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XFree86 4.4: List of Rejecting Distributors Grows 682

Bootsy Collins writes "Yesterday, we discussed Mandrake's decision to revert their release-in-development from XFree86 version 4.4 back to version 4.3 because of issues with the new XFree86 license. To update this, the list of OS distributors opting out of XF86 Version 4.4, and future releases, based on licensing concerns continues to grow. While Fedora seems to be "preparing to support multiple X11 implementations", Red Hat has explicitly stated that they have no plans to ship XFree86 v4.4 under its current license. Also add to the growing list list Debian, Gentoo, and OpenBSD."
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XFree86 4.4: List of Rejecting Distributors Grows

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  • by Anarke_Incarnate ( 733529 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @09:54AM (#8315029)
    Doesn't 'sell' well when it isn't free ;)
  • What is the issue? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by beforewisdom ( 729725 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @09:55AM (#8315037)
    Why is the new liscence being rejected?

    • by Llanfairpwllgwyngyll ( 81289 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @09:58AM (#8315057) Journal
      It is incompatible with GPL licensed code which links with it. It's actually the GPL'd bit which gets its licence broken.

      They will have to revert or face a fork IMHO
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:13AM (#8315176)
        Actually the OpenBSD people (who fight license battles more than just about any other OS/distro -- even Debian) don't think it is equivalent to a BSD license either (the original license was equivalent to the BSD licence in case anyone is wondering: XFree was never GPL'd). David Dawes thinks still thinks it is. If he believes that, I hope he will change the wording back so everyone else believes it too....
        • by oohp ( 657224 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @12:27PM (#8316422) Homepage
          The OpenBSD group has done great work in the past taking ipfilter out of the code base and replacing it with something better -- packet filter. I hope this great work gets integrated in every BSD out there.

          Theo mentioned forking -- it has already happened. While the XFree86 codebase is huge, I guess it's better that they don't fork it themselves, but rather join one of the groups that forked XFree86 already (either Xouvert or the team) and merge efforts. It's a question of objectives and the OpenBSD team is well known for doing things themselves. But then again, three X forks is too much and no vendor will support all of them -- they scarcely support Xfree86 anyway.

          It's good that the distributions reject this kind of David Dawes style sabotage licensing bullshit. This kind of sabotage didn't work in the past and will never work. It just adds more nails into the Xfree86's coffin.
    • by bartjan ( 197895 ) <> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @09:59AM (#8315065) Homepage
      Believed to be not compatible with the GPL.

      The license itself is probably Open Source, but distributors would break the license of every GPL'ed program that links with XFree86.
      • by Ubi_NL ( 313657 ) <> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:03AM (#8315105) Journal
        The really interesting bit is that there is a lot of GPL-ed code in XFree. Chunks have been copied from the linux kernel, and people like Alan Cox submitted patches. As this code is GPL, XFree must also be GPL in order to use it, or the Xfree teasm must rewrite these parts. I understood Alan Cox opposes his contributions to be placed under the new licensing scheme.
        • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:16AM (#8315191)
          So doesn't this mean that whoever comingled GPL'ed source code with non-GPL'ed source code broke someone's copyright?

          Because either he/they broke the GPL terms, OR they performed in unauthorized GPL'ing of the other, non-GPL-using contributors' source code.
          • by Lussarn ( 105276 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:33AM (#8315312)
            Alan cox can do pretty much what he wants with his own source, it is not GPL just because it is in the kernel and Xfree (It becomes more like dual licenced).

            And as the last Xfree licence was a BSD style one the Xfree team can change the licence to pretty much what they want, including an MS EULA one, the BSD licence is pretty loose.
          • by DarkMan ( 32280 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:12AM (#8315694) Journal
            No, because it's perfectly possible to have code under two liscencesin the same program.

            The problem arises when you want to change that liscence. Actually, it's two problems:

            1) The contributors must all agree to the liscence change. If they don't, you have to back out thier code, or not change the liscence. That's the fundemental protection of copyright.

            2) The new liscence is incomplatable with the GPL. Thus, you can't mix GPL code with code under the new XFree86 liscence. You could with the old liscence. This a result of the wording of the two liscences.

            Neither problem existed prior to the liscence change.
        • by ookaze ( 227977 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:36AM (#8315340) Homepage
          I do not think there is any GPLed code in XFree86, I thought there was one licence for all of the project. OpenSource code perhaps, but not GPLed.
          I say this, because RMS warned several years ago, I think, that putting your code under XFree licence (so it must have been mandatory) was putting it at odds, and was very dangerous, in case the project behaves badly.
          That's just what happened.

          You say there is chunks of code that have been copied from the linux kernel. I think you are talking about DRM, and I would say that was the other way around : DRI/XFree code was copied into the kernel.
          XFree is so important, even I am considering contributing the little time I have to XServer sooner than I thought, if it does not see a flood of developpers in the two coming months (if this fiasco is not canceled, I mean).
          I say "even I", because I have so little time on my hand, not for any other reason.
        • by Gadzinka ( 256729 ) <> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:40AM (#8315377) Journal
          No, the code in question was sumbitted by its authors to XFree86 under the XFree licence. Remember, the author owns the code and he can licence it as many times as he wishes, every time with different licence.

