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Seminar On Details Of The GPL And Related Licenses 171

Posted by timothy
from the share-and-share-alike dept.
bkuhn writes "Given the recent confusion about LGPL on slashdot, and the concern it raised for those convincing corporate legal departments to adopt to Free Software, perhaps your readers might be interested in FSF's legal seminar on the GPL and related licenses. The first one is in Silicon Valley, and if it is successful, we hope to hold others in the next 8 months in New York City and Tokyo." Since the FSF and the GNU project have long created and fought for software that's shareable, Free, and Not UNIX, what's taught at these seminars will probably differ sharply from what you can hear at next Monday's SCO conference call on the "IBM lawsuit, UNIX Ownership and Copyrights."
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Seminar On Details Of The GPL And Related Licenses

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  • by inode_buddha (576844) on Friday July 18, 2003 @04:07PM (#6474316) Journal
    Why there's any confusion myself - it's pretty straightforward to me. OTOH, it's good to see the FSF giving their official explanations, maybe I'll learn something.

    Could someone here tell me what's so hard to grasp about the GPL? or LGPL? Not trolling, just wondering. Maybe its just completely different world views or something. *shrugs*
    • How is this redundant? Its the 3rd post!
      • You cannot import classes from GPL'd stuff. That will automatically make your class GPL'd (and subsequently importing from those new ones will do the same). No amount of layering your imports will stop GPL propogation. Her is the process for making use of GPL'd libraries in your non-GPL'd software:
        1. Recognize the need for a GPL'd library
        2. Write generic interfaces for the type of external functionality you need in your classes, and write code for your new classes to interact with those generic interface
    • Java (Score:5, Informative)

      by siskbc (598067) on Friday July 18, 2003 @04:49PM (#6474616) Homepage
      Could someone here tell me what's so hard to grasp about the GPL? or LGPL?

      Did you miss the Java thing over the last few days? The assumption was that when developing java stuff, you could link to something that's LGPL'd without *GPL'ing your project. But the linking timeline is pretty convoluted, and it resulted in some people getting a bit of a surprise when they discovered the projects they're working on would be *GPL'd, which they had thought not the case.

      So some clarification is a good thing.

      • Ok, thanks for the info. Actually, I *did* miss that one. I'm not into the Java scene at all, but I can imagine the various scenarios would be a nightmare.
      • by qtp (461286)
        Did you miss the Java thing over the last few days?

        Did you miss the update [slashdot.org]?

        Or did you read the posts like this one [slashdot.org]?

        Yes clarification is needed. Too many people miss the fact that the GPL (and copyright in general) governs distribution.

        As in "You may not distribute GPLed binaries without supplying the source code to those binaries to recipients who request them, and you may not distribute binaries that incorporate GPLed code under any license that does not guarantee the rights guaranteed by the GPL."

        A
        • by siskbc (598067)
          As in "You may not distribute GPLed binaries without supplying the source code to those binaries to recipients who request them, and you may not distribute binaries that incorporate GPLed code under any license that does not guarantee the rights guaranteed by the GPL."

          I think the issue here is more the LGPL. The GPL itself is pretty clear, as you mention. But the LGPL is less so. So I can use and LGPL library with my project, and it doesn't GPL my project. Unless it's early-linking. Or is it late-linki

          • Re:*L*GPL (Score:3, Informative)

            by PD (9577) *
            If you read all the ways that you can satisfy the LGPL, it's clear. Read the license, and it's clear.

            In a nutshell: If you distribute a program that uses a LGPL library, you must provide a way for a user to use your program with the LGPL library.

            -If the LGPL library is dynamically linked, the user can do this automatically.
            -If the LGPL library is statically linked, you must provide object files so that the program can be re-linked by the user.
            -If you're using Java with a LGPL library, you have to provide
        • by Cyno (85911)
          How many times did you have to repeat that sort of clarification? Can you count them on both hands?

          Frustrating isn't it? :P
          • by qtp (461286)
            Can you count them on both hands?

            I ran out of fingers,
            and then out of toes,
            I counted my elbows,
            my knees, and my nose.

    • The main thing that's hard to grasp with the GPL is total control of the software. Big companies don't like that. :-)
    • You're right, we're slashdotters.
      We know this stuff, right?
    • by Arandir (19206) on Friday July 18, 2003 @05:00PM (#6474704) Homepage Journal
      Was it straightforward to you before you were told by someone else what it means? After all, there is still a great deal of disagreement over what some clauses mean.

