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When GPL Becomes Almost-GPL — the CSS, Images and JavaScript Loophole

Soulskill posted about 10 months ago | from the dr-stallman-and-mr-hyde dept.

GNU is Not Unix 224

New submitter sobolwolf writes "It has been apparent for some time that many developers (mainly theme designers) are split-licensing PHP-based GPL distributions, releasing proprietary files alongside GPL files with the excuse that CSS, JavaScript and Images are 'immunized' from the GPL because they run in the browser and not on the server. This is almost always done to limit the distribution of the entire release, not just the proprietary items (most extensions will not function in any meaningful way without the accompanying CSS, Images and JavaScript). Some of the more popular PHP-based GPL projects, like WordPress, have gone as far as to apply sanctions to developers distributing split-licensed themes/plugins. Others, such as Joomla, have openly embraced the split-licensed model, even changing their extension directory submission rules to cater specifically to split-licensed distributions. In light of all this, I would like to ask the following question: While it seems to be legal to offer split-licensed GPL distributions, is it in the spirit of the GPL for a project such as Joomla (whose governing body has the motto 'Open Source Matters') to openly embrace such a practice when they can easily require that all CSS, Images and JavaScript be GPL (or GPL-compatible) for extensions that are listed on the Joomla Extensions Directory?"

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224 comments

First world problems (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44117791)

Oh the problems of the first world. How terrible they must be.

Re:First world problems (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44117883)

Third-world problems are nothing either. You should see what's happening on Vorgon 3, my friend. Humans have it easy.

Re:First world problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118741)

Oh, how we dream of making it to the posh digs on Vorgon 3.
Do you know how hard it is to browse /. from the hydrocolonic acid ocean that is Cornholio 7?

Re:First world problems (-1, Flamebait)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 10 months ago | (#44117921)

Not to mention the whole thing is based on a lie, because there is no "spirit" of a CONTRACT, anybody that brings up that "spirit" shit might as well say "I don't see you doing what i want you doing"...well screw you buddy, should have put it in the damned contract.

Between RMS changing the GPL to target specific companies he doesn't like to those screaming the "spirit!" bullshit frankly the worst enemies of FOSS are the devs and users. If I was looking at software for my company i sure as hell wouldn't use GPL, after all what if i piss off RMS? Get my company dragged through the mud because i couldn't guess what the "spirit" was like trying to guess what munchies a stoner wants? No fricking thanks, I'd do like Sony and Apple and use BSD where its all in black and white and nobody is screaming about spirits like its a damned seance instead of software.

Re:First world problems (5, Informative)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 10 months ago | (#44118017)

Actually, there usually is a spirit of legal document, and it can differ from the letter. For example, the CTEA might be argued to fit the letter of the Copyright Clause, since continual extensions are technical limited times, but it certainly doesn't fit the spirit of the constitutional there, as it can't feasibly promote literary progress to reward authors retroactively. Two Justices were aware of this fact, but the majority was not, unfortunately.

While GPLv3 may not have been the most elegantly exectuable change, it was driven by 3 needs. A new technological means of circumventing end-user control, an increasing threat of patent lawsuits under a new legal means, and better compatibility with existing licenses. The changes you decry are the result of treating a license somewhat like software, making what will hopefully be mostly improvements and patch flaws, but this inevitably results in some regressions. Honestly, 3 releases in over 25 years isn't bad at all.

Re:First world problems (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118689)

I don't hate the GPL, I just hate the politics behind it.

When something is GPL, the people come out of the woodwork to fork it, reverse engineer it and otherwise turn it into something it was not supposed to be. I've had this experience first hand, and quite honestly I'm not willing to deal with this again.

On the other side you have the BSD licence where redistributing the source is not a requirement, and you can pretty much keep it as it was designed to by telling people who fork it to change the name of the product.

What I'm getting at is that the spirit of the GPL is to keep software "open", not so much free. When software is open you can download it, compile it and add whatever tweak you need to it to make it work in your environment. You can do that with BSD and you can do that with GPL, but the latter would like you to contribute your changes back. This works up until you get into Patents.

As soon as Patents come into play the GPL is now unworkable, since those tweaks may violate patent licences. So this is why the "binary blobs" exist in Linux via shims to skirt the GPL licence.

This is also what happens with these split licence PHP/Javascript/CSS things. The font or image may be subject to CC SA, but not CC ND. So someone may produce a theme or plugin for a CMS like wordpress or Joomla, but the only part that is really open is the part that inter-operates with the CMS. The Javascript and CSS ... well let me just tell you this, I've DMCA'd people for taking my javascript because they didn't ask. If you want to learn how it works, I'm don't care, but if you outright copy it, that is not learning, that's stealing, and I never licence anything under the GPL. I will licence things under BSD if it's basically throw-away code. Otherwise it's "All rights reserved." As I said earlier, I won't deal with GPL projects because people will just fork it so they don't have to give their changes back.

Re:First world problems (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118413)

Is your law degree from the University of Uranus?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_faith_(law)

Oh good grief. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44117793)

Lost on the legaleses.

Yes (3, Insightful)

Desler (1608317) | about 10 months ago | (#44117827)

is it in the spirit of the GPL for a project such as Joomla (whose governing body has the motto 'Open Source Matters') to openly embrace such a practice when they can easily require that all CSS, Images and JavaScript be GPL (or GPL-compatible) for extensions that are listed on the Joomla Extensions Directory?"

Yes, it is perfectly within the spirit of the GPL to add exemptions to the license terms. Plenty of GPL projects, even those from the GNU project, have exemptions to the GPL terms such as linking in GPLed libraries, etc. Stop being such a freetard.

