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Corel "to fix" Beta Test License 118

terrified writes "According to the Debian Weekly News, Debian evangelist Bruce Perens has talked to Corel and they said it would be fixed. Here's the relevant text: "Corel has started a closed beta test of their Corel Linux distribution. Unfortunatly, they did so under a very restrictive license, that violates the GPL in several respects. The good news is that Bruce Perens has already contected Corel and we're promised that this will be fixed." I'm not sure about how they plan to "fix" it - isn't that a relatively easy thing to do, in light of the GPL nature of the code? The Debian Weekly News is available here. The text of the message Bruce sent to the Debian-User group is here. "
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Corel "to fix" Beta Test License

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Read the GPL for yourself instead of relying on other people's analysis.

    The GPL prohibit any copying or sublicensing without including source. They clearly violated it.

  • I'd say that the moment people are charged more than P&P its not a beta.

    I'm not even sure about letting them off with charging postage.
  • by Suydam ( 881 )
    Good that Corel is at least trying to fix this. That's the biggest thing in my mind. We have to allow big companies trying to embrace Linux to make mistakes....we just also have to call them on their mistakes and help them right their wrongs.

  • Not, that would not satisfy the GPL. If the binary is a derivative work of a GPL'ed piece of code (which it almost certainly is if it incorporates non-trivial pieces), they have to release all of the source used to create the binary.

    You cannot create and distribute a derivative work without the consent of the original copyright holder, and for GPL'ed programs that consent is usually only given under the GPL, which states that the complete source to the derivative work has to be published (and other stuff...).

  • I think they can't (won't) do this because they want to sell the Corel Office part of the distribution; the rest is just supporting flab and so that they can break away from Windows. So if people are running off cheapbytes-style copies of Corel Linux, you can bet Corel are going to jump on them hard if they include the proprietary bits.

    Now, you and I know that the Right Thing would be to give away a GPLed Corel Office and charge for support etc., but it'll take time to persuade Corel of this, obviously.

  • The solution to this legally may be as simple as making sure all the beta testers recieve full source code, since that way everyone included in the distribution has their full GPL rights.

    Of cours,e a lot of people are going to get mad at them, but nobody will be able to sue them.

    The hard part is going to be when someone violates their NDA by distributing the beta. Legally, that would be wrong -- but Corel can't afford to enforce it. That's a tough one.

  • ...that another company (let's use Microsoft as an example) makes their own Linux distribution. Now the various licenses would apply, but Microsoft decides to label the distro a beta and claim it's only given to special "internal" testers. To become such a privileged person, you simply pay for it and sign their restrictive license. It's only beta, not to the general public, for testing purposes only...

    Once Corel's problem is fixed, we should forgive them, but until then we shouldn't let this look like a precedent of how to circumvent the open source licenses!!

    On the other hand, if this became a precedent, all the WaReZ sites on the web would immediately get a chance to become legal in the same way by twisting the original license agreements.
  • Corel would truely impress me, if they fixed their license by just sticking a GPL on the distribution.

    After all, it's the easiest thing to do, and it shouldn't take a genious to figure that the community would be happiest with this. Corel would even stand as an insightful company that knows when the time is for a new license and when the time is to support and benefit from an existing one.

    However, that would require actual insight. Not a lot, but some. I'd be as surprised as I would be happy.
  • They could release their nonGPL software under nonGPL license, and have it come along with the distribution. To the user it would seem as the Corel distribution included the nonGPL software, but to the rest of us it would seem that Corel had a ``real'' distribution with an optional nonGPL package.

    Caldera does this, and RedHat did back in the old days (with MetroX).

    If the distribution (except for some nonGPL packages) isn't GPL, it means that not anyone can just download it, which in turn means that a lot of people won't even try it out, which in turn...

    Corel are shooting themselves in their feet with an eight barreled Vulcan (HE+AP ammo), twice, at close range, and for some reason they don't seem too bothered about it. I don't get it...

    Even if they change the license tomorrow, it's a week late. But I do hope they change it. Corel could still be seen in a good light. But they must act.
  • At least I'm not the only one who saw Bruce's previous post stating the same thing. Wake up Slashdot...
  • "plus their lawyers are probably freaking
    out over all this."

    I've got to ask - Does a lawyer being
    freaked out bother anyone? I'm willing to bet that most /.ers' would like to assist in the guys' trip!


  • Actually isn't it just that the source has to be available? I don't think it has to be actually included. Have any of the beta testers received binaries of GPL'ed code, requested source and been denied it?
  • >companies would be releasing non-GPL versions
    >under the claim that "it's still beta and
    >therefore internal"
    >and then just have continual beta releases,
    >thereby circumventing the license.

    I don't see this as being a problem. A company won't be able to make any money if they keep their products in Beta. I mean who is going to be dumb enough to pay for Beta software?

    Oh yeah... Windows users...
  • If this was true then they wouldn't have did their
    demo at the Linux Expo's and all...

    I think this is more along the lines of them used
    to a certain way of doing their
    lawyers are probably freaking out over all of this.

    There is no need to keep beating up on them...they could always just say screw this and dump it. Who's loss would that be??? ours.
  • I don't think the problem is in the GPL itself - the lawyers have been over that again and again, and I think it's clear enough. (You may argue that it's not a perfect license, but that's another issue. I'm just saying it's clear)

    The problem is the enforcement. Any legal document is only as strong as the people who stand behind it. If there is no consequence, then companies like Corel will soon learn that they can run roughshod over the GPL and hijack any code they want and incorporate it into their closed systems. If people fight back (either through organizations like OSF, or on their own by letting their feelings be known), then companies will learn that the GPL has some real teeth.

