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Why the GPL Licensing Cops Are the Good Guys 233

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."
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Why the GPL Licensing Cops Are the Good Guys

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  • Wrong link (Score:5, Informative)

    by mrsam ( 12205 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:58AM (#40201041) Homepage

    Another job well-done, by the alleged editors. That link goes to the second page of a two-page article.

    First page [infoworld.com].

  • by icebraining ( 1313345 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @11:01AM (#40201053) Homepage

    How do you know those are GPL advocates?

  • by oiron ( 697563 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @12:03PM (#40201439) Homepage

    So you need to use software licenses for any FOSS you use that allow you to use their compilers, tools, operating systems and whatever other tools you need in addition to the unique elements you develop on your own to produce a saleable package that customers will be willing to buy, without giving up any right to control copyright of your own work. I think we're all fine with conveying the license to the FOSS software that's included in our packages to the end user without restriction. You want to use the Linux distribution that's included in my package for stuff I didn't envision? Go ahead. I never owned that anyway and I don't care what you do with it as long as you don't drag me into liability issues for your modifications. I just don't want you to copy the elements I made without paying me for each installation.

    Fud fud fud!

    It's perfectly legal to build proprietary apps on top of Linux, glibc, and other friends. What you have to do is to provide the source to any modifications you make to the FOSS tools or packages, and convey the license to the user.

    The elements you made which are not under GPL/similar, you can do whatever you want with them. The author of the GPLed package on the other hand, intended that you give back, as payment for his having built something you can use for free, any modifications you make. Are you saying that I should respect your right to your own license, but you won't respect mine?

  • Re:Effects (Score:4, Informative)

    by inglorion_on_the_net ( 1965514 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @12:18PM (#40201527) Homepage

    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.

    Got any numbers to back up that claim? I know of several cases where vendors have, from the get-go or after legal action, made source code available. At least some of those vendors still ship devices + GPL code (DLink is an example of a vendor that initially resisted, but now provides access to the source code). I don't know of any vendors that have stopped shipping GPL code when made to comply with the license. But that's just what I know. If you have data that shows there is a significant trend in either direction, please share.

  • by oiron ( 697563 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @12:20PM (#40201543) Homepage

    That screen is for information. In fact, several rights (and duties) are conferred on you when you accept the GPL. It's not only a source license - you received a binary of the software, and in that action, you received certain rights to the software. You should be informed of your rights and obligations under the GPL, same as under any other license.

  • Re:Effects (Score:3, Informative)

    by magic maverick ( 2615475 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @12:21PM (#40201559) Homepage Journal

    If they don't want to follow the simple rules, then they don't have to use the product. Sure there are other OSes, but few are as cheap, widespread, and as easy to use as the GNU/Linux and BusyBox/Linux combinations.

    In fact, I would love for all the people who don't want to follow the GPL when it comes to Linux, BusyBox and the GNU tools to stop using them. Start using costly alternatives like QNX, or whatever. If the products are better, people might buy them. But the cost of the OS will make the cost of the hardware go up.

  • by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @12:35PM (#40201659)

    Out of curiosity, If APIs cannot be copyrighted, does this mean they cannot also be covered by the GPL?

    The GPL exists within copyright law, so yes, that's what it means.

    This would seem to be a fairly major implication of the Oracle vs. Google case. (Speaking strictly about API definitions/header files.)

    The judge's decision about API non-copyrightability merely continues the status-quo that has been in place for decades, and is little more than a footnote in computing history; a footnote that reads: "Nothing new happened. An evil company was unable to change decades of standard practice to fit its own warped agenda."

    The GPL continues on as it always has.

  • by LurkerXXX ( 667952 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @12:45PM (#40201723)

    You are ignoring the fact that the community did benifit. Which you previously said did not. And MS got to get the stack out without worrying about lawyers hassling them about the license, which was a benifit to them.

      You are quite free to license your own software under as restrictive a license as you want, no one said otherwise. Just don't spout off that the BSD license doesn't benifit the community.

