of business-as-usual. I'm tired of bogus patents (which includes most software ones). I'm tired of lawsuits and lawyers. I definitely don't want to see the GPL tested in court.

    What I want is for everyone involved to talk it over and work something out. I want everyone to get back to work (or whatever they enjoy doing). I want everyone involved with GPL'ed software to have respect for the GPL and the ideals behind it. If there is a conflict, I want people to create a solution that satisfies all parties. The spirit of hackerdom is sharing information and working/playing on cool stuff, not settling things in court.

    I suppose lawsuits are necessary when things get too far out of hand and there is no other recourse. But often they are an incredible waste of time and money; not accomplishing a damn thing except to make some lawyers richer.

    There were some good solutions posted above, I hope someone at Corel checks them out.

  • The really sad thing is that the people in charge at Corel probably think they are embracing OSS, while they actually are completely clueless. They probably read CatB [] already many times and still don't get it *sigh*

    I don't even want to start talking about the stupidity of alienating the same developers who's code they plan to sell. Their real problem is that they are ignoring Linus' Law: [] Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow. Or as ESR states a bit more lengthy,

    Given a large enough beta-tester and co-developer base, almost every problem will be characterized quickly and the fix obvious to someone.
    In CatB, ESR continues by pointing out ``Here, I think, is the core difference underlying the cathedral-builder and bazaar styles. [..] In the bazaar view, on the other hand, you assume that bugs are generally shallow phenomena -- or, at least, that they turn shallow pretty quick when exposed to a thousand eager co-developers pounding on every single new release. Accordingly you release often in order to get more corrections, and as a beneficial side effect you have less to lose if an occasional botch gets out the door.''

    Chilli *crying*

  • by ebenson ( 89328 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @09:37PM (#1668564)
    Well I got to talk to RMS today as he was here at the university, this issue came up and I asked him specifically about the contention that this is a beta and thus is not violating the GPL argument people have been making, his response:


  • by Ignatius ( 6850 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @01:08PM (#1668569)
    I'm somewhat shocked that a large portion of the slashdot community is obviously willing to abandon the GPL at the first sight of a problem. Let's check the facts here: Corel tries to sublicence GPL code from random OSS programmers to restrict its distribution, which is a clear violation of the licence under which the code has been made available to them in the first place.

    There is no room for discussion here: Neither calling their distribution "beta" or the declaring the recipients as Corel internals has the slightest relevance here. (Even if a real Corel internal would give away e.g. an enhanced local version of gdb, never intended for publication, the best they could do is fire him but they could never sue him for licence violation.) Just imagine what Corel would do to you if you would publish an "internal beta release" of Corel Draw only differing from the original by a new installer and maybe a new packet format.

    While I also thought at first that this might have been a mistake by some culeless lawyer who did a search-and-replace on some standard beta test licence, their own FAQ and the fact that they didn't give any response (let alone excuse) besides "this is being worked on" suggests that this is not the case.

    Even if they do give in now (and I think they finally will), the impression will remain that they did so because of PR reasons and not because they felt themselves legally bound. Be sure that this precedent combined with the weak reaction of the community and the obvious lack of any serious (i.e. juristic) challenge of their licence violation will not go unnoticed, neither by other potential freeloaders nor by many OSS authors who might twice before they release their work under the GPL again.

    The tragic (and somewhat ironic) point here is that Corel has not the slightest advantage from doing this. If they had restriced their licence to their own self developed products (installers, system management, etc.), they would have lost nothing: Nobody could give the whole thing away and with installers and management tools missing, a distribution is nothing more than a random collection of packages. (And most of them won't really differ from the Debian versions, anyway.)
  • In TurboLinux Cluster server beta agreement [] it states that.
    "This license is only for TurboLinux software components not under the GPL. Software components under the GPL include, but are not limited to, the Linux kernel, all modifications made to the Linux kernel, and many of the Linux programs included with the TurboLinux Server OS."

    This would be a good comprimise
    Note: the turbolinux beta site seems to be down or something.. but I had already copied it from yesterday (in a conversation in technocrat) and thought it appropriate to point out here.
  • by exodus2 ( 88214 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @09:06AM (#1668602) Homepage
    They are saying that its internal, well let them keep it internal, dont go out and get other to test it. The term beta will soon be inbeded in a standard EULA and we will be seeing a Microsux linux coming out soon with enhancenments as tehy claim that their product is still in beta. EVEN after they are selling it at the stores.
  • If I had GPLed code in the distribution (I have GPLed code but not in their distribution), and I learned that Corel was changing and modifying _MY!_ code but refused to let me or anybody else see what they were doing to it until the time that they released it with a big fanfare, I would be quite justifiably infuriated.
    This not only breaks the GPL outright, but there is another negative consequence: to the extent that the changes are major and substantial, this causes a forking of the GPLed code into that maintained by the original authors, and that which is maintained in secrecy by corporate programmers and only released in completed states. As this continues, it will become a major rivalry between the original authors who are publically allowing distribution of interim releases- and the 'beta guys' whose only visible output is (in theory) bugfixed. The end result could be loss of control of many Open Source packages to this corporate entity, which would then proceed to only develop under wraps and secrecy, and then release source to only completed works. If you had changes to contribute it would be difficult because the actual moving target of the development is _not_ visible, it is 'beta' and you don't get to see it until it's done. The original authors would be pressed to conceal _their_ development process, or to be seen as 'releasing bugware' while the corporate distributors hide theirs. End result could be widespread concealment of code under the GPL, by both corporates and individual developers.
    This is intolerable.
    This has to be stopped cold. It's not just a courtesy issue. Which programs are being modified (effectively 'forked') by Corel? Exactly which people are losing control of the development of their own software due to this power play by Corel? There is just no way that the separate, concealed, destined-for-commercial-distribution development of such programs _wouldn't_ result in forking of the programs' codebase, and there is no reason to believe the concealed-development forks wouldn't _keep_ being forked and developed in more 'beta' concealment. This is a very, very serious problem, potentially. Unless Corel is stopped, the original authors have no recourse, and their only consolation is that Red Hat or most other distributions will run the real snapshots of their programs- which might be buggy!
    So, _if_ Corel has a bunch of programmers so good that they can debug GPLed code, then they could be setting up a situation where their distributions always release debugged code, compared to other dists which might be found releasing code that is only a dev-snapshot and buggier. This will tend to make Corel's dist seem better (if their programmers are actually that good at debugging), causing them to take over, outdo RedHat, leading to a state where Linux is basically controlled by a corporation because the codebase is forked, and versions under constant secret development are known to be the most bugfree ones. You could still extend off the code Corel writes- but you can't get it accepted into their workflow because they're already three months ahead of you in secret, and can't integrate changes based on such an older version of their product.
    This mustn't be allowed to happen...
  • by Trick ( 3648 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @09:08AM (#1668606)
    You know, I'd tend to agree, but...

