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Professor Eben Moglen Replies

Roblimo posted more than 11 years ago | from the stalwart-supporter-of-the-EFF-and-FSF dept.

The Courts 270

The call for questions went out on Feb. 10. Here are your answers. We'd like to give Prof. Moglen special thanks for taking time out from his busy schedule to do this.

1) Biggest win and loss so far?
by Em Emalb

What would you consider to be your biggest "win" so far?

How about loss?

I am sure a lot of us here think we know, but it would be interesting to hear it directly from you.

thanks for fighting the good fight.

Eben:

When lawyers are engaged in litigation, their work can be judged in terms of wins and losses. But most of the work that I've done for the Free Software Foundation in the past ten years wasn't about litigation. It wasn't about conflict at all; it was about helping people cooperate, so that more high-quality free software came into being, and stayed free. Every time I persuaded someone that it was better to comply with GPL than to fight with the Foundation, everybody won. Every time I helped licensors who couldn't or didn't want to use GPL to use a GPL-compatible free software license, so that their code and all the world's GPL'd code could be freely combined, everybody won. Many of the outcomes I feel most satisfied about over the past decade wouldn't even make a good story: they're just examples of how persistent, patient reasoning with people can convince them to do the right thing. On the other hand, the matters I most regret are places where I failed to persuade people to work together. Everyone in the /. community can think of controversies in the free software world, personality conflicts, failures of cooperation that have impeded progress. I've tried over the years to bridge some of those gaps, sometimes with no success at all.

There have been litigation controversies in which I've been involved over the years, not always for the Foundation, which lend themselves to the calculus of win and loss. I still feel very pleased with the efforts I and others made from '91 to '94 to prevent the United States Government from indicting Phil Zimmerman over PGP. Winning the crypto wars was one of the most important things our side did in the '90s, and it started with Phil. On the other hand, this year's defeat in the Supreme Court in Eldred v. Ashcroft, the copyright term extension case, is an unambiguous loss that's going to hurt the cause of free speech and free culture for years to come. I filed a brief amicus curiae in that case on the Foundation's behalf, and like my friend and colleague Larry Lessig, who argued the case in the Court, I take our defeat rather personally. But no defeat in court can possibly be as important as the victory all of us have won in the world: free software exists, and grows more powerful and more elegant every day. That's a victory of the profoundest consequence that we've all won together, and I'm intensely proud of the small contributions I've made to the cause.

2) Clarifying the GPL
by sterno

One issue that I know has come up for me is how the GPL applies in situations where I'm using GPL software but I'm not actually modifying it. For example, I write a Java application, and it is reliant on a JAR that is GPL'd. Do I then need to GPL my software? I haven't changed the JAR in anyway, I'm just redistributing it with my software. The end user could just as easily download the JAR themselves, it's just a convenience for me to offer it in my package.

Eben:

The language or programming paradigm in use doesn't determine the rules of compliance, nor does whether the GPL'd code has been modified. The situation is no different than the one where your code depends on static or dynamic linking of a GPL'd library, say GNU readline. Your code, in order to operate, must be combined with the GPL'd code, forming a new combined work, which under GPL section 2(b) must be distributed under the terms of the GPL and only the GPL. If the author of the other code had chosen to release his JAR under the Lesser GPL, your contribution to the combined work could be released under any license of your choosing, but by releasing under GPL he or she chose to invoke the principle of "share and share alike."

3) Helping independent developers work with the GPL
by SwellJoe

I've recently been doing some contract development work for other companies. These companies, so far, have all been very friendly to GPLing the work they hire me for that extends existing GPLed work.

However, when I'm preparing contracts I never know just how to specify that wholly original work we do for them will be "Work-for-hire" under whatever license they choose, but code based on and extending GPLed software will be placed under the same license.

I've browsed through the GNU site, in hopes of locating some example contract language that would make this clear to new customers and make it a legally binding aspect of any agreements made, but alas, I could find no help in this regard.

I should point out: my clients know that the GPL is an enforceable copyright, and don't have a problem with that--our work with GPL'ed software is usually the reason they come to us...this isn't a question of companies wishing to steal GPLed software. It is a question of how to make those terms compatible with an agreement that covers both GPLed work and non-GPLed "work-for-hire". Usually we are doing a bit of both types of work, and we'd like the contract to reflect that in a clear and comprehensive manner.

