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GPL 3.0 Concerns in Embedded World

CmdrTaco posted more than 13 years ago | from the its-never-easy-is-it dept.

GNU is Not Unix 204

An anonymous reader submitted a story discussing version 3.0 of the GPL. An interesting piece that raises some valid points. Talks about the fact that the GPL hasn't been tested in court (yet) and how companies using it as a core of their business are gambling on a variable. Specifically targeted to embedded systems, but the issues spread beyond that.

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What would happen if the GPL unenforcable? (1)

AIXadmin (10544) | more than 13 years ago | (#412544)

No one seems to be asking the question. What if? What if the GPL/LGPL was declared unenforcable? What would everyone do? Would you still put your code out for the world? Would you go BSD? Or propietary? Can you imagine a world without the GPL? Only BSD.

Re:GPL != FREE (1)

Zebbers (134389) | more than 13 years ago | (#412545)

what did you contribute that was so valuable?

Re:GPL "Live Fire" Testing (1)

cduffy (652) | more than 13 years ago | (#412547)

McAfee was found guilty of copyright violation (some of Symantec's code -- they had to go back and clean-room redevelop it, putting their product schedule in some trouble). Actually, they might have come to an out-of-court settlement or somesuch -- it was quite a while ago, and I wasn't paying that much attention.

It hardly made headlines -- I don't think most folks heard of it. Of course, they're not Microsoft -- but then, MS has more PR flacks to handle the increased interest.

Thus, it's quite likely that even were MS guilty, not much anyone would hear of it at all.

The zlib/pnglib license (2)

Wolfier (94144) | more than 13 years ago | (#412548)

While the BSD license is free enough, it is TOO free for me. I can release code and let you use it for whatever purpose - However, you'd better not claim to be the original creator/author of the code, and better yet, credit me somewhere in what you distribute.

This very fair concept is in the zlib/pnglib license. I'm fairly comfortable with all the OSS licenses, but with this added they'd be perfect. Anyone's tried combining the licenses and how'd you do it?

Hmm, first FUD for GPL already... (1)

KlausBreuer (105581) | more than 13 years ago | (#412549)

...that was quick.

Any real connection between WindRiver and MS?
Or am I just being paranoid again?

"What, I need a *reason* for everything?" -- Calvin

Re:GPL "Live Fire" Testing (2)

cduffy (652) | more than 13 years ago | (#412550)

While many embedded systems do perform safety-critical tasks, many more don't. I work for MontaVista Software, a company doing linux-based embedded-space OS work. I can't think of a single client (and we've got plenty!) doing something which qualifies as safety-critical. (However, I'm buried deeply enough in engineering not to know most of our clients -- and many of 'em I can't talk about anyhow).

In any event, most of the runtime, post-release bugs occur in the client's software anyhow, not the (GPLed) operating environment/support stuff we provide... so in Real-Life Situations it doesn't really come up that much anyhow.

Even then, I'd be very surprised if an author of GPL-licensed free software could be found liable even in a failure due to safety-critical use. This author usually doesn't have that much money anyhow -- the folks who the lawyers generally prefer to attack are those who can pay large punitive damages... such as the companies making the safety-critical hardware which embedded the free software in the first place.

IANAL, but I've spent lots of time in classrooms listening to one yammer.

Re:Why not M$? (5)

TellarHK (159748) | more than 13 years ago | (#412556)

No, Microsoft does not want to outlaw open source. What Microsoft is most afraid of, I think, is the fact that there are now millions of lines of "viral" source code, as some folks are putting it, out there now. I suspect Microsoft's biggest fear is either:

A: Getting caught using GPLed code in their software.


B: Having to defend themselves against any accusation that they used GPLed code, whether they did or not. And on this concern, I can see some small amount of validity.

The biggest problem GPLed code could cause for software developers is by getting Cool Stuff Done First. Imagine having an idea that someone GPLed some code for first, then trying to make a profit off it. That, I think, is where Microsoft is starting to be afraid. Or at least, they should be. Once the Open Source movement starts to move on to innovation (Which I see happening sometime within the next year or so.) especially in the areas of User Interface design and solid API level work, it will become increasingly more difficult for MS and the other major developers to work without having to be damn careful of what code comes from where.

So what I think MS is hoping for by talking about the evils of Open Source, is just to get government funding and facilities away from projects that might open up more GPLed code to the world. If you can't beat 'em, cut the resources out from under them.

Another GPL Dispute Involving Quake (5)

Lostman (172654) | more than 13 years ago | (#412558)

Last year John Carmack opened Quake and the Quake World Client to the open source community under the GPL license. After seemingly no time, there were a plethora of cheat clients going around for it... the way to deal with this by one group was to make a new client that everyone had to use to connect to a new server -- and they didnt release the GPL for that. That was Quakelives -- there was even a /. on it.

Now, though, there is another problem with the GPL. About this same time, another group decided to do something about the cheaters. They created a VERY advanced cheating client using the GPL'ed code, and released the binary... it quickly spread throughout the Quake community... about a month and 1/2 ago, the group came forward: they had implanted a trojan in the cheat file that reported a lot of information (windows cdkey, mac address, real name, organization, icq numbers, email addresses, etc) to servers set up for this purpose. Now, after they came out there was a general uprising of the community about this: everyone was upset, but a few wanted to make sure that was "ALL" the info that was passed.. this should be a fairly easy thing but--they refuse to give out their source code.

The web page for this is Remote Visual Spy [] .

My question is -- exactly how could a situation like this be remedied? This is an issue that effects over 4000 unique people, but on the big scale of things -- ID Software is not likely to sue over this b/c they stand the chance of losing the GPL license over a small case. How could this be settled? Also: How can someone release code under the GPL with the knowledge that this won't happen? (taking source, modifying, releasing binary, and saying they will NOT release the source)

Ingnorance is the hurdle. (2)

ratzmilk (137380) | more than 13 years ago | (#412560)

If Curt's argument were correct, that would mean that there would have been very little development for Microsoft products until it's EULA had been tested in court.

Ignorance is the biggest hurdle for GPL based software that I can see. Capitalists generally have problems getting their heads around the idea of free anything, be that beer or speech.

Re:GPL "Live Fire" Testing (2)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 13 years ago | (#412564)

What would this result in, the enforced release of the entire Windows XP source tree?
No, certainly not. If someone distributes software that contains GPL'd code without GPLing that software they will be done for breach of copyright, not for breach of licencing (because, as the GPL states, nothing has been signed, so there is nothing to prove you ever agreed to the licence).

The licence works, not because you automagically agree to it when using GPL'd code, but because if you don't agree to it then any distribution you do will be copyright infringing.

So what you could see (as it would depend on the court obviously) is the software being recalled, or damages being paid, but not automatic source release.


Point taken but... (1)

ryancooley (248760) | more than 13 years ago | (#412565)

While I agree the fact that it hasn't been cited in court is a bit worrysome to companies, but open-source legal contracts realize the same benefits that code does-the more eyes see it the less chance there is that a problem lies within it.

You don't by chance work for Micro$oft do you? Just a thought.

Re:Another GPL Dispute Involving Quake (1)

TellarHK (159748) | more than 13 years ago | (#412567)

Just find out who the punks are that did this and beat the shinola out of them. :)

Re:Court Test Looming (1)

pod (1103) | more than 13 years ago | (#412569)

Why is this funny, am I missing something?

A third choice. (1)

Malcontent (40834) | more than 13 years ago | (#412574)

"Wind River is going to have to either release their market-leading, fairly-solid OS as GPL (not likely; not much incentive there), or else use something other than Linux. "

If this company has a good RTOS, charges big bucks for it, has a staff of developers on hand, why don't they write their own software? They obviously know how to write good software.

