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Who Enforces the Open Source Licenses? 296

sams asks: "Every few days now it seems that yet another corporate entity has tried to push the bounds of what is allowed under the open source licenses (GPL, etc..) so the question is: If a company violates the GPL license on a product, who will enforce the license? Who will take the violating company(s) to court to protect the open source intellectual work of others? Probably not the writers of the software, who probably can't afford a long drawn out trial with a company? The EFF? Ideas?" We've already had a close call with the Sun/Blackdown fiasco, and this has probably discussed in that topic. However, there is a high possibility that something like this will happen again, and we would do well to discuss this further.
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Who Enforces the Open Source Licenses?

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  • by Wellspring ( 111524 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @02:26AM (#1453409)

    This is certainly a problem, I agree. I don't think we CAN enforce the GPL-- not in the current legal climate. No individual developer or group of developers-- or the FSF-- can match in dollars spent on lawyers and months spent on courtroom time the power of a potential violator-- at least not until Congress passes tort reform (and would Clinton sign it-- I think not). So we can't really rely on legalism to protect Open Source software.

    But that's ok. The key element to making an Open Source product work is mindshare. Closing up the source, embracing and extending, not giving credit where credit is due-- these are tactics that are counterproductive and alienate the network effects that make Open Source so attractive for businesses.

    So even if this does happen, I wouldn't worry. We should fight to stop violations, but in the end, the power of the GPL is not in its language or legalisms, but in the community and mass entrepenurism that it makes possible. Break faith with the community, and you lose the one reason to go GPL in the first place.

  • by Dj ( 224 )
    A "close call in the Sun/Blackdown fiasco"?

    Um, close as in "not an open source license and not a contractual issue but a good ettiquette issue"?... Oh close call as in actually nothing at all to do with a close call. Funny how you don't say mention Corel and their Linux distribution instead and it's actually involving open source and a license violation?

    Oh, I forgot, Corel Friend, Sun Enemy, Fire Hurt Mongo.

  • by Jonas Öberg ( 19456 ) <> on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @02:28AM (#1453411) Homepage
    For FSF-copyrighted code, they will stand up and go to court against whoever violated the GPL. There has been incidents in the past, but they have always been solved out-of-court though. The FSF lawyers tells us that this is why we should recommend that GNU software is copyrighted by the FSF (and the reason I assign my copyrights to the FSF); I don't honestly know how it will be handled otherwise (a class-action suit by all developers?), someone with more knowledge about US law can probably enlighten.
  • There may not be any central body to enforce the GPL, but if it comes to it and there's a clear cut case where someone is infringing it then even the big companies had better watch out - with the recent IPOs there are a lot of very wealthy geeks, many of which have already stated that if it came to it they'd happily use some of their money on lawyers for the big fight...
  • The FSF has lawyers, and if the given piece of code is 100% GPL, or even better part of the GNU project (with all the legal papers properly done), I would bet that the FSF will take legal action, plus probably call for other form of action.

    I once talked with RMS about a company delivering emacs as their editor with some custom elisp code, and he immediately asked me to check the license on the company elisp code...

    If this discussion on /. provides some insight or questions, may be someone should ask RMS to write up a web page to provide author guidance on what to do in order to give our GPL software maximum legal protection. And of course what to do when someone thinks he has seen a violation ;-).

  • by rlk ( 1089 )
    Corel fixed their first license. Their second one still had the over-18 clause, but that apparently passed muster with RMS. If I remember correctly, the wording was such that it only restricted who was allowed to download from their site to those who are of legal age to bind to a contract. It did not restrict use or further distribution. If my memory is correct on that point, that's not much different from the FSF agreeing to give you a tape only if you agree to pay them for it.
  • If a company releases or uses GPL code, it is more than likely that they are trying to join in on the "we use open-source software" bandwagon. This would mean that they want people like us to like them. Purposely violating the GPL is not going to acheive this.

    If its a closed source product that has used GPL code thats a different matter. It's also more difficult to detect. But if its open source, its open source for a reason. To please us. Therefore all we need to do is apply a little pressure, and get them them to sort things out. They are not going to try and alienate us, because there would be no reason for going GPL in the first place.

    Granted, I gloss over some problems here, including license incompatibilities etc, but you get my jist.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Prince Charles has been known to do so.....

    QE2 herself loves RedHat and hates Solaris and the ol Queen Mum...well she has copies of the GPL hanging in her private art gallery in Buckingham Palace...

  • Remember Brent Spar? I'm sure Shell does.

    The first company to really clusterfuck on this issue will be made into toast - with the mindshare Open Source has in the press increasing everyday, a company had better be very careful when doing something stoopid.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The biggest problem that I see is legal fees. Class-action lawsuit on contingency is unlikely given that no monetary punishment would be available. The warm feeling of forcing a company to comply with the GPL is not enough ;). Some people will probably suggest that Red Hat or Corel would pitch in money for a lawsuit. However, I'm sure that companies that intend to violate the GPL would test the waters with modifications minor enough so that these companies would not waste their time and money on. This sets a dangerous precedent. All GPL violations should be prosecuted or other GPL violations would be used a s a precedent. I see the GPL as very difficult to enforce. Excellent community builder.
  • Legally, the only people who can bring a copyright infringement lawsuits are the holders of the copyright in question. That is, only authors of software can sue for license violation.

    For all "GNU" software (different from software released under GNU GPL), FSF is the copyright holder, and FSF will fight in court if needs be. (As they did when NeXT tried to bundle gcc pieces with their Objective C compiler).

    All the more reasons to assign your copyright to FSF, I'd think.
  • It is possible that a developer whose copyrights are being violated by GPL abuse could interest an intellectual property attorney in taking the case on Pro Bono (i.e. for free). Most states have some sort of Pro Bono requirement or recommendation to all members of the state bar. IP attorneys frequently have trouble finding Pro Bono work that is actually in their area of expertise so there may be a fair amount of interest if they were aware of these disputes.
  • Why wouldn't there be monitary damages? OF COURSE I am willing to license any of my code for use in a proprietary system for only 40 billion dollars. Since all of the proprietary vendors seem to feel it's OK to assume for purposes of asessing damages that the 'pirate' would have paid the full license cost if not for the 'theft', I will assume that they would have cheerfully given me 40 billion dollars if not for their 'piracy'. Perhaps we could settle out of court for a penny on the dollar?

  • And of course what to do when someone thinks he has seen a violation ;-).

    RMS has done that a long, long time ago. [].

    The whole discussion seems to me like the typical GPL discussion: A bunch of people ranting about this or another open source license, without ever having read the relevant things...

  • by stange ( 23848 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @03:07AM (#1453425)
    Oh please.

    There was no close call with Sun and Blackdown. Sun was completely within their rights to do what they did with the software. Was it rude to not give some credit to Blackdown? Of course, but the GPL doesn't prevent rudeness (Heck, Christmas doesn't prevent rudeness either). The Blackdown folks need to get thicker skins; just because your "partner" goes and uses the product to the full extent of your contract, you don't start whining. Welcome to the business world.