      Remember the KDE fiasco? The situation was hunky dory, until Redhat came along and issued a white paper saying that KDE was illegal. Then Debian got in on the act, and before you knew it, there was this completely new interpretation of the GPL coming from the FSF. Do you really think that none of the KDE developers read the license? Of course they did!

      Then there was the Corel LinuxOS fiasco. They had a "private" beta, and everyone jumped all over them. Do you really think that none of the lawyers at Corel bothered to read the license?

      And consider the latest fiasco with Java and the LGPL. People have been using the LGPL with Java for years. Not once did anyone every complain. Then suddenly someone at the FSF offered up a contrary opinion, and all hell broke loose.

      Notice I used the word "fiasco" with all of the above examples. That's because the GPL is a complicated and hard to understand document, yet everyone thinks they know what it means. The LGPL is even worse, because everyone thinks it's simpler, when in fact it's more complicated.
      • Actually, I *did* understand it after a few reads; nobody else explained it because nobody else I knew had heard of it. I'm starting to think that my view was too limited; I tried the creator vs distributor scenarios, and it all seemed OK. I didn't consider things like KDE/Qt or Corel Linux, because they weren't invented yet. Actually, I never considered linking against anything other than glibc or LessTif. So, my thinking is probably now way outdated, and I need to re-do it. I still maintain that it's p
      • Remember the KDE fiasco?

        Yes, I do. And it is a mistake to relicense GPLed software under a more restrictive license than the GPL, even if the additional restriction seems minor. The "fiasco" that created the KDE dispute was that the KDE code had incorporated GPLed code but was also subject to an additional restriction imposed by the QPL. The GPL explicitly forbids applying additional restrictions to GPLed code in section 6:

        6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), th

        • Sigh. My point was *NOT* that KDE and Corel were in the right and the FSF was in the wrong (IMO, one of them at least was very wrong). Rather, my point was simply that the GPL is not an easy document to understand, even by experienced developers and corporate lawyers.
    • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Friday July 18, 2003 @05:01PM (#6474707) Homepage
      The main problems are that people don't understand, or are confused by:

      a) The references to derivative works - what exactly is a derivative work? How can you tell?

      b) The meaning of redistribution.

      The whole Java/LGPL thing was a storm in a teacup caused by people who didn't understand the wording or the spirit of the license.

      I sometimes wonder if it's due to the nature of the people involved. Programming is sometimes an sexact and inflexible science - literality is important. The law on the other hand is anything but those things.

      So, for instance, I've seen people wrangle and argue over exactly what is and isn't linking, without realising that this is beside the point - the LGPL is very clear that if you use the code in your program, the user should be able to drop in a replacement they compiled themselves - otherwise, what is the point of having the source (for the user) if they are powerless to use it to improve their own apps? In standard C or C++ apps, static linking prevents the user from doing that, so you can't do it (or rather, you must offer a version that uses dynamic linkage). In Java, all linkage is dynamic, so as long as the user can drop in a new jarfile, or set of classes, you're set. In Python etc, you're almost always compliant even if you embed the code direct into the source files, because the user can still go in an edit those parts. At least, that's *my* interpretation.

      Likewise, I've seen people say you can't link GPLd code with anything other than a GPLd program - also rubbish. Any GPL compatible license will do.

      Basically people forget that licenses are agreements between the author of the code, and themselves. The author expresses their wishes for how the code can be used, and you must abide by those wishes. The GPL/LGPL/BSD and so on are just useful boilerplates to save people reinventing the wheel. You can always ask the copyright holder to grant you a commercial license if you want to use some GPLd code - they may so no, but also they may not.

      • Ah, thank you - *that* is the kind of reply I was looking for. When I posted the question, it was because "I think I understand it, but other people are having issues. What gives?" That's an interesting point you make about the nature of the people involved. I would have chosen a different set of people or a different set of motives, but your point IMHO needs to be made loud and clear. I would like to add to your point by using the word "motives" instead of people. Things can get very hairy this way if yo
      • I support production applications that often take weeks of regression testing before a rollout. Application executables are statically linked so that if a patch is applied there is no possible way it can impact anything that has already passed QA.