    The language that states that the whole thing is the property of Corel and not subject to other licenses is just flat out a violation of the GPL, no matter whether it's internal or not. Legally, (assuming the GPL is binding), they're prohibited from placing their own license on it. Period. What it's being used for is irrelevant.

    I'm not even close to being a "GPL or Die!" kind of guy, and I thing people who demand Linux be called "GNU/Linux" are a little silly. However, a license is a license, and if Corel wants to use the software, they've got to abide by the license.

    I know a lot of companies that only use Windows internally. Does that mean they don't need to license it from Microsoft? Can they just say they own it, and all the code to it, as long as they don't resell it? Of course not.

    I'm not sure how Corel can figure they've got a right to do this.
  • And they can show it to the world, and you can't possibly force them not to, because it's GPLed. You can _ask_ them not to. That's different... and very likely they have no vested interest in distributing your rewrite... but they could because that's the license you're using.
    Now if you care about your little grep rewrite, what do you think when a team of salaried Corel programmers starts altering and debugging _your_ program to make it work seamlessly with their distribution- and you say, "Hey, cool, can I see that?" and they say "NO! You'll see it when it's done! We're forking your program, buddy- keep developing your version, and you can see _finished_ snapshots of _our_ version, but don't submit any changes, you're not seeing the real state of development and your change doesn't apply to the current (concealed) snapshot..."
    Are you seriously saying you _can't_ see the problem with this?
  • by barleyguy ( 64202 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @09:10AM (#1668609)
    I disagree strongly with Corel on this, actually.

    A GPL license is supposed to follow a product everywhere it goes. Therefore, internal/external, released/unreleased, etc. has nothing to do with the GPL. The GPL is meant to guarantee that you will be able to freely distribute a product, and that source code will always be available.

    You really can't make a license that obligates them to upload it to their FTP server. The GPL doesn't say "Said product must be uploaded to an FTP server." However, you cannot prosecute or sue someone for copying a GPL licensed product. Corel derived much of Corel Linux from GPL'd code. So making a copy of that code and giving it to whoever should be legal. Period.

    Nuf said. I didn't get to rant about this yesterday, so I figured today was a good day.

  • Remember that we are dealing with the biggest software company in Canada. They are liable to have "disconnects" between some of their staff and others. They had a P.R. person sending one message today while a manager was sending another. This is to be expected with big companies. The understanding that they have to be careful about these licenses is getting through to all concerned due to this incident. Give them some more time.



  • by nevets ( 39138 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @09:12AM (#1668615) Homepage Journal

    If I agree with Corel (which I don't), and say that the distribution is to a select few for "internal" development, they are missing the point of GPL.

    Beta testing is to find and remove bugs. An "internal" approach is not the most effective. The point of Open Source, is to let a large community debug and improve the product. Being the owner allows you to be the center point of development and support (where the money is).

    I don't believe in Corel's "Open Source Spirit". If that was the case, then they would take the bennefits of Open Source, and use it.

  • Really, though, I think perhaps what people should be worrying the most about is what Corel is claiming their "product" is in the license. Are they referring to the distribution as a collection of packages, or are they also including the packages that they're using in the "product" term?

    If they're referring to _only_ the bundled-together collection of packages that they're distributing, then they're not really violating the GPL for their beta release. You simply can't re- distribute copies of "Corel Linux" to others. You can still hand out the packages and various software components that are GPL'd, without a problem.

    If they're referring to the packages themselves as their "product", _then_ they're violating the GPL and the law by claiming that they own and are distributing software they control, when, in fact, they do not. That type of stuff, if I'm not mistaken, is illegal, regardless of whether it's "internal" or not.

    Keep in mind that I am by no means a lawyer, but it looks to me the issue is more along the lines of what Corel defines as its "product", not whether it's an internal or external release.
  • by kuro5hin ( 8501 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @09:14AM (#1668621) Homepage
    somebody should e-mail zdnet and let them know to check slashdot before they post linux articles

    But a lot of the articles on /. come from ZDnet. So if they checked here before posting articles there and we checked there before posting articles here, well... the readerships of /. and ZDnet would trade places, for one thing, and no one would ever post anything!

    Reminds me of that Greek guy... ZD-eno was it? :-)

    We all take pink lemonade for granted.

  • by sinator ( 7980 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @09:15AM (#1668623)
    Slash 0.4 anyone?
  • Flesh out the GPL License! Define what beta means. Define what constitutes distributing. Maybe define a heirarchy of which points trump the others (get rid of the "article foo says...","oh yeah, well article bar says..." confusion) and finally have an ask slashdot forum, "What the hell does the GPL License say and mean?"

    Sitting in a forum and arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin (never resolving anything) is meaningless. What can be done really but improve the license' clarity?

    I humbly ask that this could be moderated up insightful (if it even receives attetion)

  • Ok,

    Let's suppose I rewrote say... grep. I decide to call up some of my friends and say "Dudes check this out and see if I've done anything stupid before I show my ass to the world." Would this be a violation of the GPL? If so I expect that Linus and the rest of the gang have violated the GPL thousands of times. There's plenty of really important things to bitch about and this just isn't one of them IMHO.