Seems like this would be a common problem for developers, and I was surprised that I couldn't find any documentation about adding this kind of clause to a contract.

Eben:

Two different issues arise here, and I think they're being conflated. One question is who will own the copyright on the code you are producing, and the other is what license terms the owner may use in releasing that code. Whether the code you write involves wholly new programs or modifications to existing GPL'd programs, your code constitutes a copyrightable work of authorship, and the first question is whether copyright will be vested in you or in the party with whom you are contracting. No matter who owns the copyright, however, modifications to or works based on GPL'd works can only be released under GPL. A "work for hire" provision in your agreement addresses the first question, and means that copyright in all the works of authorship will vest in your client. As to the works based on GPL'd code, in response to the second issue, you want your client to acknowledge its responsibility to release that code under GPL and GPL only. Any number of strategies in contract drafting might be appropriate, depending on the circumstances. The Foundation website doesn't make specific recommendations on how to draft contracts because contract law varies from country to country throughout the world, and no suggestion could possibly be right everywhere. Nor can I provide useful legal advice here, given the level of abstraction. On sensible approach, in a US contract, might be to include a provision in which the buyer acknowledges that the works listed in an attached schedule are subject to GPL, and promises that all code delivered under the contract modifying or extending any of the listed works will be released solely under GPL.

4) Put you in my will...
by wowbagger

I'm a single guy, no dependants. I just had to update all my benefits info at work - if I die, who gets my employer-supplied insurance money.

So how would I go about making the FSF a beneficiary? You might want to put that info on the web site.

Right now, the only organization I have listed is the NRA - they make it pretty easy to set this sort of thing up.

Eben:

Without information about the specifics of your employer's insurance program, I can't provide any detailed advice. The Foundation is of course enormously grateful for the support it receives from members of the free software community around the world. As a moderately large donor to the Foundation myself, I want to express my personal appreciation of your willingness to give. Anyone who wishes to donate to FSF, whether through testamentary disposition or direct contribution, can get further information from the Foundation's Director of Communications, Ravi Khanna, ravi@fsf.org.

5) PHB opinions
by Eric Seppanen

My boss' boss (who is quite sharp technically as well as an attorney) thinks that the GPL is stupid because it doesn't read like it was written by a lawyer. He doesn't object to the principles and methods involved-- he's just disgusted by the unlawyerly writing. He says it was written by an amateur, not a lawyer, giving the impression that everyone using it is an amateur, and not serious about their work. What would you say to that?

Eben:

With all due respect to your boss' boss, he may not have appreciated the context in which the GPL is drafted. Most distributors of copyrighted material use a different copyright license for each country in which their work is distributed. That's not feasible for the free software movement: we have no control over the international path that any given piece of code may take, as it is copied and redistributed by its users, and we must therefore do business all over the world on a single license. What would seem good lawyerly drafting to a lawyer in one country might seem like officious or loquacious nonsense to a lawyer in another. Moreover, unlike the licenses written by the legal departments of proprietary content companies, our licenses are meant to be read by individual programmers, who we hope will choose to use those licenses to distribute their own programs. So the GPL is not addressed to lawyers in a single legal system, but to developers in every legal system around the world. Doing optimal drafting for that rather unusual set of needs is plenty serious business, I will say. It isn't work for amateurs. Whether we have been successful in achieving our intentions can only be judged by the results.

6) What can be done about spurious legal threats?
by Tom7

I've noticed a scary trend in "de facto" internet law: Sites are shut down, projects stopped, and ideas silenced because of scary notices from lawyers. Lots of the time, these cease and desist letters don't actually have much to stand on, but they're so cheap to send, and so effective, that any business with a site it doesn't like and a lawyer on salary would be crazy not to do it. The effect of these letters is chilling (so to speak): sites that are probably legal are shut down without the benefit of a trial, and the "precedent" affects the way other laymen interpret the law. I've seen numerous mostly-serious posts on slashdot proclaiming "Wouldn't this be a violation of the DMCA?" when referring to any sort of activity the MPAA or RIAA, etc. wouldn't like. (Speaking of the DMCA -- it has built-in provisions for making precisely this kind of judge-free takedown by an ISP!) This trend seems to be a serious breakdown of the legal system, and I don't like it.

My question is: In your opinion, what can be done to change the way the system operates so that spurious legal threats aren't so economical? What can someone like me do, besides donating to the EFF or going to law school?