    Dear /., stop editorializing in the story summaries. You often don't have a clue what you're writing about, and the additional verbosity just makes /. harder to read.
  • No individual developer or group of developers-- or the FSF-- can match in dollars spent on lawyers and months spent on courtroom time the power of a potential violator
    True - but I suspect a good try could be had to send suitable "cease and desist" letters to the vendors, rather than $BIG_CORPORATION, in the hope the resulting bad publicity and the thought of being a co-defendant in a court case will reduce the avenues of sale for the offending product.
    For that matter, there must be SOME lawyers that would be willing to take on SUN or COREL both for a fraction of the damages and for the publicity they would get as a "defender of public software shamefully stolen".
  • This information is in lines with what RMS said in reply to a question asked of him at the "Alternative: Linux" conference in Montreal in early November.

    RMS said that the FSF will only defend copyright when it is the FSF that holds copyright on a piece of software. He said that the FSF won't automatically defend any piece of GPL-ed software just because it's GPL-ed. He wasn't worried that this would create problems, too, in the case of a GPL copyright holder doing a poor job defending that copyright in court and having the copyright "struck down" or some such. Apparently, according to RMS, copyright decisions regarding a license on one product aren't transferable to another product.
  • Be careful what you wish for. Tort reform as it has been proposed would make it HARDER to sue, not easier. Tort reform would be good for big business, neutral for small business, bad for lawyers, and bad for consumers.

    That's not to say that some reform isn't desirable, but what's been proposed is just CYA for the big boys.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Perhaps we should just adopt a licence that doesn't draw so much controversy. The GPL is a daily source of fights and confusions. Free licences shouldn't have that, and it obvious that the GPL has its detractors who claim that the GPL is not free. So why don't we pick something people don't threaten to go to court about, or to punch your lights out over?
  • Gotta disagree. There are better reasons for going with GPL'ed software--such as: "It does the job really well, and the source is available".

    Companies who use open-sourced software aren't necessarily looking to jump on a bandwagon. They just want free (beer) software. And it doesn't matter if they alienate the OS community, because they may not be targeting us.

    What if TiVO or Be hadn't released source? Would it have affected their bottom line?
  • There is one very important aspect of the various open source licenses that is enforceable and does not require going to court. The source is free. Regardless of what anyone tries to do with it, we can continue to use it, fix it, and enhance it. And a bunch of individual developers around the world make a really poor target for lawyers to try to wrestle control from. In other words, we don't have to sue them to get it back because they can't take open source away.

    I don't mean this to say that open source projects and companies shouldn't protect themselves from abuses of open source licenses. But that is only one side of the issue.
  • If anyone blatently violated GPL, they wouldn't live long enough to go to court. Raving hoards of Ms. Portman-lusting Slashdotters would find the violater and FIRST POST the person to death (if you know what I mean -- and I think you do), ending the event in the ultimate punishment: hot grits down his pants.

    While not nearly as painful as having to play with lawyers, it is certainly much more quick and decisive.


  • Well, if they're not targetting us, then they're less likely to release their code. Who is going to know or care if they use a piece of GPL code within their closed source software? Certainly not the shareholders. And if its closed source, its difficult to prove that GPL code is in there.

    If they take the bold step of releasing it as open-source, then who else are they trying to please but the free software community??
  • Lots of folks have chosen licenses that are "more free" by your terms. Look at X86 or the BSDs. Software that's GPL'ed is GPL'ed because the author liked that license the best.

    Diversity is usually good. Although sometimes it makes it difficult to take components from one piece of software and add them to another. If they have different licenses.

    I'm not dancing on the rooftops over it, but I think the GPL is the best solution in an imperfect world.
  • no it wont. if the GPL cannot be enforced it has a *self-destruct* provision -- read the statement which sez that if the product cannot be released under the terms of the GPL it cannot be released at *all*.
  • Looks like its time to create a not-for-profit corporation to assist in the defense and provide a legal "enforcement" arm... a 501(c) "Open-source" protection agency.
    Of course this begs the question of who will guard the guardians themselves... but it would be nice to have an org you could go to if you have problems.
  • I don't think legal funds would be a problem. If a case comes up that is serious enough to warrant a law suit, I am sure funding would come from companies like Redhat, Caldera, VA Linux, etc, and community donations. Because these companies rely on GPL and believe in it, it would be in their best interest to protect it. I think with all that IPO money flying around they could afford it. Microsoft spent a lot more money compared to the DOJ on the anti-trust lawsuit. And by most people's oppinion the DOJ won. Money doesn't automatically determine victory. As for who would sue, probably a class action law suit from many different companies and groups. Just because nothing is set in stone at the moment doesn't mean things can't come together quickly to react to a problem.
  • The question here is "what if they don't release the code?" That's probably the most serious kind of GPL violation.

    Perhaps the truth would be leaked by a community-minded programmer. Or maybe it would be obvious, from the way the software worked, that it was based on known GPL'ed software.

    It's probably possible to reverse-engineer a binary to prove, in court, that it is based on certain source. Didn't say it was easy.
  • Well I have some sympathy for this but consider that when a company sues for breach of copyright their loss is loss of income so it's reasonable for the court to award damages to make up that loss.

    When an open source developer sues a company for breach of copyright, their loss is loss of freedom of the code so the court needs to restore that by forcing the company to either make their work open source or to stop using the code.

    If the court wished to award punative charges then that's a separate issue but the damages are not supposed to be some sort of punishment, they are meant to be compensation for the loss of meney caused by illegal actions.

    If restoration of the free status of the code is not what you are after then the GPL isn't the correct license for you to apply to your code.

  • You can get free lawyers in a criminal case, but not usually in a civil case. That's how it works in Canada, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's the same in most systems based on British law.
  • I think that it would be a good idea if there were an organization of some sort that kept an eye on Open Source legal issues. Companies like Red Hat or SuSe that are comitted to OSS could then contribute funds to demonstrate just how comitted they are.
  • Regardless of what anyone tries to do with it, we can continue to use it, fix it, and enhance it. Risky proposition, but interesting.

  • Regardless of what anyone tries to do with it, we can continue to use it, fix it, and enhance it.

    So if Micros~1 should pick up say, GCC and put a major part of it into the next VC++, we should get hold of their source clandestinely, then wait for them to sue us, and claim they have no grounds for complaint?

    Risky proposition, but interesting.


  • by jflynn ( 61543 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @04:01AM (#1453451)
    I quite agree that there was no point to or basis for a court case in the Sun/Blackdown matter.