    Have a really great day!
  • This is in the same vein as the notion that Linus actually means that he is seeking World Domination.

    Probably stronger than the way the "ROTC Dude" at the end of the movie Animal House declared ``All is well! All is well!''; it's more in that vein than most others.

    Of course, what puts some truth to the matter is that Bruce Perens is actually the author of some software included in "Corel Linux," and thereby a person potentially being infringed against. Copyright infringment is not, legally, an "offense" against "communities," it is against the holders of copyright...

  • by chris_kirby ( 52980 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @09:18AM (#1668634)
    In order for the GPL to work, there can be no exceptions or exclusions. Being Beta cannot be a special case that bypasses the GPL.

    Why not? Well say company XYZ develops a distribution/program/whatever that incorporates things under the GPL. Say they provide support or some great feature that you have to have. You ask company XYZ for it (since they have been talking about Open Source and such) and they say it is not publicly available yet, but you could pay N$ to become an official beta tester.

    And if the product never comes out of beta, or you always need the next beta, then suddenly company XYZ is basically selling a product that should be under the GPL, but they are hiding behind the "beta" exception.

    Any exception to the GPL that is allowed to stand will destroy the whole point of the GPL.
  • I would have to disagree. If you require that the "GPL license is supposed to follow a product everywhere it goes", then you run into the following problem:

    I, a college student on a coop during the summer with a 56k modem, download a copy of a GPL program and begin development. Then, out of the blue, someone sends me an email asking for a copy of the source code. Under your requirement, I would have to provide them with the source code.

    Now perhaps you argue that I should charge them for a cd-burner (as I don't own one and the GPL covers asking for money for materials and transport.) However, this would mean taking the time to learn how to use a cd-burner, the space to keep a cd-burner. Perhaps I would need to send the files by email, thus occupying my entire bandwidth for a few minutes.

    And this all would occur while I was in development in a little apartment off someplace away from home! Although I completely agree that the GPL should accompany a released product, requiring it to follow the source code during developement is ridiculous.

    Therefore, I think the question posed by the ZDNet article is whether or not beta testing is considered releasing a product. Answer that my friend.

  • The problem isn't with them doing their own Linux-related code that isn't GPL. That would be fine. MetroX, AcceleratedX, linux WordPerfect, etc. are all considered Linux programs and perfectly-valid commercial products. The problem is that they're releasing other peoples' GPLed programs, such as the Linux kernel and the Debian package manager and the like, under a closed commercial license. That is a Very Bad Thing. People put their code under the GPL for this very reason - so a commercial company doesn't take their code and sell it as their own under non-GPL terms. Just because you don't care about some hypothetical code which you didn't put under GPL being usurped doesn't mean the various authors of the GPLed programs don't.
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • by Kitsune Sushi ( 87987 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @09:25AM (#1668641)

    "Open source licensing: Who knew it could be so complicated? Definitely not Corel Corp."


    "Some open source and Linux advocates are outraged that Corel's beta Linux distribution agreement violates the GNU Public License (GPL) in several respects."


    "Some open source advocates argue though that since the Corel release is a beta, and not a public release, it can be considered "internal only," meaning the GPL does not apply."

    Well, IANAL, but what the GPL applies to is distribution. I do not believe it makes a distinction between "internal" or "external". If they are going to give us a copy of their distro, they can't attach extra licensing stuff to it. We are not their employees, so even if the "select few" only get to see it, it's still distribution. How they bind down their employees from distributing modified GPL'ed stuff would be a much more interesting topic to explore, in my opinion.

    " "As we've stated on previous occasions, Corel has every intention of honoring the GNU GPL obligations once we begin distribution of Corel Linux later this year..." "

    So, you can honor it when you want to honor it? I think your view is a little "off".

    " "...This beta testing program for Linux, however, does not signal the commencement of the distribution of Corel Linux, but rather the contracting of third party testing services..." "

    Hmm. Distribution: 1. to give out in shares 2. to spread out.. This sounds a little like distribution. They "give out" copies of the program? Whether or not you are contracting "third party" help, you are still /distributing/ GPL'ed stuff.. therefore it is to be under the GPL license, not their own, or even a weird hybrid.

    "Is that enough? Raymond doesn't think so. He believes that the beta should be under GPL and the other appropriate licenses. As he succinctly puts it, "They'll get toasted over this, and deserve it." "

    Damn right. I'm with ESR on this one. Who needs another pointless distro, anyway? Stick to the ones that actually fill a niche.

    "As Corel is discovering, making the jump from traditional commercial software practices and licenses to an open source model is harder to make then they might have thought. It's a lesson all companies moving to open source would be wise to heed."

    While a lot of people would say that now is the time to test the GPL out in court, I don't think this scenario is really for the best, although it was bound to happen eventually. Companies are out to make money, free software is a new market companies have to adapt to, fight off, or get trampled by, and the GPL doesn't allow for money-making.. at least in the traditional sense conceptualized by "big business". And all this kind of friction between companies and the free software community is going to produce is bad PR relations, and a sense of bitterness on more than a few sides. I was going to add more to that, but I forgot what I was going to say. :)

  • Let's face it, whether Corel is forced legally to follow the GPL on its beta is not the real issue here. The importance of this is that it symbolizes the conflict that arises when a traditional developer attempts to embrace OSS.

    Corel is simply trying to jump on the Linux bandwagon after the action has already begun to happen. They have been up to this time strongly proprietary. I don't know whether this is to enhance their mediocre stock price or to appear cutting edge. In any case, some sort of half-hearted copy of Debian with some "ease of use" features are not a significant contribution to the community. Even WordPerfect is buggy and obtuse when compared to Koffice, for example. Linux has already reached critical mass, and I know of no one that installed Linux in order to run WP 8. Corel is welcome but hardly neccesary.