Eben:

It's true that it's cheap to write letters threatening legal action, and it's true that many people would prefer to stop doing whatever they're doing that causes them to receive such letters. Bullying of this kind is one of the ways that the rich and powerful oppress the weak and poor. Your question contains specific versions of the only two general answers I know: those of us who are lawyers should fulfill our obligation to provide assistance pro bono publico (for the good of the public, which means without charging fees) to those who need our help and can't pay for it; those of us who aren't lawyers should contribute to organizations, like EFF and FSF, that provide legal support to individuals who need help furthering the causes we believe in.

7) Question
by edward.virtually@pob

Given the failure of the DOJ and other cases against Microsoft (no meaningful penalties, technically incompetent judge overseeing DOJ case, requirement to support Java in IE endlessly held up in court) and the continuing wide-spread abuse of IP law to monopolize cyberspace (patents on obviously invalid claims -- decades of prior art, etc.), do you think Free Software (and it's more "popular" spin-off Open Source) has any chance of long term surival in the United States or it is just a matter of time before it is crushed?

Eben:

Despite the annoyances you mention, which I regard as unfortunate but inessential, I think the position of free software is almost impregnable, both in the United States and everywhere else. The most important threat to the survival of free software is the concept of "trusted computing," which really means the building of hardware you as a user can't trust at all. "Trusted" computers are computers that can be trusted by media companies not to run software that users can modify, so that media company "content" can be delivered without fear that software modified by users will exercise fair use rights that media companies don't want to allow. If the free software movement and its allies can avoid having "trusted" computing forced on PC consumers by either mandatory legislation or industry "consensus," I believe free software will be around forever, and will become the dominant mode of software production and distribution in the course of the next two decades.

8) Being like you.
by Anonymous Coward

As an undergraduate in computer science I have found licensing and intellectual property issues so interesting that I have chosen to go to law school. I would like to advance many of the causes that you support. What advice would you have for an aspiring lawyer who wants to promote freedom and the public domain? What steps would be necessary to support my family and still fight for the cause? How best can a lawyer help society without selling out to big money?

Eben:

There are businesses all over the technology sector that are making money through the employment of free software. They sell hardware, services, solutions, expertise, and even the software itself. They employ lawyers who promote freedom by helping businesses that promote free software. There are going to be businesses all over the media landscape in the next decade that help cultural producers (writers, musicians, videographers, etc.) escape the system of cultural ownership that produces the schlock jamming the eyeballs and eardrums of the world. They're going to need lawyers to resist the onslaught of the "content" oligarchs, who will try to do everything to keep free content from succeeding. There is going to be a major movement in the next two decades to free the electromagnetic spectrum from the iron triangle of the broadcasters, the politicians, and the "campaign contributors," all of whom have tremendous interests in preserving the system where "free speech" means Rupert Murdoch has a million times more right to speak than you and I. Getting back the wireless bandwidth of the world for the people themselves, giving everyone an equal right to communicate, is the next great frontier of freedom. So there are enterprises that need lawyers, provide livings to those lawyers, and further freedom all at once. There are non-profit organizations too that we can work for or donate our time to. Being a young lawyer, as I tell my students at Columbia, is--at its best--an imagination test. We are very fortunate members of this society, in that we can imagine the lives we want and then make them happen. My advice is, aim high.

9) FSF's W3C patent policy position
by The Pim

I sent the following to info@fsf.org on January 1, and have not received a reply. Since it is a legal question, perhaps Professor Moglen would answer it here. Some context:

I'm writing because I cannot understand some parts of the "FSF's Position on Proposed W3 Consortium 'Royalty-Free' Patent Policy", at http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/w3c-patent.html .

First, it is quite clear that you believe that software exercising patents with "field-of-use" licenses cannot be distributed under the GPL. However, it is not clear whether you believe that such software could be distributed as free software at all. Paragraph two seems to say that it could not, but it also appears to conflate GPLed software with free software, so I am not sure this is what the author meant. Paragraph three equivocates by saying "licensing under other free software licenses does not imply free", without saying "licensing under other free software licenses implies not free".

The impact of the proposed policy on the free software community obviously depends greatly on whether it could prevent us from implementing some standards at all, or only under the GPL. Which is it? (Since most of the document focuses on the GPL, I assume it is the latter. But it should be stated explicitly, and the hints to the contrary should be cleaned up.)