Re:Can't I just say I want to use GPL 2.x? (1)

Chmarr (18662) | more than 13 years ago | (#412576)

GEnerally no. Copyrights under GPL 2.x licenses generally say 'you may use this code under the GPL version 2.0 or any later release'. It is likely that new code will say that you can use this code under GPL 3.0 or later, removing the option of using earlier versions of the license.

Microsoft, the court, and public opinion. (2)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 13 years ago | (#412577)

> Thus, it's quite likely that even were MS
> guilty, not much anyone would hear of it at all.

Despite the fact that most people know Microsoft has been judged guilty in abusing their monopoly power, and despite the fact that the premises for the judgement is publically available and written in plain english most people believe Microsoft is unfairly procecuted.

I doesn't matter what the truth is, it doesn't matter if the evidence is available for all to see, good spin doctors can make people not want to see the evidence.

Re:The FUD continues.. (1)

Malcontent (40834) | more than 13 years ago | (#412579)

IF as you say "Corporations are legally required to act in the interests of their investors
" and as you say "their RTOS technology is pretty advanced, pretty stable" then why do they need to link with linux in the first place?

What do they hope to gain by linking in the linux kernel? It seems like they have good developers on hand so why don't they try to make their OS even better and leave linux out of it alltogether.

Re:The GPL? Succesfully upheld? (1)

bstadil (7110) | more than 13 years ago | (#412581)

I am willing to bet at least a dollar that if MicroSoft stole GLP'ed code and used it it would end in court somehow. You only need one lawyer that decides to sue. Look at the silly Class action suits floating around against any company whos shares drops for whatever reason. They get sued because the lawyers gets a share of the awards. Same with GPL. The little companies can maybe get away with it but the big guys No Way.

A good reason to use the LGPL (1)

Multispin (49784) | more than 13 years ago | (#412582)

So all binary only drivers could be *required* to be GPLed? Very fuzzy(scary) indeed. What about applications built on top of RTLinux? They are pretty much linked into the kernel.....

Can't I just say I want to use GPL 2.x? (4)

namespan (225296) | more than 13 years ago | (#412583)

So suppose I'm coding something, and I don't like some clause of GPL 3.0. Some linking clause or another. Can't I just say I'd like to use GPL 2.x? or LGPL? Or any licences I darn well please? Why, yes, I could.

I can't see a thing in the world that anybody has to complain about, as far as licenses go. You can release something you create on any terms you like. If you want to use somebody else's code, you do it on their terms. If you don't like their terms, find someone whose terms you do like or code it yourself.

It's obvious. So what's the big deal over licenses.


Re:GPL "Live Fire" Testing (1)

TellarHK (159748) | more than 13 years ago | (#412584)

Okay. In a way, that would be better than the release of the XP source tree. The headlines screaming "Microsoft Convicted of Copyright Infringement" would be another nail in the coffin.

Only six hundred more nails to go... (sigh).

Re:Weakness of the GPL (1)

pod (1103) | more than 13 years ago | (#412585)

I imagine the FSF would step up to the plate. This action may or may not be followed by corporations with vested interests in the GPL (RedHat, Corel, IBM even) to join or chip in some money.

Re:GPL != FREE (1)

TellarHK (159748) | more than 13 years ago | (#412586)

How is the BSD license more "free" than GPL licensing? This I fail to see. The GPL seems to be designed to enforce freedom, which I admit seems odd on the surface, but it does make sense. It purports to help perpetuate the publicization of code. (That's a lotta P's.)

Re:The FUD continues.. (1)

Trepalium (109107) | more than 13 years ago | (#412587)

Try reading between the lines. Wind River makes embeded operating systems and developers kits, and has a huge stake in this. They'd rather not see people designing embeded devices use Linux or any other vendor's products. To that end, this seems a likely move to make people doubt the wisdom of going with a product from Lineo or any other embeded Linux vendor.

The conflict on the term 'linking' comes from Schacker using it to mean anything that's included in the same ROM, which is not the definition that most people agree the GPL means. The GPL uses the term linking to indicate the process of combining one or more object files into an executable, not the process of creating a filesystem, and putting it on the same physical storage unit.

Re:GPL "Live Fire" Testing (2)

q000921 (235076) | more than 13 years ago | (#412588)

Most likely, it would mean that Microsoft would not be permitted to continue to use the code in question and would have to prove that they have removed it from their sources.

This is actually not much different from what was happening with BSD and AT&T UNIX: BSD needed to be cleaned before getting released.

LGPL for applications and kernels? (1)

The Deep Blue Funk (241687) | more than 13 years ago | (#412599)

I'm kind of surprised that there aren't more instances of the LGPL being used for things other than libraries- it's a general purpose license, you're not restricted to using it just for libraries.

GPL and LGPL are the same in the sense that derived works must be released under the same license as the original. They are different in the sense that the GPL considers linkage to be producing a derived work, whereas the LGPL does not.

It seems like most of the concerns are from people who are unsure as to what degree GPL'd software and non-GPL'd software can interact before the non-GPL'd software must be GPL'd as well. The LGPL maintains many of the benefits of the GPL (modifications to the original, LGPL'd code must be redistributed under the terms of the LGPL), while removing the 'viral' quality that makes so many people so nervous about using it.

Take the Linux kernel, for example. This is something that would probably have been better to LGPL. There was much debate over whether or not to allow proprietary kernel modules to be written. The terms of the GPL make it pretty clear that this would violate the GPL, as modules are linked at runtime with the kernel. Eventually a special exception was made in the case of kernel modules. If the kernel was LGPL'd, this would never have been an issue, as the LGPL'd and proprietary components and modules could peacefully and unambiguously coexist (not to mention modules under different open source licenses, like BSDL).

There was also a debate as to whether or not making a system call between userland (generally via libc) and kernel space constituted linkage. If so, libc would have to be GPL'd, and hence almost all apps that run on a Linux system would have to be GPL'd as well. My understanding (I would appreciate a clarification if this is incorrect) is that Linus ended the debate by simply declaring that no, that wasn't the case, a system call is not linkage (which is hardly legally binding). Again, using the LGPL instead of the GPL for the kernel would have made all of this a nonissue.

Finally, consider the whole debate about whether or not a plugin for a GPL'd application would itself have to be GPL'd. Again, this hinges on your definition of linkage and how different pieces of code interact, which can mean many different things in different contexts. Is it OK to write a GPL'd browser that could (for example) load Netscape plugins? Is the act of loading a non-GPL plugin a violation of the GPL (also, doesn't Konqueror do this? Did the KDE developers ever address this issue?)?

Anyway, all I'm saying is, people might want to consider using the LGPL for things other than libs, if they would like to keep the door open for plugins and modules and such that are under different licensing terms.

The LGPL seems to occupy the middle ground between the GPL and BSD licenses. Like the GPL, if you reuse the code, you have to redistribute your changes. Like BSDL, it works well with others and eliminates the need to consult with a bunch of lawyers everytime a company is considering releasing free software (or porting something to Linux) but doesn't want to risk being forced to open source stuff that they didn't want to.

Re:GPL3 irrelevant to the problem at hand here. (1)

kevin805 (84623) | more than 13 years ago | (#412602)

I think this beautifully shows the problem inherent in the GPLs viral nature. You can't even use GPL 2 code in a GPL 3 license, or vice-versa, unless someone said "or a later version".

I gotta say that anyone who puts "or a later version" is being foolish. How can you know that you will approve of a license you haven't even read?

Re:WindRiver? Aha! (2)

ocie (6659) | more than 13 years ago | (#412604)

This analysis is too symplistic. Wind river could develop an interface that allows Linux to run under/over/inbetween their RTOS. They can release the source and specifications for this interface. Anyone who wants to come along and adapt their RTOS to make use of this interface is free to do so.