  • That's a veeerrry bad idea.

    A) you'd have a self-contradicting license, as the GPL says that anyone is allowed to distribute it to Corel but must allow Corel to use and distribute it under the GPL, and your extra disclaimer says Corel can't use and distribute it. I don't think a such a poor license would stand much in court.

    B) you couldn't use anybody elses GPL code in your program, because your license isn't compatible with the GPL. You'd be punishing yourself and your users a thousand times more than you're punishing Corel.

    I think Corel's PR problem is big enough alread if they don't fix it soon (they want any OSS "expert" that is asked for an opinion about Corel's Linux version to deride it?) without people resorting to measures that hurt OSS more than anything else.

  • Did he actually send email to any of the editors about this?

    If he is me then yes.

  • Frankly, Corel could do whatever they feel like.

    Of course, is it legal? I don't know, probably not. Good test for GPL.

    Should they care about our reaction? Maybe, maybe not.

    Here's why...

    Corel's distro will probably be one of those that most /.ers never use seriously. We'll end up using Debian if we want the Corel Distro's style. The idea is that their distro is a move on the desktop. But not just anyone's desktop, my mom's desktop, and your mom's desktop, and about any other non-geek out there. But that is just the idea. Beta testing will get it ready for this stage of domination.

    The question is, should we care what the do with a beta test license? Up until now, I've said it doesn't matter. But that's the problem. I don't care whether current code is GPLed or not. I can assume that I will get those packages from my Debian Sources CDs. But I do care if someone modifies a package and that isn't available to me, especially if it's that proverbial video card driver I need for X, or if it's a better SCSI driver I can modularize.

    Corel can ignore the license, but it won't make them any friends in the community. Why? Not because we're all GPL/GNU/whatever zealots (although some of you are...). No, it's because they broke the chain.

    My suggestion is if we start spamming them with any mail, don't use flame messages. Just send them the full text of Cathedral and Bazaar.

  • What I wonder is, as unlikely as it is given the reaction mechanism I just described, what would happen if a company took a GPLed product and suddenly turned it closed-source? Yes, they're violating a license, but who sues in this case?

    Who went IPO lately? This will eat their multimillion bread. Do you think they will allow it?

  • They will not screw it up and dump it because there is hardly any chance of them making any money with corel office on any paltform but Linux and BSD. (It runs as linux emulation under BSD's while Staroffice does not because of the threads).
  • I do not assume. Not switching to decaf either ;-)

    The statement as provided in the corel licence is for
    US government entities perusal.

    Which reminds me of the a part of my original post which is "do you people ever read" ;-)

  • No. The GPL, and pay for support, model isn't appropriate for WP style applications. If support is needed, then the product is badly flawed. This kind of product is intended to be used by a secretary who has received, perhaps, an hour of training (but is a skilled typist, file clerk, exec. assistant, etc.) (well, for other folk too, but this is the extreme non-tech edge). If she were to call for support, she wouldn't be able to properly describe the problem (e.g. "My computer when crazy when the thingee didn't switch"). Local support is needed here. OTOH, if she can't figure out how to change fonts, etc. then it is not well designed. (The same secretary customizes her screen savers, color mappings, etc... she's not stupid, just non-tech. minded.)
    Remote support for her would be extremely expensive, and still unsatisfactory. Forget it. So WP applications need to be sold to recover the cost. I would posit that the same is true of any end-user application (you could ask Loki).

    OTOH, K-Office is coming up fast, so Corel had better act promptly to convince folk that it's product is worthwhile, and riling folk unnecessarily (and illegally) doesn't help that end. But the GPL is not a reasonable expectation for WP application. (K-Office is being designed as an adjuct to the KDE environment, and largely as and OSS project from before the word go. I don't know of anyone who would claim that it was a finished application and useable by the general populace).

    I must admit that I am not able to see Corel's intended revenue source, but that's not my job. Perhaps they intend to go into the business of supporting Linux, ala Red Had, et. al. In that case support for the WP software could be a low cost add on that made it more attractive to choose them. But supporting themselves on support for WP software is a model that doesn't convince me.

  • Appologies if this is a repost, it looked like I lost the first posting.

    No. The GPL, and pay for support, model isn't appropriate for WP style applications. If support is needed, then the product is badly flawed. This kind of product is intended to be used by a secretary who has received, perhaps, an hour of training (but is a skilled typist, file clerk, exec. assistant, etc.) (well, for other folk too, but this is the extreme non-tech edge). If she were to call for support, she wouldn't be able to properly describe the problem (e.g. "My computer when crazy when the thingee didn't switch"). Local support is needed here. OTOH, if she can't figure out how to change fonts, etc. then it is not well designed. (The same secretary customizes her screen savers, color mappings, etc... she's not stupid, just non-tech. minded.)
    Remote support for her would be extremely expensive, and still unsatisfactory. Forget it. So WP applications need to be sold to recover the cost. I would posit that the same is true of any end-user application (you could ask Loki).

    OTOH, K-Office is coming up fast, so Corel had better act promptly to convince folk that it's product is worthwhile, and riling folk unnecessarily (and illegally) doesn't help that end. But the GPL is not a reasonable expectation for WP application. (K-Office is being designed as an adjuct to the KDE environment, and largely as and OSS project from before the word go. I don't know of anyone who would claim that it was a finished application and useable by the general populace).

    I must admit that I am not able to see Corel's intended revenue source, but that's not my job. Perhaps they intend to go into the business of supporting Linux, ala Red Had, et. al. In that case support for the WP software could be a low cost add on that made it more attractive to choose them. But supporting themselves on support for WP software is a model that doesn't convince me.