    No offense, but I consider Corel to be in the same category as Sun and Oracle. Companies, which have a myriad of plans to make use of the technology fad du jour (remember Java and the NC?) Their bizarre products are aimed at Microsoft, since all three have an obsession on taking Microsoft's place as the dominant tech company. Linux is yet another avenue for their schemes.
  • by Ded Bob ( 67043 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @09:33AM (#1668649) Homepage
    The language that states that the whole thing is the property of Corel and not subject to other licenses is just flat out a violation of the GPL, no matter whether it's internal or not.

    Corel believes they are not distributing but are testing. The GPL applys to distributing. You can hack a GPL program to your heart's content and not give the changes away if it is for internal use only.

    I know a lot of companies that only use Windows internally. Does that mean they don't need to license it from Microsoft? Can they just say they own it, and all the code to it, as long as they don't resell it? Of course not.

    If Microsoft said you could in their EULA, then you could. Since they don't, you can't. The GPL allows hacking the source anyway you want without release changes as long as the program stays internal.

    I think I got all of that right. :)
  • Well, Corel Linux does fill a niche; it's a Debian-based user-friendly distro. It's much like what Mandrake is (well, attempts to be IMO) for RedHat, or what Caldera does on its own. It's very disappointing that Corel has apparently ended up burning themselves over this; I much prefer .debs to RPMs (they're MUCH more flexible, and that's not even factoring apt/dselect into the mix), and was truly hoping that we'd get a good .deb-based userfriendly distribution. I truly hope Corel comes to their senses.
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • They are saying that its internal, well let them keep it internal, dont go out and get other to test it.

    I agree with this. It is a *restricted* beta. They aren't letting everyone buy into like Microsoft. So perhaps we should be content to let them "control" it, like they have while they've developed it all this time. When it's released, we make sure it's under the GPL as released code must be.

    But we must also watch to make sure this "favor" isn't abused. For instance if another company tries to have an eternal beta, that's different.

    Does anyone know? Has their development on Wine, and so on been worked alongside of the Wine group, or did they, in a manner of speaking, fork the project?

  • by Seth Cohn ( 24111 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @09:40AM (#1668657)
    I've sent this already to GNU and Bruce... and just sent to ESR... anyone else who wants to take a shot at it, feel free. But I want legal answers, NOT opinions from knownothings.

    With the hoopla over Corel Linux's illfated Beta license, a question has come up, and I'd like RMS's opinion, as well as any legal ones FSF can provide.

    The question:

    Is an 'internal use' ONLY change to a GPLed program subject to GPL copying and distribution requirements, source providing requirements,

    I modify a GPLed program for personal use only, my own use, of course I do not have to provide source to the changes.

    I modify a GPLed program (let's call it a cgi program on the web), I do not have to provide source for the changes, if I do not distribute the code, only use it myself on a web page. Right?

    I modify a GPLed program for use in my business, my users only, no external users. Do I have to provide source, etc? This is the real gray area.
    A lot of businesses have modified GPL code for internal use only, and they do not think they have to 'release', nor should they (in my opinion), unless and until it's given to the public (whatever that means) in some form, for free or pay or whatever. Does 'Internal Usage' involve copying and/or distribution?

    If so, does in house changes mean that a user has GPLed rights to distribute beyond the company?

    If so, GPLed code can never be under NDA, even in the case of internal use only, say security changes to the source, etc?

    Answers to these please... Flames to /dev/null
  • by ColPanek ( 27322 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @09:47AM (#1668662)
    The point of Open Source, is to let a large community debug and improve the product.

    Could it be that the community has grown too large at this point for that to work in all cases? If Corel doesn't have the infrastructure right now to constructively process input from many thousands of beta testers, perhaps it is prudent to begin testing on a smaller scale. (I note that the company continues to hire Linux gurus [].)

    Of course Corel might also be concerned that the initial beta is indeed incomplete and unstable. As the company has a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders (full disclosure: including me), it would want to try to avoid potentially damaging press about a raw beta distro.

    OTOH, such a practical concern may well conflict with GPL terms. I'm glad Corel says it will fully release all GPL etc source later this quarter, but I also understand the argument that the GPL needs to be defended against erosion. So I've come to the conclusion that something needs to be done now, not soon, to avoid potentially alienating the coders upon whom Corel will continue to rely.

    How about this:

    1. Corel releases a list of all GPL'd elements of the distro that it has NOT changed, IOW that are already widely and freely available. Maybe even post them on an FTP site even though they're available at many other sites already.
    2. Make available to anyone who asks for it the source code of any GPL'd elements that Corel has modified.
    3. And release a list of elements that are not derived from GPL'd software and which will remain proprietary or perhaps licensed in some other way upon final release.

      If Corel were to release source in such a way that precludes putting together the pieces to re-create the (potentially incomplete/unstable) Corel Linux distro beta 1, wouldn't that address the company's stated concerns while also living up to the letter of the GPL? If you wrote something that was GPL'd, Corel modified it and now they were giving you the modified code, would you have a gripe anymore?

      Disclaimers: To use my favorite acronym of this week: IANAL. I also am not a coder or a GPL expert. Just trying to find possible solutions that aren't counterproductive for either side in this squabble.

  • by davie ( 191 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @09:48AM (#1668663) Journal

    What you clearly don't understand is that Corel are not only violating a license agreement, but attempting to re-license the software they're distributing without the permission of the copyright holders.

    Tell ya' what, why don't you grab a copy of the Corel Draw CDs, dump the files onto disk, modify a few configuration files and replace the install program with one of your own, nuke the Corel license agreement and replace it with your own license, knock off a couple thousand CD-Rs and send 'em out to a bunch of nice folks to Beta test it for you? How long do you think it would take Corel to have you thrown in jail? Do you think that what Corel are doing with regard to the GPL is any different?