        No, you can't just drop in a replacement with static linking. But that's a problem you have with either your own source code and build management policies, or with the vendor that has provided you the application.

        I prefer dynamic linking from a technical sta

      • There is no such thing as a "GPL Compatible" license in the sense that you are trying to use it, and the people telling you that you cannot link to GPL code with anything but other GPL code are correct.

        This confusion stems from the unique usage of the word "compatible" that is used by the FSF. When the FSF talks about "compatible" licenses, they mean licenses which allow the covered code to be re-licensed as GPL'd code.
        • There is no such thing as a "GPL Compatible" license in the sense that you are trying to use it, and the people telling you that you cannot link to GPL code with anything but other GPL code are correct.

          No they aren't, you can link it with Apache-licensed code, as long as you release it under the GPL.

          This confusion stems from the unique usage of the word "compatible" that is used by the FSF. When the FSF talks about "compatible" licenses, they mean licenses which allow the covered code to be re-license

      • In Java, all linkage is dynamic, so as long as the user can drop in a new jarfile, or set of classes, you're set. In Python etc, you're almost always compliant even if you embed the code direct into the source files, because the user can still go in an edit those parts. At least, that's *my* interpretation.

        Well, you would have a hard time enforcing your rights if someone stole code from the same file that had the LGPL'd code in it.
      • I believe you can use static linking even with the most strict interpretation of the GPL, at least technically.

        The worst possible thing is that you must distribute .o files and instructions on how to link them.

        I think it is legal to offer, for free, to relink the application with any version of the library a user submits.

        However personally I think the whole LGPL is wrong here. These rules provide no benifit to the end user: any possible enhancement of the LGPL library is probably useless unless you ca

      • IHNJ IJLTS 'programming is an sexact'
    • Well, what's so hard to grasp about it is you actually have to read it, all the way through. Not just click the Next button to continue.
  • Erm, Timothy?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperDuG (134989) <be.eclec@tk> on Friday July 18, 2003 @04:10PM (#6474335) Homepage Journal
    What the hell does SCO have to do with GPL? I mean really this just seems like a way to jab at SCO for something completely not on topic.

    Lets see, GPL, GNU not UNIX, so lets mention SCO? Where the hell is the logic, just seems like you wanted to post a link that might cause a little slashdotting to SCO's site. One might infer this as particularly malicious.

    SCO has never once said anything against the GNU, in fact the GNU actually semi-support the SCO standpoint, if code was not given by the author than it violated the codes original copyright.

    I do believe making this thread appaling to the commentors because of a mention to SCO is pretty tasteless and definantelly offtopic.

    • well... (Score:2, Funny)

      by ed.han (444783)
      like superdug, i gotta wonder why the obligatory M$ jabs are being supplanted by gratuitous SCO jabs. i mean, remaining moderately on topic wouldn't be such a bad thing...

      ed
    • Taco responds... (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Do Editors Moderate?
      The Slashdot Editors have unlimited mod points, and we have no problem using them. Our moderations represent about 3% of all moderation, and according to Meta Moderation, the fairness of these moderations are either statistically indistinguishable from non-admin users, or substantially better. The raw numbers are: 95.1% of non-admin upmods are fair, and 94.7% of admin upmods are fair. 79.1% of non-admin downmods are fair, and 83.6% of admin downmods are fair.

      The editors tend to find c
      • Even more offtopic, but:

        83.6% of admin downmods are fair...The editors tend to find crapfloods and moderate them down: a single malicious user can post dozens of comments, which would require several users to moderate them down, but a single admin can take care of it in seconds.

        That's where I always lose track of Taco's reasoning. Admins are supposed to be deleting penis birds and Linux Gay Conspiracy posts -- sorry, I'm showing my age -- GNAA and ASCII tubgirl posts, not infinitely moderating discussions

        • I agree wholeheartedly. This statement is similar to his reasoning on not mirroring stories -- he conveniently ignores the real argument. I wonder -- is he just stupid and doesn't understand the complaints, or does he really think that these lame excuses are going to fool anybody?
    • I do believe making this thread appaling to the commentors because of a mention to SCO is pretty tasteless and definantelly offtopic.

      Making the thread appalling is what slashdot is all about.