          So it doesn't make XFree86 ``gpl derivative''.

          But those people who sumbitted those patches oppose changing the XFree licence on their code to something GPL incompatible. At least I've heard that Alan opposes, but I don't believe they asked all contributors if they agree to licence change.

        • by plcurechax ( 247883 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:47AM (#8315441) Homepage
          The really interesting bit is that there is a lot of GPL-ed code in XFree.

          I take it you mean FreeType which is included under a dual-license [] of GPL and BSD-like.

          Chunks have been copied from the linux kernel, and people like Alan Cox submitted patches

          Alan Cox submitted patches [] are not under the GPL, but he wished to remain compatible with GPL applications (by using the old XFree86 license). The transfer actually has been from XFree86 to the kernel (fbdev) [].

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:07AM (#8315138)

      Among other things, it is not compatible with the GPL. That means that would be a GPL violation if a distribution chooses to supply GPL software linked with xlibs.

      Lots of desktop apps are affected.

      See the incompatibility with the GNU GPL [] and more practical problems []
    • by Vaakku ( 698260 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:11AM (#8315162)
      Here [] is a thread where you can read about why distro makers think that new XFree license is evil.
    • by nickos ( 91443 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:27AM (#8315265)
      Taken from a usenet post by Paul Cannon from on 2004-01-30:

      The new license has a reworded disclaimer, and a numbered list of terms instead of the terms simply being stated. It goes farther than the old one in specifying that the conditions apply to binary distributions as well as source.

      The change that causes problems is the addition of the third condition:

      "3. The end-user documentation included with the redistribution, if any, must include the following acknowledgment: "This product includes software developed by The XFree86 Project, Inc ( and its contributors", in the same place and form as other third-party acknowledgments. Alternately, this acknowledgment may appear in the software itself, in the same form and location as other such third-party acknowledgments."

      Several posters on slashdot and elsewhere have mentioned the similarity between this and the old, obnoxious BSD "advertising clause":

      "3. All advertising materials mentioning features or use of this software must display the following acknowledgement:
      This product includes software developed by the University of California, Berkeley and its contributors.

      The FSF is quite clear (see here [] and here []) in that they do not consider licenses with the advertising clause to be compatible with the GPL. In addition, the same reasons they give appear to apply also to the clause added by the XFree86 folks. That is, one cannot distribute something under the GPL with added restrictions like the one above quoted.
      • by Snags ( 18929 ) * on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:38AM (#8315352) Journal
        How is this different from the license for libjpeg? From jpeg-6b/README: "(2) If only executable code is distributed, then the accompanying documentation must state that "this software is based in part on the work of the Independent JPEG Group"."
      • by beforewisdom ( 729725 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:39AM (#8315363)
        "3. The end-user documentation included with the redistribution, if any, must include the following acknowledgment: "This product includes software developed by The XFree86 Project, Inc ( and its contributors", in the same place and form as other third-party acknowledgments. Alternately, this acknowledgment may appear in the software itself, in the same form and location as other such third-party acknowledgments." Several posters on slashdot and elsewhere have mentioned the similarity between this and the old, obnoxious BSD "advertising clause":
        I'll admit I am ignorant on this subject and I apologize.

        Why is this obnoxious?

        What is the big deal about a few lines of giving credit where credit is due? I'm guessing from your response that it goes beyond that?


        • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:06AM (#8315624) Homepage Journal
          I don't personally think it's obnoxious in spirit, but it does force a redistributor to put in extra effort in materials outside of simply recompiling the software and passing it on.

          The GPL, for instance, also has a "credit where credit's due" clause, but you'd have to actually go out of your way to modify an already GPL'd program to break it:

          2. You may modify your copy or copies of the Program or any portion of it, thus forming a work based on the Program, and copy and distribute such modifications or work under the terms of Section 1 above, provided that you also meet all of these conditions:
          • c) If the modified program normally reads commands interactively when run, you must cause it, when started running for such interactive use in the most ordinary way, to print or display an announcement including an appropriate copyright notice and a notice that there is no warranty (or else, saying that you provide a warranty) and that users may redistribute the program under these conditions, and telling the user how to view a copy of this License. (Exception: if the Program itself is interactive but does not normally print such an announcement, your work based on the Program is not required to print an announcement.)
          By comparison, the XFree86 license is requiring that redistributors of XFree86 modify their documentation and/or files containing credits. That can affect you even if all you plan to do is put a copy of XFree86 on a CD for someone else and include a note saying "Here's how to install it".

          I'm not 100% there's no workaround that satisfies both parties, and it's notable that XFree86 is a stand-alone package, so it can safely be distributed on the same CD as, say, GNOME (though it may be necessary to include an additional X server that's unambiguously GPL compatable in addition to XFree86 4.4) without breaking the licensing for GNOME.

          In general, XFree86 has made a mistake in that most authors should try to use an existing license that's a known quantity and is as compatable with as many licenses as possible. The new license appears to break this principle.

