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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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  • by apathy maybe (922212) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:04PM (#19226509) Homepage Journal
    The piece also leaves a bit to be desired. While it states "Of the 34 developers who responded, many of them are associated with projects like Apache and PostgreSQL that don't even use the GPL.", it neglects to mention how many. Of course, I can't be fucked actually reading the study (it is in PDF after all...). But other then that, it looks OK.

    On to the study it self, I agree with the authors point that far more then 34 people have participated in the drafting of the GPL v3. Not only GNU folks, but major corporations.

    If nothing else, the GPL drafting process doesn't even need to open. The Free Software Foundation could easily have hidden with some lawyers for a couple of months and then simply presented the new GPL. Obviously all the FSF stuff would go over, as would quite a lot of other stuff that has the V2 or later clause. Most developers aren't lawyers, and I'm sure that they would accept the new GPL, even if they didn't have a say in drafting it (compare version two), so long as it looks alright.

    Conclusion, the study is stupid and a waste of time. While I don't use the GPL for my own projects (preferring something simpler), they are quite simple projects. For anything major, the GPL does the job, and will no doubt continue to do the job well into the future.
  • really? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:11PM (#19226607) Journal
    you would think that if microsoft really did think the GPL hindered opensource they'd do well to keep quiet about it to hinder the competition it would have brought- instead they make empty threats and use a flawed study to support their assertion
  • by mchallis (462385) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:20PM (#19226771)
    I haven't made up my mind concerning GPL3, but Microsoft's war against it is nearly enough to sway me towards GPL3. Microsoft is using cross licensing agreements, and attempting to herd Free Software into a commercial vendor only arena (Novell). Once there, they can compete with and or kill it using the usual dirty tricks. So if the question is "Where do you want to go today"? The answer is somewhere free of Microsoft.
    MC
  • Where's the S.O.P.? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:31PM (#19226953) Homepage
    OK, I know that fake studies are a part of Microsoft's standard operating procedure for affecting the standards and codes proposed by governing bodies, but where's the rest? Shouldn't Microsoft be giving zero-interest "loans" to RMS, sending Eben Moglen to play golf in Scotland (a fact-finding tour), and buying a powerboat for Linus?

    Seriously, though, who gives a crap what a Harvard professor, funded or unfunded, with or without a good sample size, claims the average developer wants? The GPL is not supposed to be populist, it's supposed to achieve a purpose. A purpose that most of the world - heck, even much if not most of Slashdot's readership - has never fully grasped. A purpose that is diametrically opposed to software patents.
  • Actually, yes, I do (Score:1, Interesting)

    by kiwimate (458274) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:47PM (#19227317) Journal
    And I base that on what they do with Microsoft Research.

    As for the rest of this article, already 95% of the comments are completely worthless "boo Microsoft is so evil" themes. If you want to make an impact in the business world you'd better try and come up with something a little more mature than that.

    I read another comment that said "Microsoft-funded means automatic ignore, especially on Slashdot". Close but no cigar. One, did you ever stop to count just how many MS stories get posted to Slashdot? The "editors" know that's a sure way to get loads of angry comments, which translates into page views which translates into $$$. (Given how much Slashdotters love to use that puerile M$ tag, maybe any Microsoft story should now get tagged as $la$hdot flamebait.)

    And two, no matter the reaction on /., that does not translate into the corporate world ignoring them. This sort of study, at the most innocuous level, will make little to no impact. It will not incite CTOs the world over to burst into angry vitriolic nonsense of the ilk being shown on Slashdot. Or...it might just strike a nerve with them, and therefore a blow against GPL, open source, Linux, etc.

    Think about it.
  • Re:In other news... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jmv (93421) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @08:17PM (#19230333) Homepage
    But to write off studies based purely on the messenger is nothing but an ad hominem attack

    No, it means there is an incentive for the people who did the study to be biased. Even without reading the details, if I found a study by Greenpeace saying "there's no global warming" or a study by Exxon saying "we need to cut down on CO2", they'd be a lot more credible (you know they'd at least be honest) than the other way around. The problem with studies (or papers) is that there's only so much fact checking you can do. When I review a scientific paper (I do that too often for my taste these days), I have to assume that what the authors say they did is true. I can't redo the experiments, so I have to trust the results. All I can say is whether what is actually reported in novel, interesting, properly backed up by experiments (which I have to trust). If someone (relatively clever) fakes results, there isn't much I can say. *However*, if the authors of the study have no financial (or otherwise) incentive to find one thing or another, it adds a lot of credibility to the results.

    So in summary, I give as much credibility to a study funded by Microsoft on the GPLv3 than to an FSF study on the (de)merits of proprietary software -- regardless of the methodology. At best I'll find a few good arguments supporting one side of the story.
  • by myowntrueself (607117) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @11:26PM (#19231759)
    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, well *obviously* we need a new licensing scheme which will limit the freedom to limit the limits on limiting freedom. Duh.

    Much like Ronald Reagans Starwars-programme engineering advisors who, when asked what the US would do if the Russians build anti-anti-missile missiles responded "Then we'll build anti-anti-anti-missile-missile missiles".

    Honestly, its a no-brainer for anyone who has read Lewis Carroll..
  • by dido (9125) <dido.imperium@ph> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @12:44AM (#19232193)

    So taking this same line of reasoning, the degree of freedom for society as a whole has been decreased by eliminating the freedom to own slaves.

  • Re:In other news... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mvdwege (243851) <mvdwege@mail.com> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @03:31AM (#19233015) Homepage Journal

    Yes, the survey is flawed. One word: selection bias.

    Now, the second question: cui bono?.

    Add those up, and you get a completely worthless survey.

    Mart

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