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SFLC Finds One New GPL Violation Per Day

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the learning-something-new dept.

GNU is Not Unix 187

eldavojohn writes "In July, the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) leveled the finger at Microsoft for a GPL violation but how often does this actually happen? Sunday, Brad M. Kuhn (tech director at the SFLC) stated in his blog that since August of 2009 he has been finding about one per day. So why is it that we have only covered a handful of these cases in the news? Brad offers sage wisdom; surprisingly, he recommends, 'Don't go public first. Back around late 1999, when I found my first GPL violation from scratch, I wanted to post it to every mailing list I could find and shame that company that failed to respect and cooperate with the software freedom community. I'm glad that I didn't do that, because I've since seen similar actions destroy the lines of communication with violators, and make resolution tougher.' Public shame is evidently not always the best answer. Ars has a few more details and notes that (in accordance with Brad's advice) lawsuits are usually a dead last resort."

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closed up (2, Funny)

runyonave (1482739) | more than 4 years ago | (#30046512)

hardcore closed source company is alwyas going to have violations. Also it's Microsoft.

Re:closed up (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#30046728)

open source project have violations too. Using someones patented ideas, calling a library that isn't GNU compatible. The program is performing a function that is illegal such as DRM disabling. That is why you need to be civil with dealing with people for violations. As chances are you have made a mistake and created a violation yourself.

Re:closed up (4, Insightful)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 4 years ago | (#30046988)

Be civil and *document*. If it does come to court, your kind requests (in writing) to desist, as well as your flexibility in helping them identify and correct their violation will help make the case that you have taken the needed steps to protect your property without being an asshole. Their response, or lack thereof, will then be a building block in your case should it come to that.

Remember, civil court is usually just a judge and that judge may react somewhat differently if it is clear you are a jerk. While it is true that they may have to rule in your favor even if you are a jerk, they are unlikely to make it easy on you. There are many things judges can to to move things along that are at their discretion.

Treat every communication for violation as it it was going to be entered into evidence, but remember, court costs money and (more importantly) time. You are much better off if you are getting violators to comply without taking it to that level.

Re:closed up (1)

NervousWreck (1399445) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047796)

This is besides the fact that using the courts as a way to settle intellectual property issues simply creates incentive for more and stricter patent laws as well as being just plain wrong. It's always better to come to an agreement civilly.

Re:closed up (2, Interesting)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047908)

Who can sue over a GPL violation? Doesn't it have to be the author of the code?

Re:closed up (1)

Courageous (228506) | more than 4 years ago | (#30048234)

Depends on the country. In some countries, attorneys can proxy standing for a violated party without the violated party's consent.

Re:closed up (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049240)

Who can sue over a GPL violation? Doesn't it have to be the author of the code?

The GPL gives certain rights to the end-user, so the end-user can sue as well. Besides the author and the user, I believe the FSF can also take the case.

Re:closed up (1)

amorsen (7485) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049726)

The GPL gives rights to the end-user, but that doesn't give the end-user any standing to sue. Unfortunate perhaps, but that's the law. The same goes for the FSF.

Re:closed up (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047414)

To be fair, I would say that most people working in open-source software think that patents on ANY software are bullshit. They simply ignore them. Patents on software are immoral, as is locking up your source code, so both are eschewed by most free software developers. Just because it's illegal doesn't mean it's wrong, and just because it's wrong doesn't mean that it's illegal.

Re:closed up (1)

cetialphav (246516) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049558)

Patents on software are immoral, as is locking up your source code

Software patents (and other forms of stupid patents) are not morality issues. It is just stupid policy to allow dumb patents. It does not further innovation and in fact just wastes people's time and energy. There are plenty of ways to argue against these bad patents, but claiming they are immoral is a stretch and just causes people to dismiss the issue.

The same can be said of deciding whether to release the source code to a program or not. If I write a piece of software, what I do with it is my business. If I want to hide the source code, that is up to me and I am not immoral by doing so. I might be stupid or short sighted or naive, but I am not immoral.

Morality is not just a question of whether you like something or not. I think buying lottery tickets is dumb, but not immoral.

Re:closed up (1, Interesting)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049724)

"It's OK to violate the GPL because ..."

The GPL has a patent clause because the intent was to build an ecosystem of patent-free (or freely redistributable) software. Software patents suck, but simply ignoring them just pushes the problem farther down the line.

The result is a bunch of pseudo-free software that can only be legally distributed in some vaguely unspecified countries in "Europe" where software patents aren't enforced. And that causes problems for end users and distros because it's not exactly clear which OSS is intentionally violating someone's patent (beyond the obvious sound/video stuff).

Re:closed up (1, Insightful)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047426)

The program is performing a function that is illegal such as DRM disabling.

Yes, and the problem is...?

Re:closed up (4, Insightful)

imp (7585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30048030)

I've been involved in an open source project (FreeBSD) for a long time. There have been a number of complaints about GPL violations in the past. These complaints are usually made in private. That helps a lot. Often times the compaints are wrong (The GPL code that was alleged to have been taken and improperly included in FreeBSD turned out to have been taken from BSD 4.4lite and incorporated into the GPL code was the worst example). There have also been cases where the same code appeared in drivers in multiple places. Again, that wasn't a GPL violation because both places took the code from a common data sheet. Sometimes supposed violations are cleaned up out of an abundance of caution: it isn't clear the code is improperly included, but the code in question is easy to rewrite and/or icky to start with.

