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FSF Uses Android FUD To Push GPLv3

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the some-people-say dept.

Android 282

jfruhlinger writes "We've already seen claims from Edward Naughton and Florian Mueller that most Android distributors are in violation of the GPL — claims that the open source community has, for the most part, rejected. Therefore it's disheartening to see that the FSF is using this line of reasoning to push the GPL v3 over the supposedly more troublesome GPL v2. The FSF's press release on the subject emphasizes 'worries' without bringing up a specific concrete case of infringement — a classic FUD technique."

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282 comments

FSF (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37168908)

No, it just means that FSF can see past what most slashdotters can't, regarding Google and Android.

But do mod me down, me and FSF dared to question Google on Slashdot.

Re:FSF (3, Insightful)

NoAkai (2036200) | more than 2 years ago | (#37168930)

Thank you, this summary is horribly written. News, sure, but this isn't a personal opinion piece. That's what the comment field is for.

Re:FSF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37168946)

Yeah, it's a shame that the comics curmudgeon is in fact an anti-FSF troll. :-/

Re:FSF (3, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 2 years ago | (#37168966)

More unsubstantiated arguments? I don't know if we've been trolled, or you were really trying to argue effectively, and failed utterly?

The FSF? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37168914)

You mean the guys who are doing more damage to the FOSS movement than Microsoft?

Re:The FSF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37168994)

The only people helping FOSS more than Microsoft is the BSA (yes I know MS is a member).

ah FSF (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37168926)

FSF has their own agenda and will have little using whatever they can to push their own. To be honest, not much different than Microsoft.

Re:ah FSF (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37168934)

The difference is that Microsoft's agenda serves only themselves, while the FSF's agenda serves humanity as a whole.

Re:ah FSF (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169022)

according to whom? Studies are inconclusive as to how much Free Software is helping or hurting things. A lot of very good free programs are now kept out of the hands of people because of GPL v3 violations while linux and unix market share has not budged a inch.

The reality of the situation is the whole world is a lot more grey than FSF would really like to believe, and Microsoft and Apple are not the big bads they want them to be as they have done as much if not more to promote the ideas of the FSF as they have hurt them.

Re:ah FSF (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169082)

A lot of very good free programs are now kept out of the hands of people because of GPL v3

Nonsense. The only reason not to use GPLv3 software is if you intend to deprive your users of their fundamental software freedoms. If that's your choice, we're not losing out on anything when we prohibit you from using GPLv3 software.

Re:ah FSF (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169110)

Distributing, I mean. The GPL prohibits no one, under any circumstances, from using any software. Even if you refuse to accept the GPL, you may use GPL(any version) software.

Re:ah FSF (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169162)

The GPL does however prevent people from distributing derivative works without the source and then there is the matter of the anti-tivoization language in the GPL v3.

Some might consider the ability to link in GPL code in otherwise non-GPL code and vice versa to be a fundamental freedom that open source is supposed to provide.

Re:ah FSF (5, Insightful)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169264)

Lemme get this straight, you want to allow tivoization? If so just be honest and use the BSD license, that's practically what tivoization turns the GPLv2 into anyways.

Re:ah FSF (0)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169174)

The GPL is arguably more restrictive than other OSS licenses. The important part is the -reasoning- and -intent- of the restrictions. They are intended to secure against the removal of your rights.

Re:ah FSF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169616)

Or at least a certain subset thereof

The GPL licenses support a certain set of rights (the ability of users at ANY level of the chain to view/modify the code) over others, namely the right to release your software without it's code (if it uses GPLed components). And if GPLed code is based off of other code, it deprives the original author the right to take the modifications back into his/her project without altering his/her license.

Each license favors certain people and certain rights, no more, no less.

Re:ah FSF (1, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169598)

That's a critical distinction, and the corollary to that distinction is that most companies won't touch GPLv3 software with a ten meter pole, which means that it never gets included in commercial OS distributions and can't be sold/given away in many popular online stores. That, in turn, is a great reason not to use GPLv3 software.

First rule of software: if it's hard to obtain and/or hard to install, it might as well not exist, as it will be forever relegated to niche markets.

As a case in point, we're currently watching Apple, NetBSD, FreeBSD, and OpenBSD move towards LLVM/Clang. Assuming this transition continues unabated, within a few years, GCC will basically be a footnote outside of hardcore Free Software circles.

It's worth noting that none of the people or companies involved in that transition are doing it because they want to take away customers' rights. They're doing it because they have a different definition of "freedom" than GPL proponents. Freedom to take open source software and make it closed source is a freedom that the GPL takes away. Thus, the GPL is less free than BSD licenses. Sure, you can try to justify that fact away by saying that it prevents other people from taking away your freedom, but does it really?

If I took GCC and made it closed source today (assuming I were allowed to do so), existing GCC users would continue to have access to previous versions of GCC. They could continue to innovate and improve the compiler. They just wouldn't be entitled to the improvements that I made for my customers. Further, if I developed a compiler from scratch, my customers would have exactly the same rights to the compiler source as they would if I were allowed to take GCC closed source. Therefore, no one's freedom is actually taken away by taking an open source project and making it closed source. The only difference is that in one case, the GCC developers feel like I've taken advantage of their generosity and used it for personal gain, whereas in the other case, they don't.