Re:Yes (5, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 10 months ago | (#44118109)

Realistically, I'm not sure how this is even a problem since one could create a CSS, JavaScript, and Images of their own, and have a working version. In the two cases above, Wordpress and Joomla, you can have fully working versions of these without adding in custom CSS, JavaScript or Images. These named types do not change the functionality, they are SKINS for the actual program. I'm not sure how OS advocates can claim GPL flows down to skins, being unlinked items not required for functionality of the core software.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118585)

I agree with this. IMO, this situation is no different to computer games where the code is GPL and the artistic assests are proprietary (distributors have various restrictions in distributing unmodified and modified copies). It's not necessarily wrong for the art to be proprietary because if need be, it's normally easy to get programmer's artwork as a placeholder for a better art design in the future.

This is what happens (0, Flamebait)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 10 months ago | (#44117869)

when greed and incompetence get mixed up.

You wanna write free software, write free software. You wanna make money, write commercial software and sell it. Should be this simple... but I suppose some people who aren't good enough to do #2 still wanna make money, so they ride on the coattails of a popular free software and do crap like "dual licensing".

Re:This is what happens (5, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | about 10 months ago | (#44118075)

dual licensing is a licensing issue. Nothing about free software prevents you from making money off it, that argument has never been true. Look at redhat.

Re:This is what happens (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118243)

Redhat doesn't sell software.

Re:This is what happens (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118295)

I remember 10 years ago I actually saw a retail boxed package of Red Hat Linux in a store in a small northern Wisconsin town, I thought it was funny.

Re:This is what happens (3, Informative)

LordThyGod (1465887) | about 10 months ago | (#44118347)

I remember 10 years ago I actually saw a retail boxed package of Red Hat Linux in a store in a small northern Wisconsin town, I thought it was funny.

The software in the box was of course "free". The box itself, the manual, the support, and the media inside the box cost $39.95.

Re:This is what happens (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 10 months ago | (#44118807)

They absolutely did sell boxed packages of Linux. This was very important in the days when people didn't usually have decent internet connection speeds; and could still be useful today if stuck on dial up.

Re:This is what happens (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118485)

Nothing about free software prevents you from making money off it, that argument has never been true.

Nice spin, Mr FOSS Shill, but the truth is that it is difficult to make money with free software, more so than commercial software.

Re:This is what happens (2, Informative)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 10 months ago | (#44118841)

Companies have formed around developing and supporting free software. You just change the business model away from selling per-unit packages into selling services and support. There are even people who contract to create software who will then retain rights to software, minus the customer's tweaks, and release that as free software elsewhere.

There's a lot more to software than the original creation of it. The vast majority of all programmers don't write everything from scratch, instead they are modifying pre-existing software. They are adding new features, fixing bugs, integrating with other programs, customizing, etc. If so many companies are willing to pay people to modify existing software then there is indeed a large market to to pay people to modify existing free software as well.

Re:This is what happens (1, Insightful)

flimflammer (956759) | about 10 months ago | (#44118545)

Nothing prevents you from selling it, but selling it is not realistic. Redhat is about the worst example you could possibly use.

Re:This is what happens (2)

poetmatt (793785) | about 10 months ago | (#44118883)

really? why? They did so successfully. They literally sold box cds as indicated. They are selling their software, even if people are paying for support.

Re:This is what happens (2)

furbyhater (969847) | about 10 months ago | (#44118811)

What complete nonsense!

Free software and money aren't diametrically opposite, many programmers are getting paid in order to write free software (like, most developers of the linux kernel).
Stop spouting bullshit for the grace of the flying spaghetti monster!

Re:This is what happens (2)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | about 10 months ago | (#44118857)

If I make free software that looks terrible, and someone else pretties it up, complies with the terms of the license, and manages to sell a product, good for them.

This is really no different from the debates around proprietary blobs in open source. Some people want freedom as a matter of principle. Some people want it for simplicity, so that you know any drop-in replacement is distributable.

And of course there are those who simply don't want to keep track of who has which rights - and let's not forget those who post code with no license, thinking it is public domain.

I don't see a problem here. Especially when someone can take a free thing and add enough value to it, without writing code, that people are willing to buy a free product.

WordPress has decided to enforce their philosophy by restricting people who contribute a product that, some can argue, enhances WordPress. And restrict them from interacting with the WordPress community. That is a difficult situation, to restrict contributors because what they contribute isn't free.

If these people are only selling interoperable components, WordPress would have no teeth, and could only object in text. But the only power they have is to restrict outside interactions, which may boost popularity or use of their products.

Joomla actively welcomes outside sellers, going on the other side of the fence. I think the point is, if Joomla is apparently okay with it, why do you take the position that Joomla is wrong?

Data vs code (3, Insightful)

magic maverick (2615475) | about 10 months ago | (#44117885)

The GPL has never been about data (e.g. the Doom WAD files), but just about the code.
The fact that so many themes and what not are violating the principles of separation of content and presentation and interaction (HTML, CSS, and JS) is a problem. But, if they weren't doing it, then it wouldn't matter if the JS and CSS were Free or not. Because the content would be usable without the crap.
Personally, I just say, don't use themes that aren't all Free. Solves the issue for me.

Re:Data vs code (2)

exomondo (1725132) | about 10 months ago | (#44118019)

Is it immoral - in the GPL ideology - (or not in the 'spirit' of the GPL) to have non-free works of art (images, audio, video, etc...)? I mean I know the business model pushed by GPL advocates is around paying for support, improvements and documentation but such things don't really apply to works of art like that or even to software products like games.