    • by rdewald (229443) * <rdewald@gUMLAUTmail.com minus punct> on Friday July 18, 2003 @04:33PM (#6474496) Homepage Journal
      Those who follow discussions concerning the arguments being prepared for the SCO lawsuit are betting right now that the GPL will be among the targets of that action. They may be right, they may be wrong, but references to that action are relevant to any discussion about software licensing these days.
    • It is claimed by the FSF that the fact that SCO shipped the Linux kernel to their customers under the GPL means that they have given their customers, and by extension the general public, license to use everything in it under the GPL, even if some of the code was originally theirs.

    • What the hell does SCO have to do with GPL?

      What do you think would happen if SCO was found out to have violated the GPL? The kernel Linux is, after all, under GPL.

      SCO has never once said anything against the GNU, ...

      Of course SCO is very careful here, or they risk having a legal conflict with FSF. Perhaps SCO is hoping that by "taking care of" the Linux kernel, their litigation might be extended to GNU. After all, at GNU's Not Unix! [gnu.org] we find the following written :

      Variants of the GNU operating sys

    • > this just seems like a way to jab at SCO for something completely not on topic.

      Chill out. They are probably getting flooded with submissions about the SCO conference call, which is the first "news" out of SCO since the Japan Trip (I don't think their ballyhooed July 9 conference call ever happened). But SCO announcing a Monday conference call is certainly not worth its own story, and there is no point waiting until the next Slashback. So Timothy stuck it in a mildly-related story to stop the submi

  • KISS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 18, 2003 @04:11PM (#6474348)
    How about a license that's simple enough that you don't need seminars to be trained on all the subtle implications, nor an army of lawyers to ligitate the fuzzy edges?

    The BSD license is pretty simple. And it's equally simple to rule out for-profit use of your code, if that's your beef.

    The complexities of the GPL stem from its attempt to be "viral" and enforce the FSF's philosophy on other people. It's easier just to stay away from it altogether than to fuss about with all the niggling details. If you have nothing to do with GPL code, then it's easy to be sure you're not violating the license terms.

    Unfortunately, this tends to cause harm to OSS in general, as many people just slap the GPL on their code because it's a popular "free" license, without really understanding or considering the consequence. And thus, it becomes easier "just to stay away from" lots of OSS code that might otherwise get used in more contexts were the license less murky -- or if another license altogether became popular.

    • by TuringTest (533084) on Friday July 18, 2003 @04:40PM (#6474542) Journal
      I have no moderation points, so i'll bite the troll.

      How can a voluntarily adopted license "force" anybody? As you say, you just have to reject the use of GPLed software if you don't like it. And remember that the GPL must only be accepted if you redistribute another's program, not just if you use it. A programmer should be aware of the terms in which the code she relies upon is licensed, right?

      The whole point of the GPL is to build a community of people freely sharing code and donating it to each other. The license is tuned and tweaked to do just that, and do it really well.

      If someone want to use the GPL for a different purpose (like, say, earning some money), hey, the code it's free! They can do it, but they should be very aware that the license is not intended to do that. So, it's not the FSF fault if they got it wrong, as their goals are cristal clear [gnu.org].

      • by JoeBuck (7947) on Friday July 18, 2003 @05:35PM (#6474908) Homepage

        There are good arguments to use the GPL, even for business-minded folks who disagree with RMS's idea that all software must be free.

        The GPL is quite usable for making money. Consider TrollTech, the providers of QT. Their use of the GPL/QPL combo (though the GPL alone would work just as well) got the product of a small Norwegian company known all over the world, and the fact that proprietary developers don't like the GPL means that Troll Tech can sell developer licenses at significant cost.

        BSD fans who accuse GPL fans of communism have it backwards: giving work away completely for any purpose, from each according to his ability, to each according to his need, is a hallmark of the BSD license. As Russ Nelson (of OSI) has said, "When I write proprietary software I expect to get paid". By choosing the GPL instead of a non-copyleft license, the author is in a sense insisting on compensation for his work, either in the form of changes that get contributed back, or with the possibility of selling someone a license to use terms other than the GPL.

        What might really harm the BSD folks is the growing practice by holders of software patents to license those patents for use in GPL code, but not in non-copylefted code. IBM is doing a lot of this: they've made some of their patents available to both the Linux kernel and GCC. I would prefer to see no patents at all, but don't see a way of letting the BSD folks use the patents without effectively giving the patent away to all. They could say, OK, BSD folks, use of the patent is OK as long as full source is provided for the whole app, but did you notice that these conditions are effectively a copyleft, like the GPL (if you use it you have to give the whole source away)?