There are also times where GPL code is improperly imported code from BSD as well. Even when these are found it isn't always worth it to complain. Sometimes the gain from complaining is so small that it is easier to just let the folks use the code and not worry too much about it. Sometimes having the code out there and improperly licensed is better than getting it removed from the code base.

In general, I've found that most people that aren't lawyers don't know the law or the provenance of the code very well. By complaining in private, you get a chance to learn a bit about both. You also give people a chance to make it right. With large open source projects, the chances for accidental mistakes are high. The projects are generally keen to avoid the mistakes in the first place, and even keener on making sure that they get ironed out after the facts. Turns out most companies have a similar view and will do the right thing when asked (but sometimes it takes a little time, which is OK: the GPL never said instantly on demand).

Of course, this begs the question about the validity of the License to use GPL software after a violation has occurred, the scope to which license is lost, how to get it back, etc. GPLv2 is silent on the issue, while GPLv3 gives you one shot to fix it (but that's likely insufficient for large companies that have multiple product lines done by disjoint sets of people all of whom aren't educated on the finer points of incorporating GPL software into their products).

Re:closed up (1)

JoeBuck (7947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049596)

Under GPLv2, if you violate the terms, you lose the license, meaning that you can no longer copy or modify the work at all, and there is nothing in the GPL (v2) itself to get the license back. However, the copyright holder can forgive the violation and reinstate the license.

Likewise, under GPLv3 the copyright holder can give you additional shots to get the license back.

It's important to remember that the copyright holder's powers go beyond the terms. This does create problems for projects with hundreds of copyright owners, like Linux: if you violate the copyright, you apparently need the forgiveness of every Linux copyright owner, or, in the case of the dead contributors, their heirs, or you can never distribute a Linux kernel again (I suppose you could try to make a cut-down kernel without the contributions of the more unforgiving developers). Some might see this as a feature rather than a bug, though.

GPL code can import BSD code; it's only improper if the copyright notices are stripped off (which has happened, so you're right about that).

Re:closed up (1)

cheftw (996831) | more than 4 years ago | (#30048454)

You're neglecting the fact that an awful lot of FOSS comes from Europe, where we can disable DRM, ignore software patents, etc.

Whether or not I've violated a software license also has no bearing on whether or not someone else has. Your English and logic make me cry.

Behind the scenes or not (0, Flamebait)

impaledsunset (1337701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30046560)

That's why I use real free and open source licenses, non abominations like the GPL. Making your software "free" and then fighting people using it with legal pressure, eh?

I put everything in the public domain, and I sleep well at night without having nightmares that someone might have violated my license.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (3, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#30046792)

Stallman in a bikini.

Ok, there's your nightmare material for tonight.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30046812)

I like keeping my software free for everyone for ever. I'm glad you enjoy end users being robbed of their freedom.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

dfghjk (711126) | more than 4 years ago | (#30046938)

Public domain does keep "my software" free for everyone "for ever". It can't do anything but that.

GPL is about forcing future software to also be free. Not using it doesn't rob anyone of anything.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30047324)

And this is why Linux is GPL, but every major Unix and much of the modern computing infrastructure is based on BSD.

You have a choice - freedom means exactly that, it means someone else is allowed to be free too, not forced to agree with you.
The GPL is facism.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (4, Informative)

asdf7890 (1518587) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047352)

GPL is about forcing future software to also be free. Not using it doesn't rob anyone of anything.

GPL is about forcing future software that uses on GPLed code to also be free. You don't want to be held by the GPL? Then don't use GPLed code. Is it really that difficult?

Got GPLed code in your project by accident? Then you didn't do due diligence properly. Your fault, not the GPL's fault.

Got GPLed code in your project by no fault of your own (bad contractor, used a library or other source that itself broke GPL, or some such reason)? That does sometimes happen and here you need to discuss it with the owner of the affected code.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30048704)

You don't want to be held by the GPL? Then don't use GPLed code. Is it really that difficult?

Yes, sometimes. Here's a concrete example. I library that I wrote uses libavcodec. My library is MIT licensed, and someone who uses my library also uses an Apache licensed library (I can't remember it's name; something for parsing MPEG-4 atoms) and released his code under the BSD license. Libavcodec is normally LGPL, so this is fine. Unfortunately, there are half a dozen or so optional files in libavcodec (e.g. some MMX optimisations) that are GPL'd. Some distributions include these in their binary versions. They then can't distribute this application as well without violating the GPL (because the Apache license is not compatible with GPLv2).

The GPL'd files are not included in the build of libavcodec on my machine, nor on the machine of the person who wrote the application using my library, but his code can't be shipped with Debian because the person who maintains an upstream package chose to incorporate some GPL'd code into their stock build of a library.

How is not using GPL'd code difficult? (1)

KWTm (808824) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049762)

"You don't want to be held by the GPL? Then don't use GPLed code. Is it really that difficult?"

Yes, sometimes. Here's a concrete example. I library that I wrote uses libavcodec. My library is MIT licensed, and someone who uses my library also uses an Apache licensed library (I can't remember it's name; something for parsing MPEG-4 atoms) and released his code under the BSD license. Libavcodec is normally LGPL, so this is fine. Unfortunately, there are half a dozen or so optional files in libavcodec (e.g. some MMX optimisations) that are GPL'd. Some distributions include these in their binary versions. They then can't distribute this application as well without violating the GPL (because the Apache license is not compatible with GPLv2).

No, that doesn't make sense. You're still assuming the same sense of entitlement found in people who protest that they should be able to use GPL'd code without cost.