Really, what it comes down to is entitlement. Free Software proponents feel that the community is entitled to free fixes from anyone who redistributes code that they gave away, whereas the Open Source community does not. The Free Software proponents (at least the ones who haven't been fooled by false claims that it protects "freedoms") see these post-backs as essentially a form of payment in exchange for their work. By continuing to make that payment, companies are allowed to benefit from the community's previous work on the project. In effect, Free Software developers use code post-backs as a form of currency, whereas traditional Open Source software developers just plain give away their code.

What's fascinating is that when you look at the history of software, a pattern emerges: companies value the right to take software closed-source even if they have no real intention of availing themselves of that right. GPL essentially deprives them of flexibility. The result is that given two otherwise equal choices, one of which is licensed under a GPL license and one of which is licensed under a BSD license, companies will invariably choose the latter. It's possibly an irrational reaction, but it's a consistent reaction.

The result of this, of course, is that companies distance themselves from GPLed software, making it harder and harder to obtain, relegating it to obscurity. By contrast, Open Source software, while not as ideologically pure in the eyes of GPL proponents, flourishes and, unsurprisingly, remains open more often than not.

Re:ah FSF (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169244)

Exactly, this is why I support the GPLv3 over the GPLv2. The only things the GPLv2 allows that the GPLv3 doesn't are tivoization and patent timebombs. If a company needs one of those things to offer an open source product, well fuck 'em, we don't need their shit (and yes that goes for the prominent tivoized mobile OS. Better, more open OSes were marginalized due to Android's success, and now Android is practically closed, so in the long run I'd say we would have been better off without it. MeeGo or WebOS could have taken its place).

Re:ah FSF (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169130)

A lot of very good free programs are now kept out of the hands of people because of GPL v3 violations while linux and unix market share has not budged a inch.

I'm curious about this claim. No one is forced to use GPLv3, so how does this follow? Can you clarify what you mean, and any evidence you can bring to bear on this point? After all, Linux itself is GPLv2, and most distros have software from a number of open source licenses.

Re:ah FSF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169278)

They're helping things, just perhaps not in they way they wanted. Case in point: gcc is a piece of shit (yes, you can polish a turd), but it's good enough. The GPL3 nonsense was the final straw for Apple, so they redirected their resources towards llvm, clang, and libcxx -- superior software under a truly free license.

Everyone benefits -- a better compiler for users and the FSF can just pull a switch-a-roo like they did with eggs and paste their GPL headers on the clang/llvm source code.

Locked Bootloaders (5, Insightful)

ArcRiley (737114) | more than 2 years ago | (#37168938)

If Android were GPLv3 licensed we wouldn't have a problem with companies locking down their bootloaders. We could use the energy we currently put into hacking root access on our own phones into improving the platform.

I obviously agree with the FSF.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169012)

Did it cross your mind that without ability to lock bootloaders maybe you wouldn't have a platform to improve?

Re:Locked Bootloaders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169038)

No. Why? Is there any reason for such an idea to cross anyone's mind?
Is a free-as-in-speech platform impossible?

Re:Locked Bootloaders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169096)

Because a GPLv3 kernel would have disallowed the proprietary drivers that many of these manufacturers include for their phones?

Re:Locked Bootloaders (3, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169186)

so then they would have to open source them. a good thing

Re:Locked Bootloaders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169238)

so then they wouldn't use it. a good thing

FTFY

Re:Locked Bootloaders (4, Insightful)

HarrySquatter (1698416) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169352)

No, they would just choose to skip supporting that OS because they aren't going to open source the code. Or do you live in some fantasy world that exists outside of the real world?

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169752)

I live in the real world where open source code driver code for some phone devices already exists, and where a company called Google has enough pull they could make a totally open source phone a reality and even beat carriers into submission to accept it. Rumor has it google may become a carrier themselves, by the way.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169876)

Hilarious you got modded troll. People really are delusional.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169402)

So then Nvidia and whomever else (Qualcomm, TI, Samsung, Imagination Tech) would cease development and move to a platform which didn't require them to publish more trade secrets.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169702)

No, Windows Mobile or Blackberry would be in Android's position, because most of the phone manufacturers wouldn't want to give that up, or in many cases, couldn't.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (3, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169226)

How so? I wasn't aware that you were suddenly prevented from loading "tainted" modules into the kernel.

Sure, maybe you can't build them in. You don't have to. That's one of the things an initial ram filesystem does - lets you store the modules and utilities you need to boot, without building them into the kernel.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169112)

Impossible? No, look at the FreeRunner. (Or to a lesser extent, the N900.)

But likely? I think no. I honestly think that Android would not be in nearly the place that it is in right now the phone manufacturers were not able to lock them down. The phone manufacturers are probably relatively indifferent on their own, but the carriers love the fact that they are locked down, and that's where a lot of the real power lies. If Verizon and AT&T say "no, your platform is too open, we're not going to promote or subsidize your phones (it makes it harder to prevent tethering and upsell stuff)", how many of those phones would be sold?