But at the same time, thay will not have to open source one line of their RTOS.

Re:GPL "Live Fire" Testing (2)

macpeep (36699) | more than 13 years ago | (#412606)

Tell me something.. As I understand it, if I use GPL code in *any way* together with some closed-source (or let's just say non-GPL) code, then I have to GPL *ALL* of the code. Right? Well, what about a Linux distro that contains GPL stuff and.. say.. Netscape Communicator? It's one product but I certainly don't have the source to Communicator. So where's the line? If I have to apps, compiled separately, but working very tightly together (a video codec and a multimedia player) is that ok? Under what circumstances WOULD it be ok? Now that we have RPC over HTTP such as SOAP and XML-RPC, it's hard to say what "one software" is.

Re:Court Test Looming (1)

Moray_Reef (75398) | more than 13 years ago | (#412607)

Dunno, are you clinically insane??

they aren't in the same family (4)

raistlinne (13725) | more than 13 years ago | (#412608)

The MS EULA is an attempt to establish a license to use the software. The GPL is only a license to redistribute the software.

From the GPL:

5. You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License. Therefore, by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of this License to do so, and all its terms and conditions for copying, distributing or modifying the Program or works based on it.

So basically, if the GPL is struck down (which doesn't seem to mean much), all that happens is normal copyright ensues and noone can redistribute the program at all.

There is no chance that a GPL'd program would ever fall into public domain except for it being placed there by the copyright holder or the copyright on it expiring.

A EULA, by contrast, is an attempt to add extra terms and agreements to the use of the software that do not "naturally" exist without the EULA.

So to sum up:
A MS EULA takes away rights that you previously had.

A GPL gives you rights that you previously didn't have.

The BSD people simply complain because they think that the GPL doesn't give you enough rights that you didn't have before.

Note: rights here is used in a legal sense, not a moral/ethical sense.

Re:Somebody's not paying attention... (1)

Ben Hutchings (4651) | more than 13 years ago | (#412609)

There are (at least) two senses of the term "public domain". In this article it means "visible to the public" rather than "not covered by anyone's copyright".

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch!! (1)

fist (178568) | more than 13 years ago | (#412610)

It seems to me that everyone wants to get something for nothing!! I use linux software to get my job done, and modifications I make go back to the community (where the code came from). You can't expect thousands of developers to write all your code for you and then put in 2 weeks of effort for a "value-add" and give nothing back in return. (Actually, you can. Just use *BSD). It's really simple, if you don't like the License, don't use the software. Write your own, use *BSD, etc. But quit crying about the fact that you can't steal others work and call it your own without their permission!!

Re:read this (1)

Doviende (13523) | more than 13 years ago | (#412611)

you're quite mistaken here, and you've ignored the important parts of what was said. let me summarize so that it's easier for you:

1) Linux is GPLed
2) glibc is LGPLed

according to (1), anything that links with linux must itself be GPLed.
according to (2), something may link with glibc without necessarily being free software. Please read the LGPL for more information.

now, if i remember correctly, there's an exception in the linux license to allow binary-only loadable modules, but i'm not too clear on that part.

but my main point, is that stallman was quite clear in his language in the article. he didn't "go off on a rant", and link has the same definition in both cases. the difference was the license (GPL vs LGPL).

to put it another way, if you link with a GPL program,
All your code are belong to us! Take off every 'zig'!!



"The value of a man resides in what he gives,
and not in what he is capable of receiving."

Re:GPL "Live Fire" Testing (2)

danheskett (178529) | more than 13 years ago | (#412612)

The other major destinication besides the virulent nature of the GPL is that you must provide source. Not true with the BSD license.

Re:WindRiver? Aha! (2)

jmegq (33169) | more than 13 years ago | (#412613)

VxWorks has a real lead in a lot of ways as an RTOS. I think it's great that they extend the GNU toolchain to support their platform -- while they leverage the work of others, they're committed to improving the toolchain overall so it's as good as their customers need (ok, some issues with their gcc, but...).

I think this article brings out the excellent point that the GPL specifically prevents them from doing what they want to do; link in code with the kernel (or under it) but keep the rights to their part of it. RMS has arbitrarily decided that "linking" as opposed to "piping" is the cut-off for separation of components of a computer system, so Wind River can't do the obvious Right Thing. Namely, build a solid RTOS and have Linux sit on one side of it to run not-so-critical user code, while retaining their rights to the RTOS that they developed. But seeing as RMS wants the GPL to be just this sort of political statement, Wind River is going to have to either release their market-leading, fairly-solid OS as GPL (not likely; not much incentive there), or else use something other than Linux.

Re:The FUD continues.. (1)

m0nkyman (7101) | more than 13 years ago | (#412614)

Listen up, there is nothing about the GPL that makes it any different (in a legal standpoint) from the MS EULA, aside from changes in the terms and conditions. If EULAs in general are struck down, this could strike down the GPL as well. They're in the same family.

There is a one major difference. With the GPL, you are given extra rights if you agree to the license. The typical EULA takes rights away from you that you would have absent the license. From a legal point of view, this is a major difference. They are not in this same 'family'.

No, it depends on your reading comprehension (4)

Nugget94M (3631) | more than 13 years ago | (#412621)

You cannot, under any circumstances "make [BSD licensed code] proprietary. Ever. Think it through, your argument doesn't make sense.

If some company takes BSD Licensed code and incorporates it into a proprietary product the original code is unaffected. It's still just as free as it ever was in its full BSD licensed glory. To use your words, the original code "remains free".

It hasn't been "stolen", it hasn't been "made proprietary". In fact, it hasn't been affected at all. It's just as useful (or useless) as ever.

The company that's now trying to make a living selling their proprietary software will succeed or fail solely on the merits of the value of *their* efforts and labor. If the code/documentation/marketing/support they've produced is valuable, they may just be successful.

In my eyes, this is a far better situation (and a much nobler form of sharing) than one where the original authors restricted their code and only made it available to people who use the same license they do.

Is FreeBSD no longer "free" code now that Apple has used large chunks of it in MacOS X? No, of course not.

Re:GPL3 irrelevant to the problem at hand here. (2)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 13 years ago | (#412625)

Nope - the invidual developers almost all release their code under >=2. And Linus only owns the code he contributes. The other developers own the code they contribute. It's only a problem for Linus.
That is somewhat arguable. I agree that what you say is true for segments of code that are explicitally labeled as being under >=2. But for any code that is not specifically labeled as such you cannot make that assumption safely.

My point is that licencing changes are one thing that doesn't scale well with open source projects where copyright is not assigned to a single entity (see also Mozilla's dual licencing).

Re:The FUD continues.. (1)

Pogue Mahone (265053) | more than 13 years ago | (#412626)

I agree that the quoted statment doesn't make sense - because GPLed code isn't in the public domain either.

But many developers of closed-source embedded systems will have problems where other closed-source application developers don't. The crucial point is the linking to the kernel. Many (most?) embedded systems are memory-only (no secondary storage). So there's no filesystem for a stand-alone application program to sit on until it's loaded and run by the rc.d scripts - in fact there are no rc.d scripts. So it has to be linked to the kernel to some extent, and that's when you enter the grey zone.

Does a loadable kernel module have to be GPL? What if the entire kernel is executing in place in the ROM? Can your application also sit in the ROM and be started by the kernel (e.g. by calling a fuunction at an absolute address?)

The real problem is that linked or not linked isn't black-and-white but several shades of grey.


Re:WindRiver? Aha! (2)

WasterDave (20047) | more than 13 years ago | (#412628)

There's always BSD.