If someone uses GPL'd code, s/he there is a price to pay. It may be seen as a lot, or a little, but with your benefit comes an obligation. You are not forced to choose that obligation; you can always choose not to use the GPL'd code. But there is equally no responsibility for the creator to let you use the code free of obligation.

Similarly, you get to use libavcodec. Someone decided that it would be licensed under LGPL, which seems to work for you. It looks like other optional files in libavcodec are GPL'd, and apparently you wish they are LGPL or other more permissive license. But there is no responsibility for the creator to let you use those GPL'd optional files.

I think it's a matter of expectation. Just as someone new to FLOSS might have the overoptimistic expectation that Free software means s/he can freeload, you might look at libAVcodec and decide, "Hey, it got good reviews on all the web sites and has all the features I want" and not realize that those optional features are GPL. But that's reality, and you (or others distributing your work) will have to decide between the cost and benefit of the GPL.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30049822)

Can't code under Apache, BSD, and MIT licenses be used in GPL applications as long as the attribution clause is intact? I thought all three of those could even be closed as long as the attribution clause is intact. I agree that when including the GPL'ed part of libavcodec, the entire production must be GPL'ed. I just thought that these licenses allowed for that.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049296)

GPL is about forcing future software that uses on GPLed code to also be free. You don't want to be held by the GPL? Then don't use GPLed code. Is it really that difficult?

Non-sense. Anyone can use GPLed code, regardless of what they want to do with it.

If you don't want to be tied by the GPL, then don't modify and distribute it. Now that should be really easy to avoid for anyone who is not evil.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049622)

If you don't want to be tied by the GPL, then don't modify and distribute it.

I think you mean "don't link to it and distribute it."

Re:Behind the scenes or not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30048800)

The GPL is about keeping the application free, so users have the freedom to use an app however they want, without being constrained by the original maker.

BSD, Public domain etc. is about keeping the code free, so developers... see above.

Those are two goals that are not compatible. Surprisingly, it seems many people still don't get this.

But obviously, since there are more users than developers, GPL > BSD.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047950)

Meh, GPL does not qualify as "free" to me. There are strings attached that do not allow you to do anything you like with the code. If someone wants to use my code in a closed source project, I really don't care. My code is still out there for others to use.

It isn't free to you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30049054)

It isn't free to you because you didn't write it.

Parasite.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

Rhacman (1528815) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049844)

I tend to agree and I think that there is a place for both GPL and no strings attached code. The intent of the GPL is to encourage other developers to contribute to the open source community without furthering the ends of closed-source commercial or other proprietary endeavors. The problem stems from people not realising that the GPL comes with an agenda attached. Personally I prefer the MIT (X11) licence both for code I use and code I write. My aim would be to know that I produced something that helped someone out. The GPL aim is to encourage people to release source code they otherwise may not have and to give people alternatives to closed source software. I think both aims are admirable but distinct from one another.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (2, Informative)

Rennt (582550) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049850)

You may choose to define "free" however you like (this is an acknowledged problem with the term), however when the context is free software, the Free Software Definition [wikipedia.org] is fairly well established.
  • run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0)
  • study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1)
  • redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2)
  • improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3)

You are, of course, also free NOT to release your own work under the GPL. Meanwhile, imposing your sense of freedom on others reduces their freedoms no matter which license you choose.

Now you did not actually reveal what your ideal "free" licence is, but I will share with you Rennt's Law: "The probability that anyone arguing that the GPL is not "free" is really just pissed that BSD is not as popular is exactly 1".

Re:Behind the scenes or not (2, Interesting)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30048014)

What freedom are end users losing if a company includes public domain code in their software? Please provide realistic and practical examples that prove you've thought about the concept longer than 15 milliseconds.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30048106)

Please elaborate. What does the software do, how is it distributed and under what license is it distributed?

Re:Behind the scenes or not (2, Insightful)

WNight (23683) | more than 4 years ago | (#30048866)

They lose the freedom to tinker with what would have been open, whatever it was that the company theoretically closed.

If that's the component they're struggling to fix it could be all-important.

I found a minor bug in Rubygems the other day simply by reading the source. If it wasn't available I'd still be wondering what was supposed to happen and tweaking my code trying to make it work.

Solitaire doesn't run better just because it's open sourced so many users might not even notice, but the ones who poke around or fix anything would. It's the difference between a usable machine and one completely covered into anti-tampering epoxy.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049068)

They lose the freedom to tinker with what would have been open, whatever it was that the company theoretically closed.

So you think that if a company uses a public domain component, it's *no longer* in the public domain? Or what are you saying here-- it makes no sense to me. How can a company "close" something that's already been put into the public domain?

If that's the component they're struggling to fix it could be all-important.

If it's a large product, and the one component that's busted is in the public domain, that would make it the *easiest* part to fix, no?

I found a minor bug in Rubygems the other day simply by reading the source. If it wasn't available I'd still be wondering what was supposed to happen and tweaking my code trying to make it work.

[Insert "great story, bro" image macro.]

Solitaire doesn't run better just because it's open sourced so many users might not even notice, but the ones who poke around or fix anything would. It's the difference between a usable machine and one completely covered into anti-tampering epoxy.

Huh?

From my perspective, proprietary machines are by far the most usable since (by and large, and this is slowly changing) open source coders don't give half-a-whit about usability issues.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

DeadCatX2 (950953) | more than 4 years ago | (#30048162)

If it's in the public domain, how is anyone robbed of freedom? Go grab yourself gcc, download the source, and build it yourself.

Or did you post as AC because you know that argument holds no water?