    If Corel have proprietary software that they want to keep under wraps for whatever reason, they should specify that the license applies only to that software and that it does not alter or effect the existing license on any of the other code included with their distribution.

  • In my opinion, the whole thing might have been avoided if Corel had made a distinction between their software and software written by other people.

    Most people here would probably agree that Corel has the right (and even the responsibility) to choose a license for the software they develop. They do not have the right to choose a licence for the software they did not develop. They most assuredly do not have the right to change the license for GPL'd software that they have modified.

    Unfortunately, the language in the beta licensing agreement makes it sound as if that is exactly what Corel has done.

    If they amend that license to apply only to the software they have created or modified from non-GPL'd code, I can't think of any valid criticisms of the license.

    QDMerge [] 0.21!
  • ...this is just Corel being clueless. The beta agreement is just the same boilerplate beta agreement that Corel has been using forever.

    This is little more than minor snafu. Corel's lawyers are just being clueless as usual. No need to ping flood Corel's site or bombard them with a bazillion e-mails or sign up Dr. Michael Cowpland for every porn list under the sun. Flaming Corel is just a waste of bandwidth.

    I'm sure Bruce Perens and other advocates like ESR are handling the situation and educated Corel about the error of its ways. (Any way, Perens said he was talking to corel on his site)

  • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @09:53AM (#1668667)
    I figure no one else has listened to anyone else who's said this, so I'll say it. Maybe a few more people might stop and think.


    If I wasn't rather averse to the blink tag, that'd be blinking. Corel's doing this exactly as they should. If they tried to keep a closed beta but didn't go through the normal beta testing processes (ie, where you are essentially becoming part of the internal testing team, not joe public, and as such are expected to file reports on the software with the company, not just use it and report bugs), then there'd be a GPL violation. But if I want to take every single GPL'ed program out there and restrict access to the combination I've put together, as long as I'm not publicly distributing it, THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT.

    So everyone needs to get a grip.

    Corel hasn't said anywhere that they have any intention of violating the GPL. They haven't said that the final system WHEN AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC won't be free! They're simply keeping their testing versions private, which is probably a good thing. Using the general public for beta testing is a Microsoft tactic that is not only inappropriate in my opinion, but also does a poorer job of really methodically testing an environment.

    Corel doesn't give a crap about the individual software packages where the beta is concerned -- they're not going to be fixing wierd things like the perl extensions to vgetty not ever working right... that's not what they do. They want to test their install process, the whole integration, the "polish" of the system. That's not an open-source part of the distribution, and doesn't need to be. You can't send a contrib RPM to RedHat and expect to see it in the next version of RedHat's distribution either... I think its completely retarded that I can't mount the swap space before going through all the crap in RedHat's install process -- thus I can't install in 8 meg on a PCMCIA system. But that's RedHat's business, and I can use another distribution.

    Corel is undoubtedly one of the best things to happen to the Linux community, there are no lingering questions of their motives like Sun and others. They've been supporting Linux for years with Word Perfect, and with everythign else they're doing, it seems pretty childish to jump on something like this and risk pissing them off.

    Linux isn't going to last if the hotheaded members of the community keep flipping out about every little thing, particularly when the flipping out is so uncalled for.

    - a reformed hotheaded member of the linux community, for seven years ;)
  • by forehead ( 1874 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @09:57AM (#1668672)
    I disagree with you completely.

    1. This is a very early _LIMITED_ Beta. According to the FAQ, there will be a larger second beta. I presume this means that we all will be able to take it for a test drive.

    2. Were any of us whining what we couldn't see their code as it was being developed? I don't think so. This is not any different.

    3. Corel is probably expecting (and will likely recieve) a large response when they make Corel Linux publicly available. It is in everyone best interests if the project is kept organized and orderly. Letting a small group of outside people help them work through the rough spots will help ensure there is no fiasco when the full public release comes.

    4. In case you haven't noticed yet, Bruce Perens has been talking with them personally. He says that they are listening/receptive.
    You can count on him to let us know if they stop being responsive.

    5. Corel will look out for Corel first. The rest of us are second. I agree with this attitude completely. I don't expect them to turn a blind eye to the rest of the world, but given the choice, they'll look out for #1.
  • by dcs ( 42578 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @10:09AM (#1668678)
    Really, they are. Look, the GPL covers the terms under which the software must be distributed. If the GPLed software is not being distributed, the GPL terms do not apply (well, they do, under the parts that you may not sue it's authors).

    So, Corel has a product, which is under development, and they will one day distribute. When they start distributing it, it must be under GPL.

    Right now, they are going into the beta phase of product development. In this phase, the product is tested by a select group of people, under a contract with the company (Corel).

    What might be confusing people is that the OSS efforts on the net, like Linux, do not distinguish between beta phases and releases. At most, they have a "reliability" indicator.

    The product Corel is developing is being developed in a closed way, and GPL does not forbid that.

    Cool down, people. Nobody is stealing code.

  • by elbobo ( 28495 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @10:14AM (#1668684)
    Sure. That was my knee-jerk reaction too. Their license is invalid, therefore treat it as such and distribute at will. Hell, slap it on an ftp server somewhere and invite all your friends!

    But wait! wont this just alienate Corel, giving them good reason to detest the Open Source community? Do we really want to be that antagonistic?

    As I see it, ultimately they've stuffed up, and are actually legally in the wrong. Someone in Corel just has to admit it, redo the beta license, and move on.

    If they don't, if they still need some encouraging in order to sort this out, then infact anyone who owns GPLed code that's in the Corel distribution is fully allowed to tell Corel they no longer have the right to use it. Read that bit of the GPL? Something about breaking the GPL removes their right to the use of the software.