  • I believe that Corel will do the right thing. This doesn't make what they have done thus far right. One may hope that it was an innocent mistake, but it was a mistake. It was illegal. Presumably a modified license will be released today.
  • I am guessing that Corel sees their potential customers as converts from Windows. Many of those may not be as offended by explicit violation of License terms.. after all, they are in the habit of dealing with another (large) company.
  • So they could distribute a non-distributable bin, and a CVS tree with appropriately flagged branches. Or some other way. I don't really care the exact method that they use to comply with the GPL. That was just off the top of my head to demonstrate that it WOULD be practical, not just possible, to distribute source as required.

  • I thought that YAST was proprietary. If it's not, I'd really like to know!
  • I read that as well yesterday. It looks like his posts got lost in the sea of thread traffic. It can happen. Did he actually send email to any of the editors about this?
  • First, I don't think corel *intended* to do anything wrong. This whole fiasco has brought up several points that I find very interesting.

    Point #1 - more of a fact, I bet that if we analyze *MOST* shrink-wrap licenses, and pretend that we love them dearly, we can find *ALL KINDS* of inconsistencies. Many licenses (including games) state that the license is non-transferrable. So how come there are 'used game' shops and 'trading' shows? This should be largely illegal! (The problem, of course, is stores treat the box itself like a product, and profits are made as such, but the company hides behind a legal 'license', which shouldn't be necessary due to copyright.

    Point #2 - GPL question.
    Let's say *YOU* wrote a piece of software, in it's entirety, and slapped the GPL on it.
    Now lets' say I get ahold of it, write a bunch of mods, and decide I want to *commercialize* it and don't want to put it under GPL. The only way I can do this is for *YOU* to grant me license to do so with the code. So I want to send you a copy of what I've done so you can see *WHY* I want my own license. *HOW CAN I PREVENT YOU, LEGALLY, FROM JUST TAKING AND DISTRIBUTING MY WORK?*

    Point #3 -
    What if I simply make a DIFF, and send *THAT* to you as a product unto itself? Does the GPL allow this? See...
    I'm not distributing the original code at all. I am distributing something of my own invention, that when applied to the GPL'd code & compiled, will produce the desired result.

  • I wonder what they'll say in the announcement about the fixed (hopefully!) license. Will it be "Oops, we sent out the wrong license, we meant to use this one," will it be "We were unaware of the conflict with the GPL," or "We still think we're right, but here's a new license to appease people"?

    Bets anyone? :-)
  • Rubbish, Corel are not making any attempts to keep their distro betas out of the hands of the press.

    Try being a journo working on a Linux magazine and then you will know what you are talking about.
  • I don't mean to be difficult, but they haven't forked any code bases. They have contributed to KDe, Wine and others.

    They have also written some apps completely from the ground up (e.g. CFM).
  • Are you dumb?

    They are releasing the beta to a closed group of people to prevent it getting out and their reputation being tarnished by any bugs that haven't been fixed.

    Why are you an exception to that?

    Wait until November for the full release.
  • The intent of the original license, which they are presumably now clarifying, is that the sections they are preventing you from re-distributing are things they've written which are not derived from GPL and therefore are not subject to the license. They work they have done on other GPL products is not covered by the beta license because that would violate GPL.
    They are not trying to diddle us, or take control of things, this is a simple error of communications.
  • Read the older Slashdot comment here []

    Amy Fong of Corel (check for her posts re her Corel coding position) claims on Technocrat (and maybe as AC on /.) that Corel did this with intent.

    She is in a position to know. Can someone confirm that it is her, and not an imposter claiming to be her? Anyone have her PGP/GPG key?

    If this is true, Corel should NOT be forgiven as 'making a mistake' but should apologize to all of Debian (and Linux community) publically. Someone there decided that 'nobody reads agreements.'

  • for those interested...ESR got back to me regarding the GPL/internal question:

    From: "Eric S. Raymond"
    To: Seth Cohn
    Subject: Re: Fwd: GPL question...
    >Is an internal ONLY change to a GPLed program subject to GPL
    >copying and distribution requirements, source providing requirements,

    No, in my opinion. GPL requirements trigger when you distribute binaries
    to a third party. There are some definitional questions about what
    constitutes an `internal-only' release, but the principle is clear.

  • I think that part of the problem is an unmet need for continuing education of lawyers on changes in distribution and business models. I've seen some real howlers -- like the company whose license said that you could install only one copy of their free download. Not a problem if you're an individual, but what if you're a corporate entity and want to deploy it on all your workstations? We contacted the vendor and discovered that there was not even any way we could *buy* the right to use more than one copy. Nobody had thought about users like us.

    (That vendor eventually fixed the problem by working out a price structure and charging us for their formerly free viewer. Not what I would have liked but at least there was *some* legal way to use it.)

    A lot of the people who draft software contracts have a solid grasp of traditional fee-per-installation licensing but have not even learned to ask the right questions about free products. If you run a law school, think about that.
  • Violating the law whenever you wanted to is a pretty poor way to conduct business. If Corel (or anyone) acted in a blatantly illegal manner, they would be out of business pretty quickly.
  • dito.

    I'd only just got home from talking with my stock broker to find this mess. Hell of a "you've just bought shares in us" present!

    If you surf from through their contact part, there's an email address for shareholder feedback. That's where my emails have been going, seeing as they're talking about "protecting our shareholders interests". Hell, I dont feel like mine are being defended! If it's the share price, and shareholders who they're worried about, then we should tell them as shareholders that it's not on!

    el bobo
  • Yup.
    Good one Bruce for lifting pinkie from keyboard to phone, too, I guess :)
  • Your license is valid, however you should be aware that it fails the Debian Free Software Guidelines, specifically clause #5:

    5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

    The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.

