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GNU is Not Unix

QT/GPL licensing trouble 388

Bitscape writes "LWN reports that Corel's gui packager, which uses both QT and lib-apt, fell under a licensing conflict which makes it illegal to distribute. While the author of lib-apt has agreed put an exception in its license for this case, is it a taste of things to come for people who use code released under the ever-expanding mess of incompatible licenses? "
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QT/GPL licensing trouble

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  • I don't get why qt and some other things are not fully gpl. It seems like if you want to be part of a linux distro, you should conform to the other parts. Do they make money by not being?
  • huh? I know that the license for QT isn't the GPL, but I thought that all software released using the QT toolkit was restricted to using the GPL. If that was the case, then this "get_it" program should have been released under the GPL. So where's the problem with using apt_get with it? Apt_get is GPL'ed as well? Could someone explain this to me?

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • by mTor ( 18585 )
    QT is a time bomb... Many people don't like its licenses and I don't like it either. Maybe it's time we start working on FreeQT again?
  • I suppose if you derive your work partly from someone else's sources, you're constrained by what sort of license they had on their code - the GPL might not be appropriate.

    I'm not sure if that's the case here, though.
  • The problem is that the program is linked to both GPL'd code and QPL'd code. The licenses, while both open-source, are mutually exclusive (just like GPL and the traditional BSD license).
    Christopher A. Bohn
  • by cheeser ( 30863 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @05:13AM (#1581150) Homepage
    I think the project your referring to is the Harmony [gnu.org] project which is the GNU effort to make a source compatible lib. IIRC, that effort was reinstated some months ago. It sounds very exciting. It's the only UI lib I know of that doesn't have problems with UI updates outside of the event thread. A multithreaded UI could be very cool, indeed.
  • The reason that qt and other things are not fully GPL'd is probably due to 'artistic' control. If Netscape was to GPL Mozilla anybody could roll their own.

    Basically it depends if you are a control freak or not. I've been thinking of releasing some source code under the GPL, but it is scary. What if somebody a split occurs, or worse still somebody just takes over the project and becomes the 'official' source.

    I think most of the problems people have with the GPL is the lack of control they can exert after putting it out to the public. I'm still not sure if I like GPL'ing or BSD'ing code yet. I'll still have to think on that.
  • by Signal 11 ( 7608 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @05:19AM (#1581152)

    Suprise suprise... alot of people here have been dismissing RMS for being "too radical" for saying the GPL is the only truly "free" license. Now you can appreciate, in it's full ugliness, why he's been advocating the distinction between free software and open source.

    There is a difference, and you just read about one of them. The GPL or a BSD-style license would not have these issues. The fact that a special exception was required says that the authors are ameniable to change (they didn't have to allow this you know), but wasn't the whole point of this movement to prevent somebody from holding that over your head in the first place?

    --

  • err... What if someday a split occurs...

    I really ought to preview or at least re-read my replies... *before* I submit them.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is why I -personally- perfer the BSD type licenses. NOT intended to start any sort of flame war here... But I think that the bsd license could help prevent things like this.
  • If we don't GPL QT ASAP, then ASPL or IBM might gobble up the competition with RPM. If this doesn't confuse you, joy. It cetainly confused me.
  • I can already see the "GPL is the only true license" and "QT sucks" comments coming out of the woodwork.

    The fact is that people who write software have the right to determine what license to distribute it under. So, no matter how much you wish everything was GPLed, it is not going to happen.

    This is why we have people in the community working with people making S/W trying to make sure that licenses work with the OSD, and I think there have been a lot of successes or at least big improvements (QT, Apple, etc.)

    Even with their efforts, there are still going to be compromises like this required. It may not be the best solution, but get used to it!
  • It's an inconvenience and an annoyance when stuff like this happens, but it's probably a necessary evil. Not everyone will agree with RMS or ESR or anyone else, so no one should be forced to use on particular lisence.

    If there were a standards body that official stamped things as Open Source, and they required everyone to use, say, GPL, you would loose a lot of developers who don't like GPL and don't want to code under it. Many lisences, even with the headaches they cause, help keep the number of Free Software developers large and growing.

    I'd rather have Qt & KDE along with the lisence conflicts, then not Qt/KDE at all. At least the fact that they were able to come to an amicable agreement shows that OSS participants have a sense of community and can actually work together, even through differences of opinion!

    Dana
  • I agree wholeheartedly with the poster on this. Indeed, this should be taken as a warning. License troubles have been overcome so far, and I'm sure this case will be solved easily enough as well.

    But...

    Well, just witness the problems with the whole KDE vs. Gnome conflict. What's the problem, here? I think it essentially boils down to the use of QT in KDE. I rarely see much discussion of the relative merits of the respective GUIs, only philosophical discussions of the two licenses.

    What this is doing, people, is breaking down a unity that would serve us very well. This division can only harm us... Sure, we can solve the license problems one by one, and continue arguing about FreeBSD vs. Linux vs. GNU/Linux and what have you. But it's the software that matters. The software is the product, and the various licenses only reflect the philosophy behind the software.

    Sure, we can keep solving license problems one by one. But ultimately, we need to proact instead of react. Someone should seriously sit down and think on this problem. The software and the freedom only matter. The rest is details. But as they say, that's where the Devil is.

    "Knowledge = Power = Energy = Mass"

  • by Frank Sullivan ( 2391 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @05:30AM (#1581161) Homepage
    GPL, of course, is the standard license for most Open Source software, and for good reason - it does the best job of protecting the source from abuse by others. However, its "viral" nature makes it hard to cooperate with other licenses.

    My biggest cooperation concern is MPL, the license for Mozilla's code base. I have great faith in the wisdom and foresight of the Mozilla developers, and i expect it to become the gold standard for browser engines. More importantly, its modular design makes it an easy plug-in for other projects needing a browser interface. And there's the rub... how readily can the Mozilla code be linked to a GPL'd program? I know both the Mozilla and Gnome people are working on the licensing issues, and i hope they'll come up with something that can be extended to use with most other GPL'd software as well.

    The other license that worries me is SCSL, associated with Jini and future versions of Java. Again, i think Java is killer technology, and i want to see it grow and mature in cooperation with Linux. But until Java's APIs stabilize, the Open Source variants such as Kaffe (I don't consider SCSL "Open Source") will not be able to catch it in quality. And i want my Java NOW, dammit! So... what sort of licensing hell awaits GPL'd projects that want to use Sun's classes? Yikes!

    With the addition of mature Mozilla and Java technology, along with improvements in Linux desktop/WM software, i believe Linux is poised to take the desktop world by storm. I just hope licensing conflicts don't delay it for years to come, and force endless redundant development in order to be compatible with GPL.

    ---
    Maybe that's just the price you pay for the chains that you refuse.
  • Once again LWN comes up with another well thought out editorial.. Keep it up guys!

    Anyways, my feeling is that Debian, and GNU, want to promote free software. Free software is good -- it allows you to change software so that it can fit your needs. It stops the constant reinvention of the wheel. You can combine freely available parts to something greater than their sum.

    Now, if you produce some software that is "free" according to the definition, but it can't be used with other free software to produce greater things, what use is it? It has missed the point. The Free Software definition is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The software is not really free, although it conforms to the defintion, because we can't do what we want with it.

    Maybe the definition should be changed then. Add another clause indicating that the license must be compatible with the main Free licenses ( GPL, Artistic, BSD ). This will increase our freedom, although it is an extra rule!

    Better yet, life would be wonderful if people could use the small set of well known licenses ( GPL, BSD - without advertising, and Artistic ) instead of trying to invent their own. But LWN have already said that.

  • by teraflop user ( 58792 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @05:38AM (#1581164)
    I think the situation has changed since this debate originally arose.

    The QT and GPL licenses certainly are potentially in conflict, but whether they are actually in conflict depends on current practice.

    IIRC, the GPL contains a clause which allows software to be linked with non-GPL packages if those packages are routinely supplied as part of the OS. Hence you can GPL a Windows application, and you can link applications with Xfree86 which is not GPL.

    Now every major Linux distribution is shipping QT and KDE, doesn't QT now fall under this same exception?
  • Lets take a configuration management library as an example. It's a convenience thing. Not essential, but makes life that tiny bit simpler.

    GPL'd, it'll never become popular with the Unix heavyweights, no matter how clever it is. They'd have to open all their source, so they just won't use it.

    LGPL'd they'll look at you blankly.