        • The GPL is quite usable for making money. Consider TrollTech, the providers of QT. . . . the fact that proprietary developers don't like the GPL means that Troll Tech can sell developer licenses at significant cost.

          The fact that developers will pay a lot of money for the ability to avoid the GPL isn't really helping your case. In fact, I'd say it does a great job demonstrating that the GPL is unusable for making money.

          Although, to be fair, a more precise phrase would be that the GPL does a great job

          • If you insist on only using the GPL, your revenue potential is limited. But a GPL/proprietary combination can bring in more money than proprietary-only. If Troll required every developer to pay for Qt, you would never have heard of them. The free license, and working with the KDE people, gave them publicity you can't buy.

            As for your last paragraph, we have several existence proofs to the contrary: Troll Tech makes good money, despite the availability of their main product under the GPL.

    • How about a license that's simple enough that you don't need seminars to be trained on all the subtle implications, nor an army of lawyers to ligitate the fuzzy edges?

      No matter how much we want to, we can't replace bureaucracy with common sense as long as bureaucracy is in power and some people remain unwilling to play fair.
    • Re:KISS (Score:3, Interesting)

      The BSD license is pretty simple. And it's equally simple to rule out for-profit use of your code, if that's your beef.

      No it's not. Various licenses have tried to rule out "for profit" use, but the term is so vague as to be useless. Pico was rewritten to nano so it could have a free license, for reasons like that iirc.

      The problem is, where do you draw the line? IF you use the software in a charity, that gets more donations this month than they spend because of efficiencies gained from using your soft

  • It seems to me that you should be able to glean the intended meaning of a license by reading it and filtering it through a lawyer-speak sieve. Which is not as hard as it sounds really.

    However, being as they make the big bucks, other, competing lawyers, seem to like to play games and find obscure definitions or wording loopholes so they can slip through contractual obligations. No matter what you learn from this seminar, this will continue to happen and you will still have to deal with these issues. That
  • by Dr. Zowie (109983) * <slashdot@@@deforest...org> on Friday July 18, 2003 @04:15PM (#6474380)

    The seminar will cost $500 per participant.


    That would definitely be from the Free Software Foundation and not the Free Seminar Foundation...

    • That would definitely be from the Free Software Foundation and not the Free Seminar Foundation...
      Think free speech, not free beer... Wait a sec, that doesn't work here
    • by Jason Earl (1894) on Friday July 18, 2003 @04:33PM (#6474498) Homepage Journal

      If you think that is bad the FSF's Deluxe Software Distribution set costs $5000. Clearly the FSF really means it when they say that it is Free as in Freedom and not Free as in Free Beer. Cheapbytes probably sells the same package for $10 + s/h.

      $500 is actually a ridiculously low price for what is offered in the seminar. Heck, the State Bar of California has approved this program for 7 hours of MCLE credit, for crying out loud.

      • MCLE

        Microsoft Certified Law Engineer?

      • (MCLE) Microsoft Certified Linux Expert

        I just had a weird vision of a commencement speaker saying:

        "Congratulations on the graduation of MCLE class of 2015. Please pick up your certificate on the right, and the keys to your flying car on the left. Thank you."
  • Uninformed (L)GPL advocate: "Sure you can release your software under GPL without releasing the sourcecode. Just link to binary libraries. We'd rather have you not doing that, though, because we feel that source code should be free."

    Informed (L)GPL advocate: "Unreleased source code is EVIL. If you don't publish software under GPL you are EVIL, too. Producing software under GPL and breaking the spirit - if not the letter - of the license by nasty binary links is an abomination. SOURCE CODE MUST BE FREE OR

    • The criteria for whether a license is "free software" or "open source" are identical: the Open Source Definition was originally called the Debian Free Software Guidelines. The cases where the OSI says something is an open source license and the FSF says it's a free software license are boundary cases, much like two baseball umpires might rule the same pitch a strike or a ball if it's right on the line. The OSI says the GPL and the LGPL are open source licenses, and the FSF says that the BSD license is a

    • That's pure metaphysics (i.e. bullshit). What's more free, the freedom to take away the other's freedom or the prohibition to do it?