    But again, doing that would alienate Corel. This should be handled carefully and diplomatically, not in usual zeolot style flaming manner. My recommendation is that if you wrote GPLed code that's in Corel's distribution, then politely tell them that they're breaking with the license agreement, and could they please modify their licensing or you will be forced to revoke their rights to use your code. Sort of a cease and desist thingie. No need to actually revoke their rights, just the mild warning should do the trick, surely.

    el bobo
  • by Pug ( 21 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @10:36AM (#1668687)
    Corel believes they are not distributing but are testing. The GPL applys to distributing. You can hack a GPL program to your heart's content and not give the changes away if it is for internal use only.

    That's fine, but your missing something: while you are not forced to release any changes you make to a program, it's *still* under the GPL.

    To take the example of another poster, let's say I'm working on a program that uses GPL'd code, and I'm not ready to release it yet, but I want my friend to test it. I send to to him, ask him to run it for me and take a look, and see if it seems OK. I tell him to please not distribute him. I may even tell him that if he *does* distribute it, I'll hate him and go punch his lights out. That's okay (well, unless I physically assult him and he calls the police, but that's another matter), but I still must distribute the program to him under the GPL. I can't stick a new license on it, and if he decides to distribute it, that's his right.

    Likewise, for Corel, say, any employee could grab their internal beta that they're working on and distribute it to the work, and the guy is allowed to do that. Corel may be able to fire him, depending on his contract. So, what's Corel to do with this beta? They could simply have said "this is beta, please don't distribute since it's buggy", and people just maybe would have listened. Or they could have just kept it internal.

    IANAL, but I read the GPL for fun twice. *grin*
  • You /can/ charge for GPL'ed software. I could put a copy of Red Hat Linux 6.0 onto a CD-ROM, then turn around and charge $500 for it. Sure, you'd be stupid to buy it, but there would be nothing illegal involved in such an exchange. I could even take said Red Hat distro, modify to suit my heart's desire, and not make a public release. The GPL doesn't force you to distribute, it simply places certain restrictions on how it may be distributed (that is, you have to make the source available to those you give the program to). I could force people to pay me that same $500 for a copy. You'd still be stupid to buy it, but since I could not change the license, once you got a copy, you could set up a public ftp site to distribute it for no cost.

    Point is, this isn't about charging for a copy of the software.. It's about the licensing. You can't take GPL'ed stuff and claim it as your own IP, or even make any change whatsoever to its licensing. Once GPL'ed, forever GPL'ed. For those of you too used to BSD-style licensing, this may be a foreign concept, being unable to make the software proprietary. But.. there it is.

    And yes, as always, IANAL!

  • by Zif ( 50868 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @10:40AM (#1668691)
    Quick points: (These are just my opinions, of course, and they could all be wrong, but they are what I've come up with after some pondering.)

    1. Corel copies the Linux Kernel, for internal development. The Linux Kernel is under copyright, which means that it can only be redistributed with permission from the author(s). This permission is, of course, granted by the GPL, under certain terms. Corel is now bound by the GPL as to how it may copy the kernel.

    2. User A signs a contract with Corel agreeing (among other things) to not distribute its Beta Linux operating system (including the Linux Kernel, of course), to other people.

    3a. User A is now bound by contract not to distribute Corel Beta Linux. User A is granted permission by the GPL to use Corel Beta Linux on his own machine, of course.

    3b. Corel has now violated the license under which it is now copying copyrighted software; the license says that in this case the license becomes null and void. Therefore, Corel is in big legal trouble for breach of license (breaking copyright law, basically).

    Any comments?
  • When someone gives something to someone else isn't that distributing? If it was all just internel and not affected by copyright laws then that would mean our company could have 30 employees with windows98 and we only need one licence to the president. The rest wouldn't be distribution because it is all internal. The only way you can not distibute something is if all changes are kept by you, an individual.

    just my two cents worth
  • Is there any GPLed program in the beta distribution that they have modified and not released modifications to?

    I am asking this honestly. Most of the parts people mention, like the compiler and kernel, are almost assuredly the same as you can find plenty of other places. There are other pieces of code, like Wine, that are critical to Corel's distribution which they have modified and released patches for. (Wine is not GPLed.) How close are the publically released pieces to what is in the beta? Is it identical for all GPLed programs?

    There are certainly pieces in their distribution that are proprietary and will remain that way. Unquestionably the distribution as a whole will not be free.

    But when all is said and done, can't they meet the terms of the GPL by having a publically available ftp site with patches and/or full source-code to the modified GPLed programs in their suite?

    (And yes, there is a real issue here. If Corel can get good publicity for improvements to a product in their beta while denying other companies the opportunity to match this, the resulting first mover advantage is something that the GPL is intended to prevent.)

  • by bmetzler ( 12546 ) <> on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @10:43AM (#1668697) Homepage Journal
    If Corel have proprietary software that they want to keep under wraps for whatever reason, they should specify that the license applies only to that software and that it does not alter or effect the existing license on any of the other code included with their distribution.

    And that's probably Corel's only mistake here. And yet it probably should be assumed to be implied. The proprietory apps in the distribution that Corel developed falls under their license. But that license doesn't alter the license of the GPL'ed apps. So if I need Apache, I can download it, or grab it off the cd and do whatever I want with it. It's the same thing.

    So the real question is, Is that what Corel meant, but failed to articulate? Or did they mean I can't freely distribute Apache from their distribution? Because if it's the first, it's not reall a problem, and Bruce and the OSI will help resolve it. If it's the second, it is a problem and hopefully, Bruce will be able to resolve it.

    Of course, it also involves their changes to the GPL code. If they made changes they didn't release, then they may just want to make sure that the code is rock-solid before releasing. Is this a bad thing? Not IMHO. Of course, that means we'll have to accept Corel's decision to not distribute until it's "formally" released

  • by nevets ( 39138 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @10:24AM (#1668706) Homepage Journal
    1. This is a very early _LIMITED_ Beta. According to the FAQ, there will be a larger second beta. I presume this means that we all will be able to take it for a test drive.

    I have to agree to a previous response, that this should really be called an Alpha. But what the hey!

    2. Were any of us whining what we couldn't see their code as it was being developed? I don't think so. This is not any different.