    BSD'd, they'll grab it and hack it to support different file formats, LDAP etc, but it'll *be* there and you'll end up with a cross platform config management API that you can code to.

    That's why Perl comes with everything these days.
  • Would it make any sense for the linux community at large to all move 100% to the GNU/GPL? While I think its nice, by definition, to live in a utopia, I don't think its going to happen.

    Getting everyone to write under GPL assumes there is no self-interest anywhere in the community, (except, maybe, for the nice ego boost we all like :)), and that is entirely against human nature. Think though, it could be worse. We could all be writing under the EULA. Personally I don't think what libraries you use should have any effect on what liscence(sp? i can never remember..) your code uses.

    If I want to write something that calls libc6 and qt's libraries, they call two different liscensing schemes there. Does that mean that i can not use programmes that use both?
  • Of *course* developers have a right to choose their own license! But that's not the point... the point is, there is substantial reason to believe that GPL/BSD "free software" licenses make code more likely to survive and thrive in the long run.

    Qt's restrictive license, while technically "Open Source", has very much hampered its growth, and led to the rise of serious competition in the form of GTK (which is safely GPL'd). And i expect that, in time, GTK will leave Qt no more than a niche market. Why? Because TrollTech put their own business interest ahead of the long-term health of the software. Free software is no place for half measures.

    The best corporate-protection license i've seen is MPL, which gives Netscape some special privileges but still allows the community to fork the code.

    ---
    Maybe that's just the price you pay for the chains that you refuse.
  • And i want my Java NOW, dammit! So... what sort of licensing hell awaits GPL'd projects that want to use Sun's classes? Yikes!

    No Hell.

    Using SUN's classes puts you under NO distribution restrictions for your own code. You may not have a licence to redistribute SUN's code, but then anyone that has a JVM has those classes anyway.

    So writing GPLed Java code is legally ok.

    IANAL of course.

  • The trouble is that the QT library is so nice to use. We've got to either develop a GPL replacement, or abandon the whole thing. Either would allow the division between KDE and Gnome to end. KDE may have done a lot for usability, but it has dragged the community into a position they never wanted to be in.

    It's hard to blame Corel for this, and I suspect many other "new developers" in the Linux community will fall into this trap, unknowingly.

    Maybe at the extreme, it needs to be "use GPL or don't play in the Linux field". Remember, there is nothing that says you can't make money off GPL software (I am right now).

    If we're all so sure that Open Source is the way of the future, than this GPL limitation shouldn't matter once all software is on a level playing field.

    GRH
    (flames happily directed to /dev/null)
  • That's the whole problem. GPL wants every piece of software anyone writes to *become* GPLed if one happens to mix that source with GPLed source. GPL just cannot "live and let live". It *must* take control of everything.

    Well, good luck. One day you'll find out that there is a lot of good stuff out there that people objects to being taken control by GPL.
  • ..the obvious problem with the BSD-style licensing scheme is that GPL partisans simply won't use it, because while the spirit may be the same, for those that advocate the GPL, the BSD license is simply not practical. This is because not many developers want to work for nothing to have their products later turned into something proprietary by someone else who rakes in cash with it while the developer never sees a dime of it (though to be fair, some companies actually give you an oppurtunity to work on GPL'ed code for pay). You might as well be on company time if that's going to happen.

    At any rate, arguing about which is better, the BSD license or the GPL license, is sort of moot. Most of the weight has been thrown behind GNU/Linux, not *BSD, so the popular choice is quite clear. Some people don't want to compromise their freedom, others simply wish to avoid the aforementioned scenario (with Kaffe being a prime example, it used to be under BSD licensing, but is now GPL'ed because the maintainer got sick of people never contributing back to the main code base).

    Mind you, I'm not saying which is ``better'' either. That's.. pointless.. because that would be assuming that everyone has the same outlook. They don't. BSD is better.. for certain people.. while the GPL is better.. for certain others.. It all depends on what you're trying to accomplish. And the BSD is not very good at accomplishing what people who prefer the GPL are used to expecting, so the GPL is going to remain the sexier license in the eyes of most of the developers relavent to this topic of conversation.

  • This is troubling news, in of itself, and indicates to me that something needs to be tweaked.

    But what I don't understand is where exactly the problem is. Maybe I'm missing something about the GPL here, but explain if you will how KDE and most KDE apps are GPLed, but yet use the Qt library. You can't tell me that KDE doesn't use any GPLed (or at least LGPLed) library code as well.

    I was under the impression that the only way in which the GPL infected apps was up the inheritence tree. So as long as Corel's program is GPLed it should be fine.

    So what exactly is the problem here? Is it that it has to be statically linked because it's an installer? Does that somehow make it count as it the QPL code has become part of the application? I'm a bit confused here, maybe somebody can enlighten me.

  • It's the only UI lib I know of that doesn't have problems with UI updates outside of the event thread. A multithreaded UI could be very cool, indeed.

    You can have that UI lib today, care you use a somewhat non-standard programming language. Go look at Modula 3 [digital.com]. I think it is an open source system, but I do not know to what extent it is compatible with the GPL.


    Lars

    --
  • The problem is that the program is linked to both GPL'd code and QPL'd code. The licenses, while both open-source, are mutually exclusive (just like GPL and the traditional BSD license).

    I don't understand why lib_apt is under the GPL, and not the LGPL. The LGPL is designed exactly for this situation.

  • If people on slashdot spent half as much time coding as they did worrying about what other people are doing in relation to GPL (et.al), this would be a moot point. It is one thing to extoll the virtues of true GPL; It is another thing entirely to piss and moan about what a few select individuals (companies) are doing. If you truely believe GPL creates a superior product, get them where it hurts; CREATE a better product. Period.

    I'm aware I might get flamed for this, but so be it. I tire of the "me toos", RMS "rah rah" crowd, knee-jerk-reaction-crowd-to-geek/privacy-instrusio ns, etc.
  • The GPL was never designed to be accomodating of other licensing schemes. It is written specifically in opposition to that very notion (although someone once said the only license it was compatible with was itself.. but then.. there's the LGPL, isn't there? ;). It was not designed to win any popularity contensts. The only thing the GPL was designed to do was to be free, and remain free forever (free as in free software as defined by RMS). BSD was designed to let you do practically anything you want to it. The GPL is more restrictive. Using BSD style stuff instead of GPL'ed stuff means it's not copylefted, which means it may not always be free. Think about how close we came to losing the X Window System to the world of proprietary software, for instance.

    To repeat the main thrust of this, RMS was laboring under a moral imperative, he wanted to produce free software, not popular at any cost software. He doesn't want to LGPL everything to accomodate others. Proprietary software has enough backing already. He wants to empower free software. BSD style licensing has nothing to do with that .. Which is why it won't replace the GPL as ``the license of choice'', whatever McCusick or anyone else may think.

  • Without delving back into the GPL's language I'm not entirely clear what the problem is - the Corel tool itself (GPL? The article didn't seem to state that explicitly, but that is what I expect it was) is linking to two shared libraries - one under the QPL and the other under GPL (NOT LGPL, but GPL).

    This makes no sense - WHERE is the problem? Does the GPL license explicitly force any libraries it uses to be GPL? I don't think that's so. If it were I imagine a lot of software out there would be invalidated.

    Perhaps the REAL problem here is the GPL'd library. RMS pushes libraries to be placed under GPL instead of LGPL explicitly to force the applications that use them to be GPL. I think Corel's app is GPL, so that's OK.

    It seems the real solution is for the GPL library's author to place the library under LGPL, so this kind of thing doesn't happen again. RMS advocates GPL libraries so that ONLY GPL applications can use them, which does help to give free software an advantage if the library does really good things. But it does play havoc with anything not exclusively GPL.
  • by HiThere ( 15173 ) <charleshixsn@earthli n k . net> on Thursday October 28, 1999 @05:58AM (#1581184)
    Everything has tradeoffs.
    If you use GPL, the commercial companies don't like it. They have a hard time figuring out how to sell it.
    If you use BSD, the rip-off artists love you, but they don't share back.
    If you use MPL, one knot-hole acts as a filter for all possible changes, and one knot-head can really set up impedance.

    Personally, my preference is GPL. I understand why the commercial ventures don't like it, but some of their reasons for not liking it are the same as my reasons for liking it.

    OTOH, Sun wrote almost all of Java, so it's properly their ball and court. Play there if you want to.