Second, who exactly would be prevented from distributing software exercising such patents under the GPL? Those in jurisdictions in which the patent applies, or everyone?

Third, why exactly are "field-of-use" patents incompatible with the GPL? The addendum intended to clarify this matter does not succeed. Step 4 in its example says,

C's patent license prohibits folks from taking his URL parsing code and putting it into, say, a search engine.
But C's patent equally prohibits folks from taking a (hypothetical) GPLed search engine and adding URL parsing code. So by that argument, nobody can distribute a GPLed search engine, either. What really is the criterion that prevents distribution under the GPL? Is it that the author "knows" that others will be "tempted" to modify the software such that it no longer meets the "field-of-use" restriction? Is it that the author has accepted the patent license himself?

And how does this differ from the situation of distributing GPLed software that cannot be used in some jurisdictions? If I distribute cryptographic software under the GPL, it will end up in the hands of people in repressive countries who are not allowed to use (never mind redistribute) it. This would seem to imply that such software cannot be distributed under the GPL.

I hope you can answer these questions and update the text on your web site.

Eben:

The question as asked is quite complex. Let me try to simplify it somewhat. Free software should be freely modifiable and redistributable by its users. Of course, any code once modified may practice claims of a patent about which the modifying user is uninformed. So anyone distributing free software is unable to assure his users that each and every modification they may want to make is noninfringing. But when someone distributes apparently-free software under actual but undisclosed legal restrictions preventing modification or redistribution, the software is not really free. GPL tries to deal with this problem through section 7, which says that if code you are distributing is actually under restriction that is incompatible with the terms of the GPL, you can't distribute under GPL at all. So if you have accepted a patent license that prohibits you from reusing some of your code, or code you have received from others, in different contexts, GPL section 7 means that you cannot distribute under GPL, and if the code you received was under GPL, your acceptance of the patent license precludes redistribution altogether. The goal is to ensure that, so far as each redistributor's actual knowledge is concerned, each item of GPL'd software distributed is fairly labeled: it can be freely copied, modified and redistributed.

From the Free Software Foundation's point of view, any code subject to field of use restrictions is not free software, but most free software copyright licenses don't read on the problem at all, and GPL section 7 only addresses one aspect of the problem. With respect to the specific issue involved in your question--the W3C proposed patent policy--GPL section 7 will be relevant in the following circumstances: a patent-holder contributes patent claims to a W3C Recommendation, and requires each implementer to take an explicit license containing a field of use restriction. GPL section 7 will preclude GPL'd implementation of that Recommendation. Apparently-free software can implement that Recommendation under, for example, BSD or X11 licenses, but despite its release under those licenses the software will not, from the Foundation's point of view, be actually and fully free.

10) Legal equivalent of GNU
by nattt

If free software / open source / etc. is seen as the saviour of the computer world, what do you see as the route or force to act towards making a better legal profession?

Eben:

I don't think I would talk about free software as the saviour of the computer world. I would say that free software is an important tool for preserving freedom of speech and freedom of thought in our networked society. The equivalent forces acting to produce a better legal system and a better legal profession are the constitutional norms in the US and other societies that protect freedoms of expression, inquiry, and publication. Our job as lawyers is to defend those freedoms, and to increase the relevance of legal doctrine in new social and technological environments.

cancel ×

270 comments

Fraud! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5344946)

He didn't say "GNU" nearly enough. Can't be with the FSF.

Re:Fraud! (4, Funny)

arvindn (542080) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345096)

He didn't say "GNU" nearly enough. Can't be with the FSF.

If you notice, he never once said the word "linux" either. Like the GPL, which forces you to distribute source only if you distribute binaries, the FSF requires you to say GNU only when you say Linux.

HTH.

Still no Ninnle! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345389)

I still can't believe he didn't want to answer my question about Ninnle Linux!

What does everybody here have against Ninnle anyway?

Didn't answer my question :( (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5344977)

For the record, i wanted to know why i couldn't get first post!

Your uncanny sense of failure, my young Jedi (-1, Offtopic)

DARTH FAILURE (652097) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345338)

Your FAILURE to attain first post is to be expected from rebel scum. YOU FAIL IT.

Thank you (4, Insightful)

jaybird144 (558619) | more than 11 years ago | (#5344978)

I would like to echo the post by saying thank you to Professor Moglen for his willingness to take time to respond to these questions...I can only imagine how busy his time is, and that his willingness wo do things like this is very indicitave of his support for the FSF. Thank you!