    No, but I wonder if the "beta testers" can see the source code? If this is truly internal, then they should.

    3. Corel is probably expecting (and will likely recieve) a large response when they make Corel Linux publicly available. It is in everyone best interests if the project is kept
    organized and orderly. Letting a small group of outside people help them work through the rough spots will help ensure there is no fiasco when the full public release comes.

    Fine, but will they release a beta to the public under true GPL. And place a disclaimer that this is a beta, and that it is not for mission critical use. This way, they can get the benefits of Open Source and have it thoroughly debugged. It won't be perfect, but then the official release should be cleaner.

    4. In case you haven't noticed yet, Bruce Perens has been talking with them personally. He says that they are listening/receptive.
    You can count on him to let us know if they stop being responsive.

    This is a GOOD THING(tm)

    5. Corel will look out for Corel first. The rest of us are second. I agree with this attitude completely. I don't expect them to turn a blind eye to the rest of the world, but
    given the choice, they'll look out for #1.

    I think it is great to look out for old number 1, If you don't who will? But if they have taken others work that others have licensed under GPL, they are obliged to obey the license. Good they are joining the Open Source community. But if they try to rape it, then they get what they deserve.

    I'm not one of these extreme advocates (although I may be close :), I'm not going to flame Corel, for this. But I'm going to watch very closely. And if they start to try take advantage of the Open Source, then I will let others know, and influence my peers in staying away from Corel. This is where it can hurt them.
  • They could simply have said "this is beta, please don't distribute since it's buggy", and people just maybe would have listened.

    Yes, I agree. A little tact is worth 1,000 Slashdot posts. :-) (even if some of them are mine)

  • From the GNU General Public License:

    9. The Free Software Foundation may publish revised and/or new versions of the General Public License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns. I suggest, mildly, that RMS releases the GPL 2.1, which defines what "distributing" a program is. I think, probably, that saying that dissemination and use within a company, including possible 3rd party testers/developers would be best. Outside of a company, however, should be considered true 'distribution.'

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Would it perfectly legal for a company to only make internal releases, and make users pay to be an internal beta tester, like you can do with microsoft.

    I think there should be a tighter definition on what can be considered internal testing.

    If corel is going to have this in beta for six months, then the rest of the community is being denied the ability to adopt and improve on changes that corel has already made.

    Isnt the whole point of the GPL and OSS that software is developed in the open to allow feedback and hence a better product.

    Does corel believe the whole "community" is not worthy or doesnt deserve the chance to assist them in development.

    The GPL is the backbone of the open source community, if it fails then what will become of us ?
  • by elbobo ( 28495 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @10:54AM (#1668715)
    'the GPL covers the terms under which the software must be distributed'

    No, the GPL quite clearly states:

    '4. You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under this License.'

    Now that quite clearly means that however you define distribution is irrelevant, because they are copying, modifying, and sublicensing. The GPL goes on to say:

    'Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License.'

    So, if we were to do this by the book, then we could say they have already voided their rights. But I think that's probably going just a little over the top as yet! The GPL goes on again to say:

    'However, parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long as such parties remain in full compliance.'

    Which to me states that we can work with the Corel Linux Beta as it if were a normal GPLed distribution anyway.

    Please if you know more about licensing law than me, do correct me.

    Of course, this is all very subversive talk, and probably quite unnecessary as I'm sure Corel will figure it out soon enough and sort things. But still, it does put things in an interesting light. The GPL actually appears quite powerful at the end of the day, when it comes to defending the end user. Not so good for people like Corel who want to do things their way though.

  • yeah....uh what ever happened to the Slash code? I though Rob was going to release it every so it seems he always is to busy to release it. I enjoyed running the slash makes the real spaghetti taste even better.

    Anyways, I think Rob stopped after pre.03 or something....I gotta check.
  • When one thinks of a GPL'd product, one thinks of something built a bit at a time by individuals with the source/binary always at hand. We've come to take for granted such an arrangement is how open software gets built.

    But the GPL doesn't enforce any policy in that regard.

    Assuming Corel has modified GPL licensed portions of their distribution, they have no requirement to send out binaries/source until the entire thing is ready for distribution. Beta testers, even 3rd pary beta testers, can still be considered part of Corel internal development and not part of the public at large.

    In short, Corel doesn't have to release GPL'd source - yet. And if Corel hasn't made any modifications to anything GPL'd, they don't have to release the source at all. For instance, bundling closed-source WordPerfect with their distribution is okay, so long as the GPL'd distribution itself is available.

    But this whole episode is so frustrating because it doesn't feel like a true open-source project. Sortof a "that's not how we do it" feel.

  • Corel would find more bugs if the beta period was open to everyone.

    Yes, but I'm sure they have their reasons. A small beta, with a limited hardware focus, can be good. Makes sure that all the real obvious bugs are out. And stuff like that.

    This is the *first* round of beta testing. If it were open, you know that they'd get a 100,000+ downloads. What happens if they quickly found a major bug that caused a lot of corruption. Not likely, but that's why you restrict the beta at first, among other reasons. I'll be much happier testing it for them after I know that more then the handful of people in Corel QA'ed it.

    Corel *will* be having a second beta. If fact they indicated that it will possibly be an open beta. Now don't you think it'd be better to encourage them to definately make the second beta open, then critize the first? I just don't think it's that big of deal, this is just a restricted closed beta. They just got a larger QA "department".

    Check out their FAQ []. It'll answer a few more of your questions.

  • In haste to make my comment I didn't think about the programmers releasing thier code under the GPL and then having some commercial company take it and close the source. In actuality though if it is released under the GPL you can find the source either on Freshmeat or by your own means.
    In actuality, even though the original source code is on Freshmeat, the source-closing you speak of violates the license (and by extension, the original author's copyright). So, passing out a program based on a GPL'd program but not under the GPL is *illegal*

    There's a different license that allows proprietary projects to swallow code. It's called the BSD license. Under the BSD license, the original source is still available to everyone but the proprietary parts aren't required to be. Some people prefer it that way. Those who do release their code under the BSD license.