    And Netscape wrote a complete starter for Mozilla. The team may have later decided to dump much of the code, but even then Netscape was paying for much the development work. So it's their ball and court.

    Troll-tech seems to be trying to be accomodating, but this is also the software that they are earning their livlihoods from. They wrote it. They are trying to get it into wide use so that it will be used commercially (which is when they make money).

    As a combination end-user/developer my preferences are for GPL, GTK, etc.

    Licensing is is the essence of why I would rather use Python than Java, but it sure would be nice if Python had Java screen painters/class libraries/printing/IDE's (on the windows side, anyway). OTOH, Python has better database access and integration with C. But at least on windows Python (or possibly tkInter) crashes too often to use it, so there really isn't a choice.
  • Debian seems to follow what FSF and RMS is saying. RMS wants people to stop using LGPL, even for libraries. Check this out: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/why-n ot-lgpl.html [gnu.org]
  • by aheitner ( 3273 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @05:59AM (#1581186)
    I have to make something absolutely clear about GPL, because I'm sick of hearing this "viral license" nonsense.

    It is wrong wrong wrong and extremely impolite to accuse GPL of being a viral license because an application that links against or is based on a GPL'd app must be GPL.

    Someone was kind enough to write a piece of software and give it away. Why shouldn't the auther be able to make the reasonable request that all future uses of that software be equally free? I for one don't want the code I give away turned into commercial products without any benafit to me.

    It's not "live and let live" when you base code on my work. That's my work too in there, and I deserve a say in how it's used.
  • Well, if some of the code uses the modified BSD license (the license without the advertising clause), it's fully compatible with the GPL, and can relicensed, I believe.

    n any event, the Debian-legal mailing list mentioned in the article, is probably a good place to be looking for this.

  • This is why I -personally- perfer the BSD type licenses.

    Fair enough, but I could come up with equally valid examples of where the BSD license has failed the community. Yes, in this case, the BSD license would have prevented the problem. In other cases I've come across, the GPL would have prevented other problems. At the end of the day, I personally feel the GPL creates less problems than the BSD license, which is why I prefer it. You, and others, are welcome to disagree with me...

  • The problem with the GPL is that it tries hard to be incompatable. The "No additional restrictions" clause was even added specifically to prevent linking. For the most part, the GPL is just as bad as any EULA or NDA as it forces you to play by their rules and I cannot agree with that. That is why I release all my code under a BSD license, just so it cannot be used in a GPL'd program.
  • And that's why you should use the LGPL for your next library, ladies and gentlemen.

    (see "Why you shouldn't use the Library GPL for your next library [gnu.org]" if you don't know what I'm talking about.)

    Seriously, free software has seen the successes it has because it shows about the right amount of cooperation with proprietary software. You can't reach into the sources of a GPL application, change it, and sell it as a proprietary application - but you can connect to a GPL server with your proprietary client, or run your proprietary app on your GPL kernel.

    As far as I'm concerned, the LGPL fixes a potential bug in the GPL - one way that two separate pieces of software can talk, dynamic library linking, might not be allowed, so we explicitly permit it. Yet RMS seems to think this bug should stay. As far as I can see, this artificial distinction will only make calls from proprietary software into free software (or vice versa) somewhat less convenient: you have to go through CORBA or some similar gateway.

    I think that use of the LGPL (the "Liberal General Public License", as I now dub it in riposte) would most usefully increase - that all new programs should start using this license, since it seems increasingly that today's standalone program is tomorrow's library.
    --
  • by Anonymous Coward
    First of all, *nothing* but GPL code can link to the GPL - not BSD, not QPL - no other license. That is why libraries use the *LGPL*. This is the only library I ever heard to use GPL, but LWN totally fails to mention that. If you use a GPL library *nothing* else can link to it.
  • ..is that no one is talking about the fact that this is yet another instance where Corel didn't ``get it'' with regards to licensing. Unless they've been brainwashed by the media (which would have you believe that the GPL == public domain), then Corel should know that the GPL is indeed a copyright (or copyleft, if you prefer), and that they must abide by the licensing. It is not public domain, which means ``without copyright'', where they can screw it around all they want. If anything, the GPL would do the screwing around if the author of the relavent software so wished. Quite a difference, that.

    Personally, I don't trust this entire thing. I for one wouldn't want to contribute to any GPL'ed project if the maintainers/authors of the software chose to make special exceptions ``just this once''. If they want to be accomodating, there are plenty of other licensing schemes, such as the LGPL. Making ``exceptions'' is against the spirit of the GPL. And no, I'm not talking about this software, specifically, but in the broader scheme of things where things could get.. really ugly.

  • by Communomancer ( 8024 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @06:07AM (#1581200)
    Actually, IIRC, the clause refers not to "routinely shipped libraries" but instead to "essential system libraries"...to me, the distinction is vital.

    There is absolutely nothing "essential" about QT for Linux...I can rm that tree, and my system will reboot just fine. You can't however simply remove the Windows\System directory, and expect anything to work properly.

    Before this degenerates into yet another GPL vs. the world flamewar, let me take this opportunity to stand in the pulpit. Those who release their code under the GPL are doing so because, just possibly, they believe in certain ideals about the way software (especially their software!!!) should be used. We _must_ respect those ideals, or else we open the Gates of Troy wide open to those who would love to pillage the jewels that Open Source has produced.

    Now we are growing at a tremendous rate, and perhaps it is time to re-evaluate the GPL's details to assure that it has strengthened, and not weakened, with age. I won't make a case for or against, but as the topic seems to spark such fire, there may definitely be some benefit to an objective analysis of the whole situation.

    Nonetheless, right now the strongest thing that stands in the way of a marauding band of corporate source-code raiders and the work we've done over the past few years _is_ the GPL. We must not betray it.
  • The GPL forbids combining GPL'd code with other-licenced code that would place extra restrictions beyond those in the GPL. For example, the advertising clause in the traditional BSD License keeps code with the traditional BSD License from being used with GPL'd code.
    RMS wants the GPL to be used instead of the LGPL precisely to force derived works to be GPL'd. As he explains it, the Lesser GPL should only be used when there's already a popular non-free library with the same functionality. In such a situation, a developer could use the non-free library to develop non-free apps, so the compromise is to use LGPL to try to get the free libraries used, even if the derived works don't end up free.
    Christopher A. Bohn
  • The QPL allows linking with any open source code. It is the GPL that doesn't allow linking with Qt, and therefore need a special exception. So, while I'd prefer it if Qt was using a GPL compatible license, it is not fair to claim they are at fault.

    As for RMS being too radical, he _has_ acknowledged that Qt is free software, and _has_ said suggested that authers of GPL software include a special exception if someone wants to link it with Qt, even though he dislikes the QPL.
  • It is wrong wrong wrong and extremely impolite to accuse GPL of being a viral license because an application that links against or is based on a GPL'd app must be GPL.


    Erm, that was the point.

    If you consider this virus a good thing then fine. Others don't.

    Personally I think the best licence is the one I tend to use: Mixed AL/GPL (a-la perl).

    The point being is that most of my free code is in the form of libraries. I will not restrict the use of my code to non-commercial developers (OK, there are a few commercial GPL developers, but not many). I can't expect an in-house application to have to be GPL'd. And personally I think the world is a better place because of my lenient attitude.
    My code should be free. I don't force that idea upon others.

    Matt.
  • by Kitsune Sushi ( 87987 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @06:20AM (#1581213)

    RMS doesn't want people to stop using LGPL, period. As outlined by the link you provided, he only wants the LGPL to be used when its of strategic advantage (that is, it benefits free software more than it hurts it) to usher in the software in question into being a de facto standard across the board. the GNU C Library is a perfect example of this. Everybody has their own version of a C Library. glibc isn't anything special in this regard. LGPL it, however, and you'll have everyone using it because it's easier than brewing your own. It also ensures that more programs calling on that library will be compatible here and elsewhere without much modification.

    What RMS doesn't want to see, however, is software that gives free software a definitive edge (that is, if it does something much better than existing software, or something completely different -- and naturally you'd want the OS to be GPL'ed, duh) being LGPL'ed (which is why I'm still wondering why the Berlin Consortium chose the LGPL.. the proprietary Unices -- and free ones -- currently have X. Berlin would give free Unices an edge if it were GPL'ed.. oh well), because that doesn't help free software.

  • by Frank Sullivan ( 2391 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @06:20AM (#1581214) Homepage
    I never said that all software should be free (either as beer or speech), and anyone who writes code has the right to choose how they share it with others. And i praised Mozilla for a smart corporate license.