Re:Data vs code (2)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 10 months ago | (#44118051)

Stallman doesn't generally see non-free art as inherently immoral, as art is usually not functinoal. He does, however, think their copyright lasts too long. So, he probably wouldn't have a problem with the non-free artwork, but he would have a problem with the non-free Javascript (I believe he even considered obfuscation to be non-free). I'm not entirely sure on the CSS, but I would lean towards him not approving, especially if more advances CSS3 features are used.

Re:Data vs code (0)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 10 months ago | (#44118279)

I see non-free art as non-art. Bach only ever accepted payment for a single piece of music he wrote. He spent the rest of his life lamenting that mistake. If only more artists had his integrity.

Re:Data vs code (2)

hedwards (940851) | about 10 months ago | (#44118487)

Bach was paid to perform several music related jobs during his lifetime. The work he did composing his works was ultimately related to that.

It's unrealistic to expect people to provide work for free, and then expect them to work 2 or 3 jobs to pay for things like food and shelter. On the bright side, if they're any good, there are probably plenty of lusty ladies that come with the territory.

Re:Data vs code (1)

bbelt16ag (744938) | about 10 months ago | (#44118567)

I take it you have never been an unskilled american have you? this is pretty much the norm anymore if your not the select few who have some skills.

Re:Data vs code (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 10 months ago | (#44118871)

Your point being? Unskilled workers don't work 2 or 3 jobs to give away something for free.

Also, I have never been unskilled because I busted my butt to get skilled. I wasn't born like that.

Re:Data vs code (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118619)

If people find they can't earn a living by making music, then they need to make money doing other things. If they stop making music because of other life commitments, then so be it. There will never be a time when there is a complete cease of new music as a result of nobody being paid for that.

Re:Data vs code (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 10 months ago | (#44118865)

How do you make a living through music if you refuse to sell any or even attempt to sell any?

Re:Data vs code (3)

murdocj (543661) | about 10 months ago | (#44118889)

I see people who want money from me for stuff as lacking integrity. People should just give me stuff. If only more people had Bach's integrity.

Re:Data vs code (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118321)

I believe he even considered obfuscation to be non-free.

What about Javascript written in the style of a perl developer? Is that obfuscated or ..

Re:Data vs code (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 10 months ago | (#44118439)

I'm sure he applied a mens rea approach, so if your code was intentially not human readable, you are clear, but if you just write bad code, having to deal with said code is punishment enough.

Re:Data vs code (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118459)

Is it immoral - in the GPL ideology - (or not in the 'spirit' of the GPL)

What makes you think that?
Just because you think that GPL should be interpreted one way doesn't mean that whoever used GPL for his/her project thinks the same.
If they used GPL then I will have to assume that they meant for it to be used literally and that the "loopholes" are intentional, otherwise they should have used another license.

GPL isn't some kind of shortcut you can use to stamp on everything and think that it solves all licensing problems. Before you tag a license to your sources, read the license carefully and make sure that it says what you want. If the BSD license suits your project, use it. If GPL suits it, use it. If you think that GPL is too permissive, write your own or find one that suits you better but do not assume that everyone else wants to use the same license that you do.

Re:Data vs code (1)

exomondo (1725132) | about 10 months ago | (#44118765)

What makes you think that?

I'm just curious because 'images' is one of the key elements in this story and works of art are so often used in products like games.

If they used GPL then I will have to assume that they meant for it to be used literally and that the "loopholes" are intentional, otherwise they should have used another license.

I agree.

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44117947)

If I create something I'll license it how I please. If you want me to force me to license it a particular way, fuck you.

Re:No (2)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 10 months ago | (#44118055)

Okay, but if you are violating the license of someone else in doing so, you have considerably less room to talk. If you do everything from scratch, you aren't going to face a lawsuit.

Re:No (2)

jo_ham (604554) | about 10 months ago | (#44118237)

Okay, but if you are violating the license of someone else in doing so, you have considerably less room to talk. If you do everything from scratch, you aren't going to face a lawsuit.

But that's the point - it is not violating the licence. You may not like it, but it;s not in violation of the licence. This is the "Tivo problem" all over again. What Tivo were doing wasn't against the GPLv2, so something was done to shut all that down, and we've ended up with GPLv3.

I'm sure there will be more "but that's not what we meant! you're using it wrong!" wailing from the sidelines and we'll have a GPLv4 that will put a stop to it.

Re:No (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 10 months ago | (#44118305)

I'm not saying whether or not it's violating the license. I'm not familiar enough with exactly how this working or the minutia of the GPL to make that kind of statement. The comment I was replying to didn't express any concern about minutia, but instead seemed concerned that someone might restrict him from restricting others.

"the entire work, as a whole" - GPL license (2)

raymorris (2726007) | about 10 months ago | (#44118445)

The GPL license under which I give away my work says that IF YOU WANT TO DIDTRIBUTE A MODIFIED VERSION , you have to also license "the complete work, as a whole" as GPL.
You are free to sell image sets that can be used with WordPress and user any license you wish . However, if you want to distribute my code with it as a complete theme, the only license you have for distributing my code is if you distribute the whole thing as GPL. Icons and CSS COULD be sold as completely separate works, but that would mean not including any WordPress derived PHP in the package.

Re:"the entire work, as a whole" - GPL license (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118553)

If you're using a stock GPL license, then you're wrong. Sorry, but you don't actually understand what the license is implying.