Re:Thank you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345066)

Come on class, give a big hand to the guy with the funny name!

Re:Thank you (1)

sporty (27564) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345160)

Are you sure you aren't a slashdot editor fulfilling your duplicate post quota? ;)

Re:Thank you (1)

Monkeyman334 (205694) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345573)

I'd like to thank the Slashdot editors for not making an ass of themselves and insulting this interviewee. Really.

BLING BLING (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5344980)

I gots da skillz to make da Benjamins. Dose pay da billz.

awwww yeah.

Last Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5344999)

Yes, but what about the benjamins baby?

Best. English prose on Slashdot EVER. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345008)

I look forward to reading it again when it is duped.

Call it a night, KY cowboy! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345009)

Slashdot only allows a user with your karma to post 10 times per day (more or less, depending on moderation). You've already shared your thoughts with us many, many, MANY, many times. Take a breather, and come back and see us in 24 hours or so. If you think this is unfair, please email posting@slashdot.org with your username "AssurancesLeFoyer". Let us know how many comments you think you've posted in the last 24 hours.

I demand ... (4, Funny)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345016)

I demand that all words in this article be preceded by "GNU", by decree of the Dark Lord Stallman. This comment is exempt.

Re:I demand ... (3, Funny)

DonkeyJimmy (599788) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345067)

I demand that all words in this article be preceded by "GNU", by decree of the Dark Lord Stallman. This comment is exempt.

This comment as in the comment exempting the comment, or this comment as in the comment not begining with 'this comment'. WELL?

Re:I demand ... (4, Funny)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345083)

GNU/I GNU/don't GNU/believe GNU/that GNU/you've GNU/been GNU/exempted.

Re:I demand ... (1)

DonkeyJimmy (599788) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345231)

GNU. All these words are preceeded by GNU, it's just the same one... it's like when a cop pulls you over for not stopping at a stop-sign and you remind him that the law says only that you have to stop before the stop-sign, not how far before it, and you were stopped a few minutes ago.

Re:I demand ... (1)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345364)

(GNU) Hmm. I must concede, you do have a valid point.

However, in a feeble effort to distract you, allow me to attract your attention here:
http://paintball.beryllium.ca/ [beryllium.ca]

(It's not theft, because clicking it takes you do the creator's site ... right? On an unrelated sidenote, my server runs FreeBSD. Mwa!)

Re:I demand ... (0, Offtopic)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345068)

Apparently, RMS is a multi-slashdot-mod. Go figure. And here I thought the comment was genuinely funny; after all, I don't think the letters "GNU" escaped from Moglen's keyboard ...

(GPL doesn't count - recursive acronyms that utilize other recursive acronyms are just WRONG ;-)

Re:I demand ... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345103)

FUCK THE POLICE!

I found Stallman sleeping in a dumpster behind my apartment once.

Re:I demand ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345177)

The hell? How is bitching about Stallman and the police that far off topic when what's his face has a gripe about being modded down by the karma kops re: his rambling about GNU?

Think about it.

Re:I demand ... (5, Funny)

nmaeone (596348) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345102)

That's GNU/Stallman to you, buddy.

Re:I demand ... (2, Funny)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345120)

GNU/My GNU/apologies.

Re:I demand ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345133)

Even Darth Stallman is not consistent. Read this article by RMS at
http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/bsd.html [gnu.org] . In it he complains about the concatenation of credits:


But, as you might expect, other developers did not copy the clause verbatim. They changed it, replacing ``University of California'' with their own institution or their own names. The result is a plethora of licenses, requiring a plethora of different sentences.

When people put many such programs together in an operating system, the result is a serious problem. Imagine if a software system required 75 different sentences, each one naming a different author or group of authors. To advertise that, you would need a full-page ad. ...
To address this problem, in my ``spare time'' I talk with developers who have used BSD-style licenses, asking them if they would please remove the advertising clause.



Hmphf! "Do as I say, not as I...say" ?!?

Professor, I'm a crooked cop. I want mail (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345020)

Professor, can you explain why I have posted this?

Here is a photo of me:
http://www.thewest.com.au/20030221/unassigned /tw-u nassigned-3-sto88685-pic17133.html

please email me asap :
lee.hughes@police.wa.gov.au

Notable in its Absence (5, Funny)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345038)

Was the phrase "IANAL". Finally, someone on /. who _is_ a lawyer, not just playing one.