        • by Bootsy Collins ( 549938 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:38AM (#8315939)

          Why is this obnoxious?

          What is the big deal about a few lines of giving credit where credit is due? I'm guessing from your response that it goes beyond that?

          My understanding (which could be wrong) is this: it's not that that clause is morally or ethically a bad thing. It's that that clause makes the license incompatible with the GPL, which explicitly rules out putting additional restrictions on the redistribution of the code beyond those already in the GPL. It doesn't matter whether you or I or anyone else thinks the additional restrictions are reasonable; additional restrictions make the license incompatible with the GPL.

          A problem with the GPL, then? I don't think so. How do you write a license that, in advance, imagines every possible restriction on redistribution of code and takes care of allowing reasonable ones while forbidding unreasonable ones? The ostensible purpose of the GPL is to preserve freedom, so that's the side the FSF wanted to err upon; so "no more restrictions."

          So what if the new XF86 license is incompatible with the GPL? Well, that means that the redistribution of any GPL'd software that links against XF86 software (such as xlibs) is a license violation, and therefore illegal. So the redistribution of e.g. GNOME, KDE, etc., under these circumstances would be illegal.

          So people are not upset that the XF86 folks (or, specifically, David Dawes) are making an unreasonable demand for credit for their work. They're upset that he's created this unsolveable license conflict where, previously, up until January 30th, none existed . . .a license conflict because of a license change which seems to be provoked by nothing (who, exactly, wasn't giving XF86 credit for their work), and which will likely take a lot of time and work (developing a new X server under a different license) to solve.

          That's my understanding. If it's wrong, I hope someone who knows more about this will chime in.

        • by cgreuter ( 82182 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @12:41PM (#8316588)
          Why is this obnoxious?

          I think what's going on here is that there's some confusion about what's a derived work.

          The new license applies to XFree86 and anything based on it. This sounds fair until you realize that if you write a program that just uses XFree86, you are, technically speaking, combining your code with theirs by linking to the xlibs and including the header files. This means you need to credit them. For Mandrake to use XFree86 4.0, they'd have to go through the documentation for every app and library that uses the xlibs and add the attribution.

          It violates the GPL because it adds extra restrictions on what may be done with GPL'd code. The GPL allows you to distribute a GPL'd program without the XFree86 attribution but the new XFree86 license doesn't.

          My take on this is that it's unintentional. I suspect that someone didn't think through the implications and that in a couple of days, the XFree86 team will amend the license to say that just connecting to the server or linking against the xlibs doesn't constitute a derived work. At least, that's my hope. Otherwise, it could take years for a new de-facto X implementation to emerge.

      • by stph ( 541287 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:42AM (#8315394) Homepage
        I understand the philosophical disagreement with this new clause in XFree86 4.4, but I don't think it should be confused with the old BSD "advertising" clause. The latter posed a severe financial impact on each and every advertisement a company might want to deploy. This is simply asking for acknowledgement in the consuming product's documentation. It is a pain to keep track of, but no worse what any author and publisher has to deal with when using the works of others. I don't think acknowledgement in the docs in an unfair expectation.

        My two cents.... for all it's worth.

      • by fnj ( 64210 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:47AM (#8315439)
        Both the new XFree86 clause and the original BSD clause are simple vanity clauses. Fixating on these as "restrictions" sounds pretty foolish to me. Can it possibly be that the GPL is foolishly crafted to go to war with such simple requirements, which have absolutely no bearing on whether the end product is either free beer or free speech?
      • by iangoldby ( 552781 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:28AM (#8315867) Homepage
        I'm not sure then what they mean by 'incompatible with the GPL'. I've just read the references you gave.

        They mention only 'practical problems' - that is, the problem of what to do if your product includes very many components, all under different old-style BSD-style licenses (with the acknowledgement clause) - that you end up having to include rather a lot of acknowledgements in all your publicity material.

        I don't think it can be 'incompatibility' that is causing the current fuss. All of the following licenses are considered by the GNU to be incompatible with the GPL:

        The original BSD license
        The OpenSSL license
        The Apache Software License, version 2.0
        IBM Public License, Version 1.0
        Common Public License Version 1.0
        The Mozilla Public License (MPL)
        The FreeType license
        The PHP License, Version 3.0

        Yet we don't see Linux distributers refusing to include products with those licenses.

        If RedHat have a problem inserting the required acknowledgements into their publicity and packaging material in time for their next release, that is quite understandable. In that case they should talk to Xfree and come to an arrangement. Perhaps the Xfree people will allow them an exemption this time around.

        Personally, this smells to me like politics and personality disputes. The major Linux distributors ought to be above such things.
        • by nestler ( 201193 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @01:10PM (#8316981)
          Yet we don't see Linux distributers refusing to include products with those licenses.

          You seem to imply that the Linux distributors don't care about those licenses and their GPL interactions, which is not true. The problem is that GPL programs cannot be linked to code (like libraries) that has advertising clauses.

          I know that at least Debian is very careful to respect this restriction (GPL Ethereal is not linked with OpenSSL even though it loses functionality).