Quoted the plain text of the license, silly (2, Interesting)

raymorris (2726007) | about 10 months ago | (#44118735)

I'm quoting the plain text of the license. Section 5(c) for you:

c) You must license the entire work, as a whole, under this License to anyone who comes into possession of a copy.
            This License will therefore apply, along with any applicable section 7 additional terms, to the whole of the work, and all its parts, regardless of how they are packaged.

I don't understanding what it's implying, you say? That's not an implication, that's a plain declaration, and in case anyone was too dense to understand
"you must license the entire work, as a whole", they repeated it AGAIN, saying "the whole of the work, and all its parts".

As for "if you're using the stock GPL license" look at the VERY FIRST LINE of the license, even before the preamble:

      Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

So yeah, you're using the stock GPL license. Funny you want to act like you're an expert on the GPL, even though you've clearly not even read the FIRST LINE of it.
Seriously dude, it's okay not to be THEexpert on everything. You don't have to act like you know more than everyone else on every topic and act like I"M clueless when
I've actually taken legal action under the GPL, so I kind of know WTF it says. Next time, instead of arguing from ignorance, try reading the darn thing and learning what it says. It's not that long.

Re:Quoted the plain text of the license, silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118831)

This is silly. You're arguing for something that the very creators of the GPL are saying is wrong. I'm sorry, dude. Facts are facts.

And if I find a loophole? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118457)

And if I find a loophole or clause you didn't think of being interpreted in a certain way and I use that to then use the stuff you licensed in a way you DIDN'T want it to be used, then would it be "fuck you" to you?

If the stuff is required to enable the program then it's part of the program. If the program you added these bits to to change the free stuff to your derived work. then the extra bits have to be licensed similarly.

No, it's not. (2)

multiben (1916126) | about 10 months ago | (#44117971)

Whether or not it's legal is a different matter, but the spirit of the GPL is clearly the proliferation of open source software. Split licence variations have always been very much a compromise on the ideals of the GPL. The line gets muddier when GPL'd software relies on third party extensions to operate effectively. However, at the end of the day, if you're a developer and you don't like the idea of split licence models, then don't develop code for them. There are thousands of other projects out there which are pure GPL.

Re:No, it's not. (2)

Desler (1608317) | about 10 months ago | (#44117989)

Whether or not it's legal is a different matter, but the spirit of the GPL is clearly the proliferation of open source software.

And the source code is still being proliferated as GPL. Just not the art assets. So taking your logic, according to you id Software is violating the spirit of the GPL by not GPLing their WAD files for Doom, correct?

Re:No, it's not. (2)

Ost99 (101831) | about 10 months ago | (#44118577)

Categorizing javascript as art might get earn you a new shirt and a nice padded room without a view.

It all depends on whether the javascript (or CSS) is a derivative work of the platform code or not.

Re:No, it's not. (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 10 months ago | (#44118501)

The artwork is not part of the code base and only interacts with the code base in the most technical of ways.

The javascript is arguably supposed to be included, but that would be dangerous as it would mean that you couldn't link against GPL libraries without turning that code into GPL code, regardless of whether or not you're changing the GPL code.

Which is probably not what most people really want.

Re:No, it's not. (2)

devman (1163205) | about 10 months ago | (#44118617)

You can't link against GPL libraries unless your code GPL. You can, however, link against LGPL libraries and not be GPL or LGPL. Allowing non-GPL software to link is the entire reason LGPL exists and why libraries like glibc use LGPL.

Re:No, it's not. (1)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | about 10 months ago | (#44118897)

I don't think you understand. "don't develop code for them" is not possible when your product is a website, which uses separate files for script, images, and styling. It is not embedded, and the images can be replaced with ones that have the same name, and possibly dimensions, without changing one bit of your code.

The scripts can be replaced with others of the same name. Unless you are using inline styles, your CSS can be replaced, all without violating any copyright.

Just download this package, unzip it over your existing install, and enjoy, after paying me money.

That was my point, but I'll continue beating this horse a bit more.

This is the core of the whole issue here. Firefox can't be distributed with alterations, so you get the proprietary parts, including the name, replaced with IceWeasel. Mozilla doesn't have a legal claim other than stop using our proprietary name. For a Joomla or WordPress theme, they don't have that protection, because you have a theme *for* the website outside of the GPL protected bits, and the rest of the package is still legally GPL compliant.

You chose to develop for a platform where you don't have a choice. WordPress has chosen to restrict what people can do in places where WordPress does have control, but it's not in whether to develop a split licensed model.

Waaah! Waaah! Waaah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118021)

Quit crying and go ask your mommy for money so you can ask a lawyer the only fucking question that matters:

IS IT LEGAL?

Open source vs. Free Software... again. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118063)

This essay comes to mind when reading the last couple sentences of the summary: http://www.thebaffler.com/past/the_meme_hustler

There is a distinct difference between Open Source Software and Free Software. tl;dr: Free Software has ethics, but Open Source is more of a corporate-driven ideal that is not really on the side of the users. Given that the GPL was written for the express purpose of Free Software (not Open Source!!!) I'll invoke Betteridge's law on the last question of the summary and say that no, split-licensing is not in the spirit of the GPL, as it attempts to retain rights from users. This is the main problem that the Free Software Foundation has with advocating "Open Source" over "Free," and is why some projects that herald Open Source as some kind of tech-panacea are in fact not much better than their proprietary counterparts.

HTML is a container (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118067)

I have asked FSF about this specific issue.

They basically consider HTML as a container, like a ZIP archive. So, the "bundling" that occurs when HTML is combined and rendered to the browser is not considered a derivative work in the eyes of FSF, just like if you bundle GPL files with non-GPL files in a ZIP file, the contents of the ZIP do not all fall under the GPL.