Re:Notable in its Absence (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345129)

actually, most slashdotters are typing "I anal", as in this [goatse.cx]

Nice (4, Insightful)

t0ny (590331) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345051)

wow, its nice to see someone working to help open-source without sounding like a zealot. I guess thats why he is out ther getting things done, and a lot of other people are typing baseless complaints into an internet forum.

Great Interview (1)

irix (22687) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345590)

Indeed.

Many thanks to Roblimo for setting this up and to Prof. Moglen for responding to the questions.

Disclaimer (5, Funny)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345055)

Disappoiningly, not one of his answers begins 'IAAL, but...'

Re:Disclaimer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345410)

For how long have you been saving that joke?

A bit pompous (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345073)

Although I have great respect for the man, the phrase

"Rupert Murdoch has a million times more right to speak than you and I"

just sounds strange. Add to that the fact that it's not even correct (it should read "you and me") and you have one pompous man.

Posted A/C because grammar nazi's are annoying.

Re:A bit pompous (1, Offtopic)

matthewn (91381) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345144)

Grammar Nazis are especially annoying when they are flat-out WRONG. "Rupert Murdoch has a million times more right to speak than you and I" is correct. Proof? Insert the implied verb: "Rupert Murdoch has a million times more right to speak than you and I [do]." You would not say "me do." I won't even go into the matter of using an apostrophe to pluralize Nazi.

He can't be lawyer!! (4, Funny)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345085)

He obviously charges less per word than Shatner! [slashdot.org]

Rational Face (5, Interesting)

aridhol (112307) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345086)

Looks like Prof. Moglen is the rational face of the FSF. He is able to explain things without ranting "Proprietary software is evil" and "Linux is really GNU/Linux" (although the word "Linux" never appeared in the article, so it's possible that he'd say it). He didn't object to the use of the phrase "open source".

Why don't we let the good Professor be the public face of the FSF and banish the zealots to a sound-proof box?

Re:Rational Face (3, Informative)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345159)

He didn't object to the use of the phrase "open source," but I'd suggest that that's because it was used accurately.

People on both sides of the Free Software vs Open Source debate usually get equally upset when folks misuse the words. They mean different things. Even RMS doesn't get angry when folks discuss Open Source. He corrects them when they mistakenly suggest that he promotes Open Source Software.

Re:Rational Face (4, Insightful)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345287)

Do you understand how annoying it is to talk to RMS in person? You have to consciously keep telling yourself not to use the word Open Source. Despite your assertion that he only gets mad when people "misuse" a word, and that the Open Source people are equally fanatical about the words people use (they aren't), he is a nut. If you ask him for his thoughts on something like Linux, he'll correct you and say, "Well, I can't tell you that, but I'll tell you about my thoughts on GNU/Linux...".


It's not that HE chooses to refer to Linux as GNU/Linux or that HE chooses to speak exclusively for the Free Software movement, but the obnoxious and geekily obsessive-compulsive way he corrects other people's language all the time that pisses everybody off.


It's like if somebody asks you about those "hackers" that broke into some web site. If you start out by saying "I can't tell you about 'hackers', because I only know about 'crackers' and that's the only terminology that I will use..." - well it doesn't matter if you are technically correct, you are an asshole and people will hate you. I appreciate the fact that it can be frustrating to hear people abuse language in discussing topics close to your heart, but subtlety is a virtue if you don't want to inspire enmity in everybody you meet.

Re:Rational Face (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345406)

I dunno about your experience, but *many* geeks are like that. They can't accept somebody else being a little different than them or having different viewpoints.

When you put two of them together, then, well, sparks will fly.

Ask yourself this, why do *you* care if he stops and corrects you? (If in fact you've ever actually talked to him. Personally I've only emailed him and he was completely civil. Precise and unyielding in his views, but not quite an "asshole".)

Re:Rational Face (2, Insightful)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345539)

I realize that many geeks are like that. I'm just trying to explain that that's not a good way to be popular, well liked, or a charismatic leader. I am a nerd, perhaps even a geek, but I'm a social person. I understand how to interact with people in a business or professional environment, how to interact with people in an academic environment, how to be persuasive, when it's desireable or appropriate to be aggressive and so on. My actual views are often quite strongly held, though I consider myself a rational person open to logical persuasion on issues where it's appropriate. I just don't think people like RMS understand how to interact with normal folks well enough to be representing a community. Witness how many Slashdotters, geeks by trade or hobby, who are annoyed by the guy.