There is indeed, increasingly proving to be a choice amongst appliance vendors, although less so in the 'really' embedded arena. Perhaps a lot of this is related to the traditionally regarded as superior BSD TCP stack - argue what you like, I'm talking traditionally regarded - as well as the fact that you can, and a lot of vendors do, munch around with the kernel as much as you like and keep it proprietary.

Of course, what usually happens is that the people who can munch around with the kernel are the ones who want to release it back into the community and so quite often it does. Case in point: The netgraph networking subsystem - essentially pluggable kernel mode components for making clever network stunts. This was originally made for part of the Whistle (now IBM) box, and has now become an integral part of the FreeBSD 4.x kernel.

Cool, eh?

Re:The zlib/pnglib license (1)

Twylite (234238) | more than 13 years ago | (#412630)

The BSD license is intended to do exactly the opposite of what you want, for good reasons. You do get credit in the source code (assuming the Copyright belongs to you originall), but the license specifically prohibits using your name to promote the product (which sortof restricts giving you credit).

This sucks in one way - getting credit is nice. On the other hand, someone could make a really lousy application based on your code, and there's your name on it. Uh-oh! No credit protects you from this sort of abuse of your reputation.

Maybe the only/best solution would be that to add a clause to the BSD license forcing any user of the code to contact you and ask for permission to credit you - then you can evaluate the product and decide whether to allow your name to be used or not.

Where do you buy your crack? (3)

Nugget94M (3631) | more than 13 years ago | (#412631)

...and how long have you been smoking it?

With the possible exception of emacs, you've done nothing more than prove AC's point quite effectively.

KDE: Making an open-source Windows

Windowmaker/AfterStep: Making an open-souce NeXTStep

Mozilla: Bringing the web technology of the mid-90's to the open source community

XChat: A cheap knock-off mIRC clone for the open source world

gimp: We'll keep saying it's a suitable replacement for PhotoShop until someone believes us

Now go grab your favorite public-domain dictionary and look up the word "innovation". You'll find that none of the above products are innovative in any way. In fact, the stated goal for most of the projects you mentioned is simply to replicate the function of a specific piece of proprietary software.

The original statement that "GPL sw is entirely derivative from A to Z", while not 100% accurate, certainly hits very close to the mark.

While I enjoy my open source world, and my ability to customize and extend without barriers, you'd be blind not to notice that the best the open source community is usually able to muster is simply running a step behind the innovations developed in the commercial software world.

Re:read this (1)

BSOD Bitch (260492) | more than 13 years ago | (#412632)

Wouln't it be somthing if M$ did use linux in the source? Then after someone cracks open the windoze source, and proves linux's code exists within it. Then M$ could face the courts and be forced to open its source, simply because Linux is under GPL.

Re:Why it hasn't... (5)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 13 years ago | (#412633)

IANAL, but I think that the GPL probably will turn out to be enforceable for one simple reason. The FSF will be able to pick the time and place for a showdown. Copyright, unlike Trademark, does not require that the owner actively pursue violators. So the FSF can wait until they have just the right violator (someone not very well financed, and in a jurisdiction they feel will be friendly). Once they have nailed one sucker to the proverbial tree they will then have legal precedence.

The other thing that the FSF has in their favor is the fact that the entire software industry has been trying for years to strengthen copyright laws as they apply to software. After all the work and money they have spent they aren't likely to want to have a legal precedent that puts limits on copyright protection.

Oh, and there is a definite difference between most EULAs and the GPL, that is that the EULAs trigger on software use, but the GPL triggers on software distribution. Since copyright is designed to limit the distribution rights of the consumer,and not to specify what he or she may legally do with the material, this is a very important distinction.

Re:WindRiver? Aha! (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 13 years ago | (#412634)

Well then, they can use something other than Linux and see where that gets them.

Re:read this (5)

jsproul (4589) | more than 13 years ago | (#412635)

As an embedded systems developer, this is an interesting issue to me. Real-time and compact embedded systems often put much of their code in what is conventionally viewed as kernel space in order to have direct access to hardware for key functions. Shared library mechanisms and kernel calls incur too much overhead for performance-critical operations, so these applications are typically statically linked and often have a fixed memory map.

In the context of the GPL, these code fragments must be released as they are linked with the kernel. With a kernel under the LGPL or other more permissive license, e.g. Red Hat's eCos, these functions may not need to be released. This is fine with me; if you don't like the GPL's requirements, use another OS.

Stallman is very clear on his intent in the GPL, although the wording in GPL 2 is not so clear. I fully expect that this will be clarified in GPL 3, to everyone's benefit. This will also make it less subject to potentially damaging judicial interpretation.

That leaves only the lack of legal precedents pertaining to the GPL. Yet the overwhelming majority of commercial software licenses, including Wind River's, are not court-tested and many of their provisions are blatantly unenforceable in many jurisdictions. This argument does not hold water.

Now consider for a moment that Wind River are one of the leading vendors of non-free, closed-source, proprietary OSes, notably VxWorks and pSOS. Their lunch is being eaten from above by Windows and Linux, and from below by uCLinux, eCos, and other free RTOSes. Clearly Schacker's statements are nothing more than a calculated FUD counterattack. He is trying to scare commercial embedded developers away from free software competitors and back to Wind River's proprietary solutions by raising the spectre of legal actions and a vague threat that companies might someday lose all of their proprietary code and with it their competitive advantage.

The truth is that the guidelines are clear, but Wind River can't compete. They would do much better for their investors to figure out how to adapt to the changing business climate instead of entrenching a lost position.

Amendments (1)

jjr (6873) | more than 13 years ago | (#412636)

You can alsways make an amendments to GPL to exclude a particular case. But I do not know in the case of linux the time to amend the license is over (to many people to ask permission ) This is where bsd might start maing head way in.

any later version... (2)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 13 years ago | (#412639)

> How can you know that you will approve of a
> license you haven't even read?

Well, trust in one way. Even without that, there are severe limits to what the FSF can change. They have a lot of code under v 2.0, and written contractual obligations to a lot of contributers about what licenses they can release their code under.

Re:GPL3 irrelevant to the problem at hand here. (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 13 years ago | (#412640)

Your two points there seems strangely at odds with each other. If A is a problem, why is routing round it with B foolish?

Re:The FUD continues.. (1)

pod (1103) | more than 13 years ago | (#412648)

Can you imagine a court case some day that determines that all of the software you've developed falls under the GPL, and is now in the public domain?

What the heck does this mean?

Uh, well, first of all, GPL is not public domain. In fact, GPL is an answer against the public domain alternative as it allows you to free your software and still maintain rights to it. Check out pyleft [] .

As to the vaguely implied possibility of the FSF or courts suddenly deciding to take away your GPLed software, have a look at the page describing how to GPL your software: [] . The key lies in the difference between a license and copyright. You license your software under GPL, but still maintain the copyright on it. You can in fact give up that right and transfer it to FSF (the link escapes me at the moment).

Re:GPL "Live Fire" Testing (2)

wik (10258) | more than 13 years ago | (#412649)

Speaking to the litigous society comment (and tying back to embedded software):

Embedded computers can be found doing safety-critical things, such as software controlling transportation systems (from automated trains to the microcontroller in your car's engine) and medical equipment. If the software has bugs, then human lives can be lost as a result of those bugs.

I would argue that GPL'ed software (licensed as is) is dangerous to use in safety-critical embedded systems, because the author may believe that he/she is safe because of the NO WARRANTY sections of the GPL. The original authors of the GPL'ed code may not ecessarily be safe from lawsuits in the case of injury or death if some company decides to use their (buggy) free software in a commercial product.