    Thank goodness we have this requirement, lest the distribution become unusable by anyone (government, outlaws, non-technical users, non-hams, business of any sort, you name it, there's a license out there that excludes it)

  • A lot of people here seem to think the GPL has something to say about public vs. private distribution. Section 2b refers to distribution, saying that anything you distribute must be under the terms of the license. Nothing about public distribution only. But, even if it were the case that a beta release somehow didn't count as distribution, then section 4 would come into play, which says that you may not copy or sublicense the program except under the terms of the GPL. Even if giving people the program to beta test isn't distribution, it's certainly making a copy!
  • I wholeheartedly agree with you on the subject of enforcement. Certainly, if no one enforces the GPL, it's not much of a useful license, is it? I do think that this whole Beta == Internal Release issue needs to be addressed in the GPL. That would definitely made enforcement easier.
  • Yes, this is definitely a serious issue. One that, we can only hope, will be fixed in the next release of the GPL. I'm no lawyer, but it seems like it's open to a lot of abuse as it stands.
  • but I think you are wrong.

    What Corel did wasn't all that bad - you're right about that. However, I think the reason people are getting so upset is because of the threat that maybe, somewhere along the lines, a company like Microsoft or AOL *will* do something like this, and their intentions will not be so honorable. This is a case of precedence, where we need to make a firm stand on the full disclosure of source to GPL'ed software. I don't hold any ill-will towards Corel, but they do need to be aware of the legal implications of the GPL, in regards to their Beta. I think that Bruce Perens has done a wonderful job making our needs clear to them, and I feel that this situation will be resolved clearly and to both group's acceptance.

  • This may be a bit offtopic, but I'm wondering if any of the people that made it into the beta (I didn't) would be willing to UL an ISO of the Corel distro somewhere. I'd love to get my hands on it.

  • Corel seems to have turned around, meaning they'll change their beta-license. This is a good thing. I don't think there's any reason to beat them up untill we all have seen the new beta-license.

    Instead, I feel it will be interesting to see how Corel handles this from now on. Have they learn anything from this? Will they try to use some kind of customized license for Corel Linux? What about applications for Corel Linux, what license will they have (GPL perhaps)?

    I hope that the community doesn't refuse Corel at the frist conceiveable moment, but instead give them a proper chance. It would be surprising if they continue to use licenses far away from the GPL, going against the community. Then it would be right to beat them up, but not right now. Lets see the first betas of Corel Linux and how it performs. If it's good, there might be lots of people buying it, meaning lots of people will use Linux. That has never been a bad thing.

  • ... I'm very glad to be in the BSD camp.

    From now on, if anyone ask me why I prefer the BSD license over GPL, I'll just point to this thread.
  • I think a lot of slashdotters were waiting for you to do something about it. I don't think any kind of posting on slashdot is the same as sending hate mail to corel, which no one did. It was more talking about them behind their back. You were the first to contact them. Speaking of which, it was funny seeing in that email what you really think of slashdot. :-)

    First they posted the requirements for the beta, "requires Windows." OK, so that was a mistake. An overlooked boilerplate bullet. Then they did the same with the software license. I don't think they intended to violate the GPL. They seem to have repeated trouble with details. Just think of it as a code review for software licenses.
  • Ok there seems to be something that noone has brought up and that is this little fact: Corel, like ever other disro of GNU/Linux is using the work of all the other developers out there who have worked so hard though the years. For Corel to ignor .. for what ever reason the GPL licence is a slap to the face. I mean its not like they have contrbiuted a large amount to the open source community .. or have developed a big section of the GNU/Linux OS. They are just adding something to a pre-exisitng distro and repackaging it.
  • Ok, so this time Corel is being collaborative. It's normal: there's a lot of pressure from the Linux community that a company sticks to the GPL terms. There would be no one to buy Corel's products if they suddenly screwed up their target audience.

    What I wonder is, as unlikely as it is given the reaction mechanism I just described, what would happen if a company took a GPLed product and suddenly turned it closed-source? Yes, they're violating a license, but who sues in this case?

    I'm asking because I have a sinking feeling it's gonna happen one day or another. And I'd hate to suddenly see the GPL license undefendable based on some Law trick.

    "There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

  • It must be a shock to Marketing, Public Relation, Legal, and all the other mired-in-the-80's departments, when port 80 and the email spools start glowing /. green and flame issues forth. /.ers are the 15% of the market these guys know they have to have, the people whose friends take their advice on purchases.

    We Are Not Lawyers, mostly, but we've seen that Bad Things Happen when bogus legal claims on other people's property are permitted to go unchallenged. I wonder if Corel would have even talked to Bruce Perens without the firestorm.

    I think the main problem with GPL is that it is a contract which must be defended. If we are lax in doing so, our copyrights are not worth much. Kudos to Bruce Perens for taking point on that.


  • They will probably ammend their license to be like what TurboLinux Cluster did when Bruce Perens contact them about their GPL/Beta license conflict. They just ammended the web page to say this License covers everything we made that doesn't already have an existing GPL or other license. er-license.html
    If you read it you will see what I am talking about. I think this is a resonable and fair way to handle it for TurboLinux. I think Corel should do the same type of thing.
  • If i were Corel, I would have a closed source beta if i damn wanted to. I can't imagine that this is the most profitable package of software they've ever made, and if i started hearing bitching from the community i was trying to support and they turned against me for on small thing i would drop the entire program.
  • But they are under no obligation to even put this program under any license that involves open source. They could just as well have made it closed source. They're obviously just trying to support linux, theres no real profit in it for them.
  • I'm not sure if I understand the point of a closed beta release of GPLed software. Isn't one of the benefits of open source that you release the code, warning people it's 'beta' and unstable and everyone works together to make the fixes?