  • by unixisc ( 2429386 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @02:34PM (#40202491)

    That's not the only point here. If you look @ the GNU project website, they define their 4 freedoms, which are

    • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
    • The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
    • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
    • The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

    Most businesses, like yours, would have no issues w/ Freedoms 0 and 1. Freedom 0 is the very idea why they're selling it in the first place. Like you might be selling a spreadsheet, but your customer might be using it as a database. You wouldn't care - you've got your payment, and are happy. Similarly, let's say that you wrote a C compiler, which your customer wanted to tweak in order to include support for OpenRISC. You are more than happy to let him do it, and since you don't have other OpenRISC customers, you're fine w/ them using it in-house.

    It's w/ Freedoms 2 and 3 that you run into problems. Let's say you priced your software - based on your business plan - @ $50.00, when people can start giving away copies of your software to their neighbors, instead of sending them to buy it from you, it devalues your software. So you might decide that okay, all my paying customers will get the source code w/ it, but they're not allowed to 'help their neighbor'. At that very moment, the GPL is not for you. You then have to scour for unLiberated Open Source licenses, or write your own. Then there is the question of what if you deliver your software on a locked down box, like TiVo does? Sometimes, Freedom 1 & 3 cannot be respected either, or else, the content providers could have problems w/ the device and refuse to support it, making it totally unviable in the marketplace.

    It's not a mere question of how many lawyers do you need to figure it out. It's that 2 of the 4 very fundamental assumptions on which the GPL is built is completely unsuitable for business - at least business that requires selling software.

  • by Dagger2 ( 1177377 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @04:16PM (#40203239)

    Because whoever made the installer did it wrong. When presented with the GPL in an installer, the button should read "Next" or "Continue".

    You do not need to accept the GPL just to use GPLed software.

  • by genkernel ( 1761338 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @04:44PM (#40203441)

    Dude, the GPL is one of the most simple licenses out there. Perhaps this isn't an issue with the other licenses because everyone just assumes that they will not be enforced, which strikes me as odd. But I still do not get how people miscontstrue the GPL in such a variety of ways.

    If you make an image with GIMP the image does not need to be released under the GPL! You are free to use the GPLed program, in this case GIMP for any purpose (seriously, for *any purpose*). An image created using GIMP is not a derivative work of GIMP, since no part of GIMP exists in the image. If you were to modify the source code of GIMP, then that would be a derivative work, but so long as that work is not distributed, you still do not have any oblications under the GPL. If you release your modification of GIMP then you must provide the source code licensed under the GPL and not use patents/copyrights to sue anyone over their use of your modified GIMP.

    So the GPL is completely viable for software that is used to create content, because it has absolutely no restrictions on that created content. You do not need to give people a copy of GIMP with every image you create with it, that is not what the text of the license says. Seriously, where did you get that idea? And just in case you need a citation, behold the GPL FAQ [gnu.org]!

    Seriously, where do you get this sort of misinformation?

    On a side note, the ffmpeg issue is not as clear cut as you claim, since they don't use a normal GPL, but use a modified LGPL v2. I haven't read the ffmpeg license, but the LGPL allows linking, so they don't have to distribute ffmpeg, and it most likely doesn't properly exist in their software product anyways (remember, linking).

  • by Coeurderoy ( 717228 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @05:13PM (#40203651)

    Just plain not true, you can use gcc to write non GPL software, and emacs to write a non CC nor FDL book.
    You are bound by the GPL only if you redistribute the GPL code (modified or not), in the case of the GCC it even says explicitelly that the "chunks of code" it might reuse in the generated code are not GPL, since they are just a "traduction" of your "code"..

    The patent issue that you allude to in the video media comment is just the main reason the GPL V3 was created to avoid that people on one hand create liberties using GPL code, and then take them away with software patents..

    The issue there is not the GPL but the minefield the US Patent code has created for IT, software patents are always a bad idea.

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