    However, open source developers do not develop for money as their primary reward, as do corporate developers. Open source development is a social activity more than a business. It's for fun, not work. For this reason I think that social rules can be just as important as legal rules, if you want *effective* open source development. Not crediting the Blackdown folks was ethically akin to not paying their own developers -- a stupid mistake if you want further development. Sun should be civil towards those doing work for them, Blackdown's reaction was justified. That most of them think Java on Linux is important enough to continue after Sun apologized speaks well of their tolerance.
  • by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @04:03AM (#1453453) Homepage Journal
    How to win your GPL-based lawsuit against big corporations, in 5 easy steps:
    1. Publish all relevant details on your web site, including both the GPL-covered version of the software and either a copy or a link to the non-GPL-covered version. Include, if at all possible, a useful comparison of functionalities, diff of sources, etc. In short, try to obtain as much information as possible about the alleged violation. Make sure you triple-check everything before going any further.
    2. Send a polite e-mail to company/individual, requesting that they "cease and desist", respect the terms of the GPL, publish full source code and/or modifications from your version, and acknowledge you as rightful "owner" and maintainer of the software. Since most companies will try to ignore you, prepare several polite copies of the same e-mail, and send to relevant authorities in the company (CEO, legal department, marketing department, etc...). Make sure to publish both e-mails and responses on your web site. I believe most companies will settle at this stage, especially if you explain very clearly what you intend to do if they do not comply (see below).
    3. Try to get the news published on Slashdot and other public-discussion forum -- this will raise awareness of your case very, very, very fast. Include links to both GPL-protected version and non-GPL version. Make sure people can look at the evidence you have gathered on your web site. Put mirrors up if your site is slashdotted. =)
    4. If no answer (or the wrong kind of answer) is received from the company: post entire stories on your web site, including links, etc. Contact both FSF, Slashdot, and most users of your software and (politely) ask them their help in setting up a legal defense fund. If your software is included in large Linux/Open Source distributions (for instance: Red Hat, Debian, Mandrake, SuSE), ask these companies to contribute as a gesture of goodwill. Make sure you send the entire story to on-line and off-line media (for instance the NY Times and Salon []).
    5. You have won: the GPL-violating company now face (a) the wrath of Internet zealots (Mmmmm... the taste of the Ping Of Death in the morning...), (b) a legal suit that could prove very costly and financially damaging and (c) a public-relations nightmare. No sane company is going to expose its backside to the kind of hellfire you have just created. Just make sure you have got everything right before unleashing this kind of thing on an innocent company, though...

    Of course, I am not a lawyer -- but you don't need to be one to see this kind of thing unfolding.

    Just imagine this: "Mr Gates, how do you explain your enormous company violated the rights of Mr John Q. LoneHacker, the creator of BlaBlaBla, by stealing his intellectual property, which was protected under the GPL?". =)

    Just my $0.02...
  • VALinux and RedHat probably have the cash now to fight a long, legal fight.

    And don't forgot, now that IBM, Compaq and other big companies are taking an interest in Free Software, and releasing some of their code, they'll have an interest, and the resources, to make sure people don't abuse their licenses.

  • Class action? Only whomever owns the copyright can sue. (Do you think that multiple developers on one project *share* copyright? No, if that were true the GPL would not be enforcable. Derivative works are controlled under the copyright of the author of the work from which they are derived.)
    Will the FSF really protect any copyrights assigned to them (as opposed to just the ones that are officially part of the GNU project)?

  • A corporation couldn't completely coopt GPL'ed software away from us, but it could do so partially. Perhaps the most important design point of the GPL is that it requires improvements from whatever source to go back to the community. Stolen software by definition fails this test. Nothing is more discouraging to a public-spirited developer than to see lots of enhancements made to their cool software, but each appearing in a seperate, sealed, proprietary package, unmergable and unimprovable by those that get the itch to do so, while all the while the common publicly-available base sits there, rotting away, ignored by all but the origional developer. By forcing contributions to be public, I feel that this feature of the GPL is the single greatest factor accounting for the growth of free software in the world today and is the driving engine for the success of the bazaar model, simply because it requires those with the itch to improve to contribute their work to others that develop that same itch to improve.
  • Multiple authors can share copyright if they are both original authors, but generally that's not how open source software is developed.
  • If I have a GPL'd product from which someone else derives a work, and they release it under a non-GPL'd license, then, due to the license they agreed to in order to use my code in the fisrt place, their code is under the GPL even if they don't expressly say so. Therefore, I can use their code whereever I want. They are then responsible for bringing the suit. My defense is then my original code with it's license and proof that their work is derived from mine. Therefore, the burden is on them to defend their non-GPL license by court actions (similar to defending a trademark).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Richard Stallman has long supported a software tax for various purposes, including this one. This could make a big difference. Imagine if every piece of nast commercial software came with a mandatory 10% FSF tax. Wouldn't that be awesome? Think of how much we could do with that money that wasn't going to Bill Gates' pocket.

    Since powerful business interests (Bill Gates) will try to interfere with this, here's what people should do in the meanwhile...

    Does free software help you get your job done? Do you make money from free software? Have you written an article, or done consulting about free software? It's time for you to give something back to the community that allowed you to eat.

    You who make all your money from free software should give 10% of your income to the FSF to make up for the government's slowness in implementing this tax. If you only use free software 50% of the time, that a half-tithe of 5% would be fair.

    People used to do community service. They used to give of themselves. They used to tithe 10% to their church. Now we have nothing. Nobody goes to church. Nobody volunteers. Nobody gives of themselves.

    Don't think of it as an FSF Tax. Think of it as tithing to the FSF for the greater good of all mankind. And since the FSF is a tax-deductable charity, just like a church, you aren't even charged for this money!

    It's time to tithe. Do your part. Give to the FSF, for the love of Free Software. Your conscience will rest easier. It's Christmas. This is the season of giving. Think of how much God gave to you. Think of how much the Richard Stallman gave to you. For the love of everything that's good and true in this life and the next, give your 10% back to those who deserve it most.

  • Perhaps I'm completely starry-eyed and idealistic, but are there no lawyers who would take such a case for the publicity, or for a percentage of any settlement? It strikes me as if a case like this might be lucrative and seriously good for a law firm's business. The firm/lawyers would have an army of developers as potential clients forever, win or lose.

    On another note: What makes everyone think that they're not "stealing" code now? Who's to say that they're not finding ways to optimize their copyrighted ideas by examination of GPL code?

    What qualifies as a copyright infringement? If Microsoft makes EDIT.EXE more like Emacs, say with a lisp-like extension language and the same control and meta keys. They ship it in the WinNT command line, are we in sue-able territory here?
  • Ubermensch, user-mensch, right?

    The way I see it, why should we worry, if the companies have a clear sign of the way things are going to go *if* they do push? Pushing the license is pushing us, after all... and if it's pushable, so are we and there's just no way we can continue, sadly.

    So drink well, eat hardy, and send in those emails. The minute it becomes a legal action legislated by a body that isn't YOURS, the game is up. Luckily, this isn't the case. So again: why worry? Fidgeting is going right back into reacting rather than getting on with what we've given ourselves to do as our lifeblood: code, document, and set about replacinbg order with disorder. Get some perspective!

    (after all, it will be "they" who are looking to "us" before too long. Cry wolf no longer, or you'll weaken our stance with, as the /. Non-Anonymous Cowards say, FUD.)