          The real issue why this is a problem is that a lot of XFree86 is in the form of libraries (xlib). So any app that needs to link xlib cannot be GPLed. This screws up Qt, KDE, and many other things (basically any GPL app with a GUI).

          It isn't as much of a problem with the things you name for a few reasons. A lot of old BSD licensed code got a licensing change (from the Regents) that removed the advertising clause. More importantly, a lot of the things you name (Apache, Mozilla) are not libraries so you don't have as much of a problem there.

          This is a big problem and David Dawes and company have just made themselves irrelevant. They will have to back down (revert the license) or their project will be ignored from here on out. Distros will adopt other projects or do their own work on XFree 4.3.

        • by Znork ( 31774 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @01:39PM (#8317307)
          "Yet we don't see Linux distributers refusing to include products with those licenses."

          It's no problem as long as you arent shipping any GPL applications linking with the incompatible code.

          There are a whole bunch of GPL licensed applications that link to the X library code. The desktop environments, for starters.

          So the choice is between not shipping the new version of X or not shipping any GPL licensed applications that use X. So you can have new X but no Gnome or KDE, or you can have the older revision of X and KDE and Gnome. Which would you prefer?

          It's not that Redhat and the others have to insert acknowledgements, it's that they're not allowed to distribute GPL licensed components linked to code that requires them to insert acknowledgements.

          Of course, there are ways around the problem. One I've seen would be to distribute the X libraries of a forked X linked with the GPL applications, and distribute the new X server as a completely standalone X server (which is how you can distribute commercial X servers with GPL applications). That would require double installs of a lot of things but it would probably be legal.
  • by Ymiris ( 733964 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @09:57AM (#8315054) Journal
    Won't rejecting this actually hinder the linux desktop movement? Xfree is a huge factor in using linux, at least for a lot of the gamers, and we need the best support we can get.
    • by Ewan ( 5533 ) <ewan@longword[ ]rg ['s.o' in gap]> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:03AM (#8315109) Homepage Journal
      XFree 4.3 is not dramatically different from 4.4, and if the 4.3 fork were to gain momentum you'd find very quickly that people who had contributed code to 4.4 would simply resubmit it to the fork, on the basis that whoever wrote the original code can resubmit it to anyone they want unless they transferred the copyright to the Xfree project.

    • by dnoyeb ( 547705 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:12AM (#8315170) Homepage Journal
      The Linux desktop movement is based in an idea of Freedom. To accept a less than 'free' desktop for the 'free' desktop movement would not make sense.

      (admittidly its not just any form of freedom the GPL is pushing)
    • by fsmunoz ( 267297 ) <> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:27AM (#8315262) Homepage
      Well, XFree is pretty important, no doubt about that. But, as I see it, there are two different problems here that ultimatly will affect XFree86 more than the distros:

      1) The version that falls under this new license in not very different from the previous one. There are improvements (and to some people they are big, e.g. support for they card) but it's not like it's a totally different codebase, most people with supported cards would probably not even notice the need. This is important because this makes things very easy to fork, and that is an option under consideration (read Theo's mail, for example). Couple that with xlibs (see RedHat post) and you have the basis of a new X without this licencing problems (read Branden's (Debian) mail about more specific licencing issues).

      2) I keep hearing reactions from X contributors that "XFree86 is not about Linux", basicaly asserting they would be fine or even better withour all this Linux distros bitching about their work. Well, if GNU/Linux and the BSD's drop the new X who exactly is going to use as a standard installed part of the system? Solaris x86 users? XFree86 importance and relevance is directly related to the widespread use of the Free Unices.

      I would like to had that I'm quite happy about the rejection of the new licence being transversal across distributions and OS's; Mandrake, Debian, RedHat, Gentoo, OpenBSD, probably more will come once they reach a decision. This consensus is important because when it's just the FSF and Debian taking a position people dismiss it as "political rubish". Browse the previous discussions on this issue and you'll see people saying that this licence is only wrong for the FSF and Debian and that their will include the new XFree86 because they are pragmatics bla,bla,bla. This widespread agreement in rejecting the new licence shows that this issues *are* important and that in the long run *more* important that having a new graphic card supported.

      I am, of course, very grateful to the XFree84 Project for their work. The fact that this licencing change was made in such an ungraceful mode does not affect that.
    • by Unregistered ( 584479 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @01:03PM (#8316906)
      They legally can't disribute it, though. All gpl code that links against xfree would need to be made compatable with the new xfree liscense which would in turn violate the GPL. That's why this is such a big deal.
  • The Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TwistedGreen ( 80055 ) <twistedgreen@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @09:57AM (#8315055)
    I suppose that the question here is: why? Is the new licence really that bad? Is this reaction warranted?