I'm not saying it necessarily would play out that way, but at least if you look at market share, I think it's entirely possible that in a world with actual open phones, the benefactors would be the iPhone and WinMo.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

HarrySquatter (1698416) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169136)

Impossible? No, look at the FreeRunner. (Or to a lesser extent, the N900.)

Since when did the FreeRunner or N900 use an OS and kernel under the GPLv3?

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169298)

There's no GPLv3 Linux kernel as we all know, but the N900 can run MeeGo which is 100% FOSS.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

HarrySquatter (1698416) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169336)

Great, but this whole thread was about what the phone manufacturers would have done if the Linux kernel was GPLv3. So once again, what is the relevance of the examples when they have nothing to do with an OS using a GPLv3 kernel?

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169420)

Oh I had no idea, since it started with "If Android were GPLv3 licensed" (and Android != Linux kernel) and nobody said anything about a GPLv3 kernel until you brought it up...

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169360)

Since when did the FreeRunner or N900 use an OS and kernel under the GPLv3?

Huh? I never said they did. Unless you want to argue that being GPLv2 means that something isn't 'free as in speech'.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

donny77 (891484) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169138)

No, It is impractical. I am responsible for the reliability of my 1,800 node network. I have 5 support staff to make everything run and test future upgrades. No way I allow personal equipment on my network, as I cannot maintain reliability with unknown mis-configured equipment on my network that I do not know about. But, let's just let you roll your own cell phone. You can reprogram the firmware change the protocols of the communications system, I mean what could go wrong, right?

Re:Locked Bootloaders (2)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169286)

The cell-modem is in almost all cases (apart from the very bottom end) running on a completely seperate CPU.
It is basically identical - and often connected the same way - as a plug-in USB cellmodem. There is seperate closed firmware, usually signed, on the modem, and the linux side never touches anything more than 'dial x'.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

rthille (8526) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169192)

Perhaps the manufacturers would choose a different OS entirely, say BSD based, or QNX or something and Android would be much less successful (and therefore interesting).

Re:Locked Bootloaders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169050)

This. GPL v3 is only going to push more companies and projects towards BSD type licenses.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (0, Troll)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169324)

Good, then they can stop taking from the OSS community and giving nothing back, and they won't be able to wave the GPL & Linux flags around as part of their openwashing attempts.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

HarrySquatter (1698416) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169368)

Good, then they can stop taking from the OSS community

Because the BSDs aren't part of the OSS community? Since when?

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169482)

Those who create and support BSD software have no problem with having their software ripped off, if they did, well it wouldn't be BSD licensed would it?

The GPL crowd, that is, the vast majority of the OSS community, has a different definition of openness where being ripped off is frowned up.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

ArcRiley (737114) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169078)

HTC and Samsung are having no trouble selling phones with unlocked bootloaders.

Of course carriers would prefer to have complete administrative access to your phones, control what you can do with them and bloat them with software you can't remove. Clearly market pressure is pushing in the direction of freedom.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169084)

I don't see how, unless you're claiming that every (mobile) service provider in the country would suddenly band together in an evil clique and refuse to support these devices, and forbid shops from selling them.
And that just doesn't make economic sense as then a company could gain a near-monopoly (on sales at least) just by agreeing to carrying them on its own.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1, Interesting)

rtaylor (70602) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169016)

If Android were GPLv3 then they wouldn't be in violation because they would not be selling Android based phones.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169342)

I assume you're being snarky (open source will never sell hurr durr) because there's nothing in the GPLv3 to prevent that.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (4, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169682)

The GPLv3 prohibits the use of GPLv3'd software on devices that implement signatures as a means of execution control unless the user is given the key that is used to sign the binaries. (Not sure if supplying a means for registering a 3rd party key would suffice.)

So if you implemented a scheme where all binaries, before execution, were signature checked for your $private_vendor_key and denied if it was missing, then you'd be in violation of the GPLv3 if you didn't give the user $private_vendor_key. This was put in place to defeat the end-run that was TiVOization.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169750)

But why would those signatures be needed at all? Android allows sideloading without any keys (and therefore is requiring them in the app store for non-technical reasons), Maemo/MeeGo just uses plain Linux repos...it's not necessary.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169866)

But why would those signatures be needed at all?

By and large it's a moot point for Android, thus far. Were the kernel GPLv3, this would impact any vendor whose bootloader checks the kernel for a signature. Since it's GPLv2 only, this is a moot point.

However, if someone implements a "protection" system for the device that prevented the device from operating if an unsigned module is put in place of what was previously there and that module is GPLv3, then they have to give you the key so you can replace it cleanly or they are in violation of the GPLv3. I don't know if any vendor is currently doing this, and it's not relevant anyway.

Where it might be relevant is the App Store for Apple's iProducts. Nothing gets run unless you jailbreak (and violate the EULA) or Apple approves and signs your application. And Apple will absolutely not give you their key, thus any and all GPLv3 software made available via the App Store is in violation (thus why they now bar it from the store.)

Maemo/MeeGo just uses plain Linux repos...it's not necessary.