  • > Perhaps the truth would be leaked by a
    > community-minded programmer.

    A whistle blower would be the ONLY way it would

    > It's probably possible to reverse-engineer a
    > binary to prove, in court, that it is based on
    > certain source. Didn't say it was easy.

    Actually, its probably impossible.
    Unless there are copious amounts of debugging
    info stored in the binary, then it would be hard
    to go from machine language to any sort of
    higher level code, much less prove that some
    specific code had to have been used.

    Think of compiler optimisations etc. However...
    in court you could force the company to let you
    see the source code itself (assuming you had a
    whistle blower), then you could set about
    proving it.
  • The reason why is not because civil law is decided by British "deductive" laws. Rather, in Canada, the "civil" side of the law is descended from Napoleonic law. And a good set of consistent standards they are; the 'Mericans can learn a thing or two from us.

    But this is sort of off topic, unless you wanted to bring damages into the situation, and thus into the tort. Besides which, it would be incredibly hard to prove culpability and influence on an entire community, although it IS highly interesting. I guess it all boils down to the legal system not being capable of sustaining the kind of communitarian idealism (or whatever you want to call it) that we're using. It's too bad, in a way, that precedents aren't part of the tort system, so at least we can see what warning shots are fired at those "viral marketing" goons and their schemes to take over the whirled[sic].

    Of course, one could sign over their work to a corporation, like FSF, as we used to in ye olde days. But what is the status of FSF these days? Is it incorporated, corporated, international, non-profit? These things can really matter in torts and criminal proceedings, and might be our tunnel out if the answers are right.

  • > Remember Brent Spar?

    No, but it sure does put me in the Christmas spirit to see Alta Vista offer me the chance to

    It's October 6th. Where's W2K? Over the horizon again, eh?
  • What qualifies as a copyright infringement? If Microsoft makes EDIT.EXE more like Emacs, say with a lisp-like extension language and the same control and meta keys. They ship it in the WinNT command line, are we in sue-able territory here?
    And then Apple and M$ can sue developers for making Linux more user friendly???

    Only (in GPL case) cases of actual distribution of GPL-software derived software under a non-GPL license is infringement.

  • The GPL probably CAN be enforced. The FSF has successfully taken legal steps (though none in court as yet) to get GPL-derived software released under the GPL.

    The problem of WHO WILL SUE is the one at hand. If the FSF owns the rights to the software, then THEY can sue -- else the can't.

    Question: If I GPL my software, and there is a violation, can I then assign the copyright to, saw RHAT or the FSF, such that they have rights to sue the infringing party?? (I -know- that this sounds like a use-them-at-your-convenience statement, but it is an important question.)

  • Make that 6

    . You miss one important possibility which has been pushed to the limits by the Software Publishers Association and the Church of Scientology: the Copyright Act permits very aggressive ex parte action by the plaintiff. According to the precedents set by the SPA and the CoS, it is entirely within the realm of legality for the plaintiff to roll up to the offender's place of business with a Federal Marshal and several eighteen-wheelers, and cart off every computer in the place for investigation of copyright violations, at the plaintiff's leisure in a warehouse of the plaintiff's choosing.

    IANAL, either, but that's what's been happening!

  • No need for reverse engineering, if it gets to court, the source code would be part of the evidence.
    If the source code they present as "the real source" compiles a binary that's identical to the one they're distributing, then this is almost surely the real source code (except maybe for comments and macros). If the binaries differ then they're lying about the source code.
  • But by that very logic - if the GPL fails, that is if it is found invalid on its face, than any provision or clause of it is equally invalid. The self-destruct clause would therefore be invalid and not applicable.

  • And exactly how would you justify that? I hate to tell you this, but it's completely legal and OK with the majority of Americans for programmers to create something and make money off of it and NOT give it away. Open source is cool, but the vast majority of non-religious (as in the FSF variety) have NO PROBLEM with commercial software and never will. They have NO INTEREST in modifying their code and would prefer to not know it even exists, along with the computer itself. They (and I) don't give a flying rat's ass about Richard Stallman and the FSF, so whatever he proposes is pretty much "so what". As is the boycott of - well intentioned but completely ineffective.

    Now, if you're taking money from the public they're going to have some say in what you do and how it's done, aren't they? Do you really want Congress writing a law that says all open source code must be vetted for swear-words so we don't pollute the young impressionable minds of our children? Or one particular window manager WILL BE MANDATED in order to eliminate redundant distribution of public funds? Or maybe you'll need a license and certification to make sure you're REALLY a good open source guy.

    So OK, it's Christmas - give some money to the homeless, but keep you're hand out of the public pocket.
  • .... Unless, of course, they're a big enough company to have a "spin" put on it.

    Doing something like that would be fairly easy to spin into something good.. X company today decided to extend the widely available Y software. Joe Schmoe of X said in a press release, "We think that our product is a real value-add that will make customers out there choose our product".

    etc, etc.
  • Have you ever gotten a software for Linux that for which Free Source was not provided? Here's what you do: run ldd on it. Look for what shared libraries it uses. If not shared, check then with nm. What you are looking for is GPL'd libraries that they have used to make their slaveware. If you find any, then we win, the you may free the slave from his chains.

    You forget that most libraries does not use the GPL license, but the LGPL license. This license allows further restrictions, and I don't think we kan make a case against software using such libraries.

  • Time and time again companies will use GPL code or products as enhancements to thier base product. They are not selling the GPL product directly nor are they changing it.

    To me, the only true Open Source is Public Domain source code. GPL prevents companies from improving baselines with latest techniques. GPL prevents products from being released that would improve overall life.

    I know it is hard to accept but I can only mess with OS products after work, because I need a job. It is terrible for me to have to reinvent the wheel just because it is GPL'd.

    I envision a time where all source code would be release public domain so people could sell binary packages and the source code would be released say 1 year afterwards so others can deal.

    OMIGOD, that is a real socialistic premise. I just want to make my job easier, and public domain software does, GPL does not.

    As for enforcement, GPL states you can include items as long as you do not sell them. How can one prove that you sold a GPL piece of source in a overall package? ie: sell a software environment with gcc included. The company could always claim they sold thier custom products and not the gcc.

    NRE is what drives prices, not reused code.
  • He he he he... =)

    I had forgotten that!

    Can you imagine this: "I am sorry, Mr Gates, but we need all your personal computers plus all 15000 Microsoft NT servers? Please stand back, sir"

    Of course, what you refer to is not funny, but I can't help Micro$soft (one of the founders of the SPA) deserves a taste of its own medicine...