The GPL does not include clauses that forbid code released under such a license to be used in such systems. Whether such a clause would be any more legally binding than what is currently there, I don't know. I have seen such warnings on hardware components from companies such as Motorola before, though.

Your all confused (2)

robert-porter (309405) | more than 13 years ago | (#412650)

The real problem with GPL 3 is that you have to put that ugly GNU/ in front of everything.

BSD license (3)

ThatField (201302) | more than 13 years ago | (#412651)

GPL has limitations due to grouping all code as open always. BSD can give a company the ability to open source, or keep the code's really the way to go IMHO. BSD supports freedom of indidviduality in that sense, and GPL is more like another `prison` even tho it's the opposite of proprietary licenses - which are also `prisons`. I can't see why a company would really want to use the GPL when there's some very good (and often slightly better) software and OS's using the BSD license. I realize it's a matter of taste, but in a legal and business sense....BSD really would be the way to go. It doesn't force you into as many corners.

Re:GPL != FREE (1)

Panaflex (13191) | more than 13 years ago | (#412652)

That's why Microsoft uses BSD for its core TCP/IP stack and net utilities, as well as the BIND named server. And they gutted sendmail for it's exchange server.

BSDers know that Microsoft took their thousands of man hours of work, and "artistically" integrated it into Windows. And the fact that we never got to see the "improvements" or "changes" doesn't bother us a bit. Because it's TRULY free.

I think companies would prefer the GPL though, simple because it would keep their competitors watching their backs!


Re:How would anybody know? (1)

Zebbers (134389) | more than 13 years ago | (#412653)

You dont actually need to see something to know it's there. Scientists have been doing this for centuries.

Re:The FUD continues.. (5)

jmegq (33169) | more than 13 years ago | (#412654)

They're taking on an point that is explicitly called out in the GPL; that of linking against GPL'd code. Every /.er who's been through the license game knows that if you link your code to GPL'd code, your code must be GPL'd too.

VxWorks is saying, gee, it'd be nice for our customers to have Linux above our RTOS to run their code on; why don't we put some shims in there and link the Linux kernel in and we'll be set (kind of like RT-Linux, I imagine). Oops, but we'd have to link, instead of using, say, pipes, so we hit the GPL linking clause.

But VxWorks has very little incentive to release their OS as open source, because of the basic economics of scarce resources -- in this case, their RTOS technology is pretty advanced, pretty stable, and they need to hold onto that lead to make money and pay programmers, etc. Happily, they do contribute to the GNU toolchain, using it for their platform and improving it (contributing back) so their customers, and everyone else, benefits. But that's because the toolchain isn't their core competitive advantage.

The article isn't FUD -- it's a legitimate point about the standoff between the GPL, which advocates fully public-domain programs as the only acceptable kind, and economics, where you must control a (naturally or artificially) scarce resource in order to make money and mantain an advantage against your competitors.

Corporations are legally required to act in the interests of their investors; they can't just say "we gave it all away and all our competitors now have our best technology, hope that's ok!". Meanwhile, low-level Linux developers are legally required to make their code freely available in exchange for the ability to link to freely available code. But that's not a good deal if your private code is better than the freely available stuff (and as an RTOS [at least], Linux ain't all that great). Hence, conflict.

Article language unclear at best (1)

Interrobang (245315) | more than 13 years ago | (#412655)

Not only that, but Buddy who wrote the piece writes as if he never heard of the difference between real English and Marketroid-speak. I mean, how many different non-naturally shifted nouns can he use in one sentence as verbs and so on?

Between all that, the ideological thunderstorm going on (think of the mechanics of a thunderstorm and you'll get it), and general confusion, the whole thing is pretty well unreadable.

Unfortunately, [shakes head] so is this post, I think. Time to sleep.

Re:Why it hasn't... (1)

Trepalium (109107) | more than 13 years ago | (#412656)

Actually, to establish legal precident, they'd have to take the case to a high enough court in each and every country. Even if the GPL were to be struck down entirely, the net effect would be rather minor since copyright law in nearly every country prohibits distribution of copyrighted works without permission, and without the GPL license, you have no permission at all.

I doubt anyone will ever try to legally challenge the GPL for the sole reason that if they are successful, they lose ALL rights to distribute the software. By someone challenging it, they lose -- they can no longer distribute the software they were illegally distributing before. I'd have to laugh at that irony if it ever happened.

Legal idiocy (1)

CaseStudy (119864) | more than 13 years ago | (#412657)

No court in the world (at least that part that signed on to the Berne Convention) would take code from a private owner and throw it into the public domain for violating the GPL. Nor would they require the company to license their code under the GPL. Instead, they would declare that the contract had been breached, and therefore the owner has no right to use GPL'd code in the work. This DOES NOT mean that the owner has to release under the GPL. Instead, he can choose to replace the licensed code with something else.

hmmm... solution (1)

pyth (87680) | more than 13 years ago | (#412658)

modify the Linux code in small ways, distro the changes. But, make Linux load up a separate module (not like a kernel module), which itself can be under any license, basically. Everybody ends up with the source code for the module loader but not the module.

Let me get this straight: (2)

TheDullBlade (28998) | more than 13 years ago | (#412659)

ID Software is not likely to sue over this b/c they stand the chance of losing the GPL license over a small case. [...] How can someone release code under the GPL with the knowledge that this won't happen? (taking source, modifying, releasing binary, and saying they will NOT release the source)

So what you're asking is how can we make sure nobody will violate the GPL while carefully avoiding finding out whether its terms are actually legally enforceable?

I dunno...

Adding the clause "You agree to lose any court challenge."?

Roving vigilante squads?

A worldwide network of crack assasins?

Mandatory skull implants that can be remote triggered to explode if the RMS judges that you've violated the GPL?

Self-reproducing, self-improving killing machines? (I think the answer to all the world's problems is self-reproducing, self-improving killing machines, but maybe I'm just being idealistic)

For a contract to be valid, it must be *seen* (2)

Cerlyn (202990) | more than 13 years ago | (#412660)

All right. So I'm supposed to read this "LICENSE" file that came with the program. But I'm an experienced Linux/BSD/Solaris/whatever user. So I just type "./configure" followed by "make install". I haven't read the license for this program at all.

Granted, some programs do have "click-through" licenses, but most of these are non-GPL, and then few GPL ones that do show the license use Windows installers (one such program is the pre-compiled Gimp for Windows [] ). If you expect me to hit "I agree" on your web page, I likely can find the file by browsing your FTP server directly. If I never reached the license agreement page on your web site in the first place, does it bind me?

It's like the legal print found at the bottom of most web pages under titles like "Terms of Use." Slashdot's parent, OSDN, has such a legal section [] . But given the headlines are on top of a page, who reads the legal stuff on the bottom?

Now IANAL, but I doubt the GPL nor most web sites' terms of use would hold up in court. You can not be bound to what you do not have to read.

Re:GPL "Live Fire" Testing (2)

MAXOMENOS (9802) | more than 13 years ago | (#412661)

I would find it an amazingly amusing thing, if some Microsoft programmer came out and said ''Microsoft is using GPLed code in Windows XP.'', and someone was able to get their hands on proof, in court. What would this result in, the enforced release of the entire Windows XP source tree?

I think that what would happen instead, is that Microsoft would offer the individual plaintiffs an ungodly amount of money in return for permission to use their code under a different license. The GPL does allow this, and many GPL'd products (such as Qt and MySQL) do this. The alternative is that Microsoft (with its deep pockets) would drag on the appeals for years or decades before anything happened. By that point, the source for XP would be worthless. This assumes: (1) that the GPL holds up to a court challenge (which it hasn't yet), (2) that there is a finding of fact that Microsoft did indeed use GPL'd code and violated the GPL in doing so.

