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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 Psaakyrn (838406) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @08:22PM (#33388042)
    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.
  • by SoftwareArtist (1472499) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @08:49PM (#33388222)
    In most countries, yes it's irrevocable. Once you voluntarily place something in the public domain, that's that. I believe there are a few countries (Germany?) where things are more ambiguous and the law doesn't recognize the concept of public domain in the same way it does elsewhere. The Creative Commons folks have been developing a "public domain equivalent" license which is supposed to be somehow more reliable in those countries.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2010 @09:12PM (#33388386)

    Did you even read the article? They began work on the issue while Sun was still Sun, but it was interrupted by the acquisition by Oracle.

    "But then there was some sort of foul-up after it was all agreed and Red Hat (who were making the change) never received documentation of the decision that was sufficient to give them confidence it was all over. They tried contacting people at Sun, but by then acquisition of Sun by Oracle was in full swing and no-one was allowed to make any changes affecting copyrights any more."

  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @09:21PM (#33388422) Homepage

    I still don't understand why someone didn't just rewrite the code from scratch, using the original as a spec. The original code was released 25 years ago, and is not that huge an amount of code.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2010 @09:39PM (#33388508)

    and to boot, even though this was championed by Fedora, Fedora will probably stay on fsf's list of non-free software distros.

    fsf non-free distro list [gnu.org]

  • by tuppe666 (904118) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @09:46PM (#33388546)
    I understand being snide about "linux desktop" Lock-in, Pre-installation, Ignorance etc etc...but what terrible user experience are you referring to...I'm confused you state it as though I should understand, but I don't. I can name large problems with pulseaudio(fixed),compiz(fixed..shiny new version),3D support(only Nvidia to get in on the act but nouveau), wireless(fixed), i8xx intel(hopefully fixed), Flash 64 Bit+GPU accelerated(Gnash does both and YouTube...and its importance has been diminished), but weighed against the billions spent on preserving the crappy experiences on windows, Most here are employed in that very industry. The bottom line is the worst thing...the most terrible awful thing I have to experience as a Linux Desktop User is the delay between clicking on Firefox and it appearing. I keep my rage inside by comforting myself with the fact I don't have to use Internet Explorer.
  • by Haeleth (414428) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @10:08PM (#33388660) Journal

    How exactly is this code "copyright 2010", if it was written in the 1980s?

  • by wrightrocket (1664871) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @10:09PM (#33388672)
    I was wondering too, what else is hiding? When will these other time bombs explode?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2010 @10:33PM (#33388770)

    IANAL
    but I interpreted it as them giving us the ability to modify the code and redistribute it, provided modified versions don't infringe on their trademarks.
    simply, it needs to be distributed with something that isn't glibc/SUN-RPC; which to my understanding means a name change is enough to be allowed to distribute modifications (aka, a fork).

  • SCO (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NuShrike (561140) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @10:36PM (#33388782)

    What? All this time and SCO never found this?

  • by fyngyrz (762201) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @11:06PM (#33388922) Homepage Journal

    Yes, but how do you prove it is the public domain?

    You don't need to. That's the whole point. At the top of the code, when it was written, it says, PD, date, author. There's your starting point. That chunk is PD. What you do with it is up to you. You can make a chunk exactly like it and make it proprietary; that's fine. The original is still PD, though, and there's nothing you can do to change that. Nothing at all.

    If code is floating around without any license and I include it in my proprietary software, on what grounds can you sue me?

    It's PD. You can be sued (you can be sued for anything) but all you need to win is "Here's this thing, it's PD, by so and so, date whatever, and I used it as such. Thank you, I'll be leaving now, and by the way, I'll have court costs, too."

    If there is nothing that says I have to attribute the copyright to the original author, then what stops me from absorbing the code into my code base

    Nothing stops you in the first place. That's the idea, see, the code is FREE. So there's nothing to worry about. Absorb away. (Though it is traditional to eat pizza while you do so, no one will force you.)

    If I start changing the code, then is the modified code still in the public domain?