That's assuming some security framework isn't laid on top of it that the vendor uses to lock the device down. MeeGo is just a reference platform upon which others are built, after all. As for Maemo, Nokia's Aegis uses a system very much like this on the N9 (even though it's gonna be so narrowly distributed.)

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

gutnor (872759) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169816)

Not at all. Just that Open Source does not mean GPLv3 and does not need the seal of FSF. There are plenty of other licenses and competition is fierce between libraries, applications, framework, companies, ... At work we sell software build around open source software. We pick the libraries based on their spec and their license. And we do not only look at open source ones, mind you, we often look at closed source software. (they do not win very often though) Whatever does the work in condition that are beneficial to our business.

It is probably fair to assume that Android GPLv3 would not have been bought by Google. The open source bits in Android were already a big enough pill to swallow for phone and network companies.

The extra "fuck you evil companies" provisions in GPLv3 works as expected, evil companies do not use GPLv3 software ...

Re:Locked Bootloaders (3)

uniquename72 (1169497) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169416)

Right - that's why none of these companies have sold phones with unlocked bootloaders (except of course Motorola, HTC, Samsung...).

Re:Locked Bootloaders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169710)

And if they continue spreading FUD Google may opt to use FreeBSD instead of Linux.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169052)

If Android was GPLv3 none of these companies would have ever used it. It's only due to the mishmash of BSD-like licensing along with a GPLv2 kernel that is friendly to proprietary drivers did any of these companies pick it up. In the end you would not have had a platform to improve.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (5, Insightful)

jensend (71114) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169128)

If Android were GPLv3 licensed not a single major manufacturer would have touched it and not a single major carrier would have offered such phones.

Google knew all these folks are way too obsessed with playing the patent game and way too distrustful of having to release all their code to use a GPL3-licensed platform. That's why just about everything in Android is Apache licensed (like BSD but with minimal patent licensing language).

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1, Informative)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169152)

And... how many companies would use that version? Parts of it absolutely have to be locked out, yet link and work, such as the radio. While not impossible to get into the radio, the FCC (I could be talking out of my arse here, so someone with more knowledge can confirm or deny this general memory of mine) doesn't want the entire population walking around with fully open phones, even if the companies would supply them. They would fail to get licensing.

While not directly bootloader related (I sympathize with you, I really really do, I run CyanogenMod), GPLv3 has had some issues playing nice. I don't remember all of those issues, but I know several companies have balked at GPLv3. And FSF has been moving into this Midas "Everything we touch turns to GPL Gold!" creeping in for a long time now. And that's just NOT going to fly with cellular communications, period.

Tablets, you betcha! But we have to remember with phones, regardless of how little we use these things to actually talk, they are still phones and they are heavily regulated and must be licensed before they can be operated.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169212)

> While not impossible to get into the radio, the FCC (I could be talking out of my arse here, so someone with more knowledge can confirm or deny this general memory of mine) doesn't want the entire population walking around with fully open phones, even if the companies would supply them. They would fail to get licensing. If you're not sure what you're talking about, why are you making claims that defend bullshit policies? Factually, there are several software controlled radio products that run fully free software and don't have significant problems from the FCC.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169266)

Parts of it absolutely have to be locked out, yet link and work, such as the radio.

Is there a reason that the radio can't run as a process in user space, or on a separate CPU with its own address space?

Re:Locked Bootloaders (2)

Microlith (54737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169642)

The hardware vendors isolate for a couple of reasons:

- Trade secrets
- Performance (radios require an RTOS)

And yes, virtually all high end devices have a separate CPU, RAM, and storage space for the baseband stack, accessible only via GPIO or USB interfaces.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (2)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169362)

The FCC doesn't really care whether the phone is fully open or not. All they care about is that the radio in the phone not operate outside the allowed parameters. The problem comes from the manufacturers wanting to use radio hardware that isn't limited to the permissible parameters, and limit it's operation using easily-changed software controls. If they used radio hardware that was itself limited to permissible parameters, there wouldn't be any problem with it being open. But that would make the hardware more expensive and cut into profit margins.

Note also that "permissible parameters" vary depending on the user, not the device. If the user happens to have an FCC operator's license, the permissible parameters for a cel phone may be radically different from what an unlicensed user would be allowed.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (2)

hitmark (640295) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169606)

Indeed. Wifi-b also has this issue as Europe have 2 extra channels that can not be used in US, and japan has 1 that is outside of both of these.

So what happens is that they make devices that can work everywhere, but is limited based on the driver shipped in the box (or even the nationality settings of the os used). Question is: if a citizen of a European nation travels to USA and happens to use one of those illegal channels, will his device be confiscated?

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169218)

Android can't be GPL v3 licensed without relicensing the kernel, which won't happen. That's the part where you'd have to change the license if you want to prevent that from happening and as it stands it's compatible with the language of the GPL v2 that the Linux kernel uses.

Not suggesting that I like the locked down phones or that it isn't injurious to the ecosystem, but that is how that is.

Android consists of more than just Linux (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169290)

Android can't be GPL v3 licensed without relicensing the kernel

Android consists of more than the GPLv2-licensed Linux kernel. It also has userland processes and libraries that could have used GPLv3 family licenses.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169610)

Android could be GPLv3 even if the kernel is not. After all, it's Apache while the kernel is not.