    If they do release GPLed code and a competitor fixes it and releases it, then Corel is free to incorporate the fixes into there own code, saving themselves some effort.

    It seems as though Corel doesn't just fail to understand the GPL, they also don't seem to understand how open source development is supposed to work.


  • Since this is Corel's first real push into the Linux market, this whole thing doesn't surprise me. Think about it, they have been coding in the windoze environment for most of thier business. To them, the terms probably seem a little lax. I'm sure with time things with work themselves out.
  • I think it's kind of obvious that it was a blatant violation of the GPL, and therefore very illegal (that's why we care), so I leave you simply with this:

    You ever wonder why the Linux kernel is released either as "stable" or "devel"? It's so people know that the "devel" release is still in "development" and may contain "a few" bugs (i.e., it is probably a little "unstable"). So if you get a beta (or devel) distro, you know it's not meant for widespread use yet. Well, unless you are a fool. But you can't fool-proof everything, you know.

  • Whether or not they could do that would depend on the nature of the changes/additions they made to the Debian distro. If the software they bundled into it was /completely/ separate, I could see that. However, you simply can't have non-GPL'ed stuff as a part of GPL'ed stuff, or vice versa. You can't really segregrate the two (GPL and non-GPL) without having completely separate programs. If that was the case, however, it would seem to make more sense if they simply limited-beta test released some of their software that they ported to GNU/Linux rather than doing so with the entire distro.

    I think that makes sense. However, it is very early. Polite responses only, please, as a result of those facts. :)

  • >
    So here we see the fruits of our labor. The clamor has risen to get commercial companies behind the Linux 8-ball.

    And that's completely changing the nature of Linux and Unix as a whole. We're in this interesting situation where we crave commercial apps, but don't want to buy them (I don't - I want everything to be free, and I do mean that in the $$$ sense, as opposed to the whole "code must be free" diatribe).

    Let's not let the future of Linux be driven by business, but rather by what's right and good. I won't go so far as to say that Linux is the tool of big business yet, only that the barbarians are at the gate. Play by our self-made rules, and we succeed.

  • Yes. We should try and treat them as we *ought* to treat Linux Newbies in general. If you tell a user RTFM they may, or they may read someone elses' more useful reply. At worst you may scare off a few people
    Sniffy attitudes to big business will loose us our foothold!

  • So far Corel has failed to agree that their behaviour constitutes infringement of other people's copyrights. Their position, as expressed by their public statements in the Petreley interview, is that their actions are intentional and legal, and that they want the owners of the copyrights involved to "agree that what we are doing is acceptable".

    Do you find what they are doing right now acceptable or not?

    If not, how much longer are you going to negotiate with them?

  • dude! I find you here when you should be hard at work! what are we paying you for, anyway? but my 01, since I'm here... that beta-tester agreement was a pr screwup, nothing more. corel isn't a *big* software company. weren't they facing large losses and a possible buyout from adobe six seven months ago? they're canadian, ferchristsake! From what I've seen of their Linux, it's a step in a Windowsish direction. I don't think that's a bad thing, but it's not going to be everyone's thing. So WP2K isn't going to be GPL'd anytime soon? They're still employing Linux people and contributing to GPL'd code. No matter what happens (and it might include corel losing their pants) it's going to be good for Debian, and that's good for everyone. MB
  • Wordperfect will work best with Wine, which Corel have contributed heavily to.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Although they are wrong, they have not violated the GPL yet. they have made a mistake, they plan to fix it, and all BEFORE there is an actual licence violation.

    Anyone who works for anything but the smallest companies knows each departement is worlds away from the next, the legal department probaly didn't even know, just like many PR departments don't know about SPAM being bad
  • Man, I hope Corel gets their act together.

    When I saw the beta announcement here on slashdot, I surfed immediately to my E*Trade account and dumped a whole lot of money into CORL. Now, that big earnings shocker they pulled off was a bonus, and the strategic alliences with Loki and Phillips and those other businesses is a plus, too...

    But I'm betting on their Linux distro. I'm betting that when they release it, all the media dimwits will think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread 'cause it's easy to install and use (Windows-like, but I don't mean that in a bad way).

    All they can do to mess it up is get a lot of bad press and lawsuits, and that's the way we're headed unless this thing gets GPLed but quick...


  • If I had a GPLed program which I wrote in Debian's distribution, and Corel took it and assigned a team of salaried commercial programmers to FORK MY CODE into my version and their version (which people only get to see final versions of) thereby taking control of my own program away from me and also commercially distributing and advertising their version on a huge scale, you are damned right I'd be furious.
    Consider yourself refuted completely. This is nothing but a mechanism to fork GPLed code into public and privately controlled codebases. That can't be allowed, not even a tiny bit. They can keep their _own_ code under wraps. They can't keep mine under wraps, fork it, and take it over from me. From the announcements, there are GPLed projects which are already being forked and taken over in this manner.
  • I did not mean to belittle your concern. I do think it's important that the free software community take the opportunity to negociate whenever possible, rather than shooting first and asking questions later. We have to work this way if we're to be considered adults.

    You know that I don't hide the fact when I think something's wrong in the free software world. If Corel doesn't solve the problem in a way I feel is satisfactory, I'll publish that fact in clear terms.