      The "Free software" license is intended to build code that will always stay free, and the "Open Source" licenses that you advocate simply don't guarantee that.
      • What's more free, the freedom to take away the other's freedom or the prohibition to do it?

        How about one's freedom to choose the license even if we assume for the argument's sake that a bad choice would mean less freedom? Should RMS get his way, there would be nothing but "free" software. Freedom to choose from one candidate is no freedom at all and any ideology that strives towards such a perversion of freedom is to be resisted at all costs.

      • What's more free, the freedom to take away the other's freedom or the prohibition to do it?

        I will agree with you that the previous poster was spouting metaphysical bullshit. But you are making the mistake of confusing freedom with privilege.

        Privilege belongs to a few, freedom belongs to everyone. There is no such think as the freedom to take away the freedoms of others. You are confusing this with the privilege of taking away the freedoms (or privileges) of others. Please understand the difference.

        Freed
  • I think it's time that FSF et al actually court a lawsuit to test strength of the GPL out, put an end to backseat sideline quarterbacking on it's legality.
    • The FSF has been hoping for such a case for years. The problem is finding a sucker who'll be willing to take the other side. So far, no one has volunteered. (Note, it'll have to be a legitimate case, because a judge is likely to throw out any case that's an obvious setup.) If you know anyone dumb enough to violate the GPL and take it to court, please let the FSF know.
    • Why? So far they've gotten every single challenger to back down, without going to court.

      Read all about it. [columbia.edu]. People with a strong case don't need to go to court because the other side caves. Disputes only reach court when both sides think they have a good shot at winning.

  • Oh, please (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The Bungi (221687) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Friday July 18, 2003 @04:31PM (#6474486) Homepage
    Since the FSF and the GNU project

    Please spare us the editorial comment. In yesterday's [slashdot.org] article, Dave Turner specifically bemoaned the fact that CowboyNeal had not double-checked [slashdot.org] his facts and just went ahead and posted. The story submitter then apologized [slashdot.org] to Dave for going "sensational", which is apparently the only way to get a story through the "editors" nowadays, with the exception of anything that remotely smells of "M$" or the RIAA.

    So I think an apology to the FSF (and your readers) is in order.

  • by Bootsy Collins (549938) on Friday July 18, 2003 @04:37PM (#6474529)

    Debian [debian.org] has moved a large amount of documentation licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License [gnu.org] into the non-free section of its software archive, out of concerns [debian.org] that the GFDL is not free, at least as far as "free" is defined by the Debian Free Software Guidelines [debian.org].

    One issue is essentially with the ability of authors to define "invariant sections" of their documents, the subsequent modification of which would violate the GFDL. This conflicts with the requirement of the DFSG that licensing must allow modifications, and must permit the modifications to be distributed under the same licensing terms as the original, as e.g. the GPL does.

    Other people have raised the concern [debian.org] that the GFDL's restrictions on the use of "technical measures to obstruct or control the reading or further copying of the copies you make or distribute" -- a restriction that, on the surface, makes sense in that it prevents attempts to limit the freedom others have to read the distributed copies -- could have the unintended consequence of forbidding putting documents covered by the GFDL on devices which are encrypted for personal security.

    I'm curious whether FSF folks speaking about licenses plan to discuss this at the seminar(s).

  • I've been truly encouraged by the critical tone of most of the posts so far.

    No longer is FSF/Free Software being seen by the /. crowed as the "liberating force" or the next great revolution that would sweep us into a better future.

    The underlying zealotry, the undelivered sweeping promises (quality products for free; ha!) and the increased control in the name of freedom (if you license your software under GPL, can you do anything you want with it? No!) are beginning to show.

    • FSF vs Open TV (Score:5, Informative)

      by BlueTrin (683373) on Friday July 18, 2003 @04:54PM (#6474651) Homepage Journal

      Actually, the Free Software Foundation (FSF), which monitors the scene and enforces the GPL, says a Mountain View company has been violating the GPL for more than a year. The foundation calls the violations serious and is threatening a lawsuit.

      The specifics of the FSF's beef with OpenTV have to do with the company's policies in sending source code to licensees of OpenTV software tools created under the GPL. According to the foundation, OpenTV has either refused to provide the code, or has attached improper conditions on providing it, to several programmers who have every right to it.