Re:Behind the scenes or not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30048656)

As I understand it, the GPL offers some protections that simple public domain does not. It prevents a rouge developer from taking free code, making a small modification, locking it up, and suing anyone who uses the old (open) version for copyright infringement. It's a contrived example, but it does happen. By the time you prove to the court that the code was initially in the public domain, the damage has already been done.

By "hacking" copyright law, you can make specifically state that developers are free to copy and modify this code, but they are not allowed to lock down new versions in order to prevent the scenario described above. They try to do that, and it becomes much easier to slap them with a counter-suit.

Unfortunately, like many other hacks, it has side effects. Some of these side effects are less than desirable (to say the least). That is why more lenient copyright licenses are used, like the MIT and BSD licenses. They offer more of a compromise between pure PD and the GPL. That is why I, as a web developer, use JavaScript libraries licensed under MIT or BSD licenses; less legal gray area in telling people to just issue a GET command if you want the code.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30049266)

How does the GPL do that? It is just a software license, not magic. There is nothing in the GPL (or any other license) which prevents someone from making a false claim of ownership. All using GPL'ed code does (to you, as a developer using GPL'ed code) is open you to endless headaches. Unless you want your code publicly available (even if you are just developing an in-house application), stay away.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

Rhacman (1528815) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049280)

I'm not sure I understand how the GPL protects against this scenario. As the malicious developer I can strip the license off the GPL'd code, say that I wrote it first, and be back in the same courtroom scenario you mentioned.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

sirsnork (530512) | more than 4 years ago | (#30048840)

Surely you would suggest they grab a public domain compiler given your stance on the GPL?

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049058)

Imagine FTP for instance. It's available, open, and people use it. So someone like MS implements FTP, but closes the source.

Even if they did go and get FTP source and compile it, it wouldn't work without a ton of tweaking, so they're out the ability to tweak their OS.

Oh sure, the people who are already uber-coders don't lose. But the users who might have been coders had they had more source available to look at, they lose. As does everyone they could have helped. Not any source helps here, just the source to what they run day-to-day.

We have cool cars because automotive engineers were able to play around in their cars and invent new things. Ditto software, but only as long as computers aren't locked-down black-boxes.

I learned to program by reading source that shipped on the system disk of my first computer and you ask how users are hurt by not having source...

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1, Interesting)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30046850)

Ever consider that the latest and greatest feature in the latest and greatest, multi-million unit shipping product may be using code you developed?

Ever wanted to maybe boost your pay by jumping to a new company, based on that?

Tough shit. They don't have to say you had anything to do with it. They can just collect the bounty and laugh all the way to the bank. They might have a toast in your name for being a baffoon. Hell, they can even say they developed it themselves, as long as they can read what you've coded. If you're happy with that then fine, amazing, how altruistic of you. I applaud you.

They do that to GPL code as well (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047092)

How many people know that GPL software powers their routers? Linksys and others could call the Linux Kernel developers and everyone else whose software powers their consumer devices "baffoons" for letting them get away with it. The GPL doesn't protect you from "exploitation."

If that scenario bothers you so much then don't open source anything.

Re:They do that to GPL code as well (1)

stiggle (649614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047340)

The GPL protects you only is you use it to defend yourself.
So if they are using GPL code without acknowledging the author & GPL status of the code then they are opening themselves up for a case against them.

How many people know that GPL software powers their HDTV? You'll be suprised how many Digital HDTV these days contain GPL code.

Re:They do that to GPL code as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30049608)

Linksys switched to VxWorks.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047992)

>They don't have to say you had anything to do with it. They can just collect the bounty and laugh all the way to the bank. I'd assume that anyone who puts their code in the public domain doesn't really give a crap who does what with it. It's not like your code is somehow magical and no one else could ever have come up with it. At best you're just saving someone else some time.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#30048060)

Hell, they can even say they developed it themselves, as long as they can read what you've coded.

Not true, actually. That would be plagiarism, which is entirely different to using someone else's code. It's the difference between quoting someone in a paper you wrote, and claiming that you were the originator of the quote. It falls under the "Moral Rights" clauses of copyright law, and beyond that under almost any ethics system and human decency.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30048744)

It falls under the "Moral Rights" clauses of copyright law

Note that, while moral rights are quite well-protected in the EU, US Federal copyright law does not recognise the concept. In some states there is quite broad protection, for example in California and in others, such as New York, it only pertains to certain forms of copyright works.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049170)

But if the source isn't visible they aren't claiming your source is theirs, just that the product is theirs. Microsoft claims Windows is theirs despite the theoretical heritage of the FTP client, for example.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049630)

But if the source isn't visible they aren't claiming your source is theirs, just that the product is theirs. Microsoft claims Windows is theirs despite the theoretical heritage of the FTP client, for example.

So, how is licensing under the GPL going to stop dishonest pricks from being dishonest pricks? Douchey people are going to do that anyway, regardless of what license you choose (if any). But the point is that most humans regard plagiarism as a much more serious offense than mere copyright infringement. Most people see copying something to use for yourself as a more-or-less acceptable desire. But lying and claiming credit for something that somebody else did, is a pretty serious sin.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30048120)

Ever consider that the latest and greatest feature in the latest and greatest, multi-million unit shipping product may be using code you developed?

Ever wanted to maybe boost your pay by jumping to a new company, based on that?

Tough shit. They don't have to say you had anything to do with it.

If you cared about that, why would you put your code in the public domain?

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30047588)

Making your software "free" and then fighting people using it with legal pressure, eh?