This means that when things are combined in to an HTML file, even if parts of the HTML file are GPL, the entire resulting document, is not GPL.

I find this view inconsistent, and disagree with it, but it's their license, so who am I to judge. Mind, if my view were followed, then things would be quite different on the web. So, their view is probably the "correct", and most certainly "pragmatic" view. I just think it's inconsistent.

Now, how that applies to externally loaded files (like JS and CSS) is not clear to me, but I assume the same rules apply. In a normal program, were you to link them together, the entire finished product would be GPL. But not under the auspices of the browser environment, apparently.

I think if the "HTML is a container" view is the correct stance, then the included files would also be immune to the GPL for the same reasons.

Re:HTML is a container (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118627)

Yeah, That doesn't smell right to me either...

Re:HTML is a container (2)

Ost99 (101831) | about 10 months ago | (#44118671)

AFAIK the GPL only applies to linking. The JS and the server software are not combined to form one program in any sensible definition of linking.

BUT if the non-free javascript / css itself is a derivative of the javascript or css it replaces, it becomes GPL.

Re:HTML is a container (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118677)

The GPL does not cover program output (except under very special circumstances).

So the PHP script may be GPL, but the HTML document it spits out is YOUR data and is not automagically "GPLed". There's no direct link between the PHP script and any CSS or images. So the FSF is absolutely correct that there's no "linking" (in the derived works sense).

Likewise, AJAX scripts generally communicate through inert data passed over a defined API -- this is the classic situation where the GPL does not cross program boundaries.

Re:HTML is a container (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118699)

HTML isn't a Turing-complete language (and CSS3 is a non-issue). HTML is supposed to describe the markup of a given page and isn't really used to process a user's computing: it can be considered as a user interface to a larger system. The issue arises when users start using web sites that rely on non-trivial amounts of Javascript or any server side (PHP, Ruby, Perl) code in order to process the user's computing. If this is the case, then the user falls into the Javascript trap [gnu.org] .

'Open Source Matters'... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118079)

you didn;t finish reading the entire motto...

  'Open Source Matters to some one else.'

CentOS v Redhat = same thing? (2)

i.r.id10t (595143) | about 10 months ago | (#44118111)

So.... is RedHat Linux non-Free since you can't redistribute their proprietary images/icons/wallpapers/etc ? After all, isn't CentOS the same code base, compiled the same way, with the same configurations, etc. but without RedHat's logos, etc?

Re:CentOS v Redhat = same thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118221)

The difference is this:

(most extensions will not function in any meaningful way without the accompanying CSS, Images and JavaScript)

When you offload core functionality into a part not protected by the GPL, you're only using the GPL in name. RHL does not do this.

Probably under "entire work as a whole", but (TM) (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 10 months ago | (#44118795)

That's an interesting point. Section 5(c) of the GPL copyright license seems to give you COPYRIGHT rights to distribute the art under GPL:

      c) You must license the entire work, as a whole, under this License to anyone who comes into possession of a copy.
              This License will therefore apply, along with any applicable section 7 additional terms, to the whole of the work, and all its parts, regardless of how they are packaged.

However, according to both RedHat and the CentOS project, most distribution of RedHat logos and other "proprietary images" is still covered under TRADEMARK rights.
The Red Hat logo marks it as a Red Hat product, so though they may not have a COPYRIGHT claim thanks to the GPL, they'd still have a trademark claim if you used
their name and logo on something other than their product. Therefore, the CentOS project replaces images of the RedHat logo, the RedHat name, and similar trademarks.

What we need (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118159)

is a country declaring the GPL void according to its laws.

GPL "Infection" (4, Interesting)

LordLucless (582312) | about 10 months ago | (#44118191)

It's people like this poster who promote the whole "infectious" GPL crap that Microsoft et al have been capitalising.

This behaviour ("split licensing") is perfectly fine, legal and moral.

The GPL is all about preserving access to code. If you use GPL code, you have to publish that code. If you make changes to it, you need to publish those changes as well. This is to stop people "proprieterizing" GPLed code by making a few incompatible changes and releasing it.

The GPL doesn't mean that if you include a GPL library, you need to open source your whole project. But people are afraid it does mean that, due to people like the poster, and Microsoft's FUD. If you want to know why people are shying away from the GPL, and view it as a threat, look to the article submitter.

Re:GPL "Infection" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118263)

Nobody is debating as to whether it's legal, the question is whether it's acceptable under FOSS principles. And the answer is no, it's not. Moving functionality outside the original codebase so you can make it proprietary is very much not in the spirit of the GPL.

Re:GPL "Infection" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118399)

Nobody is debating as to whether it's legal, the question is whether it's acceptable under FOSS principles. And the answer is no, it's not. Moving functionality outside the original codebase so you can make it proprietary is very much not in the spirit of the GPL.

And the correct response is to fork the project and replace the functionality that was moved with GPL code.

Re:GPL "Infection" (1)

LordLucless (582312) | about 10 months ago | (#44118635)

Yes, yes it is. Because you're atatcking a strawman. Nobody is "moving functionality outside the original codebase so you can make it proprietary". TFA is discussing how theme authors create a theme for an OpenSource platform (for example, Wordpress) bundle an open source javascript library (for example, jQuery) with their theme, but then don't open source their own javascript, CSS or HTML.

Re:GPL "Infection" (2)

dfghjk (711126) | about 10 months ago | (#44118661)

"Moving functionality outside the original codebase so you can make it proprietary is very much not in the spirit of the GPL."

