Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Open Source Software Your Rights Online

Why the GPL Licensing Cops Are the Good Guys 233

Posted by timothy
from the they've-got-a-good-track-record-too dept.
Reader rtfa-troll writes: "'GPL enforcement by Software Freedom Conservancy puts electronics makers on notice, leaves business users untouched,' says Infoworld, going on to explain 'You are several orders of magnitude more likely to be raided by your proprietary suppliers, in the form of the Business Software Alliance, than to ever hear from SFC, let alone face any action. License compliance is a major and costly issue for proprietary software, but the case concerns an end-user license agreement (EULA), not a source license.' The article gives a good summary of why having GPL licenses enforced helps everybody, except for 'hardware manufacturers — typically those creating low-cost consumer and business electronics' who need to verify that they pass on the same rights to others as they received with the original code."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Why the GPL Licensing Cops Are the Good Guys

Comments Filter:
  • by oiron (697563) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:49AM (#40200985) Homepage

    As far as I know, no serious GPL advocate actually says that infringing others' copyrights is good. They mostly say "use the free alternative".

    Yes, there are a few debacles like some people accidentally (or on purpose for that matter) taking say BSDL code and making it GPL (you're allowed to make your modifications GPL, but not the original code itself, if I understand correctly). But nobody advocates piracy.

  • by stinerman (812158) <nathan,stine&gmail,com> on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:51AM (#40200995) Homepage

    The "double standard" is because EULAs are designed to restrict what you can do with a piece of software over and above what copyright does to restrict you. The GPL and other FOSS licenses give you rights you don't already have.

    I respect the GPL because it recognises one thing that EULAs never recognise -- the unlimited right to run the program.

  • by k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @11:05AM (#40201091)
    I think the double standard come from the simple fact that no "serious" GPL advocate has ever tried to sue or extort money from mere users of GPL programs. On the other hand, the "evil" studios or their henchmen (army of lawyer types) appear hellbent on making every freeloading downloader pay. Typical targets of GPL "threats" tend to be companies not individual users.
  • by oakgrove (845019) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @11:08AM (#40201105)

    The people who support your ideal are the good guys, the people who don't are the bad guys.

    This is moral relativism patronization. Didn't these kind of theories get debunked a few years ago? And can you give a concise view of how exactly this applies to the current situation and not just some shit you're flinging on the wall to sound oh so hipster cynical cool?

    The issue I have always had was the double standard that a lot of people in the Open Source Community have. It is OK to pirate Closed Source tool, but if a company breaks a rule in the GPL they should be fully punished. That is the most damaging part, because in order for the GPL to be respected the GPL community needs to respect the other Licenses out there.

    This is so far in the camp of oxymoron as to be a caricature. You cannot be a serious GPL supporter and advocate infringing proprietary software. Of course Slashdot stopped being an Oasis of common sense long ago so I fully expect your FUD to make it to +5 and me to get modded to oblivion.

  • by TinyLittleMend (2653839) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @11:23AM (#40201199)

    You cannot be a serious GPL supporter and advocate infringing proprietary software.

    Sure you can (No True Scotsman there). "I don't want you violating the GPL, but I don't mind you violating the copyright of proprietary software." It's simply a preference. And because they're two different things, a contradiction doesn't exist. Call it a double standard if you wish, but it's entirely possible to believe that.

  • Effects (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Chemisor (97276) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @11:31AM (#40201247)

    When you use laws to advance your agenda, you will find that the effects are not what you intended. These "good guys" appear to believe that enforcing the GPL would result in more mobile devices with all software on them open sourced. But that, of course, isn't going to happen. If a company does not want to release the source code now, it will not release the source code in the face of legal sanctions either. It will simply stop shipping the product. Then it will purge all GPL software from any future devices. Linux is not the only OS available, you know. Thus the end result of GPL enforcement is not more open source devices, but fewer. It is true that none of them will be "stealing" the work of GPL programmers, but is that really of any concern to anybody but them? The result for users is fewer available choices, each running on a proprietary OS with weird UIs. Is that what you are really after?

  • by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @11:51AM (#40201355)
    To expand upon this...

    If someone's primary justification for decrying GPL violations is that its wrong to violate copyright, then it would indeed be hypocritical to support piracy of closed-source software. More generally, if the moral argument is that intellectual creation endows people with some intrinsic 'control' or 'ownership' of their creative works, then this moral argument applies equally to open-source and closed-source creations.

    However, that is not the only argument in favor of respecting open-source licenses. In fact it may not be the most prevalent. Many people support open-source software because they fundamentally believe in the particular freedoms that are espoused by open-source licenses: that end-users should be unrestricted; that end-users should in fact be empowered to completely control their hardware, which means having the ability to see and edit all source-code; that sharing should be encouraged. Under the moral axioms of 'sharing is good' and/or 'users should be unrestricted' it is not inconsistent to encourage people to respect open-source licenses while simultaneously not respecting restrictive closed-source (or all-rights-reserved) copyrights/EULAs/etc.

    My point here is not to promote any particular viewpoint. Rather, I'm responding to OP's assertion that it is hypocritical to support open-source licenses while simultaneously decrying closed-source licenses (or even going to far as to violate them). It may be hypocritical, or it may be consistent. (There's no lack of hypocrisy in this world, Slashdot included.) Many things look hypocritical only because one is making an assumption of the moral precepts that should be followed (normally, one thinks people are hypocritical because their morals are different from your own).
  • by aristotle-dude (626586) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @12:00PM (#40201415)

    I think the double standard come from the simple fact that no "serious" GPL advocate has ever tried to sue or extort money from mere users of GPL programs. On the other hand, the "evil" studios or their henchmen (army of lawyer types) appear hellbent on making every freeloading downloader pay. Typical targets of GPL "threats" tend to be companies not individual users.