  • if Micros~1 should pick up say, GCC and put a major part of it into the next VC++

    How do you know they haven't already? Or any other big company out there? (#include "stddisclaimer.h" - I'm not accusing anybody, just supposing... God bless American lawyers...)
    Every major corporation seemes to feel the need for large parasitic departments like Marketing. And one of the first things Marketing does (apart from enjoying the two drink minimum :) is ask "what else is out there like this?". Only, they can do a good deal more than just feature analysis on GPL'ed code. So the techies go and download gcc source, and take it apart. Then they'll pull out all of the best bits and make the techniques work for them. And with the whole closed source kept under wraps until a Judge orders otherwise, you're never going to know that they ripped your code.
    I'd like to think that if company X liked, say the parser of gcc, they'd give the accredited author a call with their cheque books waiting. But I'm unfortunately not that naive. So, even worse, Joe Coder at company X paraphrases the gcc parser modules and his/her PHB's think he is the next programming guru. And the original programmer never gets his name accredited in the closed source - effectively depriving him of "payment" - ie a bit of respect from other coders.
    That said, I love being able to see the code behind something cool I just downloaded. It's nice to be able to see how it's done correctly all the time. And I don't care how good a coder you are, if you think you've nothing left to learn by reading other's code then you've given up advancing your skillset.
  • I recall that the samba project once had somebody break the GPL. A third party sold their own version of the Software without releasing their altered source, i.e. a clear GPL violation. The samba team contacted the FSF who lent them a lawyer...

    and all ended well in the world of free software, or something like that.

    Sorry I can't provide links to the article but I don't have time to search for where I might have read about it at the moment. Linear Algebra exam in 1 hour...

    Hope this provides some case history for this subject.

  • Not always true. I discovered a very specific and very blatant violation of the GPL - a guy was selling a library that was released under the GPL in binary-only form, with some "enhancements" (which were trivial it turned out), with a specific license forbidding all of the things that the GPL requires (such as decompilation), and without source code.

    I wrote him to let him know that he was violating the GPL, and what steps he might take to correct this (i.e. what clauses of his license would need to be removed and how he would have to make source code available) and he responded with a very rude "who gives you the right to tell me what to do" type email.

    So I wrote the FSF about it, and they didn't really do anything. They looked into it a little bit but said that unless the original author of the code wanted to sue (and he didn't - he had since written a new version of the lib and was basing a commercial, non-GPL'ed product on it, and couldn't care less about his old code and the GPL violation), they couldn't do anything.

    And that was that.

    BTW, in case you are wondering, the library was Hashjava, the guilty party is Neil Aggarwal, the URL for the guilty product (Obfuscate & Obfuscate Pro) is /ObfuscatePage []

    If you've got the time and the inclination, write Neil and give him hell.
  • I've always wondered whether or not proprietary competitors would actually keep each other in line when it comes to the GPL. If compiler vendor X, for instance, discovered that vendor Y had incorporated GPL'ed code into their product, would it make sense for vendor X to join forces with the copyright holder to sue vendor Y? It wouldn't help X directly, but would certainly be a blow for Y if they were forced to release their proprietary source under the GPL.
  • > I know it is hard to accept but I can only mess with OS
    > products after work, because I need a job. It is terrible for me
    > to have to reinvent the wheel just because it is GPL'd.

    It's also pretty terrible that I have to either write my own word processor - that is, "reinvent the wheel" - or pay Microsoft to use Word 2000. Why can't I just steal Word 2000 instead? Just because the Microsoft Corporation spent millions of dollars to write and distribute Word 2000, and copyrighted it too, how does that give them any right to keep me from copying the Word 2000 CD, installing it and using it on my computer, and selling copies to others for profit, all the while not paying Microsoft a single penny? I don't know about "improving overall life," but it certainly would improve my life if I could start a business reselling hot commercial warez for big bux without those stupid police hassling me.

    It's so unfair that greedy, selfish organizations, such as Microsoft and the FSF, get to keep legal control over their own property.

    Yours WDK -

  • I don't make money with free software (at least not up to now). I make money with bloody proprietary software (and with bloody casino capitalism stock market speculations).

    I give back to the community by writing free software. Don't tax me, I've already given more than 10% of my working time back to the community. Church taxing monks doesn't make sense, eh?

    And if you spent this money just on lawyers to defend free software, there's something terribly wrong. Laywers are utterly unproductive. I know, they are part of the Golgafrinchina's load of unproductive people who crashed here, but they still are unproductive.

    I know, in the US, you can get almost any result out of a trial, if you pay enough to the right lawyer (good price/performance: OJ Simpson's lawyer, bad price/performance: Bill Gates' "we have our own render farm to generate faked videos" DoJ trial lawyers). I don't understand why you need a legal system if it just manages to keep an anarchistic state (the right of the stronger). Well, perhaps because the lawyers are strong enough ;-).
  • Are Open Source licenses like the GPL defendable in court?

    There is a lot of controversy surrounding the chained effects of GPL code - often referred to as the "GPL virus" - and I don't think this kind of licensing would hold up well in a court of law.

    I don't stand strongly for or against the GPL to any great degree. But a license is a contract. My limited understanding of contract law (note: I am *not* a lawyer) that subsumes all subsequent or previous contracts to its own conditions and extends itself to cover objects (i.e. code) that were not written or released specifically under its own terms, probably violates a few basic contractual laws.

    As I understand the GPL, if I write something and release it under a BSD or Artistic license, and someone comes along and includes my code in a GPL package, all subsequent derived works become automagically GPL'd. This may not have been my original intent. I may _want_ my code (and any derived code) to always be available for commercial, closed, shareware, etc. as well as GPL and other more open projects. But inclusion of my code in a GPL project by someone else has just ended my license (and intent) and subsumed it with the GPL.

    As I see it, the GPL and RMS have provided all of us with lots of benefits, but I find there are areas where it seems to go a little too far, and I think a court would probably rule likewise.

  • We, the hacker community, declare GPL violations as such.
    Then it falls off our radar screen
    and the software hopefully withers away
    from lack of sales and bug fixes.
  • Couldn't someone claim that the GPL'd code is a work derived from code owned by someone else? That the plaintiff has no business claiming ownership of the work?
  • The main cause for contention with respect to the GPL is its ideological leaning. More specifically, it's seen as anti-business. Which, to a certain extent, it is.

    RMS sees the interests of the developer and the corporation as, while not entirely orthogonal, at least not congruent. For that matter, I agree with him: if my company loses money on my employment, I'm out on my ass. My good judgement can be overridden at every turn. Any work that I do on their time, whether incorporated into client work or not, is their property. (I wonder if this post is their property, since I'm doing it at work - most likely, it is).

    Is the GPL unenforceable? As much as any license, I presume. The power of a license dispute is that it almost invariably ties up the code in question prior to the suit being resolved. Given that the time between product revisions is much shorter than the time to go to trial, the business logic against using GPL'ed code surreptitiously is impeccable.

    Look at the dispute between Symantec and McAfee. McAfee had to do a white-room rewrite of their antivirus software - *twice* - to avoid it being contaminated by a hundred-odd lines stolen by a programmer who had previously worked at Symantec. This was much cheaper and faster, believe it or not, than going out and litigating the matter to a settlement.