But it is in the spirit of hypocrisy. Oh, you actually wrote the code? Well, I'm going to tell you what to do with it anyway.

People who own the copyright get to do as they please, as GPL people are so fond of pointing out when it suits their interests. Don't like it? Write your own.

Re:GPL "Infection" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118483)

"The GPL doesn't mean that if you include a GPL library, you need to open source your whole project. "

Sorry, yes, it does mean that, as long as the library uses GPL proper and not LGPL.

Re:GPL "Infection" (0)

LordLucless (582312) | about 10 months ago | (#44118597)

No, you don't. You're another one who's just as at fault as the submitter.

1. You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program's source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an appropriate copyright notice and disclaimer of warranty; keep intact all the notices that refer to this License and to the absence of any warranty; and give any other recipients of the Program a copy of this License along with the Program.

and, in the section on modifications

Thus, it is not the intent of this section to claim rights or contest your rights to work written entirely by you; rather, the intent is to exercise the right to control the distribution of derivative or collective works based on the Program.

In addition, mere aggregation of another work not based on the Program with the Program (or with a work based on the Program) on a volume of a storage or distribution medium does not bring the other work under the scope of this License.

If you don't modify the code of the library, you can redistribute it as much as your little heart desires. And most of these theme authors aren't going to be modifying the jQuery library the package with their little themes.

Re:GPL "Infection" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118519)

Soo... you're supporting organized crime then?

Because you just acted as if imaginary property was real.
Like paying a developer *once* for his service, but acting like it had to be re-developed every single time, while actually only giving out infinitely abundant and hence infinitely worthless copies, yet every single time taking real actual money that took real actual work to make.

"proprietary" software is 1. a blatant lie, and 2. a blatant crime. You are actively, deliberately, and systematically stealing *real* money from people, while sitting on your fat asses and doing *nothing*, yet bitch when somebody doesn't fall for your bullshit, doesn't care if you're too stupid to adopt the same service business model that every plumber and nearly every other job in the history of mankind used, and copies your *imaginary* "property".

You know what? If you want to rip us off by giving us mere *copies* of the result of the hard work of others,
then mere *copies* of the money from the hard work of *others* is what you gonna get!

Fuckin' cocaine-snorting bastards! All of you!

Re:GPL "Infection" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118587)

You are an idiot.

Re:GPL "Infection" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118561)

>The GPL doesn't mean that if you include a GPL library, you need to open source your whole project.

Um yest it does. It means exactly that, although the exact definition of "include" is open to a little debate. This is why the LGPL license exists, to allow library use without infection.

Re:GPL "Infection" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118583)

The GPL doesn't mean that if you include a GPL library, you need to open source your whole project.

Have you actually read the GPL? It actually says as much. The LGPL is slightly more forgiving, in that it's OK to not GPL your whole project as long as it's possible to recompile the library you use and use the modified library with your program. (in other words, you can't statically include)

I'm all too familiar with this shit, due to writing a free but not open source game. There are things I wouldn't mind including, like cracklib to tell people how strong their passwords are, but I can't because that would mean that I'd have a non-statically included library, which takes a game that you can just download and run and turns it into something you can't run if you have the wrong version of the library. (I can't statically include it because that would violate the LGPL.) ...and the really sad thing is that, while researching the license for cracklib, I find they changed it from GPL to LGPL because they thought that doing so would allow anyone to use it, and they wanted it to be used as widely as possible. Unfortunately, like you, they were apparently ignorant of how the GPL actually works.

The GPL absolutely is viral. Take, for example, the GNU's comments on the Microsoft Public License: "This is a free software license; it has a copyleft that is not strong, but incompatible with the GNU GPL. We urge you not to use the Ms-PL for this reason." Why is it incompatible? Because it requires that code released under the license remain under the license. Thus, you can't change the license to GPL, and so it is GPL-incompatible.

Unfortunately, though, a lot of people are like you and don't realize what they're doing when they choose the GPL license. They just like open source and all they know is that the GPL is the open source license, so they choose it. It's disgusting enough that I created my own license, the Antiviral License [ecstaticlyrics.com] , since, after running into so much code that I can't use in my closed-source projects, the last thing I want is for the code that I do release to end up being relicensed under the license that has prevented me from using so much other code, and thus, essentially promoting that license. A lot of GPL code starts out as public domain or BSD code and just gets relicensed by someone who likes the GPL. (I found that to be the case when looking for MD5 code. The code in the GPL utilities prominently displays the GPL license, and no mention of where the code came from, even though it's just some public domain code wrapped up in an executable with some command line options. It was particularly amusing since the public domain code in question was largely a copy of the code in the RFC which was labeled "all rights reserved." Anyway, here's the code I wrote [ecstaticlyrics.com] , which is AFAIK the only actually free MD5 code in existence.)

Re:GPL "Infection" (0)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 10 months ago | (#44118667)

Page header is comic sans. Try being a little less blatant in your trolling next time.

Also, all licenses are 'viral' in the sense you use here. The difference is that certain licenses have very few symptoms, such as the BSDL, and others are less prone to spread, such as a typical proprietary license.

Re:GPL "Infection" (2)

devman (1163205) | about 10 months ago | (#44118633)

code that links against a GPL library can only be distributed under the terms of GPL. You're thinking of LGPL which allows non-GPL code to link, and only requires distributing changes to the LGPL library. That's the entire reason LGPL exists and why libraries like glibc use LGPL, otherwise only GPL code could link glibc which would be bad.

