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Glibc Is Finally Free Software 337

Posted by timothy
from the after-the-fact dept.
WebMink writes "Despite the fervour of some, the dark secret of every GNU/Linux distribution is that, until August 18 this year, it depended on software that was under a non-Free license — incompatible with the Open Source Definition and non-Free according to Debian and the FSF. A long tale of tenacity and software archeology has finally led to that software appearing under the 3-clause BSD license — ironically, at the behest of an Oracle VP. The result is that glibc, portmap and NFS are no longer tainted."
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Glibc Is Finally Free Software

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  • by reiisi (1211052) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @08:15PM (#33388008) Homepage

    Or, should I say, typical lack of reading the friendly article.

    The only significant restriction imposed, entirely reasonable to most eyes then, was to say that the module itself could not be sold as-is, only as part of a larger work.

  • Sleepycat (Score:5, Informative)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @08:17PM (#33388016) Homepage Journal
    You're looking for the Sleepycat license [opensource.org] used by Oracle's Berkeley DB. It's a new-style BSD license with one additional clause that implements a copyleft.
  • by Nerull (586485) <nerull&tds,net> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @08:17PM (#33388018)

    http://spot.livejournal.com/315383.html [livejournal.com]

    This actually gives details.

  • The original license text was:

    /*
    * Sun RPC is a product of Sun Microsystems, Inc. and is provided for
    * unrestricted use provided that this legend is included on all tape
    * media and as a part of the software program in whole or part. Users
    * may copy or modify Sun RPC without charge, but are not authorized
    * to license or distribute it to anyone else except as part of a product or
    * program developed by the user.
    *
    * SUN RPC IS PROVIDED AS IS WITH NO WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND INCLUDING THE
    * WARRANTIES OF DESIGN, MERCHANTIBILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR
    * PURPOSE, OR ARISING FROM A COURSE OF DEALING, USAGE OR TRADE PRACTICE.
    *
    * Sun RPC is provided with no support and without any obligation on the
    * part of Sun Microsystems, Inc. to assist in its use, correction,
    * modification or enhancement.
    *
    * SUN MICROSYSTEMS, INC. SHALL HAVE NO LIABILITY WITH RESPECT TO THE
    * INFRINGEMENT OF COPYRIGHTS, TRADE SECRETS OR ANY PATENTS BY SUN RPC
    * OR ANY PART THEREOF.
    *
    * In no event will Sun Microsystems, Inc. be liable for any lost revenue
    * or profits or other special, indirect and consequential damages, even if
    * Sun has been advised of the possibility of such damages.
    *
    * Sun Microsystems, Inc.
    * 2550 Garcia Avenue
    * Mountain View, California 94043
    */

    The new one is:

    /*
    * Copyright (c) 2010, Oracle America, Inc.
    *
    * Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without
    * modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are
    * met:
    *
    *     * Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright
    *       notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
    *     * Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above
    *       copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following
    *       disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials
    *       provided with the distribution.
    *     * Neither the name of the "Oracle America, Inc." nor the names of its
    *       contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived
    *       from this software without specific prior written permission.
    *
    *   THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS
    *   LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS
    *   FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE
    *   COPYRIGHT HOLDER OR CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT,
    *   INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL
    *   DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE
    *   GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS
    *   INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY,
    *   WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING
    *   NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE
    *   OF THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.
    */
  • by WebMink (258041) <slashdot@@@webmink...net> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @08:34PM (#33388118) Homepage
    The best way to put something as close to public domain as possible is the Creative Commons CC-Zero license [creativecommons.org]. Anything less that that leaves too many legal uncertainties.
  • by SoftwareArtist (1472499) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @08:35PM (#33388128)

    What do you mean by, "legally protect them to be in public domain?" When something is in the public domain, absolutely anyone can use it in any way they want. Including using it as part of a non-free, non-public domain product. They can do whatever they want with it, just as everyone else can.

    Perhaps you're asking about copyfraud, where someone falsely claims to have exclusive rights to a work in the public domain? For example, publishing a copy of Shakespeare's plays and putting a notice on it that says, "No part of this may be reproduced without permission from the publisher." That's just lying. A license like GPL wouldn't prevent that either. Licenses only apply to people who are honest or who get caught. If someone intentionally lies about what rights they have, the only thing you can do is call them on it (and sue them if you're sufficiently motivated).

    Or maybe you're just asking what the mechanism is? In most countries, all you need to do is stick a notice on it saying, "This work is in the public domain."

  • by Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @08:37PM (#33388144)

    How exactly do you put something into public domain legally, such that you can legally protect them to be in public domain? Really, serious question.