    However, if this does become a serious dispute, I can see it being a good thing for the desktop. Development will have the branch from the last version of XFree86 4.3 into some new direction which, hopefully, will make for a better X in years to come.
    • Re:The Question (Score:5, Informative)

      by richie2000 ( 159732 ) <> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:03AM (#8315102) Homepage Journal
      On its face, the new license seems both reasonable and fair -- however, it also seems to create a lot of questions regarding how it should be interpreted [] and this is causing all the noise. My guess (and sincere hope) is that a clarification from, and possible minor re-write of the license by the XFree Project, Inc will clear this all up.
      • Re:The Question (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JohnnyCannuk ( 19863 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:26AM (#8315253)
        Thanks for that link.

        I've been going through this story and the previous one looking for the exact reason everyone is pissed and the answer was on the XFree86 site.

        After reading that, I would say the licence issue is a tempest in a teapot. The gang at XFree86 seems to be debating and willing to change the wording so the new licence is NOT incompatible with the GPL (as evidenced by some of the solutions in the above mentioned post).

        It seems to me the REAL issue here is a personality conflict between certain members of the XFree86 team (mostly David Dawes) and the rest of the community. So much so that we now have possible forks and alternatives springing up. Well guess what, this is nothing new in the open source world. Remember JBoss? It is well known in Java open source circles that Marc Fluery and a few others in the current JBoss organization are twats and thoroughly disliked by a large number of developers. So much so that a large chunk of the original JBoss team broke away and formed their own company and there are now real viable alternatives to JBoss springing up (Geronimo from Apache). But none of that means the code is bad, or the product is bad or the licence is wrong. Like it or not XFree86 is still the only real alternative to a commerial XServer right now, just as JBoss is the only real alternative to commercial J2EE servers.

        I say, let them work it out like adults. If they can't, when XOuvert or freedesktop are mature enougth to be a real alternative, use one of them and move on.

    • Re:The Question (Score:5, Informative)

      by ogre57 ( 632144 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:08AM (#8315146)

      Short answer, yes, for binary distribution it is that bad. For more [] than you want to know ..

    • Re:The Question (Score:5, Informative)

      by spiritraveller ( 641174 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @11:13AM (#8315710)
      I suppose that the question here is: why? Is the new licence really that bad? Is this reaction warranted?

      It is warranted.

      Whether it's "that bad" doesn't matter so much as "is it really incompatible with the GPL."

      If distributors would violate the GPL by linking GPLed programs to XFree4.4, they could be liable for statutory damages under copyright law.

      One would hope that no author (of a GPLed program) would sue Debian (or others) for linking to XFree4.4. But hope doesn't pay the bills. Distributors need to comply fully with the licenses of the software they distribute.

      Other than Debian, the distributors that have made this decision are businesses. It is not that they are GPL nazis... they are just dotting their Is and crossing their Ts.

  • freedesktop? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by peterprior ( 319967 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @09:58AM (#8315058)
    Looks like KeithP's xserver is looking more attractive all the time..
    • Re:freedesktop? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ianoo ( 711633 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:27AM (#8315267) Journal
      If the worst comes to the worst, we can always stick around on XF4.3 for however long it takes him to make XServer production-ready code. With Red Hat, Debian, Gentoo and OpenBSD potentially looking for alterative solutions, it seems there might be sufficient clout to persuade nVidia and ATI to write new drivers for the new server, too.

      Here's hoping. This will damage the Linux-on-the-desktop movement, but it's very good fortune that an alternative is nearly ready to step in to the fray.
    • X server vs xlibs (Score:4, Interesting)

      by kinnell ( 607819 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:58AM (#8315544)
      If the problem is with programs which link with the XFree86 code, doesn't this mean that the libraries are the problem, not the server? IANAE, but presumably a client compiled with any implementation of the client libs will work with any implementation of the server. So why not just ditch the XFree86 libs in favour of the freedesktop xlibs, and use the XFree86 server. This way you still get the hardware support of XFree86, but no license compatability problems. The freedesktop xlibs are supposed to be mature enough, appart from still requiring XFree86 to build them, but this can't be a big problem to solve, surely.
  • Forking hell? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by byolinux ( 535260 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @09:58AM (#8315062) Journal
    What are the chances someone will take 4.3 and fork it, and carrying on development as free software?

    Hopefully, eventually, XFree would realise how much they borked their userbase, and stop this sillyness.

    I'd like to bet that a good proportion of their userbase comes from Distros, and if the distros drop 4.4, they're going to be hit rather badly.

    I'm no XFree86 expert, but surely any changes committed by developers prior to the license change will be still under the previous license and therefore a good starting block for any forking.
  • by Larry David ( 738420 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @09:59AM (#8315067)
    With this shift back a version, does it mean we'll lose a bunch of features, stability, etc? It seems like this is petty squabbling for squabbling's sake. This reminds me of the PHP fiasco with MySQL. Hardcore PHPers are sticking with the sluggish MySQL 3 family because of the licensing on MySQL 4.

    Reading their 'diff' of the new and old licenses is a waste of time, as it's pretty much:

    - all the old license
    + all the new license

    So could someone break down the basic point of the changes? As far as I make it out, it's a simple case of 'we want to have everyone who contributed be credited with every copy', or is it somewhat deeper than that?