    The *point*, which you obviously missed, is that the merely semi-free licenses like Qt's are at a serious disadvantage in the "marketplace of ideas" when competing with GPL or BSD licenses. Developers are more likely to work with code they can trust... they can't trust Qt. Which is why, in the end, i expect to see Qt marginalized by GTK, not for GTK's technical superiority, but because the license terms are better for Free software developers. Free speech is better than free beer.

    Remember, the ONLY reason TrollTech opened up the Qt license as much as they did was because the community was abandoning KDE for Gnome, almost entirely for licensing reasons. If Qt's license hadn't changed, i think KDE would be nearly irrelevant now. As it is, i think Qt's license didn't change enough, and it only delayed the problem.

    Of course, if you think i'm just another fanatical RMS clone, then you won't be able to see beyond your prejudices to the deeper point.

    ---
    Maybe that's just the price you pay for the chains that you refuse.
  • Colour me surprised, but I've never seen quibbling about licensing as a totally fruitless act. Religious debates aside, criticism is valuable. Apple, for example, changed its open licensing sceme after receiving criticism from Bruce Perens and other members of the open source community.

    The way I see it, the point of free software isn't software for its own good; it is freedom for its own good. If open source software lags behind commercial ventures, then so be it. The importance is that it is free and can never be taken away. I think that this is what RMS is trying to say, and I think that it's the point that is lost five seconds after he says it; the debate degenerates into a matter of faith, not reason, that fast.

    --
  • The GPL or a BSD-style license would not have these issues.

    Actually, the problem was because of GPL, in my opinion. The license that purports to be the "free" one is the one that's being the most demanding and dictatorial here. The idea of being free (as in freedom) is good, and should be along the lines of "use this software to enable other good software, in whatever way the person writing the new software desires." Meaning that people should be free to extend with other free and/or open source software, with slightly modified licenses like Qt, as shareware, or as full-blown commercial software. That would be a truly free license.

    The GPL "freedom" is like saying "sure, you're free as long as you do things exactly like we want you to." Sorry, but that just doesn't get it.

  • by joneshenry ( 9497 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @06:30AM (#1581229)
    What I find troubling is the ease at which a special exception was granted for Corel. I am hoping this has nothing to do with the relationships Corel has been developing with Debian, because if so this is totally wrong. The library being GPLed restricts it from being linked to almost anything, presumably for a reason. Now a special exemption is granted for just this one product that wants to link to it? This makes no sense at all. What happens down the road when twenty other special exemptions have to be granted, do we see the license extended by another length of the GPL? And this exemption is being granted only to a commercial entity.

    In my opinion what the free source movement needs is the equivalent of cross-licensing, and no, GPL is not cross-licensing when it cannot freely be used in BSD licensed or X licensed code.

    So a corporation like Corel can just call up Debian on the phone and instantly get an exemption while an unknown student would not be able to freely study the library code to re-use in his
    projects throughout his latter career? I predict no one else on Slashdot will see how wrong this inequity is, and that is the problem.

    As a example of how absurd the current situation is, there are maybe a half dozen incomplete attempts to reproduce Microsoft's Windows headers. No one seems to see the big picture that what is needed are one set of headers that are good enough so that serious projects would consider not having to shell out the licenses to buy Microsoft's development tools. No, entities such as Cygnus want to keep the code under whatever license is restrictive enough (GPL) so that if lightning strikes they can make a fortune by selective commercial licensing, so therefore we have perpetual beta products.
  • First of all, *nothing* but GPL code can link to the GPL - not BSD, not QPL - no other license.

    This is totally false. Linking a program against a GPL library makes (this particular copy of) the whole program GPL'd. If the program is licensed so that it can be distributed under the GPL (for example the BSD license without the advertising clause and the MIT X license allow this), there is no problem.

    That is why libraries use the *LGPL*

    This is again false. The L in LGPL used to stand for Library, but this was confusing people, so it now stands for Lesser. It is perfectly all right to license a library under the GNU GPL, in fact, the GNU project encourages people to do that. They regard GNU LGPL as inferior in all respects (as the name suggests); only rarely does a GNU library use the LGPL.

    This is the only library I ever heard to use GPL

    In that case you have very limited knowledge on free software. There are many examples of GPL'd libraries, including GNU readline and Guile (which has a similar but more general exception clause to the one mentioned in this story).

  • by ruud ( 7631 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @06:31AM (#1581231) Homepage
    IIRC, the GPL contains a clause which allows software to be linked with non-GPL packages if those packages are routinely supplied as part of the OS.

    Actually, the relevant clause in the GPL reads (emphasis mine):

    However, as a special exception, the source code distributed need not include anything that is normally distributed (in either source or binary form) with the major components (compiler, kernel, and so on) of the operating system on which the executable runs, unless that component itself accompanies the executable.

    So, in this case, both get_it and QT accompany eachother (distributed on the same CD), and therefore, this exception does not apply.
    --

  • Actually, I agree with you on the importance of the GPL, and I no longer regularly use KDE anyway.

    But I think that there is still a borderline case that could be made for QT being an "essential system library". If you have a KDE based system with Kdm then your machine will not even boot properly when QT is removed. Furthermore, none of your base applications, with the exception of Netscape, will work.

    In the case of Corel and Caldera, I'm not even sure the installer will work without QT.

    Now admittedly in the Linux community we recognize the difference between OS and GUI. You can still boot the system in console mode and have a fully functioning operating system.

    However, this exactly parallels the situation with Windows: if you remove the widget-set-which-has-no-name, you system won't function normally. You can still boot to DOS mode, but you can't perform normal system management tasks or run base applications. And yet the GPL was written with the intent of allowing GPL'ed apps on top of non-free systems such as Windows (Indeed in the early days of the FSF there were only proprietary unices to run GPL stuff on).

    So, while I agree on philosophical grounds with the choice of the GPL whenever possible, I find it hard to see how GPL applications on QT are fundamentally different to GPL applications on Windows.

    Even so, the argument is borderline. If QT continues to spread I think it will become hard to refute.
  • by Matts ( 1628 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @06:35AM (#1581238) Homepage
    Your solution is available today with closed libraries like MFC though. You have to be very careful what you wish for (unless I misunderstood).

    What we need is for RMS to back down on his "Don't use LGPL" stand (because he's very influential) and have people use that wherever possible. Either that or the AL/GPL combo.
  • When you install Linux, normally a large number of other packages and libraries are installed. If I write some code or script, how am I supposed to know if I am violating any licenses? Or that some license would be violated depending on what is distributed with my code? Do we all need lawyers to determine whether the free software we write can be shared freely?

    If all free software used a single license, these questions wouldn't be so difficult to answer. But since this ain't gonna happen, it seems to me that the licenses we use should try to avoid this mess, rather than causing it.

  • QT is not the problem. The problem is that the GPL does not want to "play" with other licenses. The LGPL and BSD licenses are preferable IMO and do not have these issues.

  • Well that doesn't make any sense -- EVERY application written using the QT [Free] toolkit is released under the GPL (it's a requirement of the license). Since they're released under the GPL, but they're linked to the libqt (which is released under the QPL, wouldn't that mean that all QT Free Edition apps are, in effect, breaking the GPL license?

    I understand that these programs (like KDE) could actually be released under a modified GPL but, to the best of my knowlege, none of them are. Is there a conflict or isn't there?

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • I see we have the GPL/RMS lovers with moderator access today too...

    the point is, there is substantial reason to believe that GPL/BSD "free software" licenses make code more likely to survive and thrive in the long run.

    Really? What "substantial reason" is there? That just sounds like IMHO BS to me.

    Qt's restrictive license, while technically "Open Source", has very much hampered its growth, and led to the rise of serious competition in the form of GTK (which is safely GPL'd).

    I would hardly say that Qt's license has hampered it's growth. Maybe before the license was revised, but the fact is that most of the major distro's have adopted KDE.

    KDE is also a superior product, which will help it win out in the end. Objections of GPL licensing wanks won't stop it, despite what you might hope for.

    The point is that there are going to be lots of licenses (GPL, LGPL, Mozilla, BSD, Apple, Qt, etc. etc.). Learning to get along with others is much more productive that wishing that everything is GPLed or making wacko predictions about GPLed code outliving code released under other licenses.