    It is a very good question, and the answer is to use the GPL. But more to the point, if you put something into the public domain, then you by definition should be expecting that other people will take your work and close it up inside their own products/works. If you don't want that, then you don't want the public domain.

    If what you want is "public domain" in the sense that it's open for anyone to look at, use, and modify and you want to keep it that way when others use/modify it, then what you want is the GPL.

  • It's not quite a BSD license if they require the source and binaries contain that notice.

    That's a pretty vanilla 3-clause BSD licence just like you'd see anywhere else, I don't see a problem with it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2010 @08:44PM (#33388192)

    some kind of license that's like BSD, but requires people distributing derived works to do so under the same license

    it's called "putting it in the public domain"

    Except that it's not. Public domain works come with no restrictions at all, so you can't "require" anything.

    Enhancing and transforming public domain work, then putting it under your own copyright is not only perfectly legal - it's the entire fscking point of the public domain. (Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.)

  • The original license said:

    "Users may copy or modify Sun RPC without charge, but are not authorized to license or distribute it to anyone else except as part of a product or program developed by the user."

    which breaks most definitions of "free software". You can't give it to someone else without having used it in something, or wrapped it up with something. The new license is a 3-part BSD standard.

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @09:03PM (#33388330) Homepage Journal

    The article goes into some detail. To change a license you need the agreement of the authors. Over time the authors become hard to track down.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2010 @09:15PM (#33388396)

    First of all, that *is* the BSD license.

    Second of all, the previous license was not even FOSS:

    * Users
    * may copy or modify Sun RPC without charge, but are not authorized
    * to license or distribute it to anyone else except as part of a product or
    * program developed by the user.

    That could be interpreted to greatly limit the redistributability of the code.

    So, this is great news.

  • Good suggestion, but keep in mind that CC licenses are not designed to be used with software. As they say on their FAQ [creativecommons.org]:

    Can I use a Creative Commons license for software?

    We do not recommend it. Creative Commons licenses should not be used for software. We strongly encourage you to use one of the very good software licenses which are already available. We recommend considering licenses made available by the Free Software Foundation or listed at the Open Source Initiative. Unlike our licenses, which do not make mention of source or object code, these existing licenses were designed specifically for use with software.

    CC is a great set of licenses, but as they say, if you're dealing with software you're probably better off using one of the licenses designed with it in mind.

  • by `NS (71761) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @11:44PM (#33389078) Homepage

    I seem to recall that Woody Guthrie wrote on at least one of his songbooks, in reference to 'This Land is Your Land', "This song is copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do.". Ludlow Music enforces copywrite on this song even today. So sometimes things that seem to be public domain may not be .... unfortunately.

  • by CCW (125740) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @11:51PM (#33389102)

    Usually less free than a commercial license? I'm curious about your definition of less.

    You can copy GPL software to any and all machines you want without restrictions. (commercial software doesn't usually let you do that)
    You can give or sell GPL software to anyone, as long as you provide them the source code. (commercial software doesn't usually allow that)
    You can modify it and use it anywhere (commercial software doesn't usually allow that)
    You can incorporate it into your own code, provided that you license your code as GPL (commercial software doesn't usually allow that)

    You can pay for the rights to do all of these things with commercial software, subject to the copyright holders predilection for selling those rights.

    The only thing you cannot do is incorporate GPL software into your own NON-GPL code without paying the copyright holder for those additional rights, subject to their willingness to license those rights, but you can't do that with commercial software either.

    As I see it you are never more restricted by the GPL than a commercial license. There exist commercial licenses that allow unlimited use and distribution and modification and distribution of the modified code, but they are extremely rare big $$$$ licenses - Sun's license for Unix and Microsofts license for SQL Server are good examples.

    If you are a developer and want to sell binary only copies of a modified version of something, then you may be better off starting from something that isn't GPL licensed. But that doesn't make it more free, just better suited to your particular purposes, and describing it as more free is inaccurate. It is simply more convenient to license the particular rights you are interested in. A software USER always has more freedom under the GPL than a commercial license because the only right constrained by the GPL is one that does not impact them, and commercial software nearly always constrains usage rights in some way. Users can even legally use GPL'd software without agreeing to the license!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27, 2010 @12:01AM (#33389138)

    There are, in fact, some files commonly distributed with Emacs (such as RMS's early essays and the Zippyism database) that are not freely licensed, and some distributors (e.g. Debian) have removed them from the package. Those files aren't software, however, and they're not particularly important.

  • by Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) on Friday August 27, 2010 @12:16AM (#33389220)

    You keep saying "public domain", but you are using it to define nearly the opposite concept.