      OpenTV's intellectual property lawyer, Scott Doyle, says there's been missed communications on both sides but that the company has no intention of violating any legal agreements. He says the company plans to post the code in question online.

      But if the FSF is right that OpenTV is violating the GPL, and if this behavior is found to be legal by the courts, the entire free-software and open-source movements could be derailed. Agreeing to share the improvements you make in the GPL-licensed software you've used is an essential part of the larger ecosystem.

      Some people I respect say the GPL is a bad idea, period. They say it's too restrictive of programmers' rights, in the sense of forcing them to open what they've done to the world. Fine: If you don't like the GPL, don't create software from code that used it in the first place. Then put different licensing terms on what you've done.

      But legal agreements are supposed to matter in our system. Just because the GPL turns the idea of intellectual property somewhat around doesn't make it less valid.

      • I hesitated about commenting on it, because it makes me sound like a picky little besserwisser (spelling?), but:

        "the GPL turns the idea of intellectual property somewhat around" is a flawed statement, or rather, "intellectual property" is a word which doesn't well describe what you probably mean.

        First of all, the term accepts the premise that products of the intellect (ideas, code etc) can be owned, which is precisely what the spirit of the GPL is against. It's true that the copyleft strategy relies on co

    • the undelivered sweeping promises (quality products for free; ha!)


      Actually, GNU products are excellent and free-as-in-beer. They're so good they're usually invisible. When's the last time you had to work around a bug in ls, or gcc?
    • You know the only weak point in the GPL?

      Each version is given a distinguishing version number. If the Program specifies a version number of this License which applies to it and "any later version", you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that version or of any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. If the Program does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published by the Free Software Foundation.

      So if they go mad, and

      • You know the only weak point in the GPL?

        Each version is given a distinguishing version number. If the Program specifies a version number of this License which applies to it and "any later version", you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that version or of any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. If the Program does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published by the Free Software Foundation.

        You know what, I wonde

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Troll alert!

      Nobody promised quality products for free (as in price), not even the FSF. If you don't support the developers of free software, you won't get quality software.
    • They are zealots but I don't think you can say that their promises were faulty. Remember to distinguish between the Open Source folks and the Free Software folks. Free Software is all about making sure that the code is always free as in liberty. They don't care about making money, or code quality, etc, it's about their vision of software freedom. It tries to create a level playing field for all people who use a certain code base, insuring that nobody can make it proprietary. This isn't about free as in
      • They are zealots but I don't think you can say that their promises were faulty. Remember to distinguish between the Open Source folks and the Free Software folks.

        Right, because the Open Sourcers are painted red on the right and black on the left, while the Free Softies are painted black on the right and red on the left.

        Or is it that the Open Sourcers where purple, while the Free Softies where green?

        Regardless, I think think the division of these two camps is overplayed. I can see the points o

    • and the increased control in the name of freedom (if you license your software under GPL, can you do anything you want with it? No!)

      Ok, guess you are viewing it from a developer's perspective. The GPL is about giving freedom to the USER. You have the freedom as a user to inspect, repair and modify the program as you see fit. With many other licenses you may not even be able to look at the source code. (Think TCP/IP stack in Windows, it's licensed to Microsoft under BSD and then licensed again to the en
      • Think TCP/IP stack in Windows, it's licensed to Microsoft under BSD and then licensed again to the end user

        If you distribute source code, people are going to use it in their own project, and some of those people are going to use in proprietary projects. It doesn't matter if it's BSD, GPL or anything else, it's still going to happen.

        It's like alchohol. People are going to drink it. When the US, Canada, and other countries decided to have a prohibition on alcohol, they intended that people wouldn't drink.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      if you license your software under GPL, can you do anything you want with it? No!

      I don't know the point of your post (you're encouraged that folks are critical of the Free Software Foundation? Why? So the OSS community can come apart from the inside instead of having Microsoft try to destroy it?) (And what's the deal with comparing Iraq and Communism to the FSF? Comparing the destruction of human lives to a license you don't like is a little over the top.)

      But I have to correct you here. If you license

  • Currently here at the megacorp where I work, a colleague and I are talking with the legal department for releasing some of our code as open source.

    We've found that while there are official guidelines for using open source software within the company, we are trailblazing as far as choosing a license to release the code under.