  • Qt's restrictive license, while technically "Open Source", has very much hampered its growth, and led to the rise of serious competition in the form of GTK (which is safely GPL'd).

    According to its web site [gtk.org], GTK+ is LGPL'ed.

    This is important, because it means you can write proprietary software for GTK+/GNOME.

  • Perhaps the energies Perens (et. al) have not been entirely fruitless. But they're not hugely sucessful either. If you could harness all that slashdot discontent and direct it into focused coding, rather than pissing and moaning, a great deal more would be accomplished.

    Which brings me to my second point. What does it matter if some little company in California creates a closed source product? Whose freedom does this impinge on? With the exception software patents, everyone else is essentially free to code as they please. The point being that the two can exist simultaneously. Yet RMS has been known to advocate prirating commercial software.

    Futhermore, GPL software has, for the most part, been totally unfriendly to geeks. Not only in "userfriendliness" and GUIs, but also in terms of software functionality and purposes. In general, it is software that appeals to geeks and geeks alone. To advocate RMS's idea of freedom, is to say: The geeks' right to code free of non-free-software influences, exceeds the right of the average user to enjoy software that meets their needs. I disagree.

    Both free and non-free software have certain unique advantages over one another. Not only can they coexist, but they're strengthened by one another -- they push one another to mature and expand in scope. So I come full circle. Let both do their best to succeed; let the cards fall where they may. As a matter of optimizing the results though, free software should worry about what is going on within its own community. Bolster and explain free software, but don't try to tear down anything that is not free.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 28, 1999 @06:56AM (#1581276)
    I just got an email from Elizabeth O. Coolbaugh at LWN about this article, which has several falsehoods (you really can't link BSD or other licenses to GPL code, and it totally disregards the LGPL), and she said it is a misleading article and will be corrected. She also said it was "Obviously put together too quickly" ;) This is the reason Gnome for example uses almost entirely LGPL instead of GPL. The article took a rare exception to this. Using the GPL instead of LGPL for a library expressly means you want to deny linking to any non-GPL code (including BSD).
    Daniel M. Duley
    mosfet@jorsm.com Sorry, I don't have an account and Slashdot hasn't sent me a password yet ;-)
  • I see where the problem is... i should have said that TrollTech put their *short term* business interest ahead of the long term health of their code. And, in doing so, put restrictions into the license that will drive a significant number of developers to use its GPL'd competitor GTK. And, as more and more developers concentrate on GTK rather than Qt, then GTK will draw more than just license purists... i believe that GTK will become the standard GUI widget set, and Qt will become an also-ran. If you think this is an unreasonable deduction, than give reasons why. Tell me why Gnome came into being, if not for licensing issues? And tell me why Gnome, which was barely running when the Qt license changed, has survived and thrived, given the big lead in maturity for KDE? I say the reason is mostly licensing.

    As for your comments about Netscape, all i can say is "HUH?" Because Netscape is now owned by another company, they're not expected to be profitable? Their license is liberal because they *listened* to the community, not just reacted to it. Of course, Netscape is a relatively broad company that is not dependent on its browser for revenues, and improving the health of the browser market (via a Free alternative) improves Netscape's overall profitability. TrollTech, otoh, appears to be a one-horse company. It's possible, but difficult, to run a company on 100% GPL profits.

    Perhaps the best thing for Qt would be for TrollTech to fail... then the license would pass into a more truly open state.

    ---
    Maybe that's just the price you pay for the chains that you refuse.
  • by rcw-work ( 30090 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @07:13AM (#1581287)
    What happens down the road when twenty other special exemptions have to be granted, do we see the license extended by another length of the GPL?

    The copyright holder can license the code in any way he/she wishes. In this case it appears Jason Gunthorpe considers being able to link to Qt a feature instead of a bug.

    And this exemption is being granted only to a commercial entity.

    No, the exemption was made so that anyone could link libapt-2.5 against Qt. It was not Corel-specific, that would be silly, if that was the case Debian itself wouldn't be able to use Corel's installer. (this is why DFSG [debian.org] rules #5, #6, and #8 exist).

    So a corporation like Corel can just call up Debian on the phone and instantly get an exemption while an unknown student would not be able to freely study the library code to re-use in his projects throughout his latter career?

    I don't get it. The exemption applies to everyone, including J. Random Student. Plus, even before the exemption, the library was GPL'd, so the student would have ample provisions to study and re-use it in his projects. He would just have to GPL them. In fact, he would still have to do that.

    BTW, you don't just "call up Debian on the phone". You call up (or email) a developer. We're volunteers, we don't have a receptionist, let alone an office. And if there's any license changes to be done, it'll typically be done in writing, clearly documented in the package (/usr/doc/packagename/copyright) in a fresh new release.

  • by RISCy Business ( 27981 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @07:17AM (#1581293) Homepage
    You know, a lot of people - especially slashdotters, like to flame me when I make a prediction, like Corel's gonna make a big screwup, or NetSol's gonna do something, or what have you.

    Once again, I've been proven right though. Can't contest it. I said a few months back when this was originally announced that Corel's gonna have licensing issues, especially with Debian. Corel doesn't understand the DFSG (Debian Free Software Guidelines) and doesn't care so much about them.

    This immediately puts Corel into conflict with a good many packages in Debian, pretty much. Told you so. *smirk*

    What bothers me, however, is that while I'm not some GPL hardliner, or DFSG hardliner even - the author is compromising his license.

    There's one license I won't tolerate - and that's a compromised one. The author owns the software, and how he chooses to license it is his decision. No author should be forced to bow to anyone because they cannot create a derivitive work with a compatible license. This is Corel's problem, and they should be working to rectify it properly - by writing software that can be licensed compatibly, not by basically forcing the author into compromising his license.

    Look at it this way; should I put a new stereo in my car, just because big corporation XYZ says so? That's how I'm looking at this - you may view it differently, but IMNSHO, that's not how it is. Here, a maintainer is basically being told to compromise on his license because a corporation says so. I don't believe for a second that this is right. Even for the good of the distribution as a whole, it simply is not right.

    If Corel's going to consider DFSG a hinderance that the maintainers and authors have to work around, then I think that Corel had best get off it's butt, find a new distribution that doesn't care about author's rights and the DFSG, and start from scratch. This is nothing short of bullying, almost Microsoft-style, to make sure they get their way so they can turn a profit.

    Yes, it's going to increase Debian's user base - assuming Corel isn't found guilty in the Canadian's SEC-thing investigation - but it's now doing it at the cost of author's rights and freedoms. They've already had one licensing blunder - this makes two - how many more will there be? Eleven? Thirty? Fifty? For all we know, the entire distribution could end up being totally incompatible with the GPL or DFSG. Maybe Corel will change their license, or maybe they won't. Time will tell on that.

    But at this point, it's my belief that the entirety of Corel's base - which is Debian - has now been compromised, as well as Debian as a distribution alone. Sure, Corel can throw in fancy things like WordPerfect 2000 and Corel DRAW! and other neat applications that would fall under 'non-free' at best. But they're doing it at an incredible cost. I really have a hard time accepting the compromise of a license as 'reasonable' in any situation whatsoever. If the author wants to license their software in a specific way, then that is their right to do so. They licensed it how they wanted it, they can change the license, but never should they be forced to change the license.

    We already know Qt/Qtlib/KDE is non-DFSG compliant. Corel said 'we don't care.' Corel blatantly ignored the restrictions of the GPL and other licenses when they released the beta. Now they're basically forcing authors to change their licenses so they can attempt to save their finances.

    Maybe Corel should have just gotten RedHat. At this rate, their ethics and intelligence are about the same level. Maybe even as bad as Microsoft, who frequently bullies programmers who use their products. It's trendy to hate Microsoft, though, so I'm sure this will get moderated down as 'flamebait' or 'troll' by the people who have never actually authored anything.

    Ah well. Some days, it's just not worth getting out of bed, I guess. Much less out of bed to program. Maybe I should put a clause in my programs that says they can't be used by Corel for profit. See how they handle that one. *sigh* Yet another day of SNAFU. Situation Normal, All Fucked Up. Maybe someday we'll see some honest and decent corporations, but I guess it's going to have to wait for now - the almighty dollar calls again.

    -RISCy Business | Rabid unix guy, networking guru
  • I believe that maybe 20% really knows how to code. Another 10% has contributed something to GPL. And 1% contributes regularly, if that. Of course i'm pulling these numbers out of my ass...