Given that the GPL puts no restrictions on *use* you obviously don't know what you're talking about.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 4 years ago | (#30048010)

If someone doesn't want to make the source for their project available, they can't do that with GPL'd code in the project. I'd call that a restriction.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049238)

Wah. And if someone wants to make a project with Microsoft code instead of GPLed code - oh yeah, they can't because MS code isn't even visible, let alone available.

Besides, why would we care if they want to use free software but are unwilling to extend that benefit to others? That's the very definition of a complete fucking asshole. At that, let them pay for it.

Why do people (like you) keep posting these "But, then they can't horde the source" things as if giving assholes the ability to close source wasn't one of the things the GPL was invented to prevent.

And I can't fuck you up the ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30049754)

And I can't fuck you up the ass. I'd call that a restriction.

So called "Free country"? Pah! Maxist state, that's what it is, telling me what I can do with an ass I grab hold of and my dick...

Re:Behind the scenes or not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30047616)

Interesting? Mod this guy "grade A moron".

"That's why I use real free and open source licenses, non abominations like the GPL."

Link to your public domain software please!

I like how you think it's free because someone can disappear it into a giant bigger chunk of technology, then "enhance and expand" your market away, such that your product is impossible to use, but the "real" product, run by some company anywhere, is the only way to do it.

But by all means, if you want to do that, go ahead. You get the satisfaction of having enhanced human knowledge, just like the GPL guys. You also get to provide charity for someone with tons of money, who gets more blowjobs in a month than you get in a decade.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (4, Insightful)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047666)

May I advance a humble proposal that any post along the lines of "GPL is better than BSDL" or "BSDL is better than GPL" is modded Flamebait and/or Troll on sight? Personally, I'm sick of these endless and pointless fights over nothing, where arguments boil down to who is "more free", with either side persisting in the claim that their definition of "free" is the One and Only True Free.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30048618)

Amen. I'm going to follow this advice from now on. Unless the story title is "Which license is more free?", I'll consider this sort of comments offtopic trolls.

Re:Behind the scenes or not (2, Funny)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049148)

Seconded here. I've been listening to the "debates" for years and years and haven't heard anything new from either side in so long I can't remember. Lets just short-circuit the whole thing here: BSD fans want to legalize slavery and murder, and GPL fans want to set up communist dictatorships and destroy the world's economy. As long as someone can "prove" that I'm evil no matter which one I support, I figure I might as well go whole-hog and be totally evil by supporting both, each in their own place. Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn! :)

Re:Behind the scenes or not (1)

spirit of reason (989882) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049794)

It's really a silly argument. The BSD license does have fewer restrictions, but that doesn't make it better than the other. I think people need to understand that the two licenses have different goals in mind, and developers need to respect the wishes of the rights holder. Likewise, developers should take care in what license they use.

My guess is that the BSD license's intent was to simply give credit where credit was due and to allow researchers to develop code for anyone to use, in proprietary or open source projects, with limited liability. This is a good license to choose if you want to give your code away and only want recognition.

The GPL's intent should be obvious to everyone here: The FSF is after a system entirely composed of open source software, and the GPL is one of their tools to achieve it. If you do not want to be a part of this community, do not license your software as GPL and do not expect to be able to use someone else's GPL code (in your own code). If you don't like it, tough--you may as well be complaining to a car salesman about your car not being free.

But if you hate the GPL and FSF, you might not want to use the BSD license. They can use your code too. ;)

Lets be civilized people. (1, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#30046628)

Oddly enough most companies even the Evil Microsoft will much rather fix the problem without having to fight it legally, and resolve the problem civilly. When you pre-poster aggressive towards your opponent they will do the same. And if you are Not for Profit organization and you opponent is a big multi-national company, you are going to be in for a big fight where if you were just to be polite and civil about it chances are you will get your objectives, they will quietly fix their problems and save face. Most of the time these GPL violations are not done deliberately but the GPL is a strict license and for a big company you will have people putting in things that they didn't even realize was wrong. Or worse say some GPL Code was cut as a segment for a help forum and was used from that. So yes they violated the code, they probably didn't mean too, if you are nice to them they will probably fix it. If you go all out and make yourself aggressive they will be aggressive too, and put you in a case even if you win you loose.

Lets be civilized -- Investigate before accussing. (3, Insightful)

iYk6 (1425255) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047012)

Don't forget, there might not be a problem in the first place. If you are looking around, and see someone else's GPL code in a proprietary product, make sure you find the original owner and talk to them before you go around shouting at the hill tops how evil the proprietary company is.

It is entirely possible that the code was appropriately licensed by the original owner. Just because something is GPL, does not mean that it can not also be licensed for a specific user, usually for money. Think Quake.

Even if the project itself is not licensed for their use, maybe whoever wrote that part of the project re-licensed their contribution to a proprietary company.

Re:Lets be civilized people. (1)

tearmeapart (674637) | more than 4 years ago | (#30048294)

I find it hard to believe you can post that just a few hours after the "Microsoft Tries To Censor Bing Vulnerability" story was posted ( http://yro.slashdot.org/story/09/11/09/2319233/Microsoft-Tries-To-Censor-Bing-Vulnerability [slashdot.org] ).

IMHO, Microsoft's lawyers (collectively) are faster and better than Microsoft's developers (collectively).

Just from that, I believe your arguments are mostly moot.

Also, Microsoft's legal department and development/maintenance team are two separate entities. Legal will do what it needs to do to protect the company (which is what it is trying to do here) and get more money. Microsoft's developers (whether hired by Microsoft full time or via a contract) will try to avoid boring work, which is why they used the GPL code.