    While free software advocates may not have the resources to reverse-engineer each and every possible violator, the stick is so much bigger than the carrot as to make it very difficult to rationalize using GPLed code on a systematic basis. I'm sure that small fragments have been grafted in by individual programmers, out of convenience or laziness, but violations are most likely to be individual, not organizational. (Of course, this was the case with McAfee, too).

  • by Effugas ( 2378 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @05:30AM (#1453502) Homepage
    When an Open Source license such as the GNU Public License is violated, whose rights take a beating?

    I grant the obvious--the original developer of the software is definitely in an ugly situation.

    But why? Open Source Licenses are (by definition) distribution contracts. The original developer obviously has their own code, so how
    much harm can come from a "licensee" refusing to return the developer's own code?

    Ah, but the whole concept is that the developer isn't demanding the return of his own code, but rather the new code layered upon his own publically licensed work.

    Therein lies the key. It is not merely the developer who is being deprived of content--it is the entire market of software users who are being deprived of that which they have every right to use. It is the horde of developers who wish to "scratch their itch" and improve upon an up-and-coming(or long-established!) codebase to which they have been so generously granted access to. It is the none-too-small number of investors--both large and small--who have put forth their money based upon a business model whose prime component is open access to the core software components and all future developments therein.

    Open Source is indeed a public (if not natural) resource--possibly one of the few that is not depleted by usage but rather strengthened by it. However, it is alas not immune to the dangers of hoarding, pollution, and sheer misuse. Indeed, to paraphrase John Philpot Curran, eternal vigilance is the price of software liberty. Should the general perception become that the most basic precepts of Open Source licenses were being routinely ignored, both the stream of new open projects and the third party flow of incremental improvements to existing projects would dry up, as the latter group would feel no obligation to the former, and the former would notice.

    Vigilance against such a situation--both real and generated by media manipulators(see Microsoft's aborted faux Letters To The Editor campaign)--is critical to the survival of the Open Source movement, and to the rights which have been granted to the public as a whole.

    Is not the defense of public rights the raison d'etre of Government itself? The strip mining of communal codebases is something we've been spared thus far--should our "vigilante slashdotting" fail to sway an entrenched competitor, the involvement of government agencies and government lawyers is not something we should shy away from. There are a number of issues to consider, but Judge Jackson has shown that the U.S. Government can most assuredly "get it" when it comes to the socioeconomic issues surrounding the technology industry.

    I'm not naive--although an attacking company would be harmed far more than we would by sheer public disapproval, it'd be better for everyone involved if we never had to travel down this route. Conviction does not negate the crime. However, a public statement of the willingness of government to defend us may have the peculiar effect of preventing us from needing their defense, and that is something I feel may be of value.

    I'm interested in what the rest of you think about this. Feel free to disagree, or to provide insight as to what would be necessary to deal with the issues that I have brought up.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
  • This may be extremely silly, but I agree with you. I just don't know how to use international keystrokes from Lynx (or ?terms). In LaTeX, sure, but I don't usually keep my DTD-def ents handy. :( Maybe Rob or Hemos should should put the elements on the post-page for lamers like me.
  • RMS said that the FSF will only defend copyright when it is the FSF that holds copyright on a piece of software.

    He could also have said that the FSF can only defend copyright when it is the FSF that holds copyright on a piece of software. One needs standing to sue in court. In the case of copyright violations, only the copyright holder has standing to sue. Other third parties have no such rights.
  • The Open Source Liberties Union!
  • The fact that the FSF said to leave it to the original author suggests to me that the library hasn't undergone the copyright assignment, in which case they could do nothing (except maybe pay court costs -- I have no idea about that) The earlier poster was talking about software which is copyrighted by the FSF. Daniel
  • Wouldn't the same rules re: shareware and freeware apply to GPL? Perhaps a legal union such as the SPA would get involved. BTW: Sun can't steal Java. They never gave it away. Inprise mentioned Blackdown twice. To suggest that Sun and inprise have no proper rights to Java is to say that Linus has no proper rights to Linux. Even without respect to the leagalities, Sun invented it for crying out loud.
  • with the recent IPOs there are a lot of very wealthy geeks, many of which have already stated that if it came to it they'd happily use some of their money on lawyers for the big fight...

    Exactly right. There are already a half-dozen $Billion companies whose business plans and future stock price depends on defending the GPL licence. Consider this scenario:

    Megacorp A snarfs a bagful of GPL code B into their proprietary product C and pretends they wrote it themselves.

    Random Geek D notices something about Megacorp A's product C that reminds him of GPL'd code B and decides to investigate further. Disassembly reveals an exact correspondence to said GPL'd code.

    Geek D contacts GPL code B's author E, who flies into a righteous rage. After calming down, author E posts the news on Slashdot. Things heat up.

    Mega-wealthy geek F reads the slashdot article and immediately contacts author E with an offer to bankroll whatever legal action is required.

    Meanwhile, outrage builds and a class-action suit is launched as well

    Faced with a public relations disaster and the likelihood of losing badly in court, Megacorp A quickly decides to settle. The settlement amount is paid into a non-profit fund for future defences of the GPL

    Geeks D and E are now famous and land high-paying jobs at a linux startup that goes public a year later, making them rich

    Geeks F's company's stock doubles on news of the settlement, making him twice as wealthy.

    Everybody lives happily ever after. Except Megacorp A, which have known better in the first place

  • For that matter, there must be SOME lawyers that would be willing to take on SUN or COREL both for a fraction of the damages and for the publicity they would get as a "defender of public software shamefully stolen".

    Indeed. The loss by many large corporations to lawsuits brought under a variety of contingency agreements is in fact proof that large corporations are vulnerable, no matter how big and powerful they are. Johns-Manville and Dow Corning are bankrupt. Phillip-Morris is hurting. Union Carbide was decimated. Hooker Chemical no longer exists.

    If somebody does violate the GPL, they ARE vulnerable.

  • If you're going to be so pretentious as to use a gratuitously foreign phrase, you could at least respect your readers and the language enough to spell it properly: raison d'être.

    You're lucky I know so many french people, or else I'd have to make some grossly inappropriate comment like "*ARGH* FRENCH PEOPLE".

    Actually, to be honest, I just didn't remember how to write the character in HTML, and didn't think it mattered all *that* much. Consider it...raison d'être as expressed in the American character set. What, you think Russia(R-U-S-S-I-A) is the actual Cyrillic character set? ;-)

    Bah. I suppose I should thank you for keeping me honest. I'll try to use the correct accents next time.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
  • In addition, if the suit is against a large company, most IP attorneys will take a case "on contingency", especially if they think they can win.

    Basically, the idea is that you are going after a big "Bucket O' Money" and all the lawyer wants is his or her third of that money. Basically, if the lawsuit is worth enough money (millions) and it looks like you have adequate proof to win, many IP attorneys will take the case on contingency

    However, please note that I am not a lawyer, althouh I play one on the 'Net.
  • *COUGH* -- ``American'' character set?

    Yup, go look up ASCII. American subset, English Character Set. As far as I know, no American coined words outside of [a-z].

    Hurm. Actually, genuine question--do modified characters show up in Perl regex's when Locale isn't set?