    My point still stands though, most comments on slashdot are sychophantic -- which appeal to slashdot's own unique formula for dogma. They could contribute, yet most don't. It'd certainly be more effective than, well, doing the slashdot dance. ;)
  • I believe that maybe 20% really knows how to code. Another 10% has contributed something to GPL. And 1% contributes regularly, if that. Of course i'm pulling these numbers out of my ass...

    My point still stands though, most comments on slashdot are sycophantic -- which appeal to slashdot's own unique formula for dogma. They could contribute, yet most don't. It'd certainly be more effective than, well, doing the slashdot dance. ;)
  • But what about this clause from section 2:


    In addition, mere aggregation of another work not based on the Program with the Program (or
    with a work based on the Program) on a volume of a storage or distribution medium does not
    bring the other work under the scope of this License.


    So the fact that QT and get_it are on the same CD does not bring them under the scope of the GPL, since QT is not based on get_it. Neither does copying them to the HDD.

    Hmm. Trying to reconcile all those terms for run-time linking is tough. Part of the problem seems to be that the GPL is written more for apps than for OS components.

    Oh well, maybe someone cleverer than me can puzzle it out!

  • If one develops software using the Free Edition of the QT toolkit, then that software HAS to be released under the GPL. You can't add clauses to it, because then it's not really the GPL, it's a derivitive license.

    So, my question is: Corel's app aside, how can anything be released using the Free Edition of QT?

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • This is only flamebait if it is untrue. Is it true that the GPL (as opposed to the LGPL) does not allow linking to non-GPL-ed code? Do all other open source licenses permit said linking?

    If the answers to these questions are "yes" and "yes" then this is not flamebait; it is the victim of political oppression by the GPL jihad.

    On the other hand, if the author is guilty only of hyperbole in saying "all" other open source licenses, does that really constitute "flamebait"?

    Methinks the moderator is a wee bit touchy...

  • by DonkPunch ( 30957 ) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @07:38AM (#1581311) Homepage Journal
    This line from the article made me a little tense:

    Please think seriously before you create a unique license for your software product. Please use the GPL or the BSD style license if you can.

    I don't want to overreact. I understand that the author is simply trying to encourage the use of established Open Source licenses. In fact, it has been my personal experience that many developers who fear the GPL don't entirely understand it ("The GPL causes me to sign over my copyright to the FSF. I can't modify my own program and sell it closed-source to someone later.")

    But I want to make a simple point -- the developer has an absolute right to determine the license under which his/her product is released. If Joe Programmer releases the most killer Linux app ever, but his license agreement requires you to hop on one foot to the mailbox and mail him a check once a month, then you either start hopping or you don't use the program. You can send Joe nasty emails, you can publicly flame him on slashdot, but none of that changes Joe's right to use his General Hopping License. If you can't handle the GHL, Joe's product is useless to you.
  • Those who release their code under the GPL are doing so because, just possibly, they believe in certain ideals about the way software (especially their software!!!) should be used. We _must_ respect those ideals, or else we open the Gates of Troy wide open to those who would love to pillage the jewels that Open Source has produced.

    This is what I don't get. How come we're expected to respect the library developer's ideals of the way software should be used, and not those of a developer using a library? There are licences available (e.g. LGPL) that don't allow the so-called "pillage of the jewels" but do allow developers who use that code freedom to choose the licence they want.

    GPL is great for software, but just plain silly for libraries.

    Matt.
  • Perhaps the energies of Perens (et. al) have not been entirely fruitless. But they're not hugely sucessful either. If you could harness all that slashdot discontent and direct it into focused coding, rather than pissing and moaning, a great deal more would be accomplished.

    Which brings me to my second point. What does it matter if some little company in California creates a closed source product? Whose freedom does this impinge on? With the exception software patents, everyone else is essentially free to code as they please. The point being that the two can exist simultaneously. Yet RMS has been known to advocate pirating commercial software.

    Futhermore, GPL software has, for the most part, been totally unfriendly to geeks. Not only in "userfriendliness" and GUIs, but also in terms of software functionality and purposes. In general, it is software that appeals to geeks and geeks alone. To advocate RMS's idea of freedom, is to say: The geeks' right to code free of non-free-software influences, exceeds the right of the average user to enjoy software that meets their needs. I disagree.

    Both free and non-free software have certain unique advantages over one another. Not only can they coexist, but they're strengthened by one another -- they push one another to mature and expand in scope. So I come full circle. Let both do their best to succeed; let the cards fall where they may. As a matter of optimizing the results though, free software should worry about what is going on within its own community. Bolster and explain free software, but don't try to tear down anything that is not free.

    PS: I took the liberty of cut and pasting this from another of my replies in this thread.
  • Actually, IIRC, the clause refers not to "routinely shipped libraries" but instead to "essential system libraries"...to me, the distinction is vital.

    There is absolutely nothing "essential" about QT for Linux...I can rm that tree, and my system will reboot just fine. You can't however simply remove the Windows\System directory, and expect anything to work properly.


    While accurate, you miss the context of why that original clause was amended to the GPL. RMS wanted to make certain that software authors could write GPL'd Motif software, which at the time was (and some could arguably write still is for commercial vendors) the most popular GUI widget library available for UNIX and it's clones. RMS didn't want to prevent Free Software authors from writing useful code, so he carved out a niche for Motif and told everyone to go ahead a write free Motif code.

    Now I ask you, since Motif is completely closed source while QT meets most "Open Source" guidelines by at least Eric Raymond's perspective, how is this clause usable with Motif and yet unavailable for QT? Or better put, how is a closed source Motif allowed to use the "Essential system libraries" clause while an "Open Source" QT can't, when they perform exactly the same system level services?

    Beats me. RMS, can you chime in here???
  • There is a world of difference between commiting your people to a project, and trying to change the world by shouting at anyone who will listen. Slashdot is mostly the latter.

    In my experience, the people who DO the most are those who SAY the least. Words are cheap. Action is not. In short, put your money where your mouth is. Make it work; others will follow. That is the real nature of man.
  • >But I want to make a simple point -- the
    >developer has an absolute right to determine the
    >license under which his/her product is released.
    >If Joe Programmer releases the most killer Linux
    >app ever, but his license agreement requires you
    >to hop on one foot to the mailbox and mail him a
    >check once a month, then you either start
    >hopping or you don't use the program.

    As a corollary Joe has has the right to relicense his code, so if say Corel wanted to incorporate Joe's code they could call him up and negotiate as separate license with whatever terms are mutually agreeable. They Corel could use Joe's program however their new Corel and Joe private license C&JpL allowed while every one else still had to hop on one foot to the mail box every month to keep using Joe's killer program.
  • We've gotten ourselves into a big mess with the whole licensing issue. Now we need to find a way out of it.

    GPLinglibraries is just plain stupid. How do you ever expect someone to write a program using your library if they don't even understand the licensing issues? Especially if he is just some late night hacker making a cool program. He doesn't have the time, the energy, or the knowledge to work out the licensing issues. That's the very reason he came to Linux in the first place: he wanted freedom from restrictions, so he write some code and share it with others.

    I believe this is a case of can't see the forest for the trees. At this point we've got SO many licenses, we are all arguing over which is better for a specific purpose. Isn't the purpose just supposed to be to write good software that people can use and modify without worry? Why create and continue to perpetuate all these silly licenses?

    The community needs to stop and think about all this, and consolidate on a few GOOD licenses that will work together. The GPL and LGPL are good starts, but this debacle proves that the Linux game is still too complicated for many people (including corporations) to play. I know I don't want to check the license of every single library I use, to make sure they don't conflict (especially when I don't have the knowledge to understand them in the first place.) The fact is, I'm a coder, not a lawyer, and I'm certain there are a lot more like me out there. We've got to simplify these issues, and fast, before it gets to be a real problem.

    I can see it now...Microsoft's Linux Myths II - why licensing makes Linux too much trouble. Sadly, they would have a point...
  • How about some examples of this?

    A friend of mine wrote some software which was released under a BSD style license. He handed the project over to a maintainer because he didn't have enough time to continue developing it. After some time, the new maintainer took it proprietary, depriving the community of the improvements made to the codebase. My friend now regrets not making it GPL in the first place. Yes, we still have the old codebase, but we'd have to duplicate a lot of code that the new maintainer's already done just to get back up to par with him. GPL would have prevented that. I agree that at the end of the day, the developer should be free to choose the license they're most comfortable with. For me, that's GPL, in a large part due to the above.

