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GNU is Not Unix Microsoft Patents

MS-Funded Study Attacks GPL3 Draft Process 206

Posted by kdawson
from the academic-astroturf dept.
QCMBR writes "A new Microsoft-funded study by a Harvard Business School professor concludes that developers don't want extensive patent licensing requirements in the GPL3. There are significant problems with the study, however, especially given the very small sample size. 'Although 332 emails were sent to various developers, only 34 agreed to participate in the survey — an 11 percent response rate. Of the 34 developers who responded, many of them are associated with projects like Apache and PostgreSQL that don't even use the GPL.' Ars points out that the GPL3 draft editing and review process is highly transparent and inclusive 'to an extent that makes MacCormack's claims of under-representation seem difficult to accept given the small sample size of the study and the number of respondents who contribute to non-GPL projects.'"
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MS-Funded Study Attacks GPL3 Draft Process

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  • Naturally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shaman (1148) <shaman@NoSpAm.kos.net> on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @03:55PM (#19226365) Homepage
    Does anyone really expect that Microsoft would fund a completely selfless and accurate poll no matter what the subject?
  • Interesting.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by N3wsByt3 (758224) <Newsbyte@fre e n e t h e l p.org> on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:03PM (#19226499) Homepage Journal
    A MS-funded study says the GPL3 is a badly done job? Then Stallman must be going in the right direction after all!
  • Re:Naturally (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tuoqui (1091447) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:10PM (#19226599) Journal
    Of course not, now where is the Linux funded study by a Harvard Business School Professor about Microsoft's standard EULA?
  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:12PM (#19226631)

    ...many of them are associated with projects like Apache and PostgreSQL that don't even use the GPL... ...given the small sample size of the study and the number of respondents who contribute to non-GPL projects.

    This prevents them from having a valid opinion of the GPLv3? Maybe they have good reasons for not using the GPL that should be taken into account?

    I mean honestly, if you survey 2000 GPL fan boys, what do you suppose they will say about the GPLv3?

  • by Timesprout (579035) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:13PM (#19226641)
    would this not indicate a high degree of apathy which tends to bear out the main point?
  • Bugger Me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by segedunum (883035) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:18PM (#19226717)
    In the past Microsoft sniffed and derided the GPL and anything vaguely open source as communist or just plain non-capitalist and generally plain ignored it. Now they're actually funding studies to tell us how about it is, and not only that, they have an agenda of what parts they don't like about it - namely patent reform.

    Considering the rather silly deal Microsoft struck with Novell, and the silly deals they'd like to strike with other Linux vendors to get the message across to the corporate sector that if you use open source software you pay Microsoft for IP, this looks a touch suspicious. Maybe the FSF have touched a bit of a nerve somewhere.

    It's incredibly funny and rather unbelievably naive that Microsoft would think that anything like this would sway anyone's opinions, certainly in the same manner as one of their 'Get the Facts' studies or one of those 'Windows Server beats everyone' studies. They really haven't learned a whole lot over the years. For them to claim the open source developers, the people who they've derided and don't have much time for Microsoft either, are under represented just seems like quite an above average desperate move.
  • by Bacon Bits (926911) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:19PM (#19226733)
    Well said.

    My only problem with GPL v3 as a developer (a hat I've long since given up, and never enjoyed wearing) is that it gives FSF license elitists more reason to feel their license is freer, opener, and in all ways better than any MPL, BSD, or Apache license. I'd rather talk to MS sales division about licensing issues than a bloody GPL zealot.

    I have no problem with GPL software, or with the FSF philosophy. I just don't need it shoved down my throat every time I ask a question on a forum or a mailing list. Yes, guys, I get it. Now, how about you help me fix this bug?
  • 11% (Score:3, Insightful)

    by asninn (1071320) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:26PM (#19226865)
    34 out of 332? That's an *abysmal* response rate and pretty much means that the study is entirely worthless, no matter what the conclusions are or who actually answered.
  • what a shcoker... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by joe 155 (937621) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:26PM (#19226867) Journal
    The new GPL - which will undermine all of M$'s FUD claims over patents because of Novell's vouchers not having dates on them - is thought to be bad by some who was paid by... M$! I'm shocked.