  • I think this is moot because the federal funding was not for the development of the distribution. It happens to contain some applications that were developed, separately from the distribution, with federal funding, but those were already released to the general public.

    It would be interesting to look at the particular laws that require that "no federal funding" disclosure, but for now I'd consider this a non-problem.



  • I, for one, am glad to see that civilized discourse resolved the matter, rather than this becoming the (apparently) much-anticipated courtroom test of the GPL.
    Christopher A. Bohn
  • Well, I read it here first. Apparently Hemos overlooked the fact that Bruce Perens posted his actions already in the comments of the first Slashdot article on this.

    article 1 []
    article 2 []

    So I suppose this reaffirms my beliefs that the SlashDot writers (especially Katz) do not read the comments.

  • I don't think he meant to belittle the anger at Corel... he just thought it was "amusing" that no one actually tried to contact Corel.

    Anger is one thing, but flaming shouldn't get in the way of action. If, as you say, someone distributed bootleg WP, do you think Corel would just bitch and moan?

    I apreciate Bruce's action but, in his own words, "I'm not always around to help...". He's not the Lone Ranger and we shouldn't just expect that someone will fix our problems.

    We need action, not /. disatisfaction.
  • Well if they do not fix it they are up for a very interesting investigation in the light of their claim of the "product being developed with no federal fundning".

    Quote from lance.c

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

    And contrarily to the GPL issue where there questions of "private distribution" there is no question of private versus federal here.

  • "We were unaware of the conflict with the GPL,"

    That's what I think they'll say. And I think it'll be the true too. The GPL is a completely 180 to what companies do. Remember that. They *aren't* going to get it right at first, because there's been no precedent. That's why we need people like Bruce Perens to help "direct" these companies into the new paradigm.

    RMS' vision is taking hold. But we must be encouraging. To throw everyone who makes a mistake out of the market, is a big mistake. We'll never get companies to support the GPL if we don't help them get to where they should be.

    Thanks Bruce!

  • Fragmentation occured in commercial unix because
    of competitive pressures to differentiate
    products and lock in customers.
    This does not happen in the free software
    world because everyone can take advantage of
    the best technical solutions available.
    But if Corel and other companies have long
    periods of closed development and testing
    they may come out with variants that are
    difficult to reconcile.
    Maybe Wordperfect will work best with
    Corel Linux and M$ Word will work best
    with M$ Linux. Ugh.
  • These companies are like small children - they have to be raised with the values of our siciety. And they will make mistakes. But that's mistakes, not consicious evil! And we should not punich them or harass them, as some people did when this first came up on /., instaed, we should, as Perens did, help them up on the path again!
  • I'm glad to see that this issue will apparently be resolved quickly. My biggest concern was that more and more companies would be releasing non-GPL versions under the claim that "it's still beta and therefore internal" and then just have continual beta releases, thereby circumventing the license.
  • One comment was here about just slapping the GPL on the Corel distro. Previous topics had posts mentioning that "Redhat is 100% GPL", "Debian is a GPL'd distro", etc.

    Sorry folks, you can't license a distro under the GPL. It's not possible unless each and every line of code within each and every package is GPL, the new BSD or X. This is simply not the case in any distro, and probably never will be. You can't replace someone else's license with your own.

    What a distro CAN do is to license their own code, scripts, etc., under the GPL. But this still requires absolutely no modifications to any (old) BSD, MPL, QPL, or Artistic code. I am aware of no distribution that does this. Yeah, it would be nice if every piece of software in the world were GPL, and it would also be nice if every single person in the world belonged to my political party and voted for my candidates solely, but this is the real world and we have to live in it.
  • Anyone else notice quite a lot of comments on this
    issue bagged RMS as a loony but still took an
    alarmist stance towards this breach of the GPL?
    If anyone were to stand up for the rights of GPL
    it would be the Debian community, who are just as
    staunch about freedom as RMS.
    That's probably why Corel chose Debian, you are
    always assured of the GNU ideal when using the
    Debian OS. It seems like the "rambling" GNU
    "communists" are the most rational after all!
  • Bruce really spearheaded this and I think we all owe him a big "thank you" for his efforts on our behalf. If it were up to a lot of us, Corel would've just been spammed with hate mail, and them where would we be?

    Thanks Bruce!

  • Ok, I'll most likely be flaimed for this, or atleast rebutted strongly, but I have to say it.

    Why do we care if Corel releases something to only a select few. It's an internal beta for chrissakes. Do you expect to have access to everything's source at every level? They would do more harm than good by releasing everything before it was ready...I mean do you really want linux distros to be like Windows?

    I say, if they want to keep it internal until it's ready, let them. It does nobody any good to have a broken distro.
  • I think that we all need to stop, think, and then act constructively before we let our fingers fly across our keyboards in lamentation. All this wailing and gnashing of teeth does little to enhance our image before corporate America. All Bruce Perens did was take it upon himself to call Corel and talk to someone ther who was very receptive to criticism of their GPL violation.
    Corel does have an 800 number and a long distance number if you know where to look. Besides some with Mr. Perens'm clout probably knows who to call in order to bypass redtape and bureaucrats.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @11:35PM (#1668178)
    ...until the code is released.

    This has to be tough on corel.

    Assuming they have done something fairly innovative with GPL code, and truly want to wring it out with a public beta, it's ugly to have to show all the nifty updates/mods to all your competitors months before your planned release.

    IE, RedHat and Caldera look at their stuff and do a quickie hack update and say "look, we did that too, months before corel".