    Perhaps distros should distribute XFree86 4.4 as source only and have it compile in a 'firsttime' sort of system when you boot Linux up after installation. From what I read in the XFree86 license, this would work. Could this turn into a BSD-like 'build all' for Linux?
    • by thelasttemptation ( 703311 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:10AM (#8315157) Journal
      except if you notice that openbsd and gentoo, both source only compiles won't include it. The problem is the licence is simlar to bsd's but requires extra credit to be placed all over the distro. Anything that links to the xfree code that is gpled or uses a bsd licence is breaking the gpl/bsd licence because of the extra stuff they need to do in order to link to the libarys. In order to make a distro with 4.4 included, you would need to rewrite every app that links to X to the X licence, else you are breaking the gpl and as a distro maintainer, you'd be responcable for the breaks.
  • NVIDIA? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pyr0 ( 120990 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:00AM (#8315079)
    This brings up a concern about NVIDIA drivers to me. Say NVIDIA only continues to release new drivers compatible with xfree86 4.4 and up. That's *really* going to put pressure on the linux distributions to include 4.4. I wonder how hard it would be for the recent X forks to maintain NVIDIA driver compatibility?
    • Re:NVIDIA? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gukin ( 14148 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:23AM (#8315238)
      It is _VERY_ unlikely nVidia will cut off support at 4.4 and above. nVidia makes very nice chipsets but more importantly makes excellent drivers that work with M$, Linux, FreeBSD etc. They are out to make money, they make money by selling products people want AND PRODUCTS RECOMMENDED BY OTHERS; this is where Linux support is important. Linux users are geeks, people ask geeks what kind of HW to get. I enjoy gaming (especially under Linux) so when someone asks me what kind of video card to get, I recommend nVidia. If nVidia told the Linux base to "stuff it", they would lose sales. They've done an excellent job of keeping the drivers for their products up to date, easy to use , fast and stable. I doubt they are going to change.

      Sorry if I sound like a fanboy but video _is_ important and nVidia cards are the best supported and work the best under Linux for just about everything; I will continue to purchase and recommend their products.
  • by kinnell ( 607819 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:01AM (#8315089)
    This could be a good thing. If this continues to be a problem, it could drive a lot of people to the XServer implementation []. This looks like it will come to be a much better implementation anyway, and will almost certainly develop faster in the future, given the same resources as XFree86. If a considerable number of developers/distributions worked on getting the XServer up to speed, with proper driver support, it would probably be better for everyone.
    • by cozziewozzie ( 344246 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:16AM (#8315190)
      The fdo xserver looks truly mouthwatering, but I believe that all the drivers will have to be rewritten to truly take advantage of it. If that is the case, not only will all the great free XFree DRI drivers have to be ported over, but ATI and nVidia would have to be convinced to rewrite their drivers to this new architecture.

      Yeah, let's all start holding our breaths. At the moment, the fdo xserver is completely hardware unaccelerated and until the drivers are written, it will stay that way, negating any of its advantages. I really hope this project succeeds, but things like these make me worry.
      • by kinnell ( 607819 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:33AM (#8315315)
        According to the gentoo list linked in the article, there is an effort to write a compatability layer for XFree86 drivers underway, so this should at least make it useable, if a little clunky. In any case, all the necessary information for writing drivers should be in the XFree drivers, so porting them should be a lot easier than writing drivers from scratch for someone who understands the code. I think it's more a matter of mindshare than anything else.
  • by julie-h ( 530222 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:04AM (#8315115) Homepage
    Use Xouvert or FreeDesktop and it is the end of the story.

    If I remember correct then is Xouvert an early fork of X 4.4.

    FreeDesktop is of course a long term better choice, but I don't think there is a working version yet.
  • Text of License (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bouncings ( 55215 ) < minus bsd> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:08AM (#8315148) Homepage
    Announcement: Modification to the base XFree86(TM) license.

    After a thorough re-examination of the XFree86(TM) license and reviewing
    how it fits in with the Project's long-stated licensing philosophy ("You
    can do what you like with the code except claim that you wrote it."),
    The XFree86 Project, Inc. has made some changes to its base license.
    This license review was prompted by a desire to ensure that XFree86 and
    its contributors are receiving due credit for their work. The text of
    the modified license can be found at

    The purpose of these changes is to strengthen the "except claim you
    wrote it" clause of the Project's licensing philosophy regarding binary
    distributions of XFree86. While the original license covered this
    adequately for source code redistribution, it has always been lacking
    where binary redistribution was concerned.

    This modified license falls easily within the long-standing XFree86
    licensing policy, and so there has been no change to the classes of
    licenses acceptable for code contributed to XFree86. In fact, some
    contributions to XFree86 were covered by a similar license already.
    Contributors to XFree86 remain free to retain copyright on the code they
    contribute, and can also choose the license for their code within the
    long-standing XFree86 licensing policy.

    The license change applies to the base XFree86 license, and to source
    files that explicitly carry a copyright notice in the name of The XFree86
    Project, Inc. Copyrights and licenses in the names of others will not
    be affected by this change. Furthermore, only a subset of such files
    with an explicit copyright notice in the Project's name will initially
    carry the modified license, which is the core XFree86 components, and
    the source files where there is no explicit author list. The license
    in the remaining files with an XFree86 copyright will only be changed
    with permission from the listed authors.