Re:GPL "Infection" (1)

LordLucless (582312) | about 10 months ago | (#44118739)

Javascript libraries (which is what this article is about) are not compiled or linked with their accompanying HTML/CSS files.

Re:GPL "Infection" (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about 10 months ago | (#44118859)

define 'linking'. Yes, I know the traditional sense...

The implied context is that a website is the sum of its parts. HTML/CSS/JS/images are all load by the browser, which parses each URL embedded in the html document and invokes an interpreter for each, whose results are combined to form a web page, with the JS dynamically manipulating the DOM produced from the HTML.

A lawyer for the prosecution would argue that this runtime combination constitutes a derivative work. Just sayin'...

Re:GPL "Infection" (2)

LordLucless (582312) | about 10 months ago | (#44118933)

To which the lawyer for the defence would respond, with a quote from the GPL:

Thus, it is not the intent of this section to claim rights or contest your rights to work written entirely by you; rather, the intent is to exercise the right to control the distribution of derivative or collective works based on the Program.

In addition, mere aggregation of another work not based on the Program with the Program (or with a work based on the Program) on a volume of a storage or distribution medium does not bring the other work under the scope of this License.

Seriously - this is the reason nobody wants to use the GPL any more. They don't want lawyers taking their stuff away from them. This attitude is poison to the adoption of the GPL, and is why pretty much everything I use these days is BSD or MIT licensed (including every javascript library I know of - jQuery, Prototype, MooTools).

Re:GPL "Infection" (1)

dfghjk (711126) | about 10 months ago | (#44118645)

"The GPL is all about preserving access to code."

No it's not, it's about something else entirely. Otherwise, Tivo-ization would not be an issue.

GPLv3 addresses Tivo-ization not to preserve access to code but to gain access to hardware. You have to give me what I say or you can't play with my toys. It's not about free code, it's about RMS getting what he wants. It's always been about that.

"The GPL doesn't mean that if you include a GPL library, ..."

It would if RMS got his way. RMS once asserted that including a header file was sufficient. You are in need of an education, your ideology doesn't match reality.

If you want to talk about preserving access to code, the BSD license does that directly. Once released, code under that license is accessible for eternity. Can't get any better than that. It's not good enough for GPL people because they want the license to control what happens to FUTURE code, and increasingly to the future hardware that runs it. It's not about code, it's about getting everything in the future for free as well.

Re:GPL "Infection" (1, Informative)

LordLucless (582312) | about 10 months ago | (#44118753)

From GPLv2

Thus, it is not the intent of this section to claim rights or contest your rights to work written entirely by you; rather, the intent is to exercise the right to control the distribution of derivative or collective works based on the Program.

In addition, mere aggregation of another work not based on the Program with the Program (or with a work based on the Program) on a volume of a storage or distribution medium does not bring the other work under the scope of this License.

It's only with GPLv3 that RMS jumped the shark and tried to take everyone else's stuff. Prior to that, the intention was clearly spelled out in the GPL.

Re:GPL "Infection" (1)

dfghjk (711126) | about 10 months ago | (#44118691)

"The GPL doesn't mean that if you include a GPL library, you need to open source your whole project."

You should read what the FSF says about that: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#IfLibraryIsGPL [gnu.org]

Re:GPL "Infection" (1)

LordLucless (582312) | about 10 months ago | (#44118725)

You may convey verbatim copies of the Program's source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an appropriate copyright notice; keep intact all notices stating that this License and any non-permissive terms added in accord with section 7 apply to the code; keep intact all notices of the absence of any warranty; and give all recipients a copy of this License along with the Program.

Javascript libraries (which is what this article is talking about) are not linked or compiled with the HTML/CSS that is packaged with them.

The concept of "spirit" applies to legislation (1, Insightful)

aristotle-dude (626586) | about 10 months ago | (#44118193)

Contracts have to be spelled out verbatim whereas as things like legislation and constitutions are open to some interpretation. Usually, a constitution is not interpreted directly but rather other laws are interpreted against it to ensure they are valid and do not violate the "spirit" of the constitution.

The GPL is based on contract law and copyright rather that it being either a constitution or a law.

Beside the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118205)

Whether the practice is "within the spirit" of the GPL is a moot point. The "spirit" of a license can mean whatever a person wants it to mean. The GPL is a license and deals with legalities, something either complies with the GPL or it does not. The "spirit" of a license is quite beside the point as it'll mean different things to different people.

IANAL, fucker. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118537)

You are DEFINITELY not a lawyer.

Because you're entirely and utterly wrong.

If there were no need for interpreting the intent where the license is not explicit, there would have been no need for SCO v IBM, since the license would have been completely as written.

But they aren't.

Therefore the intent has to be found from what information is available.

Ah another reason to avoid it. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118269)

Like PHP wasn't enough reason to avoid it in the first place.

GPL 4 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118349)

The next version of the GPL will close this loophole. Just watch.

The developers allowed modularity in order (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118355)

The developers allowed modularity in order to facilitate the integration of non-free and\or non-open code. It's what they wanted or they would have made sure plugins and extensions are impossible like the GNU GCC project did.
If you don't like your code being used this way, don't contribute to such projects. If you're writing a project that you intend people to share their improvements to, don't make it modular.

In the case of all this online non-sense: It's mostly just content glue and sliding menus... Just utter nonsense. If it was a huge concern there would have been a special clause in the license or the functionality would be highly restricted in the code. It wasn't because the devs can't care less.

Ask yourself, what would RMS do? (3, Interesting)

hardaker (32597) | about 10 months ago | (#44118361)

Ok, he'd chew his hair and wax poetic. We know that already, but what would the poem say?.