Re:Locked Bootloaders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169300)

If Android were GPLv3 licensed we wouldn't have a problem with companies locking down their bootloaders. We could use the energy we currently put into hacking root access on our own phones into improving the platform.

I obviously agree with the FSF.

INCORRECT. If Android platform was GPLv3 licensed we might be able to recompile the system software -- but the GPLv2 Linux kernel would allow device manufacturers to continue locking down the kernel. Incidentally, that's the EXACT situation we have today: bootloader/kernel/recovery partition is off-limits; system partition is modifiable after rooting.

So no, your advice wouldn't help Android at all. Only switching to another (GPLv3) operating system kernel would. Our only hope... lies in HURD. Lol.

lol (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37168960)

lol. FSF site is Slashdotted. Behold the power of FOSS!

Re:lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169048)

back up now

Re:lol (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169204)

yeah, it would run so much better on IIS backed by a MS-SQL server database. Then we could use IE for a richer user experience.

FSF slashdotted? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169024)

Here's the press release in question from Google cache Aug. 18th

Android GPLv2 termination worries: one more reason to upgrade to GPLv3
by Brett Smith — last modified August 18, 2011 18:48

Distributors lose their rights when they violate GPLv2, but the Free Software Foundation is more forgiving in its license enforcement to encourage continued participation in the free software community. GPLv3 has improved termination provisions to codify this approach, giving developers one more reason to upgrade.

Thanks to Android's commercial success, the kernel Linux, which is released under the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2, is being distributed more than ever before. Whenever someone distributes GPL-covered software, they must follow a few conditions set forth in the license. These conditions try to give anyone who receives the software both the legal permission and the practical tools necessary to change and share the software themselves if they wish.

Not all of the companies that distribute Android heed these conditions. We've witnessed an uptick in GPL violation reports—some convincing, others incomplete or misinformed—against these vendors. We generally can't pursue these violations directly, because only copyright holders can enforce free software licenses in most countries, and few Android devices use FSF-copyrighted code. However, people still seek out our opinions about the relevant parts of the GPL, and that discussion has recently turned to GPLv2's termination provisions. Section 4 of the license says, “You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under this License. Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License.”

When we enforce the license of FSF-copyrighted software, we give violators back the rights they had after they come into compliance. In our experience, developers of Linux are happy to do the same. Unfortunately, even if we assume they all would restore these rights, it would be extremely difficult to have them all formally do so; there are simply too many copyright holders involved, some of whom haven't worked on the project in years or even decades.

When we wrote GPLv2 in 1991, we didn't imagine that a free software project might have hundreds of copyright holders, making it so difficult to get a violator's rights restored. We want it to be easy for a former violator to know that they're still allowed to change and share the software; if they stop distribution because of legal uncertainty, fewer people will have free software in the long run. Hence, we created new termination provisions for GPLv3. These terms offer violators a simple method to earn back the rights they had. Parties who violate the license have their rights restored provisionally as soon as they come back into compliance, and permanently if no copyright holders terminate those rights within sixty days of the last violation. Furthermore, first-time violators will have their rights restored permanently if they come into compliance within thirty days of receiving such notice.

GPLv3's approach has several advantages over GPLv2's. By having the license grant forgiveness by default, instead of terminating rights permanently, it better matches our community's expectations and normal compliance strategy. It will be easier for violators to get their rights restored by any copyright holders who do terminate rights, because the notice will establish a clear way for the violator to get in touch. Finally, GPLv3's termination provisions don't sacrifice anything we need: the license's conditions still do their best to protect software freedom, and copyright holders will still be able to legally enforce the license against parties that don't comply.

This is just one of many reasons why GPLv3 is better than GPLv2. This change has already given some companies the reassuring nudge they needed to start distributing GPL-covered software, and we expect to see more of that in the future. When we give distributors a chance to rejoin the free software community and fix any mistakes they might make—in stark contrast to most proprietary software licenses—we get both compliance and more allies. GPLv3 improves on earlier versions of the license by codifying that enforcement strategy. For this reason and others, we urge developers who are releasing projects under GPLv2 to upgrade to GPLv3. Companies that sell products that use Android can help out by encouraging the developers of Linux to make the switch to GPLv3.

[Note: This article was edited substantially at 18:48 on August 18, 2011 to adjust emphasis throughout the piece.]

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 license (or later version)

What Oddly Weak and Pathetic FUD (3, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169030)

(an earlier LWN link that may or may not work [lwn.net])

Yeah, it's FUD but when you really consider it as FUD, who exactly is it targeting? I think, if I read this correctly, this is supposed to be an attempt at scaring device manufacturers away from using Android. But the core of the argument appears to be that if you distribute Android and you do not follow the GPLv2 then you will lose all your rights (as with most licenses). Once you've lost all your rights, according to the GPLv2, you have to go around to the original copyright owners and get them to okay that you can again have a GPLv2 license. Which would be nigh impossible with Linux. Okay so that seems logical. They then state that you can instantly regain your rights by simply falling in line with compliance when the source code is GPLv3 licensed. Okay, so that also sounds logical.