    I bet that's the scenario they are concerned about, compaetitors getting early access to the code before the main release.
  • by Chris Johnson ( 580 ) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @04:53AM (#1668179) Homepage Journal
    The most important consideration isn't about whether end users can copy all of the Corel dist freely. That's important, but the most important consideration is whether Corel programmers are forking pre-existing opensource packages into new and modified versions that are allowed to be kept under wraps until final release. Again, that's forking, and that's a straight power play. Assuming they have good enough programmers, they could target any particular software, take it and start to establish a radically different and revised codebase, kick butt and make a substantially improved version, widely distribute it with the advertising and marketing and distribution resources of Corel, and then never permit anyone else a glimpse of their 'current snapshot', only the code of the final releases. Then anyone wanting to make alterations is told, "Sorry- your revision doesn't work with our current development snapshot" and the end result is that Corel entirely controls and conceals the active development of a fork of some major Open Source software, which competes with the 'bazaar model' one, but has more advertising resources, a brand name, and potentially the ability to suppress interim releases and the buggier revisions, giving it a tactical as well as strategic advantage.
    There's no way we can allow that to happen. There must be no 'beta exemption' for developers of public open source software. They can hide their own stuff- they can't 'fork' the stuff we have already. Show us the code!!!! There was something about how 'changes to other GPLed software' would be released with the final dist. That's forking. Let's see it NOW.
  • by Arrowhead ( 7765 ) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @12:07AM (#1668180)
    the proper way Corel should handle this is to slap the right licenses on the right pieces of code.

    That means leaving the existing licenses on all the existing Debian packages (and advertise the fact that they can be redistributed), and doing whatever they want to their own code.

    For the Corel code this could mean: "not redistributable for now, GPL later when the beta period is over".

    That would also mean that the CD as a whole is not redistributable, but parts of it are.
  • by EJB ( 9167 ) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @02:29AM (#1668181) Homepage
    You buy a book as an employee of a company. Do you believe you have the right to make copies of the book and distribute them among your collegues? Of course not.

    Software copyrights are no different from book copyrights. You are not allowed to copy a copyrighted computer program, even within your company, unless explicitly permitted by a "license" (which is the legal term for a contract giving you rights and restrictions over copyrighted works in your possession, but I'm sure a real lawyer could word this more carefully)

    Now there's only one license to the Linux kernel and to most of the other software contained in the Debian distribution, and that's the General Public License, as written by the Free Software Foundation, otherwise known as the GPL.

    That license first states: Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not covered by this License; they are outside its scope.

    Now making a copy, wether it is within Corel between employees, or by a Corel employee and given to an outsider, such as a participant in the beta testing program is, as the word say, an act of copying.

    When Corel makes a copy, they can only do that in accordance with the GPL. The GPL does not contain an exception for beta-testing or in-house distribution. It clearly says that if you make a copy, you must grant the recipients all rights in the GPL.

    A quick summary:

    Copying unmodified code:
    You must keep intact all notices that refer to the GPL

    Copying modified code:
    You must cause the modified code to be licensed under the GPL without charge to all recipients. (Which means that all recipients have all rights defined in the GPL)

    Copying executable form:
    You must allow recipients full access to the source code and the source code must be licensed under the GPL.

    Even more interesting is clause 6 from the GPL, which says that the recipient "automatically receives a license to copy, modify and distribute under the GPL".

    This means that (and I have to insert a "probably" here) anyone, not only the authors of the software, have the right to challenge Corel. If someone gives me that beta-test copy from Corel, I have automatically received a license under the GPL from Corel, and if Corel sues me, I can defend myself with the GPL in hand.

    This point gives a lot more credibility to the people on slashdot who complain about Corel, because it is also their rights that are trampled, not only the authors' rights.

    In short, all these people in the past few articles about Corel who say that Corel is in the right because it is "only a beta-test" are simply wrong. The GPL has no exceptions.

  • by ncrypted ( 9589 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @11:48PM (#1668182)
    The .gif that was posted here of the license looks like it's just the standard Corel beta test N.D.A. kind of thing. Comments were made right after the public beta that the Corel site was requiring "Wndows 95/98" to do the Linux beta test.

    What does that say?? It says that I think it was all just a case of Corel using the stock forms that saying, "We [Corel] use them for all our betas." I don't really think it's some insidious Dr. Evil like plan to copyright Linux and take it away, which, if you consider the fact that Linus keeps the source, isn't possible.

    I think it wass more of an unintentional error made by somebody in Corel's marketing department when they put together the mailers for the Linux Beta Test. If anyone out there works in the same area of the building as their marketing department (as I do), you'll know what I'm talking about when I say that a lot of the people in the marketing department have about the same brightness as a 2-watt light bulb....

    I would just as much assume to give them a break on this one due to their ignorance more than anything else, and the fact that they are trying to INCREASE the market and mind share for Linux, not damage it....

    That's not to say that it wasn't a stupid mistake tho....
  • by thetech ( 44732 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @11:47PM (#1668183)
    Don't shoot until you're sure you both aren't on the same side. That was my fortune at the bottom of Slashdot this morning, and it really does seem to apply quite often. If you wait things through, and try and work through a problem such as Corel's licensing, you will most definately accomplish more than by posting threats and venting anger. Often, that can irritate the entity that you are trying to win over to one's side.

    Kudos to Bruce for clearing up the problems.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @11:58PM (#1668184)
    I'm glad that Bruce has made the effort he has, but I have to say I'm more than a little rankled by his attitude towards anger at Corel.