    The license change will be fully effective as of the 4.4.0 release.
    The initial draft of the changes will be included in 4.4.0 RC3
    ( A source diff showing the initial draft of the changes
    is being made available for review with this announcement, and can be
    found at . All XFree86
    contributors are invited to review the changes, and notify us of errors
    and omissions so that they can be corrected before the 4.4.0 release.
    Such notifications, as well as comments about the licensing changes
    should be directed to the list. XFree86 contributors
    are also encouraged to review the license change, and let us know if
    they wish to make similar changes to licenses in their name.

    * XFree86 is a trademark of The XFree86 Project, Inc., and is pending
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:10AM (#8315155)
    Looking at the list of distributions who say they are not going to entertain using Xfree86 with the v1.1 license, it would seem that all of the major distros are represented (except Suse?).

    If that's the case, usage of XFree86 will simply stop at rev 4.3.mumble or go away entirely. I'd be pretty surprised if the XFree guys didn't back down. The alternative is a slow spiral into obscurity.
  • How exactly... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by randomencounter ( 653994 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:19AM (#8315207)
    is the advertising clause incompatible with the GPL?

    Yes, I know the FSF say it is, but it is a simple assertion that I have been unable to find explicit justification for. The only justification given in their statement is that it is awkward and impractical when in common use, this does not make it incompatible, it just means they don't like it.
    Not the same thing.

    I can see their point about not liking it, and not wanting to use it, I just don't see an explicit incompatibility.

    • Re:How exactly... (Score:5, Informative)

      by bdeclerc ( 129522 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:41AM (#8315380) Homepage
      is the advertising clause incompatible with the GPL?

      Answer : Yes

      More specifically: it is incompatible with clause 6 of the GPL, part of which reads:

      You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein.

      Since their advertising clause is "imposing further restrictions" it is incompatible with the GPL.

      Even more, Clause 2 of the GPL itself forbids redistribution of GPL'd code as part of a "Program" which also contains parts with licenses incompatible with the GPL.

      Since parts of the current XFree86 are actually licensed under the GPL, the Xfree86 guys have two options :
      a) remove all GPL-licensed code from XFree86
      b) get approval from all authors of GPL-licensed code in XFree86 for a re-licensing of their code.

      Considering that Alan Cox has already clearly indicated he will not accept relicensing of his code under something other than the GPL, legally the FXree86 people are already obliged to remove all Alan Cox's code from their relicensed XFree86 before distributing it...

      The GPL isn't viral, if they release something which contains parts that are GPL'd, and other parts that are incompatible, those incompatible parts don't become GPL, but they do have to either remove the GPL'd parts, or relicense the incompatible parts under a different, compatible license (which may or may not be the GPL itself).

      If they don't, they open themselves up for a lawsuit from the copyright-holders of the GPL'd code (which will probably be the FSF in many cases).

      And this is why the Distro's don't want to touch XFree86 4.4, as soon as they distribute it, they themselves are doing the same, illegal, thing that XFree86 itself would be doing, and they would be open to lawsuits...
  • by bsdnazz ( 114881 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:20AM (#8315220)
    The xfree86 V4.4 license adds

    2. 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, and in the same place and form as other copyright, license and disclaimer information.

    3. The end-user documentation included with the redistribution, if any, must include the following acknowledgment: "This product includes software developed by The XFree86 Project, Inc ( and its contributors", in the same place and form as other third-party acknowledgments. Alternately, this acknowledgment may appear in the software itself, in the same form and location as other such third-party acknowledgments.

  • WTF... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by perly-king-69 ( 580000 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:24AM (#8315240)
    WTF is wrong with the XFree86 guys? At a time when the project's existence is at its most debatable, they change their license (why?) to enable most disties to drop the latest version. They may be technically smart, but they seem politically naieve.
  • Strange behaviour... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phrasebook ( 740834 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:29AM (#8315276)
    What's with the people making these announcements? I read the comments by XFree86's David Dawes a while back - he only wrote about 2 lines or so, and hardly replied when people started asking for clarification.

    Then Theo of OpenBSD in this thread [] writes a quick response rejecting the whole thing, again with absolutely no explaintation as to why, and what the specific problems are.

    Then check out the posts in that thread from Darren Reed, getting shot down as a troll straight away for inquiring what the problem with it actually is!

    This kind of discussion and attitude floating around turns me off OSS a little. The last thing I want to see is multiple implementations of X servers in wide use, different ones on different distributions, some doing some things, others doing things a little differently. And of course yet more duplication of effort, re-writing code, etc. Seems a shame. Seems like we just have more fragmentation to look forward to.
  • keithP was right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 7-Vodka ( 195504 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:49AM (#8315456) Journal
    This shows, that keith Packard and all of the other xfree86 developers that were involved in that minor altercation last year were right.

    This license change can only mean one thing:
    The people in charge of the xfree86 project are totally out of touch with the users AND the developers of the project they purport to run.