    I'm also more shocked, genuinely that Harvard allows people who conduct "studies" like this to be professors... It's just shocking incompetence. I'd be amazed if you could pass an MBA doing shit like this
  • by Andy Tai (1884) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:29PM (#19226927) Homepage
    The funniest thing is that the paper is titled ""A Developers Bill of Rights: What Open Source Developers Want in a Software License."

    Yes, Microsoft is proposing a Bill of Rights, for open source developers! Can you believe that?
  • by geoff lane (93738) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:36PM (#19227079)
    Judging by his faculty biography, Alan D. MacCormack is much like the virgin who writes about sex. He writes a lot about software development, but there is no evidence that he has actually done any.
  • Many will want it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Lobais (743851) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:39PM (#19227163)
    I think it is quite clear that most people who release there source under GPL does so to ensure that they can always have access to it, even after other people have made changes to it.
    If a company then can go and make changes to your code, and add patented technology which you are not allowed to used, then you are pretty fucked, right?
    Why should anybody not want to be protected against this?
  • If developers don't like the licensing changes in the GPLv3, they are always free to use GPLv2, BSD, or any other OSI-approved license. Its not like RMS is going to go around and force people to use a particular license.

    If developers are upset that GNU projects will go under a license they don't agree with, well, that's just tough. Either use the BSD equivalents, fork the GPLv2 versions, or write your own. The FSF doesn't exist to please you, it exists to protect the 4 freedoms for all users of free software.
  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:47PM (#19227311) Homepage
    And anyone can attack a survey based on the institute that produced it.

    The real question is, can one attack the survey based on it's merits? Are there flaws in the research methodology or it's conclusions? I'm betting the answer is "yes". But to write off studies based purely on the messenger is nothing but an ad hominem attack, and isn't terribly useful or enlightening.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @05:02PM (#19227595)
    Right, the GPL restricts your freedom to restrict freedom.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @05:16PM (#19227815)
    Exactly. And thus the degree of freedom for the community as a whole has been decreased by the act of limiting the freedom to limit freedom.

    We run into the same problem with those who preach tolerance. Often, those people are extremely intolerant of those who preach intolerance. So on one hand we hear them say how great tolerance is, but we witness their inability to practice tolerance when they're facing those who are intolerant.

  • by init100 (915886) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @05:33PM (#19228113)

    I'm also more shocked, genuinely that Harvard allows people who conduct "studies" like this to be professors... It's just shocking incompetence. I'd be amazed if you could pass an MBA doing shit like this

    Come on, this is a business school, they don't know any real math. They think statistics is the art of making up numbers to prove their points.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @05:36PM (#19228163)
    There are many problems with this sentence, starting with the initial pronoun which appears to refer to the GPL. However, that can't possibly be correct. Were you thinking of copyright instead?

    chromatic, I respect your Perl abilities. But I think your reading comprehension skills are a bit lacking.

    First of all, it's poor form to take quotes out of context like you just did. Let's give your quotation a bit more context, shall we?

    That's what we have with the GPLv2, for instance. It puts some pretty serious restrictions on what can be done with modified code, for instance. It actually takes away a lot of freedom, when we think of freedom as measured for the entire community, and not just the developers/users of the GPL'ed software.

    There. It's clear from the first sentence that the initial pronoun in the third sentence (the one that you quoted) does in fact refer to the GPL.

    And no, I wasn't thinking of copyright. Copyright is what supposedly gives the GPL the power to put in place the restrictions on freedom that it (the GPL) does put in place. That is why we only encounter this decrease in net freedom when the GPL is involved, and we don't encounter a similar problem when looking at the BSD or MIT licenses. Keep in mind that copyright law is what gives the BSD and MIT licenses their power, as well.

  • by steve_l (109732) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @05:39PM (#19228225) Homepage
    The authors mailed 300+ people and only 34 replied. From the responses of the people they decided whether they were FSF believers, pragmatists (e.g. BSD people) and inferred the opinions of GPLv3 from that.