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
  • If they've hijacked GPL code which explicitly states it and its offshoots are GPL'd, then take whatever you can get of this guy's code (source and or binaries) and start distributing it. Let him take you to court, and lose.
  • Why are issues being raised about who will legally defend GPL'd software? The reason is that big money making corporations have finally realized the value of open source software. Those companies who try to breach the GPL will have two things combatting them:

    1) Other corporations using the GPL software will sue them in order to level the playing field. For example, if Red Hat tried to do something that violated the GPL of linux, VA Linux, SUSE, Debian, IBM, Compaq and a few others would show up at their doorstep with a big pack of lawyers. It is corporate interest that threatens the GPL and it is the same interest that will protect it.

    2) Evil Bad Corporation (unrelated to Microsoft), decides that it wants to take a piece of GPL'd software and put a bunch of modifications on it, then sell it under a closed or heavily modified OS license. Now, the question is, WHY ON GOD's GREEN EARTH WOULD YOU WANT TO DO THIS??? If you did this, and your product was successful you've just set yourself up for a nasty fall. If you get sued, and somebody can afford the attorneys, you will lose, and with it will go your lock on the source code. Your empire will crumble quickly.

    One other thing to consider is that not only would the breaching of the license be a civil legal issue, it might also be considered criminal because of breach of copyright. I'm not sure about that one but it seems at least vaguely plausible.


  • Saying closed source that uses GPL will never get found out is untrue. Basically like any secret the more people that know it the less secure it becomes.

    Two such ways the news can possibly leak is: a) A disgruntled employee gets fired or leaves and leaks the news. b) A person is recruited from outside the company and does not agree with this and leaks.

    Once the news is leaked will not this source get out and the brown stuff hit the fan.
  • Free Software is *NOT* "freeware"
    I think I've got déjà lu:
    I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the so-called `goodware' movement. I am the founding father of `Good Software' movement, which is completely different.
    Know what I mean? :-)
  • do modified characters show up in Perl regex's when Locale isn't set
    I don't know what that really means. But I bet the answer to your question resides in the perllocale(1) manpage from the latest developer releases.
  • You've been eating too much Christmas fruitcake if you think that an el-cheapo lawyer is going to beat Sun or Microsoft.
    Who says they *have* to win? $BIG_COMPANY has to tie up lawyers, take the bad publicity, and RISK a judge making a ruling against them that costs them all their profits. Similarly, any of $BIG_COMPANY'S major Vendors will look twice at the package, not wanting to be caught up as a co-defendant or having to recall product, and then start looking at the GPL tree the product came from (which may even have incorporated 3rd party workalikes to the $BIG_CORP product by then, and wonder just WHY they have to pay $BIG_CORP 2/3 of the sales price if they can just *download* the same thing from the web and sell it for half the $BIG_CORP product price, and *still* make more from the deal?
    yes, $BIG_CORP could retaliate by making $OTHER_PRODUCT more expensive for the vendor if he doesn't play ball, but MS have already found out about what happens when you get caught at that one.

    Now look at it for $UNKNOWN_LAWYERs view. he gets national publicity, and a reputation of being a champion of the people against the big corporations; not bad for a few hours in court. And assuming he either wins, or $BIG_CORP decides to settle rather than having the PR Nightmare of being caught with their hands in the cookie jar, he gets his costs and possibly more from the deal - not to mention all the work as people recognise him as someone going to bat against big companies, and bringing their contingency-fee cases for faulty products and bad workmanship.

  • do modified characters show up in Perl regex's when Locale isn't set
    I don't know what that really means.

    Does [a-z] catch e with a grave/aigu?
    Does [d-e]?
    Does [e-f]?

    Does the Locale setting matter?

    That's what I meant. (And YES, I'm regretting this entire thread! This wasn't what I came to discuss :-)

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research

    Does [a-z] catch e with a grave/aigu?
    Does [d-e]?
    Does [e-f]?


    No, not really, although that certainly has been discussed.g I think what you want is
    /[[:alpha:]]/, which only works in the very latest release. Otherwise, you'll need to use the use locale pragma (which doesn't refer to a salad dressing, actually :-) in conjunction with something like /\w/ or /[^\W\d_]/, and maybe a call to the POSIX::setlocale as well.


    perlre(1), perllocale(1), perldelta(1), perlsec(1), and utf8(3),
    [Following in an excerpt from the 5.005_63 release of Perl's
    perlre(1) manpage. --tchrist]

    The POSIX character class syntax, [:class:], is also available. The available classes and their backslash equivalents (if available) are as follows:

    For example use [:upper:] to match all the uppercase characters. Note that the [] are part of the [::] construct, not part of the whole character class. For example: [01[:alpha:]%] matches one, zero, any alphabetic character, and the percentage sign.

    If the utf8 pragma is used, the following equivalences to Unicode \p{} constructs hold:

    For example [:lower:] and \p{IsLower} are equivalent.

    If the utf8 pragma is not used but the locale pragma is, the classes correlate with the isalpha(3) interface (except for `word', which is a Perl extension, mirroring \w).

    The assumedly non-obviously named classes are:

    • cntrl: Any control character. Usually characters that don't produce output as such but instead control the terminal somehow: for example newline and backspace are control characters. All characters with ord() less than 32 are most often control classified as characters.
    • graph: Any alphanumeric or punctuation character.
    • print: Any alphanumeric or punctuation character or space.
    • punct: Any punctuation character.
    • xdigit: Any hexadecimal digit. Though this may feel silly (/0-9a-f/i would work just fine) it is included for completeness.

    You can negate the [::] character classes by prefixing the class name with a '^'. This is a Perl extension. For example:

    POSIXtrad. Perlutf8 Perl

    [:^digit:]\D& nbsp;\P{IsDigit}
    [:^space:]\S&nbs p;\P{IsSpace}
    [:^word:]\W&nbsp ;\P{IsWord}

    The POSIX character classes [.cc.] and [=cc=] are recognized but B supported and trying to use them will cause an error.

  • You cannot catch the Stallman virus simply from writing code that conforms to an API that happens to have a GPL'd instantiation. If that were the case, then a script or program (call it "Mom") that calls a GPL'd script or program (call it "Dick") would be itself GPL'd. Moreover, any other scripts or programs (call it "Jane") that "Mom" calls from the same place that she calls "Dick" would themselves be free of contamination.

    As you see, mere aggregation with the infected Jack does not pass the virus back up to Mom, nor over to his sister Jane. Aggregation does not infect. This is true whether Dick and Jane are programs, or whether they are libraries. It doesn't matter. I'll say it once more for the logic-impaired: Aggregation does not infect. Otherwise they are trying to dictate what is or is not legitimate use. Copyright law does not permit this.

    If the FSF shows up to break your kneecaps, as another poster semi-amusingly seemed to imply might happen, and so you feel need a more legalistic way around this library infection issue, here's why you're safe [].