    Corel's been in the software industry for a long time. They're a big company, and are presumably adults. They employ lawyers, and any large company knows that lawyers have to be involved in any release process, including a beta release. They clearly know this, or they wouldn't have had a license agreement of any sort on the limited beta release. So what is wrong that their lawyers don't understand the GPL? Did they ignore it, or were their lawyers negligent? While we should be forgiving once they correct their mistakes, we should not cut them any slack until and unless they actually fix the problem.

    No matter what they do in the future, they have violated the GPL. Until that's corrected, they shouldn't be treated any differently than Microsoft or Sun would be under the same conditions. They're adults, they can take the heat they deserve.

    If someone distributed copies of Word Perfect to several hundred of their friends, does anybody think Corel would let them slide with an answer, "oh, sorry, I thought that was okay?"

  • by j_d ( 26865 ) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @01:52AM (#1668185)
    strange... they seemed strong on their position... I wonder what Bruce could have done to elicit such a quick reply? Could it have been like (wavy lines)
    SCENE : a COREL meeting room.

    BP: (to COREL EXEC) So, we hear you're trying to release a Linux distro without following the GPL... Now tell me, my friend, what make you think Linux looks like a bitch? huh?

    CE: huh? what do...


    CE: (terrified) I don't...


    CE: (writhing in agony) Fuck! you shot my fucking knee! Fine, we'll do whatever you want, just leave me alone! Our distribution's in the suitcase...

    LT: (moves to suitcase, opens. The suitcase GLOWS eerily.) Fook. Hjere it is, man.

    Later installments will show Bruce Perens dancing with Mae Lin Mak in a nightclub, and this unforgettable scene :

    BP: So, you're not gonna talk, huh?

    BGIII: Fuck you, man.

    BP: That's fine... Bring in the Gimps!

    (enter 15 guys with Quake shirts. They babble about Beowulf clusters, kernel updates, and karma. They smell bad)

    BGIII: Ah, God, nooooo...

  • by irh ( 27628 ) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @01:13AM (#1668186) Homepage
    The most important issue, IMHO, is reconciling Corel's legitimate interests in keeping the beta release out of the hands of the press, etc. and our interests in protecting the integrity of the GPL.

    So we care (at least I do) not because I think Corel wants to violate the GPL, but that this beta release could be considered a "distribution" and hence violate the GPL. The GPL is a license like any other, and can be enforced or not enforced, but I personally think it is important - especially since the GPL has never been litigated (and hopefully never will be) - that its integrity as a serious and binding legal contract be protected even against possible and inherently temporary breaches like this one.

    The problem is that I agree with you that for a company like Corel, with stockholders, investors, etc., that releasing their product before its time would do more harm than good, given that the role Corel is playing in the Linux community right now is bringing confidence to people unaccustomed to the traditional linux way of producting and distributing products.

    Because of this, I admittedly disagree with most /.ers here, and Bruce and ESR, who see the solution as Corel re-drafting their Beta license to conform to the GPL. I actually think, given Corel's stated interest in keeping pre-releases in-house, that the best solution is to re-draft the Beta license as an explicit consultancy arrangement, even perhaps with a $1 consultants fee going to the Beta tester. This way, Corel's interests are protected, and the integrity of the GPL is protected as this could no longer be conceived of as a "distribution".

  • by jflynn ( 61543 ) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @01:17AM (#1668187)
    "This has to be tough on corel."

    Yes, it does. It seems it would be more effective in general to let one knowledgeable person (thanks Bruce), do the initial contact over license questions. Especially since Debian is the organization directly concerned, and has plenty of people able and willing to look out for their license rights. If Debian can't get satisfaction, they'll let us know, and slashdot can then indicate their community interest in the issue.

    Just applying the slashdot flamethrower at the first hint of conflict strikes me as counterproductive. We don't want Corel to associate the letters GPL with flames and trouble, or they may not license their proprietary portions in the way we would prefer. They say they have not decided on that license yet.

    I think they probably aren't aware that the Linux community really knows what "beta" means. When hard disks get trashed by bugs (think bug in disk partitioner), big companies have to worry about liability somewhat, and loss of customers a lot, even if the software is clearly marked "beta." So the attempt to limit possible damage to a few informed testers is not completely misdirected.

    In this case, early release probably works better than they imagine, but only experience will teach them that, and only if they aren't scared off the GPL first.

    Besides, they may know better. If releasing a new beta candidate requires two weeks of formal processing at Corel (who knows?) finding the bugs early might not result in early fixes, and a wide distribution becomes dangerous.

    It's a reasonable expectation that if you create value add software for a Linux distribution that you should be able to deploy it first. If they aren't imagining release for a few months yet, they have a reasonable interest in protecting their property -- they paid for that software.
  • by Amphigory ( 2375 ) on Tuesday September 21, 1999 @11:44PM (#1668188) Homepage
    Corel is going to have to fix this -- and soon -- if they are more serious about the Linux market than they were about the java market. The problem is not one of legal procedure. The breach would be cured long before this ever got to court. The question of whether this is, in fact, an internal distribution is irrelevant.

    The problem is one of publicity. If Corel gets a reputation as a "borg" in the Linux community, they will lose most of their support from that community. The consequences could be dire. For example, a developer could do a license something like this:

    This software is licensed under the terms of the GPL for everyone but Corel Computer Corporation. Corel must contact me for an outrageously expensive commercial license.

    That is actually a perfectly conceivable license. For examples of selective licenses like this, see QPL or (kind of) the Perl license.

    To summarize: if Corel wants to continue in the Linux market, they need to fix this license in internet time -- that is, today. Not next week, or next month. Today. Otherwise, they will be regarded as nothing but a bunch of hagers-on by the Linux community and their foray into Linux will be over.

"Everyone's head is a cheap movie show." -- Jeff G. Bone