    I think their conclusion that BSD/apache people won't suddenly embrace GPLv3 is probably valid, but you don't need to do a survey for that. And a survey can't determine which is better, GPL versus BSD, because its such a religious issue.
  • by fitten (521191) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @05:47PM (#19228385)
    Good point. It's almost like either they don't care about GPLv3 in general, don't care enough to read and understand GPLv3, or don't understand the differences between GPLv3 and GPLv2. All of which, given that code will be committed to that license policy, potentially blindly, are pretty scary. Does the OSS community trust these people that much that they'll blindly accept whatever license they decree?

    (Disclaimer: I tend to release my personally written stuff under BSD unless what I'm working on has other licensing, then it's whatever license that body of work is under.)
  • by forrestt (267374) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @06:04PM (#19228755) Homepage Journal
    That isn't how I see it. I liken the software I write to my children. A BSD license is like me saying you can do anything you want to with my child including enslaving him and making him work for your own personal profit. Or perhaps more like using my child to help you create your own child that you will then enslave for your own profit. I do not want my children or their children or their children's children to be enslaved. I am saying that if you want to enslave a child, go create one from scratch, and leave my child alone. You are free to do that. However, if you feel that my child is the best at performing a certain task, and you want to have my child help you perform that task, then you have to promise not to enslave him, or use him to create slaves. To me, the GPL is more free than BSD as is forces freedom to exist from generation to generation. To me, the whole "BSD is more free because it allows anybody to do anything with your code" is akin to "Country Xyzpdq is more free because it allows anybody to do anything with anybody". That argument falls short pretty quickly when people start going around taking your stuff or killing your friends or family. And no, I'm not comparing BSD enthusiast to thieves or killers, only pointing out what I consider to be the silliness of the argument.

    I'm also not getting what you mean by "[The GPL] actually takes away a lot of freedom..." How so? If I license my code under the GPL, you and anybody else are free to do whatever the GPL states you are allowed to do with the limitations of what the GPL states you are not allowed to do. Without the GPL, you aren't allowed to do anything with my code at all. In other words, just because I choose to license my code to you under terms other than the GPL doesn't make that license automatically BSD. And if I don't license it to you at all, then you can even look at it.

    As far as technical excellence goes, what license one uses has nothing to do with ones proficiency at programming. And if you are truly interested in finding the most technically excellent (man this is starting to remind me of Bill and Ted) way to write your piece of software, I would think you would want to know how it is improved in the future by Company X, something the GPL forces them to let you know if they plan to redistribute it. Therefore, it could be argued that those who use licenses like the GPL are really the ones that are truly interested in technical excellence as they want to see a better way to do what they set out to do if anybody ever figures one out.
  • Except the restriction of freedom and the intolerance of intolerance are necessary to achieve the actual goals of freedom and tolerance. If everyone has unfettered freedom, you're liable to get shoved, stabbed or shot. If everyone has unfettered tolerance, then you increase the sum total of intolerance in comparison to a point a little further back where intolerance isn't tolerated.
  • by BluSteel (910709) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @06:43PM (#19229269)
    The GPL allows people to use excellent software, without cost, with the freedom to use, modify, and redistribute that software. However, there are some strings attached. Is there and element of greed to that? Yes, there is. I agree that the GPL is as much a constitution as a software silence, and that's how I like it. Even those under the banner of freedom need laws and regulations. The existence of laws may seem contrary to the concept of freedom, but that is not true. Just as a kite cannot truly fly without a string, FOSS cannot flourish unless there is a code of conduct. I am not donating to free software projects so they can become one-way code farms for proprietary software companies.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @07:33PM (#19229873)

    Exactly. And thus the degree of freedom for the community as a whole has been decreased by the act of limiting the freedom to limit freedom.

    Right, and by outlawing slavery we're restricting people freedom to own slaves.

  • by chromatic (9471) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @07:35PM (#19229903) Homepage

    Take a piece of code with no special license, just default, plain-jane copyright. If you're not the creator, what freedoms do you have to redistribute it?

    None.