However, I still agree that contacting the person/company/organization/corporation before spreading the news is the right thing to do, but it is not absolutely necessary.
I do not doubt that the lawyers at Microsoft will use the full extent of the law (and even go beyond when it can) to protect Microsoft and themselves, so I would not want to ever (non-anonymously) release a vulnerability.

That being said,
Microsoft:
Please fix the vulnerabilities I sent to you last year, as I am very tempted to spread them or use them. I know your people can sleep knowing a few critical vulnerabilities exist with IIS and Windows, but I sometimes cannot.

Re:Lets be civilized people. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30049242)

Oddly enough most companies even the Evil Microsoft will much rather fix the problem without having to fight it legally, and resolve the problem civilly. When you pre-poster aggressive towards your opponent they will do the same. And if you are Not for Profit organization and you opponent is a big multi-national company, you are going to be in for a big fight where if you were just to be polite and civil about it chances are you will get your objectives, they will quietly fix their problems and save face. Most of the time these GPL violations are not done deliberately but the GPL is a strict license and for a big company you will have people putting in things that they didn't even realize was wrong. Or worse say some GPL Code was cut as a segment for a help forum and was used from that. So yes they violated the code, they probably didn't mean too, if you are nice to them they will probably fix it. If you go all out and make yourself aggressive they will be aggressive too, and put you in a case even if you win you loose.

Considering that MS is a major player in the IP enforcement racket, that's a very charitable attitude to have.

But groups like the BSA in the USA and FACT in the UK exist purely to enforce the likes of MS's EULAs. If you make a mistake with MS's licensing, and get caught by a group that actively looks for mistakes (and MS's licensing rules mean mistakes are easy to make), you will have unforeseen costs coming your way - through either suddenly having to pay for more licences, or defending yourself from being sued. The BSA/FACT exists to 1) detract from the individual companies who could well be fucking over small businesses and individuals (bad for PR), and 2) make the enforcement of their licences more efficient, by pooling the enforcement costs. Any entity that does things like this does not deserve charity.

I say if you are a copyright holder and your GPL code gets violated by a for-profit entity you should be looking to sue for as much as possible, and get the terms of the GPL fully enforced. If MS "accidentally" put some GPL code into Office, well, then Office needs to be opened and the profits so far need to be handed over to the original GPL'd code writer. And Office needs to be taken off the market. MS won't accidentally put GPL code in a product again after that.

I don't know what a court would do if you went in there, fucked over a company who had broken some rule whilst at the same time you are saying that the law is utterly unreasonable, but GPL violations are a good opportunity to publicise how fucked up IP law is.

Re:Lets be civilized people. (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049570)

That's all bullshit.

You've got the premise the GPL is a strict license and that it's easy to accidently infringe - as if code just teleports into your project.

It's pretty hard to accidentally infringe. You have to go get someone else's code and stick it in your project. If you don't paste any external code into yours, you're 100% safe!

But all copyrighted source is this way. You can't just release something you didn't write, at least without asking permission for it and appeasing the author. The GPL is far less strict, offering you that ability up front and requiring only one thing - that you not close the source.

One thing the GPL is, is a greed detector. The people who bristle about not being able to use GPLed code are greedy useless people. For them hording is so important they can't understand not hording source from their users, but at the same time they get incensed about the 'non-freedom' of the GPL because they see it as preventing their use of the code. It's pretty funny really.

Going to court and going public (5, Insightful)

Corporate T00l (244210) | more than 4 years ago | (#30046650)

It's not really surprising that going to court and going public are really last resort sort of things. Court is expensive, and most people considering them to be a "roll of the dice". Actually negotiating with your counterparty in a contract dispute is always cheaper and more productive.

Going public, even after going to court, also sours the atmosphere, creating emotional contention that makes an actual agreement less likely. Look at out-of-court settlements with undisclosed terms and no party admitting fault. Once you get out of the public light, you can get people to sit down and discuss and actually come to a mutual agreement since the emotions have been toned down. If you're all fury and anger, you're not really in a position to negotiate someone into a corrective action.

Re:Going to court and going public (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047076)

Actually negotiating with your counterparty in a contract dispute is always cheaper and more productive.

It should be so far from not surprising I'm surprised that it had to be said.

Once you throw down the legal gauntlet, anyone you are dealing with now imagines, in bright red 30' letters, "Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law."

Re:Going to court and going public (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049946)

Yes, because they were living in the corporate dreamland of lawless cooperation until these open-source thugs just started asserting ownership of code.

Sometimes things can be honest mistakes and warning are nice, but other things are obvious and treating them like a mistake just gives the infringing person a victim role to play and by forgiving everything they did doesn't change their future behavior in the slightest.

Imagine shoplifting. You leave a store and they catch up with you and say "Hi, you MIGHT have something of ours, if you return to the store and sort this out we'll drop this." This is appropriate if it looks accidental and they want you to come back in the future, but if they said this to a thief the thief would give this item back and steal another the next day. Only by pursuing the thief vigorously could they prevent more thefts.

In most cases it's pretty hard to call using someone's library without considering licensing an 'honest' mistake, especially in business. These people need to be smacked with the "We're going to court with this unless you call up and grovel by 9am" or they're just going to screw with you.

Honest people don't rip things out of packages in the store and hide them down their leg - honest businesses don't obfuscate which libraries they're using. People who do these things need to be treated like liars until they show otherwise.