    Did you even read my post? That was my whole point, that you can't create a license to mandate that something stay in the public domain after someone else takes a hold of it because inherent in the definition of public domain is the ability for anyone to do whatever they want with it, including the ability to make their version not public domain. I was suggesting to the OP that if what he meant by "public domain" (notice the ironic quotes there and in my original post) was that the work would stay available for everyone even after someone else takes it and releases it as their own, then "public domain" is not the proper release strategy for him, and that he's probably looking for something like the GPL.

  • by ArwynH (883499) on Friday August 27, 2010 @12:23AM (#33389248)

    RTFA. The code was used within the permissions granted, so there was no copyright infringement. The problem was that the license, while permissive for 1984 was not up to modern FSF standards and was not GPL compatible (falling foul of the "no other restrictions" clause).

    There was no financial or legal reason for Oracle not to release the code and bad PR if the didn't. It is nice that they did release it of course, because, as I understand it, rewriting it would of been a nightmare.

  • Re:Yea.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Florian Weimer (88405) <fw@deneb.enyo.de> on Friday August 27, 2010 @01:36AM (#33389436) Homepage

    The official FSF position was that they could take the code and release it under the LGPL. They thought that the license was structured in such a way that it basically lost its force once the covered software was built into another piece of software. I'm not sure if they have ever stated that analysis publicly.

    Sometimes, I wish they would take this pragmatic approach towards the 4-clause BSD license.

  • Re:Sigh (Score:2, Informative)

    by tywjohn (1676686) on Friday August 27, 2010 @02:00AM (#33389502)
    Oracle killed my baby OpenSolaris :'( *sniff*
  • Re:SCO (Score:3, Informative)

    by belmolis (702863) <billposer@alum.m[ ]edu ['it.' in gap]> on Friday August 27, 2010 @02:03AM (#33389510) Homepage

    SCO actually did hire a consultant to audit the code. Then they ignored his report that there was no infringement.

  • by crankyspice (63953) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:51AM (#33389874)

    Not true. In this case, it'd be a work for hire, and the copyright would rest with the company that paid the authors, not the authors itself.

    Not necessarily. It's only a "work [made] for hire" if the coders were employed by the company (not independent contractors), or the work falls into a narrowly defined category of things that *can* be explicitly made works for hire.

    http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html [copyright.gov]

  • by silentcoder (1241496) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:45AM (#33390272) Homepage

    >SCO had a couple of very real UNIX products out there in the '90s

    No they didn't. You're confusing SCO from Utah with Santa Cruz Operations. SCO is a rename of the old company Caldera after they bought the name and rights from the original SCO - now known as Tarantella.

    PLEASE GET THIS CLEAR: The company that sued Linux and the company that made unixware ARE NOT THE SAME COMPANY. They are completely seperate corporations in completely different places started by completely different people and have NOTHING common.
    SCO actually did have two fairly decent products back in the Caldera years. Caldera Linux was perhaps the best desktop distro in it's day (though they were also the first distro to ship with a non-free DE by default [they used KDE back when QT was still non-free]), and DR-DOS was probably the best DOS replacement ever developed.

    The things - Caldera basically died during the UnitedLinux fiasco and never really had another product, they bought the unix business from SCO along with the name, while the old SCO focussed on their security business and became Tarantella, but never did anything with it - except to make the source code of the very first unix kernel available as a free download for curiosity purposes (this ended up counting severely against them in the case they lost- they had effectively declared the unix they owned to be a valueless thing of purely historic interest- and now they want to sue others for supposedly stealing it - ironically there really wasn't any of that code in Linux at any time because it really WAS just of historic interest. What the hell would Linux want with code written in the 1970's for 8-bit CPU's ?)

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:27AM (#33390418) Journal

    The code was used within the permissions granted, so there was no copyright infringement

    Actually, there was, just not in the way that you are thinking. The code contained conditions not present in the LGPL, and this meant that distributing LGPL'd code linked to it is a violation of the LGPL. This means that any downstream distribution of the LGPL'd code (glibc) was a violation of the copyright (owned by the FSF).

    Somewhat amusingly, this now means that the FSF has standing to sue anyone who has ever distributed a version of the GNU platform.

    There was no financial or legal reason for Oracle not to release the code and bad PR if the didn't

    Unless, of course, they wanted to point out the potential liability of using code where the original author has standing to sue you and encourage people to use Solaris instead...

  • by TheTyrannyOfForcedRe (1186313) on Friday August 27, 2010 @02:22PM (#33395562)

    Believe me, I love Linux. Been running it is my main OS for 7-8 years now. But Compiz and PulseAudio are not fixed. At all. (At least under Kubuntu)

    They both work perfectly for me on Ubuntu Karmic. I've been running it since alpha1. Maybe you need to dump Kubuntu.

A bug in the code is worth two in the documentation.

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