I suspect it'd say: I'm sorry, but CSS very much is code. Not in the sense true languages are like C++, Python and PHP are. Ok, I'm not so sure that PHP qualifies. But anyway, the reason that even so piddly not-real-languages are part of the code is that it's nearly impossible to use the real code with the underlying CSS underpinnings that, actually, pin the boxes to the right place on the screen. Go ahead, take some huge news site, remove the CSS from it and see if you can still use it. I bet you can't. It frequently ends up looking like an application that magically put all their widgets rooted at 0,0 in the window. It's useless. Sure, it's all there, but it's useless. Thus, it has to be a rather important part of the "code". It takes both the output of the underlying framework langue and the CSS to make the result usable. Otherwise it's like compiling C-code into assembly, but for the wrong chip.

I'm quite sure this violates the principal of the GPL. I'm not sure about the letter of the law, since IANAL. But it sure smells like a GPLv4 is ripe for the picking.

Re:Ask yourself, what would RMS do? (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 10 months ago | (#44118599)

I will agree that CSS would generally be considered code, at least if it's complex enough to deserve being put in it's own file.

"Spirit" is nonsense (1)

CarsonChittom (2025388) | about 10 months ago | (#44118471)

There is no "spirit" of the GPL, or of any license. It's a legal document. It means what it says. Whether RMS likes it or not, the GPL is dependent on the underlying priciple of copyright, that the creator—not society—is entitled to control the redistribution of his or her creative work (someone releasing software under the GPL—or any open source license—is simply not using the default controls). That principle, if anything, is the "spirit" of the GPL, nor could it be otherwise given the legal system of which it is the progeny.

Re:"Spirit" is nonsense (2)

Arker (91948) | about 10 months ago | (#44118745)

That is not true at all. The GPL was devised for a very specific purpose and that purpose has been explained and discussed at work.

What is true is that using force to prevent people from exercising their rights here would be wrong and against the spirit (ie if you actually sue someone in for violating the spirit of the license that suit should not be a winner.) But expecting people that claim to be oriented towards the ideals of free and open source software to avoid circumventing that spirit does not seem unreasonable at all. It's not exactly a fine line, but a pretty broad one, between 'what you are doing is not illegal' and 'what you are doing is positively good.'

Re:"Spirit" is nonsense (2)

CarsonChittom (2025388) | about 10 months ago | (#44118823)

On the contrary: the GPL—and, again, any open source license—is an agreement between the creator of a work and those who wish to redistribute it. If it isn't that, it isn't anything, in my view. If I publish a hypothetical piece of software with the terms that "Every day except my birthday, you can redistribute this. On my birthday, you can still redistribute it, but you have to pay me $1," and then you distribute it on my birthday, you still owe me a dollar, the fact that you can distribute it every other day under the GPL notwithstanding. This is an unavoidable consequence of the way such a license comes under the existing copyright scheme.

Again, legal documents mean what they say. What they don't say, they don't mean.

Re:"Spirit" is nonsense (1)

petrus4 (213815) | about 10 months ago | (#44118877)

That is not true at all. The GPL was devised for a very specific purpose and that purpose has been explained and discussed at work.

Then this should be made specific and overt. If a relevant or necessary demand is missing from the license, the license needs to be rewritten to include said demand.

The term, "spirit," by its' very nature, refers to something undefined, non-specific, and acorporeal. I'm surprised that anyone who identifies as an atheist in particular, would be comfortable with using it.

I say again; if there is a "spirit," or an "ethos," associated with the FSF or the GPL, and such has heretofore been implicit and "intuitive," then it should be made explicit, specific, and tangible, so that there can be no misunderstand, and no excuse.

My understanding of version 2 of the GPL, as the clearest example, was that if I modify the source code of a work governed by said license, I must make publically available, both the unmodified source code, AND the source code of my own modifications, to anyone who asks for it, as a condition of using/developing said work.

My understanding was not, however, that I am required to subscribe to any other belief, whether it be political, social, or in any other form, that may or may not be advocated by the Free Software Foundation.

In other words, if I use the GPL, I need to provide source with binaries. That's all.

I do not need to worship Richard Stallman as God. I do not need to subscribe to the philosophy of Karl Marx or Leon Trotsky in general terms. I don't need to believe Stallman's self-aggrandizing lies about how the very concept of source code availability supposedly originated with him, and did not exist before him. Hell, I don't even need to like him, or anyone else associated with the FSF, as people at all.

All I need to do, is provide source with binaries. That's it. Nothing else.

BUT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118839)

they aren't they are hosted on the server and if you didn't have that distribution method they could not run....
thus one might also argue that as the gpl is a distribution liscnese that they are just trying to evade its language....
lets jsut tighten it and slap them out of business .....the cost of encryption to prevent spying is beginning to ad dup....we dont need costs on websites and viewing to go up.

joomla's bigger problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44118853)

is that from the very beginning (the split from mambo), joomla has embraced, supported, and even encouraged paid proprietary-licensed plugins to their gpl-licensed software.. the buyers of which do NOT get plugins which are properly licensed under a compatible license, they do not have redistribution rights, etc... as they are SUPPOSED TO GET. yes, you can sell plugins for gpl licensed software, but sold plugins MUST BE gpl-licensed. the joomla folks simply don't get it, and don't care.... which is the opposite of something like textpattern, which goes so far as to spell out right on its web site that plugins should be gpl-licensed.

ya, the games people play with licensing and gpl sometimes sucks, and is wrong.... but in the case of joomla, the problem is MUCH MUCH BIGGER.

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