    The GPL is not a EULA (End User License Agreement) which is funny because I have seen several GPL'ed products display the GPL on the installation screen. What am I supposed to do with that license? The installer does not install the source code and I am not compiling anything. The GPL is a "source" license, not an end user agreement. While the GPL might try to impose conditions on the original compiler and distributor of the binary derived from that code base, I am under no obligation to follow the GPL since I will not use the source code. I think it's fine to include the GPL as a separate file and references to the GPL in the program about screen but it is not an agreement that I should have to agree to on the installer wizard.

    I may have a compiler on my computer and know how to use it but GPL advocates should pretend that any recipient of a binary has no interest in the source code.

  • Re:Effects (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday June 03, 2012 @12:47PM (#40201735) Homepage Journal

    These "good guys" appear to believe that enforcing the GPL would result in more mobile devices with all software on them open sourced. But that, of course, isn't going to happen.

    [citation needed]

    If a company does not want to release the source code now, it will not release the source code in the face of legal sanctions either. It will simply stop shipping the product.

    If the company depends on the success of the product and it will otherwise go out of business it will release the source and then sell the product. Otherwise, you are correct. Not my problem, or yours either.

    Thus the end result of GPL enforcement is not more open source devices, but fewer.

    No, and also no. The end result of GPL enforcement is more open source devices, because some of them will release the code, whereas without the enforcement, none of the offending parties will release the code, and thus the source remains closed.

    It is true that none of them will be "stealing" the work of GPL programmers, but is that really of any concern to anybody but them?

    Who is "them" in this case? Try harder.

    The result for users is fewer available choices, each running on a proprietary OS with weird UIs.

    [citation needed]

    There's lots of companies "making" hardware without doing any R&D at all. They license designs, or they steal designs. Then they contract someone to build the parts, assemble the devices and so on. When it comes time to assemble a software stack they're looking for whatever is going to enable them to make the most profit. If the hardware supports Linux and they think their market will embrace Linux then it's a no-brainer; the software stack is free. They customize some graphics, and offer the source from their website for at least as long as they hope to have it on the market, or as long as the company is in existence which is sometimes even shorter. More and more cheap Linux-based devices are showing up all the time in spite of your assertions and in spite of ongoing GPL enforcement efforts. Your statements are thus utterly unfounded.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2012 @01:54PM (#40202211)

    It's almost as ridiculous as people calling this a "free country" when you're not even allowed the freedom of owning slaves, right?

  • by FrangoAssado (561740) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @02:10PM (#40202317)

    Stallman clearly says that if your neighbor asks your for a software that you use, it would be wrong not to give it to him, under the 'help your neighbor' pretext.

    Yes, he does, but you missed the point. That's his reason for never using proprietary software: if you do, you're put in the position where you must either do the wrong thing and deny helping your neighbor, or do the wrong thing and break the license of the proprietary software.

  • by DavidinAla (639952) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @02:51PM (#40202601)
    The GPL controls what people can do with the code they get. Period. End of story. If you want complete freedom -- as GPL supporters claim -- they can't use this license. It LIMITS what people can do.
  • by unixisc (2429386) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @03:51PM (#40203025)
    As I argued in 2 threads yesterday - the one about the Basque government's software choices, and another about the Chinese student who pilfered US government source code, one of the few good uses of GPLv3 is for government written software, where
    • The software written belongs to the taxpayer, and should ideally be in public domain (barring genuine classified stuff, such as military and intelligence software)
    • Having it under GPLv3 prevents anybody from profiting from it at taxpayer expense (since that was what was needed to create it in the first place)
    • Any changes to it, if transmitted, have to become transparent, and the taxpayers would benefit if it was actually of any use

    The only other case where it makes (less) sense is if a standard is coded, and one wants it to be open. If the goal is to encourage its use, BSD is better, but if the gual is to have it just as a teaching tool but not commercially viable, then GPL is right for it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 04, 2012 @03:43AM (#40206529)

    The GPL controls what people can do with the code they get. Period

    Please buy a cluebat and whack yourself with it.

    The GPL controls what people can do with the code they distribute. Receiving the code is completely free and unburdened, end-user licences are explicitly disallowed iirc.

    And please, stop insulting the intelligence of most old-time /. readers. Of course a license places limits on what you can do, that's the point of law. If you want to advocate anarchy, then do so explicitly, or at least stop pretending like you don't.

    And before you even think of a reply, consider that "complete freedom" includes the freedom to control other people. "Complete freedom for all people" is a paradox in itself.

  • by rohan972 (880586) on Monday June 04, 2012 @06:19AM (#40206961)

    This goes well with my point. It's not that I'd consider violating GPL. It's that I consider the terms of the license so objectionable that I wouldn't want to use it at all for any software I intended to sell. BSD license terms, on the other hand, I have no problem with.

    You would license software you sell as BSD? Since that would be even worse for restricting redistribution I can only assume you mean that when you want to use other people's code in your proprietary program you prefer BSD.

    Obviously proprietary software vendors like to use other people's work for free without reciprocating as it gives them a competitive advantage. I trust you understand that people who illegally copy your work are just applying the same principles as you, sans license compliance.

    I'm not saying I approve of copyright infringement, I don't. I use predominantly software under GPL or similar license because I want to use software legally. The license conditions are not at all onerous to me, unlike some EULAs and copy protection schemes etc.

All this wheeling and dealing around, why, it isn't for money, it's for fun. Money's just the way we keep score. -- Henry Tyroon

Working...