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Subject: Re: Licensing and Copyright Issues (GPL discussion)

Re: Licensing and Copyright Issues (GPL discussion)

From: Ray Lambert <codemonkey_at_interthingy.net>
Date: Thu, 20 Sep 2007 10:50:22 -0400

Sorry for being so late with this response. It's been a busy week and I
really wanted to respond to Daniel's comments...

Daniel Stenberg wrote:
> On Tue, 11 Sep 2007, Ray Lambert wrote:
>> The GPL has a specific reason for existing. It's to protect the hard work
>> of programmers from those people who would use it to their own advantage, to
>> the detriment of the very people that toiled over its creation in the first
>> place. This is essentially what "TiVo-ization" is and it's why so many
>> folks (yourself included) think it's wrong and even immoral (which I agree
>> with); it's basically a form of stealing. Why should you (or anyone) allow
>> any company to "steal" your work in this manner? You shouldn't. That's
>> what the GPL (and, yes, its DRM and patent clauses) protect against.
>>
> Well, that's your view but not the view of many others. See kerneltrap and the
> GPLv3 flame fest on the Linux kernel mailing list.
>
You're certainly correct about "many others" but it's not just my view;
not by a long shot. It's important to remember who created the GPL and
why. I suspect RMS would agree fully with my statement as would most
other FSF supporters.

Many OSS projects have chosen to use the GPL (including RB) even though
their goals may not be directly in line with those of the GPL & FSF.
The GPL does carry certain baggage with it, due to its philosophical
underpinnings, and that baggage goes along with it whether you like it
or want it or not. I suspect that many OSS projects would be happier
with a different license, frankly. I don't think it's helpful or
appropriate for OSS guys to argue about changing or ignoring the nature
of the GPL (especially when its nature is so obvious, due to RMS wearing
it on his sleeve). They need to realize that this extra baggage became
their own when they chose to use the GPL and either accept it or switch
to another license.

> Companies like Tivo have used GPLv2 fine for many years and they have
> contributed their changes back and thus helped improving Linux. They use the
> code under the GPL license, they share their code.
>
> In my view, that is the exact spirit of the (GPLv2) license.
>
Yes, but there is more to both things.

(BTW, I would agree that "stealing" is probably a bit too strong of a
word for tivo. Admittedly I was being a bit flippant. (That's also why
I quoted the word.))

> GPLv3 modifies that spirit and expands it to another level. You may agree with
> it, or you may not, but in my view the license has changed spirit and no
> longer only requires that you get code changes back, it now also requires
> that you should be able to install your modified versions on any hardware that
> runs GPLv3 software.
>
I disagree. It does not modify the core meanings or intent in any way.
It merely clarifies the terms so as to close loopholes. Tivoisation was
the result of a loophole. The Novell/M$ patent deal was the result of a
loophole. GPLv3 closes those loopholes and I agree with that goal.

Again, these changes perfectly serve the goals of the FSF and RMS. OSS
guys can argue about it all they want but, at the end of the day, it's
the FSF's license and it should be expected that they're going to
maintain it in a manner that supports *their* goals. OSS guys should
also remember that it's the GPL and RMS' "extremism" that has made OSS
possible by providing virtually ALL of the infrastructure required to
make OSS (i.e. compilers, etc.). Can you imagine where OSS would be
today without GNU? One should be careful not to throw out the baby with
the bath water.

>> And remember, it's more than just *your* personal work. The GPL is trying
>> to protect the entire FOSS ecosystem. In order for that to succeed, we need
>> to all stick together on this.
>>
> No. We (as in the FOSS community) have had plenty of licenses all the time and
> the GPLv3 just *adds* a license and the fact that it isn't GPLv2 compatible
> makes things hard for a large amount of projects.
>
No. The GPL was the first and GPLv3 is not a new license, it *IS* the
GPL. If the OSS community choses to move away from the protective
principals of the GPL, OSS code *will* eventually be co-opted by
businesses with ill intentions. Human nature doesn't change (in our
lifetimes) and history does repeat itself. Remember, this all came
about because RMS actually *saw* it happen.

> We don't "stick together" for the sake of it, we do what we think is best as
> IMHO open source and free software is best made to evolve evolution-like and
> that requires everyone to make up their own minds and do their own decisions.
> The best wins in the end. The survival of the fittest.
>
By "sticking together" I meant standing by the core principals of the
GPL. I completely agree with the remainder of your statement but one
must remember that it's the aspects of the GPL that *protect the code*
that allows the evolution to continue freely.

>> Most importantly (w.r.t. working with companies) if a given company can't
>> abide by the GPL for whatever reason, there is *always* the possibility of
>> licensing to that company under a different license (even a commercial one).
>>
> Yeah, right. Our ~169 copyright owners would just gather in a room and we'd
> all agree to do a release with a specific license to that company... :-)
>
I didn't say it would be easy but I do think that it is within the realm
of possibility. I cited statements from either Torvalds or Moglen (or
both) indicating a way to do it which is not particularly onerous.
There are also ways to structure the organization to make further
licensing decision much easier to administer. If any licensing change
is to be made for RB, I would suggest that those structures be explored
prior to making a change so as to avoid having to go through the initial
(painful) change process more than once.

~ray
Received on 2007-09-20


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