    It's whatever you say it is. Once you change it, it isn't the original code. So you're free (get that, FREE) to do anything you want. Call it proprietary, send it back to the author with a thank you note, charge huge amounts of money for it, etc. Anything you want. The only thing you can't do is take the original chunk out of the public domain. That's a done deal, and anyone can use that original chunk any way they want and there isn't squat you can do about that.

    On the other hand, if you force a public license on the code with agreements to attribute and disclose its use, and contribute modifications back to the public then the code and its modifications stay public.

    The original PD code stays public and available. But the author doesn't claim that changes you make are owned by him, or that he has a right to tell you what to do with them. He respects your freedom. The GPL does not. The GPL says there IS a cost for this, and it is that you will do as we say, or you are subject to these limitations. PD says, here it is, have a party, bye.

    And that, my friend, is why all the FREE software I write is PD. Not GPL.

  • Re:Shut The Fuck Up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by causality (777677) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @11:08PM (#33388932)

    Is this just a troll or are there people who seriously get this upset over a software license? If so can I get a link to a description of the controversy please?

    Serious question.

    That's probably a troll but yes there are people who seriously get this upset over a software license. Well, they don't precisely get upset over the license itself. They get upset that anyone else would use a license that they would not use. The fact that your choice to use whatever license you like for what you create does not prevent them from using any license they like for what they create won't give them a moment's pause.

    It's like the people who will get upset that you might drink alcohol, because they don't drink. Prohibition never could have gotten off the ground without folks like them. Or the people who think it's a good idea to arrest you if you smoke marijuana, because they wouldn't smoke marijuana. Or the people who think you should go to hell, or at least that they certainly shouldn't associate with you and treat you with respect, because their religion is not your religion. Or the people who think that all adults should have porn banned/censored for them because they themselves do not wish to see pornography. Or the people who think that anything which offends them is inherently evil and must be stopped at all costs, rather than viewing that as the way they have chosen to react to something that is otherwise harmless.

    I like the term Bill Hicks used, which was "fevered egos". Just be glad that when people like this make new laws, they have largely overlooked the realm of software development.

  • by Alien Being (18488) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @11:30PM (#33389040)

    Larry Ellison is one of the most contemptuous little pricks I've ever seen at the helm of a major software company. Unlike SCO (new and old) however, Oracle always did actually produce something real.

  • Re:Shut The Fuck Up (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2010 @11:31PM (#33389042)

    Is that you Steve Ballmer?

    No, just a person who doesn't follow the FSF party line, Comrade.

  • by Thinboy00 (1190815) <thinboy00 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @11:33PM (#33389048) Journal

    The usual reason for this is that most software licenses are designed to distinguish between source code and binary/object code. However, if you intend to put both in the public domain, I see no reason why you couldn't use cc0, hypothetically.

    IANAL.

  • Sigh (Score:2, Interesting)

    by philj (13777) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @11:53PM (#33389110)
    Why the dig at Oracle? Are they the new target for the slashdot crowd?
  • by retchdog (1319261) on Friday August 27, 2010 @12:09AM (#33389176) Journal

    It all comes down to what one means by "stays in the public domain."

    If they mean that mere duplication stays in the public domain, then the PD satisfies that already so there is no question apart from what is called "copyfraud" elsewhere in thread. I am not sure whether PD blocks copyfraud (claiming authorship of material verbatim); I suspect it depends on whether the country has a concept of moral rights apart from intellectual property rights.

    So, the alternative is that if by "stays in the public domain," they mean that derived works stay in the domain declared for the original work. OK, now strictly speaking we've reached a contradiction since the public domain does not allow this. However, we may consider a quasi-public domain in which this property holds. It is obvious that there is no way whatsoever to do this for an open release, without something GPL-like (feel free to prove me wrong). Specifics may differ, but that part of GPL which is called "viral" by its detractors and called "spider plant-like" by rms exactly identifies what is necessary for derived works to stay in the original domain.