Re:Going to court and going public (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30049520)

The truth is that going public is useless with GPL violations because the kind of people who care are completely ineffectual misanthropes who have retreated to insular internet circlejerks in the absence of any real human contact.

Ah yes (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30046740)

Ah yes, another one of these stories. Expect to see some references to M$, people defending GPL and people advocating BSD. All in all, everyone will agree that respecting open source licenses is very important. Next thread, something about RIAA, same people demanding their right to download copyrighted music.

Pathetic.

Re:Ah yes (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30046834)

BNP Finds one new anus violation per day

Niggers believed to be responsible.

Re:Ah yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30046942)

Same people? Prove it.

Re:Ah yes (3, Insightful)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047010)

Ah yes, another one of these stories. Expect to see some references to M$, people defending GPL and people advocating BSD. All in all, everyone will agree that respecting open source licenses is very important. Next thread, something about RIAA, same people demanding their right to download copyrighted music.

Pathetic.

Result of proper GPL usage: More software for the public to use.

Result of copyright abuse: Less content in the public domain.

One is about the world that is, the other is about the world that should be. What's pathetic is the lack of understanding you have of the people you're criticizing.

Re:Ah yes (1)

stiggle (649614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047378)

Those who don't abide by the GPL are committing copyright abuse - its all in the license :-)

So proper copyright use in both cases gives more to the public good.

Re:Ah yes (1)

Virak (897071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047712)

You left out 'people trolling about copyright', evidently.

Re:Ah yes (1)

koiransuklaa (1502579) | more than 4 years ago | (#30048798)

And then the same people come and expose the hypocrisy of saying two totally opposite things. And then the same people come and ridicule themselves about making stupid assumptions.

Those wacky slashdot users.

Just use a different license (1)

petrus4 (213815) | more than 4 years ago | (#30046762)

The simplest ways to avoid potential GPL violation, are:-

a) If you want to use an FSF license at all, use the LGPL version 2. Don't use any version 3 FSF license. Apart from anything else, doing so just makes them feel justified in creating bad licenses. (Which their 3 series are)

b) If you're going to use GPL code at all, make sure it's not something you intend to modify yourself.

c) Use other licenses (BSD, MIT, etc) as much as possible. In terms of non-GPL licensed code for you to use, the BSDs are free for the taking, and with the BSD license, you get to decide how much of your modifications (if any) you release. Their code quality is nearly always better than Linux anywayz.

If you're not using GPL licensed code, there is no way that you can be responsible for GPL violations. GPL advocates used to use this argument rhetorically, because they felt that this would mean that the person in question would have no choice. (the implication being that there was barely any non-GPL code, so they'd have nothing to be able to use)

Call their bluff.

Re:Just use a different license (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30047594)

I've avoided even evaluating *GPL software when searching for libraries and such for distribution with a product. Management was fine with me using open source, but I didn't want to deal with the hassle of making sure I was strictly in compliance.

Re:Just use a different license (1)

arose (644256) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049384)

I didn't want to deal with the hassle of making sure I was strictly in compliance.

I suggest you stop using any and all third party code.

WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30047646)

"Don't use any version 3 FSF license." Unless you don't like the idea that someone can patent the idea implemented in your code and then sue you for using your code...

"If you're not using GPL licensed code, there is no way that you can be responsible for GPL violations." But if you're using non-GPL licensed code you could be responsible for non-GPL violations. You can also be done for patent violations.

Re:WTF? (1)

petrus4 (213815) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047700)

"Don't use any version 3 FSF license." Unless you don't like the idea that someone can patent the idea implemented in your code and then sue you for using your code...

Nobody cares.

"If you're not using GPL licensed code, there is no way that you can be responsible for GPL violations." But if you're using non-GPL licensed code you could be responsible for non-GPL violations. You can also be done for patent violations.

Did I mention that nobody cares?

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30049972)

"Don't use any version 3 FSF license." Unless you don't like the idea that someone can patent the idea implemented in your code and then sue you for using your code...

They can't do that. Your code is prior art. If they sue you they will lose. I don't see what is different with GPLv3.

"If you're not using GPL licensed code, there is no way that you can be responsible for GPL violations." But if you're using non-GPL licensed code you could be responsible for non-GPL violations. You can also be done for patent violations.

The BSD, MIT and Apache license fit on a single page. There is practically no room for interpretation. The only way to violate them is removing the license or advertising without consent of the people.

Your patent argument really is moot. If another company has a valid claim and a reason to sue they will do. GPLv3 will not safe you from this. What it does is prevent patent agreements like Microsoft-Novel.
This means: you can't make a deal with a holder of a patent that you are allowed to use his patent in GPLv3 code while others are not allowed to do so.

So if you violate some patent the GPLv3 will not safe you. You still have to settle or desist. GPLv3 makes it harder for you to settle, but the positive is when you do everyone will profit from this. We have yet to see that in action though...

Re:Just use a different license (1)

tuppe666 (904118) | more than 4 years ago | (#30048758)

I'm a little surprised by the post. The simplest way to avoid any violation if to abide by the licensing it is under. This does not just apply to GPL but a whole host of licensing of code.

The you post a few licences you can use without giving back! If you are not giving back that points to code under a license that doesn't enforce it being worse.

Now what I found interesting is the lie, that GPL code is not quality code. Its bizarre. CODE QUALITY has nothing to do with the license. The fact that so many companies are prepared to copyright infringe implies the opposite.

If you had made the point that more permissive licences have better code because more companies/individuals will contribute back...but its not a strong argument in a case discussing violations.