    I haven't mentioned the name of my friend or the product, because it's not my place to air his grievances in public. That said, he reads slashdot, so he's free to name himself if he so chooses.

  • If you give the source away, you give the program away.

    Indeed.

    Now, if you mean to imply that as soon as a copy of source "escapes", the market goes away because everyone can get a copy at more or less zero cost, then that's just wrong.

    If their market had dried up as soon as gratis copies were circulating, RedHat would only have been able to sell at most one copy of their distribution.

    Giving away software doesn't mean that your market dissapears.


    Berlin-- http://www.berlin-consortium.org [berlin-consortium.org]
  • I don't know why so many moderators think DonkPunch's posting is insightful. Of course authors have the right to choose the licenses they want; it's not like anyone didn't know that before reading DonkPunch's comment.

    But this is irrelevant: the original article made a request: that people use one of the well-established licenses, rather than creating new, incompatible ones. Clearly anyone has the absolute right to make whatever requests that they want to make. A surprising number of people have trouble distinguishing requests from orders.

    So rights are simply irrelevant here. When you come right down to it, the author has five main choices:

    • Nearly-public-domain. Let anybody do whatever they want, as long as the author's name stays on.
    • Require derivative works to also be free software.
    • Require new versions of the provided code to be free software, but allow other code to link to the free code without it having to be free.
    • Do one of the previous two, but in an asymmetric way: others have to make their code free, but the author can take users' contributions and make them proprietary.
    • Use a non-open-source license of some form.

    If the author wants to do one of the first three, his/her purpose is accomplished by using a BSD-like license, the GPL, or the LGPL respectively, so there's no point coming up with a new license. If the user wants to do the fourth, it's better than nothing, but it creates problems with license incompatibilities, not just with the GPL, but with other, similar licenses.

    The biggest problem is with putting some oddball license on a library, since it may mean that it's not legal to use that library with some other open-source software. I'll bet that a lot of people who want to do something QPL-like could, instead, do something like use the LGPL and also ask people for copyright assignments for changes.

  • Actually, i consider C to be more widespread and viable in the l-o-n-g term than C++. I have significant technical gripes with C++, but i'm not going there right now. HOWEVER... on a purely technical basis, i consider GTK to be a better design than Qt, if only for deliberate language independence. Qt is a C++ library, whereas GTK is a C library designed to be wrapped in other languages. So GTK can be easily managed not only in C, but also in C++, Perl, Python, Scheme (bindings for all of these languages are available and in use), etc. It's my technical opinion, sure, but i think the logic holds up well. If you want to argue that the ability to access a GUI toolkit via scripting languages is irrelevant, be my guest.

    As for the ability to "fork" by releasing diffs against the "official" source... puh-leeese! That's a fig leaf of a fork, just barely enough to get Open Source certification. It would seriously hamper any efforts to fork the tree, should forking become necessary. It leaves the fork 100% dependent on the "official" tree, making it exceedingly difficult for the fork to survive.
    ---
    Maybe that's just the price you pay for the chains that you refuse.
  • I'm studying actually. Taking a few breaks in between thoughts to check up on replies on Rag Dot (Inside Joke: Slashdot). One thing I'm definetly not doing is extolling Free software as the be all and end all, nor am I telling others what they can and can't do with . Though most likely, my words are lost on deaf ears.... :)
  • I still don't like QT. I've programmed in it before; that's why I don't like it. It's not a language issue (I prefer C++) I just dislike QT and some of the things it does. It's not a GTK vs. QT thing either; I've never programmed for GTK so I won't say anything about it.

    However, I really, really fail to see why it is that these licensing issues come up. I believe it's calles a Section 10 Exception, people. That is, an exception to the GPL which grants the user rights to distribute a specific component of the software under non-GPL terms. I use one myself in the ICQ client I'm working on, to allow for distribution even though you can't distribute PowerPlant (the framework I'm writing it with).

    It's not so hard. KDE could have done it before QPL. Corel could do it now. Honest question: why don't people do this when such issues come up? Yeah, I know it isn't "pure" GPL, but sometimes you've gotta do what you've gotta do to get the code out there.
  • You guys are right: BSD code doesn't just
    magically disappear if someone does a proprietary
    fork. The old code is still there. But have
    you ever heard people talk about how code needs
    to be maintained or "bit rot" sets in?
    A free software project is more than just the
    code, the code also needs a critical mass of
    developer (and user) attention in order to keep
    going.

    If the energy of the community becomes split
    by a proprietary fork, it may turn out
    that the free project that you've been
    investing time in has suddenly vaporized.
    All your bug reports, all the patches you've
    written, all the time you've spent learning
    to use the software, *and* all the time
    you've spent evangelizing, trying to get
    other people on board, all of this is
    now at risk. There's now someone out their
    dangling checks, bribing your friends to run
    off and hide and play by themselves. If you want
    to stay in the community, you now have to send
    them a check (or accept one of their checks,
    along with their non-disclosure agreements).

    In practice the project may not survive this
    split, and despite everyone's dreams of avarice,
    the piles of money may not even appear for
    the defectors.

    So, in my opinion it's kind of a mistake to
    focus on just the raw code. And what the GPL is
    *really* for is not exactly the preservation
    of freedom (though don't tell RMS I said
    that), it's more a matter of preserving a
    community. (You could call this
    "communitarianism" but that term is taken
    already.)

    -- Joe Brenner, part-time GPL zealout

    (The example I have in mind here is postgresql,
    which has been through *two* proprietary
    splits in it's history. On the one hand, it
    now looks like it's doing okay, but on the
    other hand those forks clearly were pretty
    bad blows that it took a long time to recover
    from.)
  • Application "A" links to libraries "B" and "C". What difference does it make what licenses "B" and "C" are under, so long as "A" is properly licensed? "B" is *NOT* a derivitive of "C".

    On a tangent, the purpose of a library is to be linked to. This is not deriving from the library, merely a "use" of the library, and the GPL expressly permits any and all uses of GPL'd code. The only thing it restricts is modifications and distributions. Even if the library was under the strictest proprietary license available, linking to it is still covered under the "fair use" clause of copyright.

    The more I see articles like this the more I'm glad I switched to BSD for my own code. That way any downstream developers know they won't get their asses sued off for sharing code with their friends.
  • Sorry, go back and read the old Qt license. It says you can release your code under the GPL, LGPL, *OR* distribute as open source.
  • "What RMS doesn't want to see, however, is software that gives free software a definitive edge ... being LGPL'ed."

    RMS wants exclusivity. He is not interested in freedom for users of proprietary software, he is interested in freedom for GNU. If something gives an advantage to GNU he is for it (rightly), but if it also benefits a non-free OS at the same time, he will oppose it if it's not needed for GNU.

    Example: I ran across his article denouncing a standard for open device drivers. I was confused by this, and wrote him asking for clarification. After all, I thought that open source drivers for Windows users is a good idea, since they are the ones most in need of freedom. This sounded too much like "free the free and keep the slaves slaves". He replied and said precisely that: he didn't want open source drivers for Windows because that would benefit Windows.
  • Actually, it was more meant for the proprietary libc's that came with the Un*x systems that GNU was bootstrapped on. When the Motif issue came about, people kind of looked the other way (RMS included), but it was an uncomfortable situation. Emacs (the quintessential RMS work) has never used Motif, even though the crufty widgets it used in lieu aren't great to work with (Xawe, I think).

    The thing is, Motif was never a very viable development tool for free software developers. You have to statically link, people on non-proprietary Unicen usually don't have the development libraries, etc. So, people could look the other way because there was never any real danger of it starting a trend.

    Qt is viable. That it is Open Source isn't terribly meaningful, because the GPL doesn't mention Open Source in any way -- and it shouldn't, because the Open Source Definition is hardly a legally robust document.

  • I do not understand why you think Debian as a distribution has been compromised. Debian cannot make any decisions about how the software it distributes is licensed, provided it fits the DFSG. This license change was made by the author who wrote the libapt library. It was not an exception just for Corel, it was a license to link against libqt, which is not GPL compatible. The author thought it would be advantageous to do this, and his software is STILL undr the GPL.

    Corel is cruising towards alot of other licensing issues, because their developers are not thinking things thru. They want to base their distribution of KDE, but as we're all seeing, that is problematic indeed, since libqt is not GPL compatible. This is certainly the first of several licensing issues Corel will get into, and they have noone to blame but themselves. They got lucky that the author of libapt thought that the exception was an acceptable one to make. The next time they may not be so lucky.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Every time there is an article dealing with the GPL, you are sure to be there with your childish "GPV" namecalling. Get a freaking life, dude.