    Now I think it's pretty clear that you can do what you like with the code up to the point of distribution, though not everyone agrees. Regardless, you have absolutely zero freedoms with regard to redistribution of modified or unmodified code.

    Now take a piece of code available under the GPL. If you're not the creator, what freedoms do you have to redistribute it?

    You have the freedom to redistribute it as far and as wide as you like, provided that you allow everyone who receives it from you the same freedom. You have the freedom to distribute it modified or unmodified. Furthermore, I've only met a few people who believe that the GPL makes any attempt to restrict what you can do with the code apart from redistribution, and every one of those people seemed very confused about copyright and the GPL.

    I take from this all two points.

    First, under the current Berne Convention regarding copyright law, recipients of copyrighted code have, by default, no rights to redistribute such code.

    Second, under the GPL, recipients of copyrighted code have the right to redistribute such code.

    I do agree that the BSD and MIT licenses grant more freedoms, but the argument that the GPL reduces the net freedoms in the world where there is no right to redistribute in modified or unmodified form by default is, pardon the phrase, a patently ridiculous semantic game.

  • by petrus4 (213815) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @10:34PM (#19231415) Homepage Journal
    Its not like RMS is going to go around and force people to use a particular license.

    He himself won't, no...he just uses his cult members to do it for him.

    The FSF doesn't exist to please you, it exists to protect the 4 freedoms for all users of free software.

    I know you're not going to want to be considered a brainwashed drone, so here's a hint; rote sloganeering in this manner does not work to promote the impression of you as being someone who is capable of independent thought.
  • by bky1701 (979071) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @12:09AM (#19232001) Homepage
    If I allow you to make a closed program using my code, and then restrict use of that new program, how am I helping give anyone freedom, other than you the right to restrict other's? Those are the users I am talking about. If I do that I am just providing you with free code so that you can turn around and go against the reason I made it (for it to be free for all to use). BSD works for header files and some libs, but I'd never put anything truly interesting under it. Look what happened with wine. We'd probably have a very capable windows emulator right now if people's attention had not been directed to the anything-but-free Cedega. Ever dollar they make is one that could have gone to making wine better.

    The reason legit rules exist is so that people cannot restrict other's rights or infringe on their property (physical, tangible property, that is. It's not property if I can receive it and you can keep it). The GPL does the first.

    The fact that Microsoft can't go into the Linux kernel, change some things and call it Windows 2.0 is not a bug, it's a feature. Without the restrictions GPL, open projects could NEVER become substantially better than their closed counterparts. Have a new interface that leaves Vista's in the dust? Microsoft can just copy it. BSD/MIT licenses are an unending and unbeatable game of catchup.

    All this, mind you, would be unneeded if there was no ability to control code in the first place. Everyone would be on equal footing, even with closed code (decompiling and reverse engineering are much easier than you may think). Is that ever going to happen? Maybe. Any time soon? No. So, the GPL is the realist's way to "software utopia", the BSD/MIT the idealist's.
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:54AM (#19232535) Homepage
    Exactly. And thus the degree of freedom for the community as a whole has been decreased by the act of limiting the freedom to limit freedom.

    No freedom is maximized for the community by having the absolute minimum number of restirctions necessary to ensure freedom. To be free in a community means that nobody else can take away your freedom. To ensure freedom for everyone, nobody may be allowed to own slaves.

    That's what the GPL does, establish the minimum necessary restrictions on you to ensure freedom for you and for everyone else in the community. It's the copyright license equivalent of "do as you will but allow others to do the same". I can't see how that reduces freedom unless you're only thinking in terms of yourself.

    We run into the same problem with those who preach tolerance. Often, those people are extremely intolerant of those who preach intolerance.

    And intolerance is still wrong, especially when intolerance is acted upon and becomes discrimination. Hate speech laws would be a good example, and yes weak people can be hypocrits.

    And this means that discrimination is more free than tolerance... HOW?
  • Re:Naturally (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aussie_a (778472) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @06:12AM (#19233817) Journal
    Linux tends to have very little profit margin (compared with Microsoft) so its not surprising they chose not to waste it on this sort of pissing match.

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