We've already seen claims from Edward Naughton and Florian Mueller that most Android distributors are in violation of the GPL - claims that the open source community has, for the most part, rejected.

I don't know how someone can speak for that demographic. I followed the link to find out who this spokesperson is and was brought to this in the linked article on that Slashdot article:

Textbook FUD.

And this is why people avoid GPL code. Whether Mueller is right or wrong (and he's pretty much always wrong) there is so much FUD spread over potential GPL violations all over the place that most corporations just don't want to even get within miles of the GPL for fear that some loser like Florian will try to peg crap on them.

A Slashdot Anonymous Coward

So the open source community is represented by an anonymous coward here on Slashdot?

Have I ever bought a $10 piece of trash from China and found out that I could really use the source in order to make it work with my computer? Yes. Could I foresee some BS tablet maker producing a piece of trash tablet, hacking Android and releasing it sans source code only to have consumers wonder how in the hell Android is running on that device? Definitely. I wouldn't put that past anybody given there's supposedly one GPL violation a day [slashdot.org] and the fact of the matter is that licenses don't seem to mean jack shit in China (and that's their right as a sovereign nation).

So the allegations here are that Edward Naughton and Florian Mueller (neither of whom I am defending, by the way) have spread FUD to strong arm people into migrating to GPLv3 so that device makers won't fear the repercussion of violating GPLv2 and then having to do impossible legwork to get back in good standing and regain a license?

Regardless of how effective that is (I'm not a handset manufacturer nor do I know any straying from Android because of this) that is some pretty crazy thin ridiculous sorry FUD if I may say so myself. I worked for a Fortune 500 company for seven years and all I ever saw was a slow gradual movement toward GPL code until I think the only licenses we had were unfortunate contractual agreements from the past. Oh, and Windows. No one really cowered in fear and ran screaming when presented with the above "FUD" as the Anonymous Coward quote seems to imply.

I don't get it, we pick apart any huge company's license here on Slashdot in the name of protecting the consumer but when someone does it to the GPL and finds some hilariously minute case -- then it's FUD?

The FSF's press release on the subject emphasizes 'worries' without bringing up a specific concrete case of infringement — a classic FUD technique.

I think it's worth pointing out that in order for this to be "proven" in a court of law, I think that would mean a GPLv2 license holder would have to sue a company that used Android, failed to comply with the GPLv2, then came back into compliance and then started releasing Android again without said license holder's consent. Is that right? You expect that some Linux developer open source developer to bring a handset manufacturer (who would now be in compliance, by the way) to court to prove Naughton & Mueller wrong or right? Such a scenario would be equally as ridiculous and hilarious as their "FUD!"

Re:What Oddly Weak and Pathetic FUD (1)

Shimbo (100005) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169176)

So the allegations here are that Edward Naughton and Florian Mueller (neither of whom I am defending, by the way) have spread FUD to strong arm people into migrating to GPLv3 so that device makers won't fear the repercussion of violating GPLv2 and then having to do impossible legwork to get back in good standing and regain a license?

No. They've spread FUD that Android resellers may be in default of the GPL and would have to do impossible legwork. The FSF press release has added fuel to the fire by saying that if Linux was GPL2 or later, that wouldn't be a problem, and that Android hardware makers should lobby Linux kernel developers to relicense their code.

Personally, whilst it may be well meaning, I don't think it's helpful. It's just going to wind up the kernel devs, and give some mileage for trolls.

The Hurd (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169656)

So the allegations here are that Edward Naughton and Florian Mueller (neither of whom I am defending, by the way) have spread FUD to strong arm people into migrating to GPLv3 so that device makers won't fear the repercussion of violating GPLv2 and then having to do impossible legwork to get back in good standing and regain a license?

Totally coincidentally, The Hurd was recently released.

Is it time to go after Linux at the FSF and Android is just an easy target? Is Linux now the enemy?

The FSF is indeed generating FUD (5, Informative)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169064)

Before the FSF site went down temporarily, I read the original news article, (Android GPLv2 termination worries: one more reason to upgrade to GPLv3 [fsf.org] and sure enough, the last line currently says "Companies that sell products that use Android can help out by encouraging the developers of Linux to make the switch to GPLv3."

Linux is licensed solely under GPLv2, not "GPLv2 or later", so switching is not a question of Linus deciding to change (which he wouldn't agree to anyway) - all the other contributors would have to agree as well.

I emailed Brett Smith (copy in my journal [slashdot.org]) to point this out, as well as point out that the GPLv2 allows for distribution as long as you are CURRENTLY in compliance. There is no "you lose your rights forever" clause in the GPLv2 license.

Lesson: Never assign your code to someone who says "trust me." Not even the FSF. And be wary of clauses that allow them to change the license at will to a future version that may not be to your liking, or that they may interpret to say something it doesn't say.

Re:The FSF is indeed generating FUD (2)

HarrySquatter (1698416) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169120)

There is no "you lose your rights forever" clause in the GPLv2 license.

What they were stating is that in order to regain your GPLv2 license you have to get approval from ALL copyright holders and in the case of something like the Linux kernel it would be nigh impossible to get this. Hence, while you are technically true, at the same time if you can't get approval from all license holders it is effectively the same thing.