  • Re:Shut The Fuck Up (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27, 2010 @01:55AM (#33389488)

    Oh, I don't get upset with people using any license they want.
    What I do get upset with is people who call GPL a free software license. This has very little to do with the actual license and more to do with the definition of free.
    I'd rather keep my freedom intact and retaining the meaning of the word is a very important part of that.
    I don't want my government to say "You are free to go wherever you want as long as you always report where you are to us." or use some other new meaning of the word free.

  • by fyngyrz (762201) on Friday August 27, 2010 @02:04AM (#33389514) Homepage Journal

    Guthrie presumably sold that right; that's pretty typical for the publishing industry. They don't produce anything, they're just middlemen, and so rights are their handle on the material.

    You'll notice that Woody did *not* say that the song was public domain; he said it was copyrighted. That's like the GPL: You see it, you should make sure you understand the terms, because whatever else they may be, they are not grants of freedom. More of a license to employ a lawyer.

    I own a literary agency, and we deal in precisely those kinds of contracts. We try - very hard - to protect the author's rights, one as distinct from the next, so that, for instance, having sold a book to print, the author retains the rights to make a movie, an e-book, etc. Publishers, on the other hand, come at it the other way. The typical contract tries to vacuum up every right known, and any that might not be specified.

    This is one of the reasons that I *really* welcome e-books; the main reason publishers were able to maintain their position is because it was expensive, very, to print a book. An e-book... no longer true. A good literary agency can provide the editing an author needs, or the author and a few beta readers can get it handled my themselves, and that's a *much* better model for both authors and readers.

    The author removes a middle entity, and that raises compensation; that encourages the author; that's good for everyone. Borrowing is reduced, and pass-along is as well. This tends to mean that you'll actually get your income on a per-reader basis. Shops are never "out" of your book; books never have to be out of print. A book can become a hit years after it is released. Advances are not required and earnings are no longer encumbered. Release times are vastly reduced. Whole libraries can be carried in your palm. You can read anywhere. It's not perfect, but man, is it ever better.

    Bit of a digression there, sorry. :) The subject is very much on my mind right now.

  • Yeah, great (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mathinker (909784) * on Friday August 27, 2010 @02:42AM (#33389614) Journal

    > As for Shakespeare's plays ... Old texts often undergo serious
    > editing before being published, ... and the edited version is
    > quite definitely not in public domain.

    And this idiocy, AFAICS, is why you can't download from Google Books the 1911 edition of Bloxam's Chemistry, a text which was mainly written by a someone who died in 1887.

    Copyright law is definitely messed up. I can understand that added commentary which has definitive authorship deserves copyright, but editing, which essentially is trying to change the work into the form that the editor believes that original author wanted it in? That's more like touching up the colors of a photo of a painting --- something which isn't covered by copyright.

    And if the added stuff is an insignificant portion of the whole (say, 10%?), it shouldn't matter how creative the added stuff was. Otherwise it just becomes too easy to game away the public domain, without even paying lobbyists!

  • by dlgeek (1065796) on Friday August 27, 2010 @03:04AM (#33389692)
    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. (As a side note, you can also assign the copyrights to another party, the FSF requires people working on stuff like gcc and other GNU software to assign their copyrights to the FSF). Thus, the entity, in this case Sun/Oracle could change the license at will.

    The tricky part was determining if the work was derived from something else, under a restrictive copyright. The copyright still belongs to Sun but they could be bound by contractual terms to other parties because of the way the works originated. Incidentally, this is the reason NVidia always gives for not open sourcing their 3D drivers for Linux.
  • Re:Yea.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SL Baur (19540) <steve@xemacs.org> on Monday September 06, 2010 @06:33PM (#33492758) Homepage Journal

    I remember -- RMS *did* bitch about the copyright assignment thing.

    Correct. It wasn't enough that we were GPL (v2), but we had to get copyright assignments to the FSF from an organization that didn't exist and people who were unwilling to do that.

    My only personal contact with Stallman was a phone call just a bit after I took over from Chuck and he promised to "go to war against me" (his words) if I didn't get all the copyright assignments. I couldn't and he did.

    In an interesting twist, my successor has managed to get the code base to GPL v3. Sigh.

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