    Btw, Corel seems to be concerned with keeping their license attached to this distro (going so far as distributing its beta illegally - at least for the time being). Why should the people who created and maintain the GPL'd software not be concerned about keeping the code under its original, legitimate license?

    Do you think Corel will be ok with me swiping Word Perfect code and distributing it under the GPL as a beta while saying "Oh, I'll return all of the code to Corel's original license when I'm done"?

  • I spoke with a Corel official today. He has been assigned this issue, he committed that he is definitely working on it and that I can tell people that, he hoped to have a policy change announcement today but he ran out of time. He asked me to re-iterate what I thought he should do, and I did.

    Don't panic, folks, it really is being worked on.


    Bruce Perens

  • you are misunderstanding the issue. a "friends release" is still a release and these friends have the legal right to redistribute (by the GPL). you are merely *asking them nicely* not to do it. Corel has every right to give beta cdroms out to its beta testers, saying "please don't redistribute this further", but they would still be legally allowed to, by the GPL. *that* is the proper way to do a distribution beta test. the GPL entails no obligation to formally make an easily accessible mass distribution of all your versions; it just requires you to give GPL rights to everyone you give a copy to.
  • This seems like a decision made to make the testing process go smoother. Keeping track of a bunch of beta testers is much easier than trying to sort through tons of "It's not working." type bug reports from millions of users. Keeping the pool small lets them get more specific info about bugs and get back to people who have valid reports.
    If that's truly their goal, Corel can allow x number of people register to be beta testers. Then they have the option to only accept registered users' problem reports (for instance by having a password-protected bugzilla or form mailer) Why should anyone allow their licenses to be violated while in the process allowing a bad precedent to be set - because it's more "convenient" for Corel to violate a license than to not violate it?
  • Not so much accurate, I think.

    I believe it goes more like this:

    case 1: kiosk

    I build a kiosk using a bunch of GPL'ed bits. I extend and hack those GPL'ed bits (as opposed to merely adding my own, fresh bits). I place that kiosk in the mall and charge $5 to use it. Am I distributing that code? Absolutely not. I'm providing a service on a machine that runs that code, but not distributing the software (in either binary or source form).

    case 2: embedded consumer appliance

    SO, I take that same, easy to use software and stuff it inside of a sexy little consumer box. It has my same hacks, only instead of charging $5 a pop to use the box, I'm charging $500 to buy the box for your own personal enjoyment. Now I'm distributing the code (since it's embedded on the box), and have to follow the terms of the GPL.


    Though I'm quite bright, I'm not a lawyer.


    Though I hate to give the sharks chum, does this little scenario suggest that perhaps embedded manufacturers might get around the GPL by "leasing" the device itself and not actually "distributing" it per se? That's an interesting set of thorny legal questions... Of course, as an Official Free Software Zealot(tm), I believe that the right thing to do is release the source and make your money based on actual talents, reputation, branding, and so forth. But I'm silly that way.

  • This is a very interesting issue. In my opinion, Corel is violating the GPL by not making the source available for their beta of their new Linux distribution. My question is, what to do about it?

    I think a lot of times the answer would be: "Flame them till they submit and release the source code." But I don't think that's really the best answer.

    I have a lot of respect for what Corel has done and is doing for the Linux community. (no, I don't work for Corel :) I would hate to see them abandon their Linux efforts due to some hotheads going off over an issue that could probably be solved without lobbing any cerebral nukes. Not that anyone in the Linux community would ever do that :)

    I can see why Corel may want to keep this beta "closed." This may or may not be their reasoning, I don't know. But instead of having a public beta and having the source code out there for several months (with bugs) prior to the final release, they can knock the public's socks off with an awesome public release when their beta program is over. That way, it's not the same old code everyone's seen for months, only without bugs (hypothetically speaking of course). Granted this is more of a commercial approach than the Linux community is used to but I think Corel is very serious about making a big impact and trying to pry market share away from Microsoft. That's certainly respectable but is this an approach that is acceptable to the OSS community?

    I think that we as a community should try to work with Corel to find a solution that will help them to be profitable while maintaining our important Open Source values. I mean, shouldn't we be trying to work with them as much as possible anyway? We want to take over the world, right? We want to attract more companies like Corel to the "Light Side" right?

    Maybe I'm wrong, maybe the sanctity of the GPL and it's relevence to Open Source Software is far too important for us to allow a company like Corel to encroach on.

    Just my opinion, but I think we are capable of a solution that maintains the crucial aspects of Open Source Software and the GPL but allows companies like Corel to market successful products and be profitable.
  • They beta test in limited batches to get limited amounts of feedback from users they feel would help them the best. The reason campanies don't release betas to the world at large to keep is it make technical support a complete nightmare (read costly). Corel might 'actually' support this distro, as opposed to all the other ones, so I wouldn't be so quick to condem. I was on various Corel Draw beta programs, the wording seems very familiar but I haven't dug it out. Its also not the type of document you want to just whizz out over lunch. What you say can have pretty long term implications, so companies tend to over state things and sound very heavy handed. Thus clauses like 'if this is legal where you live...' If I am having troulble with code that I know does not work right, and send it to Mary to have a look have I violated anything? Perhaps I didn't post it to the world, hoping to avoid lots of mail saying 'it doesn't work'. That type of mail can last years. So? So reeelllaaaaxxxxxxxx..... - Robin
  • "Any exception to the GPL that is allowed to stand will destroy the whole point of the GPL."

    I wrote a program using libXML, a GPL'd library. The program is not finished. In fact, if it were to leak out to the public it would cause me great embarrasment by highlighting my extreme lack of coding skills. In order to get the program into shape, I email it to a friend to test and report back with a bug list. I admonish him not to release it until I finish it. Am I breaking the law?

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened. -- Winston Churchill