Re:The FSF is indeed generating FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169124)

Lesson: Never assign your code to someone who says "trust me." Not even the FSF. And be wary of clauses that allow them to change the license at will to a future version that may not be to your liking, or that they may interpret to say something it doesn't say.

Corollary: never contribute to Wikipedia.

Re:The FSF is indeed generating FUD (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169196)

Clause 4 of the GPL 2 says: "Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License." which they even cite in their article. So yes, there is a "lose your rights forever" clause.

Re:The FSF is indeed generating FUD (3, Insightful)

dondelelcaro (81997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169200)

There is no "you lose your rights forever" clause in the GPLv2 license.

Section 4 is that very clause. If you "copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under" the GPLv2, your rights are "automatically terminate[d]." There is no mechanism to regain a license under the GPLv2. And if you think that you regain such a license under GPLv2 section 6, the end of section 4 takes care of that: "parties who have received [..] rights [..] from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long [as they] remain in full compliance.

If this wasn't the case, the GPLv2 itself would have no force, because any past violation could be pasted over by merely being granted a new license from some other sublicensor. GPLv3 fixes this problem by adding reinstatement language to section 8.

Re:The FSF is indeed generating FUD (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169258)

Indeed, I doubt very much that Linus wants to go through the hassle of relicensing to GPLv3. I'm sure there are developers that would like to do that, but reimplementing the code from developers that can't or won't relicense it under the GPLv3 is enough of a poison pill to keep it from happening.

I suppose they could change the requirements for new patches in, but I doubt that's worthwhile given that you'd have to find people to reimplement large swaths of the kernel. Granted I'm sure some of that ought to be done anyways as there's probably parts of the kernel that could use a rewrite at this stage, but still not going to happen.

Re:The FSF is indeed generating FUD (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169626)

If they go to that much trouble, there are better things to do than use GPLv3 with all it's anti-commercial stances. Maybe GPLv2 with some improvements, maybe BSD license, whatever. Just not the GPLv3 please. I want to see linux in hardware devices, I want to see more TiVos.

Re:The FSF is indeed generating FUD (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169268)

I'm curious, though, because after reading the GPLv2 your interpretation seems correct (you don't loose your rights permanently.) However, the GNU page on "Why GPLv3 is better than v2" states that, in fact, you do. I cannot see how that is a valid interpretation of the license. It only says that if you violate the license, your rights are automatically terminated. No where does it state that this is permanent (at least as far as I could see). In fact, it appears that merely grabbing a new version of the software would re-grant you license privileges. Is there some hidden implication to the "right to distribute" in the law that makes the termination permanent?

The whole bit about permanent loss of rights seems like an added interpretation to the license which just isn't there. It may be intended, but it isn't there. Does anyone know how the FSF or anyone else could claim that it is? And no, RMS saying that it does isn't enough: if it isn't it the license, the license doesn't do it. And IANAL, but it very much looks like it doesn't. Intention is irrelevant.

This is absurd (1, Informative)

flymolo (28723) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169134)

The GPLv2 may not be the right license for Android, but GPLv3 isn't either. There's no way cell phone manufacturers would distribute patent licenses with their code, especially with all the patent lawsuits happening now. Ignoring a one critical aspects of the use case for another makes this useless.

FUD redundant? (0, Offtopic)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169142)

FUD is "Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt," right?

What's the difference between Uncertainty and Doubt?

I doubt there is a major difference within this context. Or at least I'm uncertain. Hm.

Re:FUD redundant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169246)

Same thing with people using the FLOSS acronym. Exactly what is the different between Free/Libre/Open? Its three different words means pretty much the same thing.

Its highly annoying when people make up some acronym with redundant words. FLOSS is triply redundant.

Re:FUD redundant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169364)

It's an older hacker term derived from IBM:

FUD [catb.org]

While you are technically correct (about uncertainty and doubt), the term did come from a previous IBM exec after leaving the company. The term, since, has just passed down in antiquity.

Re:FUD redundant? (1)

buckhead_buddy (186384) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169832)

In the context of FUD, Uncertainty and Doubt to be the same thing, but aimed at different time periods. You are uncertain about the future, and you are Doubtful about what you've already invested in the past.

Example (completely made up): "Coming soon, Microsoft's new server software will cheaply make all your Linux server farms obsolete."

* You fear the consequences of making a wrong decision -- "Wake up! You have something to lose here!"

* You become uncertain about the assumptions you have made. -- "The future outlook is more cloudy than you thought! Don't keep doing what you've always done."

* You start doubting whether your previous decisions were correct -- "Was your past invenstment of time / money wisely spent? Prepare to cut your losses!"

I'm not sure the FSF's GPLv2 and GPLv3 stance qualifies as FUD; unlike computer equipment or software buying decisions, the world of legal precedents can change what you did in the past even if you didn't change anything. It's quasi-timeless in a way normal people don't intuitively understand. But if we were talking about buying a new copy of Windows for old hardware, then yes, it was said in a FUD like way.

FSF has bleak future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169150)

The basic problem the FSF has is a growing irrelevance.