    Oh well, now we can smack our foreheads, realize we should just have thrown all our support behind the guys who were voicing this opinion and do it now. Hopefully the new license for the alternative xfree86 version we will all start using will be gpl.

  • by EachLennyAPenny ( 731871 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:59AM (#8315557) Homepage
    Debian decided to stay with XFree86 4.2.1.

    lenny@benny:~$ apt-cache show xfree86-common | grep Version
    Version: 4.2.1-16

    /me awaiting discussions about XFree86 4.4 licenses not until 2006-02-18. ;)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @12:01PM (#8316175)
    For God's sake people, stop asking the same question over and over. Read this:

    [forum] [XFree86] Announcement: Modification to the base XFree86(TM) license.
    Sven Luther
    Sun, 1 Feb 2004 17:48:57 +0100

    * Previous message: [forum] Re: Announcement: Modification to the base XFree86(TM) license.
    * Next message: [forum] [XFree86] Announcement: Modification to the base XFree86(TM) license.
    * Messages sorted by: [ date ] [ thread ] [ subject ] [ author ]

    On Thu, Jan 29, 2004 at 11:58:38AM -0500, David Dawes wrote:
    > Announcement: Modification to the base XFree86(TM) license.


    As discussed with David, i am taking discussion concerning the
    problematics aspects of this licence change here. I think i understand
    somewhat the reasons behind the licence change, but i wonder if all the
    consequences of it have been thought of before doing the change.

    Also, there are some confusing wording in one of the clause, which i
    believe would best be clarified as to what the interpretations of them
    by the XFree86 project are.

    Also, first notice that my position is actually quite inconfortable,
    since i am here mentioning the concerns of wider community and criticize
    the new xfree86 licencing, in other forums, i usually do the opposite,
    and take xfree86 side on this, so please do not react badly, and let's
    have a rationale conversation about this, so that things can all be
    resolved to everyone's satisfaction.

    1) Possible confusion.

    The following clause is the most problematic of all the licence, and as
    such it would be nice to clarify it before starting a polemic about it.

    3) The end-user documentation included with the redistribution, if any,
    must include the following acknowledgment: "This product includes
    software developed by The XFree86 Project, Inc
    ( and its contributors", in the same place
    and form as other third-party acknowledgments. Alternately, this
    acknowledgment may appear in the software itself, in the same form
    and location as other such third-party acknowledgments.

    Ok, what does this mean exactly ? If there is a end-user documentation,
    but it contains no third-party acknowledgement part, do you still have
    to put the acknowledgement or not ? Also, is the choice between putting
    the acknowledgement in the end-user documentation or the software a
    choice that is free to make, or is the second an alternative only if
    there is no enduser documentation. And what do you mean by in the
    software itself ? If this software is a linux distribution for example,
    would a file on the CD which is copied to the disk be enough ?

    2) GPL incompatibility.

    This selfsame clause is also the one which clashes with the clasue 6) of
    the GPL.

    6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the
    Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the
    original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to
    these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further
    restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein.
    You are not responsible for enforcing compliance by third parties to
    this License.

    And in the 'you may not impose any further restrictions' part. Since the
    GPL does not force you to add acknowledgement in the end-user
    distribution, then the clause 3) of the 1.1 XFree86 licence is indeed a
    further restriction, which cause an incompatibility with GPLed software.
    Now this is again modulated with the exact interpretation that is given
    in the above point.

    3) Where is the derivative work boundary ?

    The problem is further muddled by the place where the boundary for
    something being considered a derivative work. The GPL, contrary to the
    LGPL, considers that everything linked with a another binary is a
    derivative work
  • Project leadership (Score:5, Insightful)

    by adrianbaugh ( 696007 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @12:47PM (#8316671) Homepage Journal
    Is it just me, or does David Dawes sound like an entirely unsuitable person to be entrusted with the leadership of a big project like XFree? I have no idea how l33t a coder he is, and it doesn't really matter. To be a good leader of a project you need to have enormous regard for the stability of the development effort. Cases in point: Linux and GNU. The Linux development effort has changed very little since the early days (the biggest change I can remember was moving to BitKeeper). The license has remained the same; everyone knows what the score is and how to get things done. It works. GNU: everyone knows what license is used for GNU software. For many of the tools the development process seems a bit arcane (maybe I just don't know as much). But everything keeps running nicely. The only occasion I can remember was the gcc/egcs split a few years ago and that wasn't really due to instability in the development effort, rather due to a wish by some people to have a livelier development tree. Eventually all was merged back together and everything went merrily on its way. Again, stability.

    Now consider XFree. Code can be licensed under one of several licenses; the whole kaboodle is also licensed under an additional license. This changes every so often, apparently without much notice or reason given. It's no wonder the distributions have finally had enough - now there are other X implementations approaching readiness I bet quite a few are getting ready to leave the sinking XFree ship. Now all we need is nVidia drivers for od.o...
  • by Ryan Amos ( 16972 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @01:43PM (#8317354)
    ... on becoming irrelevant in the Linux community in 7 days. They did a hell of a job at it. :)

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.