    Has anyone else gone through this process? Can you share any information?
    • Hrm... it depends on your goals in releasing the code. The BASIC (I'M NOT A LAWYER... I DON'T EVEN PLAY ONE ON TV) breakdown of the common liscences is this:
      BSD: Your source code is free to include and modify in any project, but any copyright information that you put in their (who wrote it, etc) MUST stay there. (The best example of this is the TCP/IP stack in windows. It was written by the BSD team, I guess you can still find their copyright info if you look at the binaries)
      Benifits of this liscence woul
    • Oh yeah, you could always just make your own liscence. Just because you don't use GPL or BSD doesn't mean you can't be open source...

      but if you ask me. The two schools of OSS are: GPL and BSD (either it's always open source, or it doesn't have to be; respectivly).
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Easy. First of all, don't listen to the constant rain of bullshit here in slashdot. There are really only three choices:

      If you don't give a shit what happens to your code, use the BSD license. You might see your code on the shelf at the local software store though, with a restrictive EULA and a $5,000 price tag.

      If you REALLY don't give a shit, put it in the public domain. Same deal as above.

      If you want to give out your code, but you want to be sure that the software isn't commercialized by someone ELSE a
  • Is there a documented case of someone not following the GPL (or a similar open license) and those people holding the licensed software suing (?) to enforce it?
    • No, in all cases that have happened so far the GPL violators have elected to publish the code, and the FSF (or whoever what threatening the lawsuit) then offered to drop the charges despite the fact that the party was still guilty of GPL violations for the time before they published the code.
  • Hi. Can someone fill me in about this GPL question? The FSF claims that dynamic linking creates a derivative work and so all libraries have to be GPL-compatible.

    What causes them to form this opinion? The GPL section 2 even states the following, which seems to contradict it:

    These requirements apply to the modified work as a whole. If identifiable sections of that work are not derived from the Program, and can be reasonably considered independent and separate works in themselves, then this License, and

    • There is no case law covering this. But neither is it fiction. Their interpretation is just as "legally" valid as anyone else's. But I still think they're completely off base.
    • It's because if you dynamically link to a library, your program will not run if it isn't present (with its full functionality). Therefore you are creating a derived work, so GPL compatability is important.
      • But I could replace the GPL code with another library that follows the same interface. That says to me that they are seperate works programmed to an interface.

        -molo
    • Is there any case law that states that dynamic linking creates a derivative work?

      A few weeks back, there was a post about some documents from an old Unix Systems Labs copyright infringement case that people might have considered interesting in relation to the SCO case.

      In one of these documents (from the BSD camp) there was a reference to a precedent which (according to that document) meant that merely copying interface information would not cause a work to be a derivative. I don't know how much weight t
  • At $500 a pop, they'd damn well better be giving out some free beer.
  • Regarding GPL (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AutumnLeaf (50333) on Friday July 18, 2003 @06:19PM (#6475260)
    bkuhn taught a class at OSCON regarding the GPL license, and walked through the licenses section by section, explaining the purpose of each section, and how they worked together to help keep software free. I attended the class and found it to be very worthwhile. I had some misconceptions about the GPL that were set straight. After the class, I found myself wishing the slashdot readership could attend the same class for their own benefit, and to help clean up the signal-to-noise ratio on slashdot.org about licensing.

    Regarding the comment earlier about how "sensationalistic article submissions" seems to be the way to make it through the editors, I completely agree. So many story submissions are one-paragraph editorials versus simple presentation of the facts/details that it's getting downright annoying. It certainly doesn't feel like the /. of old.
  • They are working on a GPL-less gcc! Got a script that rips the "license" out of every file. Then they are cleaning it of lisp-isms. Can't wait. We will all be better off with freer software! Free, freer, freest (spelling?). GPL, BSD, Public Domain. Yahoo!
  • For instance,

    SCO has a worldwide network of more than ... 8,000 developers

    The last reliable reference I could find for the total number of SCO employees [ittoolbox.com] was 375, as of last August. Of course, not all these were developers. SCO will claim that this figure of 8,000 includes everyone who works for their resellers and has ever touched SCO code. But, in reality, this is just deliberately misleading.

  • by Rinikusu (28164)
    Anyone ever notice that the folks who scream loudest about "free software" and the pro-GPL arguments, which is entirely based upon copyright law, are also the ones who have no qualms about violating copyright law by "sharing" their music collection via P2P and whatnot? Interesting.

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