The world is leaving open source behind and moving towards smartphones, tablets, etc. that all run closed, or semi-closed software on closed hardware.

It is partially due to binary only drivers for some hardware, but also because the open source world simply hasn't moved with the times and come up with a valid open source replacement for iOS, Android, or any of the other variously used choices. Instead we see creations like Gnome 3, which is so badly designed it doesn't work for any platform, or Unity which is aimed at netbooks which is a declining market, or KDE who are doomed by the simple fact that the newer developers are targeting/interested in the hot stuff - the smartphones and tablets that open source has ignored.

Admittedly open source is in good company, given that RIM and Microsoft were both also very late to this party, but they at least have a focus and money to try and solve the issue.

Article is a strawman (2)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169178)

According to TFA, the FSF gets what they consider credible reports of violations and false or misguided claims of violations. That suggests that they do look into the claims. The author then complains that the FSF won't talk about specific claims. The problem with that is the FSF doesn't normally run around talking in public about violations - they negotiate with the violators to get them to comply. Part of negotiation is not to piss off the other party by airing their dirty laundry. It does not surprise me at all that the FSF isn't giving some blogger a story.

Re:Article is a strawman (1)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169532)

There is a gpl-violations list.
Taking the last week or so.
There is a message copying a response from HTC about the inspire 4G, where they state that they are aware of GPL, and do intend to supply source, but in 90-120 days.

Source for the HTC thunderbolt kernel (which is released) is an old version that will not work with the current radio firmware.
The pocketbook e-reader seems to entirely have no source.
The position for vendors of the many android phones you see as direct imports is basically simple - there is never source available.

Re:Article is a strawman (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169644)

FSF is free to worry about violations of licenses on their own code. They don't own Linux however.

Re:Article is a strawman (0)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169874)

Unfortunately FSF has some pretty confused opinions on this matter. They seem to regard the fact that the GNU userland tools are prevalent on Linux as some sort of sign that they have some hold on Linux. They get quite flustered at the idea that the actual kernel itself has little or nothing to do with them, other than being compiled using GNU tools.

FUD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169188)

Calling this article FUD is clearly unfair. It is a great writeup of the advantages given both to holders and users of GPLv3. Such as this paragraph:

When we wrote GPLv2 in 1991, we didn't imagine that a free software project might have hundreds of copyright holders, making it so difficult to get a violator's rights restored. We want it to be easy for a former violator to know that they're still allowed to change and share the software; if they stop distribution because of legal uncertainty, fewer people will have free software in the long run. Hence, we created new termination provisions for GPLv3. These terms offer violators a simple method to earn back the rights they had. Parties who violate the license have their rights restored provisionally as soon as they come back into compliance, and permanently if no copyright holders terminate those rights within sixty days of the last violation. Furthermore, first-time violators will have their rights restored permanently if they come into compliance within thirty days of receiving such notice.

Someone should go into their phone provider and ask for a copy of the GPL'd portions of their phones source and see how far that gets them - and then be led into this discussion with an appropriate perspective on Android and the GPL. Also: another article on Linux and Android [kroah.com] relevant to this discussion.

The summary isn't close to matching the article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169210)

The article does mention --- in passing --- that there has been an "uptick" in reported GPL violations made against Android vendors, though it goes ahead to note that many of those alleged violations are doubtful. The article is not about that fact, but about the fact that these vendors are confronted with some legal uncertainties as to their statuses with respect to the GPL after their rights have been voided and then subsequently restored. The comparison of GPL3 to GPL2 in the article is to point out that GPL3 has some provisions that make it easier for the vendors to understand their statuses under these conditions.

I know nothing about the truth or falsity of any of these points, but I do know that there is no FUD being dished out except in the summary here on Slashdot.

Utter silliness from the FSF (0)

DrXym (126579) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169248)

Hands up who thinks a bunch of no-name Chinese OEMs would honour a GPLv3 licenced smart phone OS any more than they do a GPLv2 + BSD OS. Oooh a termination clause - now they're afraid!

If the FSF really wants to make a difference they should quit their usual politik and whining and throw their weight behind a viable alternative smart phone OS. Or build one. Maybe MeeGo or something. Do something equivalent to CyanogenMod which flashes phones with the new phone stack and demonstrate this brave new world. Perhaps it would be popular enough that even a phone manufacturer picks it up and uses it for real.

That or the FSF can whine from the sidelines wondering why people choose a working, functional smart phone OS rather than the non existent one in their heads.

Re:Utter silliness from the FSF (1)

Marc Madness (2205586) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169500)

Oooh a termination clause - now they're afraid!

Technically it's a reinstatement clause that is at issue here. The GPLv2 already has a termination clause.

article misrepresents the FSF press release. (2)

blinking_at (126502) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169622)

The article and the poster confuse "GPL violations in software developed for the Android platform" with "GPL violations in Android". The FSF press release doesn't say "GPL violations in Android".

Indeed, the press release does promote GPLv3, but it's merely the author expressing an opinion. It's not spreading "FUD".

GPLv3 is a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169700)

It's an even bigger joke than Hurd and RMS' conspiracy theories.

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