Standard disclaimer: IANAL

ObJectBridge [] (GPL'd Java ODMG) needs volunteers.

read this (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#412662)

To be clear, Schacker is not saying that the entire GPL is poorly defined. "Don't get me wrong," he explains. "There is not much ambiguity about the fact that if you take a software program covered by the GPL and make changes to that code, that code would now be licensable under the GPL. Nobody argues that point. But if you write an embedded application and you link that code to Linux, is that code now subject to the terms and conditions of the GPL? That's what isn't clear." The Free Software Foundation's Stallman answers Schacker's question by making a distinction: "If you write an application, link it to Linux, and thereby combine the two into a single program, the application is now covered by the GPL. However, normal practice does not involve linking user programs with Linux. User programs are linked with Glibc [GNU libc], and Glibc communicates with Linux using 'system call trapping instructions.' That mechanism has been used for decades for user programs to talk to a kernel, so it is generally accepted that the two are separate programs.

They may as well be speaking two different languages, as the word "link" used in each paragraph means very different things. Of course, Stallman didn't realize this and goes off on a rant protecting his "GPL". Face it, the GPL's days are limited.

Court Test Looming (4)

grovertime (237798) | more than 13 years ago | (#412666)

I've heard rumor that in Western Canada, there is talk of a suit that revolves around GPL. It involved a company called Mixar(?). Can anyone confirm or deny this?

  1. what the? []

GPL "Live Fire" Testing (4)

TellarHK (159748) | more than 13 years ago | (#412668)

I worry sometimes about the GPL's chances for survival in this extremely litigous society we have. Sure, it's most likely that some corporations out there, big corporations out there, are taking GPLed code and using it themselves without letting anyone know. But who can afford to bring a GPL based lawsuit against someone doing this?

I would find it an amazingly amusing thing, if some Microsoft programmer came out and said ''Microsoft is using GPLed code in Windows XP.'', and someone was able to get their hands on proof, in court. What would this result in, the enforced release of the entire Windows XP source tree?

I see a lot of comments about the BSD license, and many of those seem to think it is in some way better than the GPL. Could someone summarize the differences between the two, without just RTFLing at me or quoting huge blocks of the legalese?

GPL 3.0 will... (1)

PovRayMan (31900) | more than 13 years ago | (#412670)


  1. -More confusing rules/laws/confusing words
    -Uhmm, hrmm..
    -Jon Katz?

Er, damn. I don't know much about this GPL stuff. Can't think of anything funny...

excuse me? (1)

hexdef6 (141919) | more than 13 years ago | (#412678)

Could I please get an example of a gamble that ISN'T on a variable? It seems like the object of the bet HAS to be be on something with various possible outcomes, otherwise it is a SURE THING. Business is NEVER a sure thing. Capitalism is always about making a better bet than the next guy. That is what makes it fun (oh yeah, and the personal freedom it entails...).


Re:read this (1)

norwoodites (226775) | more than 13 years ago | (#412679)

But then Microsoft will sue you for cracking their code so we will never know

GPL3 irrelevant to the problem at hand here. (4)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 13 years ago | (#412680)

The article talks about things needing to run 'close' to the Linux Kernel in embedded devices.
Well, the GPL 3 is completely irrelevant here, as the Linux Kernel is not available under GPL3. Linus specifically releases the kernel under the GPL 2 licence (not GPL 2 or greater, see Kernel Traffics passim. [] ).

Some would argue the if the GPL3 turns out to be a good thing in the future, then it will be very difficult to relicence the kernel under GPL3 as there are so many contributers who submitted modifications to GPL 2 only code.

Note that this also means that you can't legally take code from the GPL 2 only kernel and place it in a GPL 2+ project, but that's not strictly relevant to the topic at hand.

Re:WindRiver? Aha! (1)

Crakor (12469) | more than 13 years ago | (#412681)

Yup and the company i work for (which does embedded devices) has used both vxWorks and linux on products.. It's kind of a tossup on which one is preferred they both have their pluses

The GPL? Succesfully upheld? (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#412682)

I very much doubt the GPL will ever be sucessfully upheld against a commercial company. Case in point, the recent(ish) GPLing of the Quake software. Sure, a small community group (QuakeLives) breaches the GPL. It reaches slashdot, John Carmack himself gets involved and the people eventually back off. However, there have also been several COMMERCIAL breaches of the GPL. For example, 2015's new division "Trainwreck Studios" released a commercial game (Laser Arena0 based on the Quake engine... They licensed a non-gpl'ed version of the source code from ID Software. Then they went and ripped several bits of GPL code from other GPL'ed derivatives of the public engine. They grabbed subroutines, and all sorts of nasty code that is very easy to prove in court. They also admitted to stealing some of this code. What happened? Noone cared. 2015 have enough money to support themselves. Slashdot and the gaming news sites refused to post any articles about it... Except those sites that interviewed 2015 and congradulated them on releasing this game. John Carmack himself, alas, refused to acnowledge it. And none of the people in the Quake community recieved any credit for their work which was blatently ripped off in a boxed, commercial product which was sold on the shelves of major retailers like Target. And of course, the chance of a small group of geographically diverse people sucessfully mounting a lawsuit is next to none. The simple fact is that over time, no real fuss has been made about large commercial companies 'borrowing' GPL'ed code. It will just never happen.

How would anybody know? (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 13 years ago | (#412683)

If Open Source code is used in a closed, proprietary app, how would anybody know? By definition, nobody outside of the developers can see the actual source of a typical closed all (without using tools like BlackIce), so how could this ever be enforced? For all we know, Open Source code is being used in many closed source products already.

Re:Another GPL Dispute Involving Quake (1)

geomcbay (263540) | more than 13 years ago | (#412684)

Only a *complete idiot* would download and use a binary from the net.

I download and use binaries from the net every day. And as far as I know, I'm not an idiot.

I presume from your post that you only download SOURCE CODE? And if this is the case, I assume that you audit every single line of every single program that you get in source code format? Otherwise you haven't gained yourself any real safety. The fact of the matter is that trojans can be slipped into open source software too (and it has happened in the past, so its not just theoretical).

Re:Another GPL Dispute Involving Quake (1)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 13 years ago | (#412685)

Get a bunch of lawyers together and write nasty letters. You can't actually sue them, unfortunately, since, IIRC (and IANAL), a lawsuit must be brought by an "interested party," i.e., ID. The players of the game might qualify, though --- I don't know.

Re:WindRiver? Aha! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#412686)

Bypass the whole thing, use BSD. (climbs into flameproof suit).


slashdot readership has some clue once again!

Re:we need a lawyer (1)

geomcbay (263540) | more than 13 years ago | (#412687)

The FSF has good lawyers.

But just because the lawyers say the thing looks good doesn't mean its legal, it needs to be tested in court to be sure.

Re:For a contract to be valid, it must be *seen* (5)

Muggins the Mad (27719) | more than 13 years ago | (#412688)

> Now IANAL, but I doubt the GPL nor most web sites' terms of use would hold up in court. You can not be bound to what you do not have to read.

That's where the GPL is quite clever. You see, it doesn't take any rights away from you - it only gives you more rights than you had. The right to copy, under certain rules.

If you deny you're bound by the GPL because you didn't read it, then even if you win, you end up bound by normal copyright law and aren't allowed to be copying the code *anyway*.

- Muggins the Mad

Re:WindRiver? Aha! (2)

sconeu (64226) | more than 13 years ago | (#412689)

There's always BSD.