    It's time to let go of your fear. The virus doesn't transmit across library aggregation. The reign of terror is ended, and the black death is put back into its bottle. You are now free. Code in peace.

  • Umm.

    One way to make money off GPLed software is to sell (nonexclusive) non-GPL licenses to folks who ask (mostly businesses with GPL-paranoid lawyers).

    If someone puts my GPLed software under a non-GPL license without buying a license to do so, I just lost income.

    So one can have both income and freedom, and be quite unhappy 'bout losing either.
  • Not at all. 'Pirating' just means duplicating and distributing software in violation of its license agreement. The only software you can't do that with is public-domain software, which has no license and isn't the same thing as free software at all. Free software, as embodied by the GPL, is under a number of license restrictions on its distribution and use, and can therefore be pirated. E.g. if a company takes a GPL'd piece of software, modifies it, and sells it without the source, that would be piracy, or something similar, under the terms of the GPL.

  • If you don't have any money and aren't interested in personally extracting some from the person violating your copyright, you might be able to sign your collection rights over to a company or agency with the money and time to pursue this (sort've like doing it on contingency, except they get %100 and you get the satisfaction of having the violation stopped). It helps if the violation actually concerns a piece of software that's known to be worth something. The Caldera/DRDos lawsuit comes to mind.

    You might even go as far as to ask the violator's competitors about whether they'd like to get in on the legal escapades (since they'll probably want to do anything to tear their rival down). But for that to work, your own software will have to be in a separate market from theirs, since they won't want to tear their rival down only to prop you up even further.
  • The only thing wrong here was that Sun was a bit rude, by not mentioning the blackdown people.
    It was not a GPL issue, and not an OSS issue. The terms of their porting were clear from the beginning.
    And sun apologized..
    so what's this 'fiasco' you are talking about?
  • I would venture to say that the following series of events will take place at some point in the future. The first ones have happened before.

    1) Company X will release some claim/license/software/something that appears to violate GPL.
    2) The OSS community will go balistic and spam the shit out of them. (in other words, after this point, they can't claim they don't know about the issue)
    3) Company X will state that the GPL is invalid or some such thing, or that it doesn't apply to them.
    4) The original license holders will make a big damn fuss about it (or others will convince them to) and the whole OSS community will go into a flaming rage because it's challenging their license.
    5) Class-action won't be necessary.... the authors will have all the backing they need to fight the case.

    Note.. this is one reason why using a single license like GPL can be good... once we set court precedent.... it helps a lot.
  • You know so many people quote the 'Free as in Freedom, not free beer'... but I think some still don't get it.

    The GPL is about the CODE being free, as in having freedom. Pretend it's a living thing.. it is FREE... it can go where it wants, but nobody can restrain it.It's about your freedom to do anything you want with it.
  • "Stallman's agenda is obvious."

    You disagree with the person who said it was hidden then?

    "He wants no one to own their own work."

    Well, if we confine this to situations where the work is a piece of software and where ownership means the ability to restrict distribution then yes, I think that's a fair comment. I guess nobody thinks that he's trying to hide that?

    "I can't recall the URL, but I read some great stuff from a BSD developer on his realization that Stallman is just a power hungry freak."

    Well.. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself... not sure if you were trying to make some sort of point? You read somewhere, but you don't know where, that someone else has a low opinion of Stallman, is that it?

    "The GPL is a virus."

    Not really, at least it only affects those that choose to enter into the bargain - use GPL'd code and in return you have to GPL the works you derive from it.

    "It is the number one reason that these other licenses keep popping up, and will continue to do so"

    Which other licences? Whatever they are, why would people not need them if the GPL didn't exist, presumably their licencing needs would stay the same?

    "GNU is a cult. They all follow RMS in lock step, and if you don't agree, they say that you are not enlightened. It is a software cult, fairly benign, but a cult nonetheless."

    Hmmm.. not sure what you're getting at here. Care to say what you mean by a "cult" in this paragraph?
  • Only the copyright holder would be able to enforce the GPL. Anyone else, whether the FSF or Red Hat, would not have legal standing to bring a suit. This would basically be a case in which there would need to be enforcement of a contract. The contract would be the GPL and the contracting parties would be the copyright holder and the violator.

    Even though the FSF could not sue the violator, the copyright holder could have the FSF represent them as their lawyer in court. This would help to transfer the financial burden away from the copyright holder.

    Simply changing the name of the copyright holder to the FSF would not give them enough standing to sue because it was requires signed documentation that the copyright is being transfered to a new party (see the GNU website [] for more.

    There isn't much chance of recieving monetary damages in an Open Source case because it is required to register a copyright with the copyright office (is that the USPTO?). All that a court could legally do is order a company to comply with the GPL, which is what is intended in the first place.

    Matt Leese

  • Only the copyright holder is entitled to sue for copyright infringement. This is basic law in virtually every nation. You can't sue your neighbor across the street for stealing the apples of your neighbor down the way. Only the person who is damaged can sue.

    If your software is not in the public domain, then please, please, don't claim that you have given it away or are not the owner. This will be used against you in court. "Your honor, the plaintiff has an entire website arguing that he doesn't own the vimacs software..."

    So what happens with Megasloth infringes upon the license of John Q. Hacker's tiny perl script? Without John's permission, the FSF, Slashdot readers, OSI, or anyone else is allowed to initiate a lawsuit. However, John Q. Hacker can initiate the suit. And anyone who subitted copyrighted code to the project can join in. Then funds are gathered from all the indigant bystanders from the FSF, Slashdot, OSI, etc.
    Does [a-z] catch e with a grave/aigu?
    Does [d-e]?
    Does [e-f]?


    No, not really, although that certainly has been discussed.

    Well FAQ me...;-)

    Seriously, aside from ugly issues(are accented characters greater than, less than, or equal to their non accented equivalents), I don't think [:alpha:] is should be mandated. Perl's general concept is that things should behave as expected; [a-zA-Z] should grab all alphabetical characters, accented or not, if only because that's what the programmer is most likely to desire. "Give me all characters in this range that aren't accented" is a far less common operation than "give me all alphanumeric characters".

  • If I'm writing free software and I want anyone to use it under any license, I put it under a BSD-like license. If I'm writing free software and I want the derivitive works to be free, I use the GPL. But let's say someone really wants to hoarde something developed as a derivitive of my code... why NOT let them pay for the privilidge?

    And it's not just about people making money. If folks want to make money off my code and follow the GPL (a la Cygnus, TiVo, WilburWorks, etc etc) they're free to do so, UNLESS THEY WANT TO HIDE THOSE DERIVITIVE WORKS.

  • When an open source developer sues a company for breach of copyright, their loss is loss of freedom of the code

    Not actually, unless the company managed to erase all existing copies but theirs. It would be a suit to recover the income that would have been made had they opted to license (non exclusivly) the code for closed source use. Opening their source and restoring the proper copyright notices is adequate to avoid future royalties, but the existing proprietary sales must be addressed since they still made money based on violating the GPL.

We're living in a golden age. All you need is gold. -- D.W. Robertson.