    Stop whining about how other people license their software. If you don't like the GPL, then don't use GPLd software. There are many people who want to ensure that their code is always free, and is never used in closed source software. That's their right; learn to respect it.

    Sheesh. BSD license kooks. Go figure.

  • This is what I don't get. How come we're expected to respect the library developer's ideals of the way software should be used, and not those of a developer using a library? There are licences available (e.g. LGPL) that don't allow the so-called "pillage of the jewels" but do allow developers who use that code freedom to choose the licence they want.

    Because the developers wrote the code. Therefore, they have the absolute right to dictate how that code may be used. If they chose to restrict its usage, that's their prerogative. As a user of the library, you have absolutely no rights beyond those which the developers were kind enough to grant you, since you did not actually write it.
  • I know this- I personally write free software on MacOS, as that's what I know and it's convenient. I know that RMS dislikes this. However, I don't care, because I don't let him define the meaning of the GPL, just the words.
    To me, it looks like this: RMS has defined the most stringent form of a sort of licensing known as 'free' or 'open', and it is not the actual code that is significant, it is the process of doing it. I don't intend to buy into the fallacy that I can't share unless everybody I work with shares with _me_... I can be dependent on lots of people, Apple, Adobe, whoever, and have no power or freedom with their code at all. That doesn't change the fact that _I!_ release free software- and, significantly, that I GPL it. This is the result: I may be dependent on other vendors, but in my software writing I deny them the use of what I've created unless they are ready to play by the same rules, and I share with anyone playing by the same rules as I am.
    That's why I don't find it unusual or strange being a Mac OSS programmer, or mind the relative scarcity of other Mac OSS programmers. It's not about what's in it for _me_. It's not about me pretending to have the ability to extort other people to release and share code. I simply understand very clearly exactly WHO I'm willing to share with, and who I'm not- and the GPL is exactly what I need, even with its various faults.
    It's not about whether I can force my whole environment to be nice- it's whether I can cooperate only with those ready to be nice, and just deal with the others in whatever way I must. The GPL gives me the power to discriminate in this manner. If someone wants me to support (by using) a piece of proprietary software, they have to convince me it's worth the price, and even then, they can't touch any of my stuff unless they do it on my terms. I am not the victim of proprietary code- if it breaks it breaks, nobody expects much of software nowadays. Proprietary code does not need a total war against it to succumb to entropy, it does that all by itself...
  • Interesting comment.

    Actually, it was more meant for the proprietary libc's that came with the Un*x systems that GNU was bootstrapped on. When the Motif issue came about, people kind of looked the other way (RMS included), but it was an uncomfortable situation. Emacs (the quintessential RMS work) has never used Motif, even though the crufty widgets it used in lieu aren't great to work with (Xawe, I think).

    Maybe my memory is fuzzy, but I distictly remember RMS stating the this exception was OK for use with Motif. And I'm certain that emacs is #ifdef'd for use with Motif, because I've built straight emacs linked against Motif before. There's a ./configure switch to build for Motif right in the distribution. Now, even if all of this is right I'm sure Motif gives RMS the willies -- never mind the obnoxiousness of having to program with it.

    [time taken to check] Yup... I'm right about Motif support, here's configure output from the latest emacs-20.4:

    scuzzlebutt% ./configure --help
    Usage: configure [options] [host]
    Options: [defaults in brackets after descriptions]
    Configuration:
    --cache-file=FILE cache test results in FILE
    [snip for brevity]
    --with-hesiod support Hesiod to get the POP server host
    --with-x-toolkit=KIT use an X toolkit (KIT = yes/lucid/athena/motif/no)
    --with-x use the X Window System
    scuzzlebutt%
    The thing is, Motif was never a very viable development tool for free software developers. You have to statically link, people on non-proprietary Unicen usually don't have the development libraries, etc. So, people could look the other way because there was never any real danger of it starting a trend.

    Qt is viable. That it is Open Source isn't terribly meaningful, because the GPL doesn't mention Open Source in any way -- and it shouldn't, because the Open Source Definition is hardly a legally robust document.

    So, are you suggesting that RMS and his lawyers are going to draw a line in the sand and test the GPL in court here??? This seems not only dangerous but also an action with little gain. QT may not meet complete "Free Software" requirements as far as RMS and other total GPL proponents are concerned, but if the FSF decides to fight this issue out they better be ready to deal with compilation on proprietary UNIXen as well.

    I think the most important point to make is that the enforcement of all of these licenses must be consistent across the board. If RMS, Linus, the GIMP developers, whoever, start playing games like "Well, you can derive from my source, but (s)he can't," just like how Sun's SCSL is structured, then we've denegrated the GPL and Free Software for all. It seems to me that if RMS includes support for Motif right in the latest emacs itself then GPL proponents really don't have a leg to stand on when claiming that QT and other GPL'd source can't be linked together; at least not if they want their argument to stay consistent.

  • We already know Qt/Qtlib/KDE is non-DFSG compliant.

    I'd just like to point out that this is only correct if you are talking about obsolete versions of Qt. Qt 2.x, which is the current released version, is licensed under the QPL, which *is* DFSG-compliant. Check out libqt2 2.0.2-0.1, which is *not* in non-free.

    --
    Interested in XFMail? New XFMail home page [slappy.org]

  • ..that the above post was not moderated down, but my response to it was (it was regarded as flamebait, specifically).

    Just thought I'd throw away a little more karma just to point out how utterly clueless some moderators are, especially since this subthread wasn't even a flamewar until Jay became a part of it.

  • by FallLine ( 12211 ) <`fallline' `at' `operamail.com'> on Thursday October 28, 1999 @01:52PM (#1581461)
    I think RagDot is wonderful. I can offend both the feminazis and the stereotypical slashdotter (leftish, anti-capitalist, etc) in one foul swoop. Rag works in so many different ways....
    1) Its rag like, think newspaper
    2) Think Women (bitching and moaning)
    - Think Red (need I explain?)
    -Think Commie (well duh)....

    ...I said it, now watch me get flamed... hehe =)
  • If the QPL (a RMS certified Free License) is what's keeping you from using KDE, you need to get a life!

    You don't give a reason why you don't like Qt/QPL, so I can only assume that it's political. Get over it. Your operating system isn't a political party. You won't go to hell if you use KDE. Be your own person and make your own decisions without RMS telling you what to think.

    The fact that you say you would "switch from Gnome in an instant" implies that you aren't 100% happy with Gnome, and that you see KDE as being better suited to your needs. Don't let the lack of a non-GNU library stop you. Jeez Louise!
  • You've got it all backwards. The GPL says "we want this software to remain free, so we're putting on some restrictions." If it was really about not restricting 'freedom', the GPL would be only a fourth its size.

    Furthermore, the clauses that keep GPL code out of proprietary products are the exact same clauses that keep them out of ANY OTHER FREE software product. The GPL was not designed to promote freedom, it was designed to promote the GNU project.
  • There are reasons it is better to use the GPL for projects that aren't designed to be libraries.

    I agree.

    For example, suppose I develop a specialized mathematics program. If I release it under the LGPL, it is possible for Wolfram (for example) to rip out the interesting routines and make it into a library. They LGPL their changes to my program, then use that library in Mathematica without my consent or even mentioning that I wrote that code!

    They can't do that, though -- your code is STILL under the LGPL, and because they've made changes to it they have to distribute their changed source. It's true that they've gotten the advantage of your library without their software being free, but at the same time they haven't done anything to hurt your library.

    So nothing unexpected has happened -- and in fact, I see that as being VERY good. They will fix bugs in your library, and you'll be able to use the bugfixes. You have gained.

    -Billy
  • "Sure you can, just guarantee that all derived works will also be Free Software."

    I can do that with the QPL, but I still can't link it with GPL'd programs.
  • FallLine spewed forth (among other things):
    I can offend both the feminazis and the stereotypical slashdotter (leftish, anti-capitalist, etc) in one foul swoop

    Well, the guy's got a point! His powers of offense are awesome.

    Usually the phrase is rendered "one fell swoop," but in this case, "one foul swoop" seems more accurate anyhow. And the benefit of the doubt says it is the only clever turn of phrase in the post!

    Cheers,

    timothy

To thine own self be true. (If not that, at least make some money.)

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