Re:For a contract to be valid, it must be *seen* (1)

psychonaut (65759) | more than 13 years ago | (#412690)

All right. So I'm supposed to read this "LICENSE" file that came with the program. But I'm an experienced Linux/BSD/Solaris/whatever user. So I just type "./configure" followed by "make install". I haven't read the license for this program at all.

You are missing the point. If the code is not licenced to you, under current copyright law, you have to right to modify, copy, or distribute it, or to integrate it into one of your programs. The GPL gives you the right to modify, copy, distribute, and integrate the code, subject to certain restrictions, just the same as the Microsoft EULA gives the user the right to copy the code (onto a hard disk for use), subject to several restrictions. If you honestly think that the GPL cannot be held up in court, than neither can Microsoft's EULA, or any other EULA.


Re:GPL "Live Fire" Testing (1)

_Quinn (44979) | more than 13 years ago | (#412694)

The BSD license allows open-source products to be used in close-sourced products, and the GPL does not. (That is, the GPL is 'viral' -- anything using GPL'd code must be released under GPL-compliant license -- but the BSD license is not.)


Why it hasn't... (3)

the-banker (169258) | more than 13 years ago | (#412698)

I am guessing a large reason for it not being litigated is the risk on both sides.

Right now, proprietary software companies must not sufficiently threatened by its existence to litigate. There is a huge amount of downside risk for a company like MS to challenge the license, since the precedent could go either way. I think it is safe to assume that the GPL has enough legal foundation to make any outcome questionable.

What a lot of this comes down to is enforceability of a license. Many of the same arguments I have used against shrinkwrap licenses can be adapted to the GPL.

Finally, one thing I have never reconciled is how much duplication of code constitutes a violation? How many programs have a "while not EOF" type routine? Is it the approach to a problem that determines the uniqueness of the code?

IMO, neither side (pro or con) wants the GPL to go to court anytime soon. When you consider the other cases pending, such as RAMBUS, domain name trademark infringement, etc., any case involving the GPL would be a stressful time for a lot of people (myself included).


Re:GPL "Live Fire" Testing (2)

leviramsey (248057) | more than 13 years ago | (#412700)

IANAL, so this is not the most in-depth explanation possible, but the basic difference between the GPL and BSD license is that the GPL has a "viral clause", which basically says that all derived works must be GPL'd. BSD makes no requirements as to the licensing of derived works.

As always, there will be others who have more in-depth info to post...

Somebody's not paying attention... (1)

chrylis (262281) | more than 13 years ago | (#412703)

1) GPL'd software is not public domain... *ahem*

2) If you're afraid about your software, use BSD... Plus, BSD usually has better performance than Linux in a networking environment. I feel Linux is more approachable to new users, but many more servers run BSD.

Weakness of the GPL (3)

indole (177514) | more than 13 years ago | (#412705)

I've always wondered about the strength of the GPL. More particularly, though, if Big Money wants to use GPL'd code in their product, who exactly is going to step into the ring to fight their hordes of lawyers? Their power to bankrupt through extended litigation is not to be underestimated.

Why not M$? (1)

coolgeek (140561) | more than 13 years ago | (#412706)

Listening to Jim Allchin talk lately, if M$ thought the GPL was weak, I'm pretty sure they would simply infringe it, brag about it and let their army of lawyers extinguish it. Instead, they have taken the tack of lobbying for legislation to outlaw it. I think it is better than "anyone's best guess" GPL will stand up. If the IRS can tax Barter transaction, then license fees can be collected in terms of sharing your technology.

WindRiver? Aha! (5)

WasterDave (20047) | more than 13 years ago | (#412709)

Curt Schacker, vice president of corporate marketing for Wind River Corp

Ah, WindRiver - they would be upset. WindRiver sell a really HUGELY expensive (we are talking 'n' kilodollars per developer backside) POSIX OS / toolset for embedded development called VxWorks. They've managed to keep a commanding but certainly not monopolistic lead on the whole embedded OS scene for really quite a while now and the appearance of Linux that's just as good (debate), has shedloads more mindshare and is far cheaper has had a pretty decimating effect on their bottom line. The linked article is a classic example of FUD. Don't sweat it, they're doing it for you. A man called Curt Schacker is doing it for you, actually.

Bypass the whole thing, use BSD. (climbs into flameproof suit).


Fair shake (2)

stigmatic (310472) | more than 13 years ago | (#412711)

First off, is it me, or does viewing that site on my fbsd box with ns just suck?

"it's anybody's best guess. Therefore, if you use Linux and you agree to the terms and conditions of the GPL, you are-at least to some degree-placing a bet as to the implications of the code that you develop.

We've all seen this argument before, and whats surprising is their is the Open Source movement but not something of like an OpenCode movement, where developers would share code and allow others to better modify their (original programmer's) code which at times can produce better programs. Sure it hasn't been tested in court, and an argument for this would be, many GPL'd code was made on person's own spare time, perhaps as a hobby or pet project. Eitheir or, it would cost a lot for someone coding off of a pet project to rush into court to protect their GPL'd code, and not only that how does GPL based code fall into laws around the globe?

"Let's say you own a company that is building an Ethernet switch. Let's also say your value-add is software, and you have chosen to base your device on Linux. Can you imagine a court case some day that determines that all of the software you've developed falls under the GPL, and is now in the public domain? We fear this situation is impeding development in the embedded open-source arena."

Who really thinks this is an issue many of the big boys including IBM offer code which fall into the GPL that could be, and has likely been used by others as a basis for something better or more stable.

But if you write an embedded application and you link that code to Linux, is that code now subject to the terms and conditions of the GPL? That's what isn't clear."

He answers his own question here how can it not be clear. If he creates an RTOS embedded app linked to Linux, the original code is core, not Linux so why would it fall under GPL, thats sort of like saying Real [] just let go of their copyrights and patents since their audio/video player is now GPL in essence (at least from what I can muster)

I wish I could speak more but that Elton John, Eminem duo made me wanna puke, I like the original Stan, and the newest Rob Malda version []

Re:GPL "Live Fire" Testing (3)

Raven667 (14867) | more than 13 years ago | (#412715)

Personally I have never seen software that had a warranty. If you build a critical component (heart monitor, brake system, etc.) on, say, VxWorks would the liability be any different. I imagine that VxWorks has the same "not fit for any particular purpose" clause as every other piece of software I've seen, and if you build something important out of it it is your liability.

The license reinforces the business model (3)

LL (20038) | more than 13 years ago | (#412718)

If you look at the licenses, then end result is that they encourage different business models. The MS EULA assumes a manufacturing model - pay per widget whether devtool or .bet components. In this situation, they wish to control their IP (building blocks) so that all higher stage developments go through them so they can get an early peek and if necessary buy-out high growth sectors). Read ESR's notes on the difference between end-use and intermediate-use.

The GPL on the other hand assumes that code is communications and the license aims to ensure integrity (purity) and persistence (viral nature). Given that the distribution is unrestricted, then IMHO the model shifts the value to the service model (support, mentoring, accessories, etc). Unfortunately, the margins in this area are slim as it is labor-knowledge intensive and a firm cannot forbid an employee from walking out the door (not until they reintroduce economic slavery a la corporate towns). So you can kiss you 50% gross margins and shareholder stock pyramid goodbye.

The problem comes with the embedded model is that they exist in the gray area between manufacturing and service. IMHO, the problem can be resolved through thinking more carefully about the issue. For example, if you're doing embedded sytems, you might think about distribution of firmware updates as your service model or transmeta code optimisation as a value-added service. All you need to do is to OpenSource something like FCode, intgrate it with Linux as a kernel loadable module, and establish a long-term service contract with customers that purchase your hardware.