But what I find most bizarre is that even though GPL enforces sharing, all those OTHER licenses still want you to share. Thats the point. The code doesn't get better otherwise.

Re:Just use a different license (1)

JoeBuck (7947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049640)

GPLv3 is actually more forgiving than GPLv2 of accidental violations. GPLv2 says that you forfeit the license and you need the copyright holder to reinstate it. GPLv3 provides a mechanism to correct the violation and have your permissions automatically reinstated. If you're producing a product that does DRM, you'll need to avoid GPLv3.

just use some other licencing (1)

masshuu (1260516) | more than 4 years ago | (#30046948)

I still don't understand GPL v2 or GPL v3, though i have read each of the licencing things several times.

The most i get from it is "If you distribute the Binderys, you must distribute the source code"

thats why i like MIT or BSD based licences, there short, to the point, and don't have hundreds of loopholes or hidden licencing terms that could cause some large company to rape my ass, though if they want to rape my ass, they will do it no matter what i use, MIT or GPL

Re:just use some other licencing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30046982)

The most i get from it is "If you distribute the Binderys, you must distribute the source code"

That's why I distribute the source code on loose sheets of paper. Binding is just too expensive these days.

And as for the money? (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047086)

And if the company made, or is making, $$$ selling an open-source derived product? Without distributing source? What should be done?

Re:And as for the money? (0, Flamebait)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047432)

Buy the software if you want it.
Don't buy the software if you don't want it.

No one but the most ardent of internet nerds gives a shit about open-source software licensing.

You can bitch and moan all day long, and in the end the most you'll get is a link to the source code of the open source shit they used. Big fucking whoop.

Or do you want your router to come with a printout of the source code for the shit it's running?

Haduh! (2, Interesting)

hunteke (1172571) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047196)

In U.S. culture at least, we have little notion of how to let the "other side" save face. Saving face, or not 100% embarrassing folks when they've obviously messed up, is critically important in many negotiations, both exactly political, and locally among friends. The old adage "it's not what you say, it's how you say it," still rings true. People aren't stupid, and most would rather not be insinuated as such. People do, however, make mistakes, either semi-intentionally, unknowingly. (Analogous to driving, right? That's why they call crashes "accidents".)

Ridiculing folks gets folks nowhere. In the long run, most would agree that having businesses around and prospering is a good thing. (Let's not get into a debate about size of businesses for now.) A healthy business affords jobs to the local community, a service to those who need it, and acts as a community partner. A dead business does no such thing. A friendly reminder is often more than enough to get someone to clean up there act. I know it sure is for me.

Re:Haduh! (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047442)

Ridicule gets you VERY far. You just need to know when to wave that big stick, and use it after trying other methods, and failing. Public humiliation should most certainly be a tool to get someone to do something. If you're ashamed of doing something, you shouldn't be doing it.

Naming and shaming may not work... (1)

BigBadBus (653823) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047552)

...but it sure is cathartic - have a look at the blog in my sig line!

So what the guy really says ... (1)

BESTouff (531293) | more than 4 years ago | (#30047872)

So what the guy really says is that if they spoke about that Microsoft case aloud, it's because the other, softer ways of resolving the dispute couldn't work ?

So the next logical step is a lawsuit ?

law is not law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30048232)

Software law is not natural law.

You can't judge the legality of software without looking at it's details, so painting a brush that GPL/OSS software is absolutely distributable/free is plainly ignorant. I'm sure software having violations is more the norm than the shocker. Unless you have governance and stewardship roles in the maintainance of that s/w (e.g. The Linux Kernel), GPL is meaningless.And 9 out of 10 projects never considered those roles in spirit of agile development and getting the s/w out the door asap

And that's why pointing out a fact (X software is violating GPL) means nothing unless someone enforces it. Something like the GPL is only beneficial if someone enforces it (I'm sure RMS would, actually, disagree...). Considering we have no system of enforcement, aside from just 'suing the other guy', I say GPL is more of a guideline vs. a legal mechanism.

The GPL Needs a Damages Clause (1)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 4 years ago | (#30048600)

There is no legal pressure on any company that steals GPL code.

Here is the problem.

1) GPL software is not very profitable.
2) The GPL is only enforceable in civil court.
3) Those who use GPL software aren't the people violators sell to.
4) GPL software lacks civil and legal representation.

Who would feel threatened under these conditions?

To sue, one must prove damages. Record companies use the CD MSRP * copies made formula which is very effective. $0 times anything is zero. And the 2 developers who write code in their free time aren't going to chase anyone no matter how blatant the violation.

So I say GPL needs a damages clause:

"If I do not comply, I agree to pay all associated legal fees and 1 million dollars in damages per copy of proprietary software that I sell which includes any code from this software."

Re:The GPL Needs a Damages Clause (1)

frogstar_robot (926792) | more than 4 years ago | (#30049016)

Damages are for a court to decide. To be sure, EULAs and licenses may contain boilerplate specifying violation penalties but it doesn't necessarily follow that they can be enforced. One of the design goals of the GPL is to be valid in as many jurisdictions as possible. Including a damages cause would weaken that. It may be contrary to it's designers' strategies as well. Both the SFLC and FSF have said that most GPL violations are resolved quietly.

Copyright infringement can be criminal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30049022)

Copyright infringement can be criminal.

Oh, and where are all these EULA licenses sued in?

That's right: civil court.

That's a EULA. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30049514)

And remember, EULAs are not enforceable. Slashdot screams this EVERY time APPLE or MS has one. It cuts both ways, Slashdot.

look harder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30049264)

One a day? They must not be looking very hard

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