Whether this produces superior software is a separate issue. One can argue that something the size of a fortune500 company is too large to be responsive to customers (cf bug tracking/resolution record) and the lack of feedback (which if you assume that code is communications is a valid analogy) creates software that sucks. There are models which combine both Open/Closed source ... see VTK which offers the basic toolkit free, then sells application kits and linkages to other systems.

If you look at it objectively, Microsoft is *NOT* a software or innovation company, it is in the business of IP licensing (buy, borrow or bully :-)) and the GPL is a fundamental threat to this model as it does not fit the fules of the game they are trying to impose on the market. Currently OpenSource is a niche segment (low-end servers, embedded, exotic hardware) but given the fact that the PC market is saturated and the internet plays to Linux strengths (many small penguista experimenting with services), then it makes sense to do a slash and burn to clear the path for the 800-pound gorilla.

As a defensive tactic, the GPL acts as a poison pill, as there is no point in being taken-over if you cannot embrace, extend and extinguish a competiting standard. It does even the field for new entrants which as any good self-respecting monopolist tells you is anathema to their excess profits. However, the big big disantage of having a purely free (as in beer) software is that you are missing the market signals that indicate the demand for a particular service. RMS may have his heart and soul in the right place but some of the practical issues need a lot more careful thought.


Re:WindRiver? Aha! (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 13 years ago | (#412720)

Strangely enough, Linux seems very popular in the embedded world, and is sparking a revolution that probably couldn't have happened without it. Pretty amazing for something that has supposedly vastly superior competitors, dontcha think?

If the embedded OS vendors had something that was reasonably priced instead of wanting to make money hand-over-fist, maybe they wouldn't be having the problems they're having now. I'd say the hubris was on their part for feeling they could extract exorbitant prices forever.

Re:read this (2)

Raven667 (14867) | more than 13 years ago | (#412722)

now, if i remember correctly, there's an exception in the linux license to allow binary-only loadable modules, but i'm not too clear on that part.

This is a very important point, Linus has made it clear that he intends for people to be able to make binary-only LKM's. See 4Front, makers of the OSS sound drivers [] , for an example. I also believe that some hardware vendors have done this, but I don't have examples handy.

In any event, worst case you have to GPL the code that you put in the kernel, but you only have to provide it to people that you have sold units to. Of course they can distribute it to anyone they want. More likely you talk to the copyright holder of the code you have changed and hammer out an a different license between the two parties.

Oh, and the GPL is good for business. One should open up their code to their customers, but there is no reason to allow your competitors to take your code without giving back. It's a standoff, you have your code, your competitor has your code. Any change they distribute they have to share with you, and as the owner you can do anything you please with the code.

HTML should have a ramble tag . . .

Re:WindRiver? Aha! (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 13 years ago | (#412723)

Now that is true, there always is BSD. I have a suspicion it won't do well in this market. Strangely enough, I think it'll be because of it's license. I suspect that people wanting to use it will get better warm fuzzies from the GPL because then they know that if the OS is improved, they get the improvements, regardless of whatever ridiculous maze of 'strategic alliances' is in place today.

I also suspect that cutting a year off of your time to market in this space is much more important than making sure your competitor can't figure out what you did, which also argues in favor of a GPL-like license. If your competitor ported to a 4004, (haha), you're can now make 4004 devices of your own if you need to. Of course, your competitor can do the same thing for your port to the 6809 or whatever. Shortens everybody's time to market. Makes product ideas and concepts more important than implementation details.

But, this is mere speculation. Time will tell.

Degeneration into politics (1)

Cliffton Watermore (199498) | more than 13 years ago | (#412725)

There can't be any argument that the GPL has a political agenda behind it. People like myself, who are more interested in the code itself and the scientific/practical side of things as opposed to the politics behind it, are not interested in political agendas. The BSDL is fairly free of politics, at least to the extent that any human interaction can be. Both are "free", for some definition of the word free. These arguments are purely political. I didn't choose my OS based on the license. I chose it because it was the right tool for the job I needed to do. I would be perfectly happy to have FreeBSD available under the GPL. I would be perfectly happy to have Linux available under the BSDL. Of course, I have fallen out of favour with the BSD crowd, but still can't deny the strengths of both their code and their license... I use a variety of OS's, based on what job I need done. As far as open source licenses go, with all open source licenses, users return code to the project. This effectively voids the entire argument over which license and indeed whether a license is in fact important. I urge the Slashdot editors to steer away from politics and focus more on technical issues. I think that the majority of intelligent Slashdotters posting to this board will agree with that. Of course there will be those trolls who oppose this and delight in starting flamewars over the GPL vs BSD vs Python license vs Apache license, but the majority of reasonable Slashdotters would prefer to focus on technical, scientific and engineering issues.

Re:we need a lawyer (1)

Zebbers (134389) | more than 13 years ago | (#412726)

this is what always amuses me. My school always says "We have lawyers." That means absolutely jack shit. Assuming they have a competent lawyer, I doubt they paid for hours upon hours of legal research for each time they 'consult' them. And even if they did, all that matters is a judge or jury's interpretation and/or prior caselaw. Anything else is speculation.

Re:GPL "Live Fire" Testing (1)

TellarHK (159748) | more than 13 years ago | (#412730)

Hm, okay. That's good and simple. I thought it was something like that, but wondered if there were more to it than that. I have to admit, from a personal standpoint I rather like the viral nature of the GPL, put that way. People who say the GPL is going to die, obviously have no idea about the rationale of someone using the GPL. I think the only way the GPL will ever lose major credibility in this case, is if the Linux kernel tree changes.

its only a problem if... (1)

child_of_mercy (168861) | more than 13 years ago | (#412738)

its only a problem if companies want to extend GPL code.

That the licence has not been tested in court is tribute to its strength, not its weakness.

I would say lets leave them to that headache, the price of using GPL code to develop other code is supposed to be that others can use your code.

Problem for multi million dollar companies wanting to add proprietary extensions to a feee OS.

Not a problem for the rest of us.

The FUD continues.. (5)

Enry (630) | more than 13 years ago | (#412740)

As an example, Schacker offers this scenario: "Let's say you own a company that is building an Ethernet switch. Let's also say your value-add is software, and you have chosen to base your device on Linux. Can you imagine a court case some day that determines that all of the software you've developed falls under the GPL, and is now in the public domain? We fear this situation is impeding development in the embedded open-source arena."

What the heck does this mean? It's like saying that some day, the MS EULA means that MS owns all the code you've ever written. This is why lawyers exist. This is why you can (probably) contact the FSF. This is why there's been a bazillion questions about how the GPL operates, with most of them having been answered already.

Listen up, there is nothing about the GPL that makes it any different (in a legal standpoint) from the MS EULA, aside from changes in the terms and conditions. If EULAs in general are struck down, this could strike down the GPL as well. They're in the same family.

So let's look at the terms and conditions. The fear that your code will somehow have to be released under the GPL is covered by the LGPL, which is used to compile most apps that use the gcc compiler and libraries. The LGPL allows for commercial (closed source) apps to be compiled and linked against LGPL libraries.

If a company doesn't pay attention to this difference in licenses, it's their own fault. This is akin to mistaking the MS EULA for a Borland EULA. If you're still stuck, go get a lawyer or call the FSF.

FUD (2)

Uruk (4907) | more than 13 years ago | (#412741)

C'mon. Let's make a list of licenses that have been tested in court, and let's make a list of corporations who have put millions of dollars behind those untested software licenses. So some people are worried about testing the GPL based off of the fact that it tries to force developers to free their source when they use it in certain ways. They're not worried about commercial licenses which come up with dozens of dubiously legal ways to make you give up your freedom. And besides all of that, this argument is quite old, and the GPL is still adopted by companies. I wouldn't call this 100% FUD, but it's definately >=60% FUD.
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