And yes I have talked to him in person before, several years back at a talk he gave at Harvard. Maybe asshole was too strong a word, I understand it's just "the way he is", I'm just pointing out it could rub a lot of people the wrong way.

Re:Rational Face (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345292)

He is able to explain things without ranting "Proprietary software is evil" and "Linux is really GNU/Linux"

So.. when and where did anyone from the FSF say those exact things?

Re:Rational Face (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345443)

Why don't we let the good Professor be the public face of the FSF and banish the zealots to a sound-proof box?

Agreed. I thought the answers were tremendously cogent and well thought out. I didn't get the feeling any of the questions were being ducked, and I did get the feeling that he truly believes in what he is saying. I was able to understand a lot of what was said, despite the largely esotoric nature of the subject matter.

Basically, thanks Professor, and congratulations on an excellent interview.

Re:Rational Face (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345758)

>Why don't we let the good Professor be the public
>face of the FSF and banish the zealots to a
>sound-proof box?

Because in real life, Professor Moglen is just as (and possibly more) annoying than the rest of the people at FSF. He is thoroughly hated by almost all students at Columbia because of his zealotry. While he is, no doubt, an EXTREMELY intellegent person, he does not know how to engage in friendly debate. He is overbearing and obnoxious in debates. I saw him stand up during a Q&A section of a roundtable and give a rambling solliquay against the speakers and then storm out of the room when they disagreed with him.

Just because Professor Moglen can write well does not mean that he is a good public face for FSF.

FSRP (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345094)

In Soviet Russia, Professor Moglen interviews you!

Crap! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345095)

Ok I might trolling here but...most of this is just crap! A long time ago I decided that the *GPL licenses were not not right for me or my code. Why? It includes far too many 'what if' clauses and opens up too many more. The question of static-vs-dynamic linking is just one simple example. Another is the question of 'what if I REALLY need to keep my source closed?' (in the case of certain government agencies or some crypto sw). It is questions like these that make *GPL licenses a pain. What ever happened to truly *free* sw like Public Domain? Hell, even the BSD license is a hell of a lot free-er (IMO) than *GPL. Why do I have to *force* people to not use my code in certain ways? Why is it that a lawyer representing FSF gives us such typically PC and lawyer-ish response while dodging the true question being asked about the GPL? I think we should all admit why we use Linux and other GPL sw...it is because it is easier on the wallet rather than easier on the conscience. I know that is why I use Linux and other GPL sw.

Re:Crap! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345137)

I wouldn't be able to keep up my drug habbit if it weren't for the GPL.

Re:Crap! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345336)

yeah, you are trolling..

The difference between GPL, BSD, and Public Domain is quite minimal, especially to someone who is not redistributing, which is most folks.

Also, the GPL, BSD, and PD are ALL free software licenses. The GPL is loved/hated because has the copyleft restriction, which only kicks in if you redistribute. It's not a big deal unless you want to change the license on the code.

The focus should be on free software, not copyleft software. That's why they call it the "FSF" and not the "CSF". They don't make a big deal about it, why should you?

Please, instead of posting trolls on slashdot, put out some software under the BSD or PD license. The world needs more free software, no matter what the exact license.

Re:Crap! (4, Interesting)

estar (261924) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345699)

>What ever happened to truly *free* sw like >Public Domain? Hell, even the BSD license is a >hell of a lot free-er (IMO) than *GPL. Why do I >have to *force* people to not use my code in >certain ways?

It depends your intent. For example I design rocket models using Orbiter Sim. I release all the my source under the BSD liscense. I am enough of a libertarian that I find forcing people to do what I say repugent.

However there is a community of users that run virtual space agency that use orbiter and my models (I create mostly historical rockets). For some reason they like to keep everything tight within themselves. I find them very cliquish (sp?).

So because I release under the BSD those agencie are not required to release their source to their modifications of my modules. And there are few other module writer that used pieces of my code to implement important aspect of a flight plan (re-entry flames, parachutes, etc) and don't release their source.

This really gets under my skin. But I still find it very repugent to force people to open their code under a GPL license. This for me outways my use of the GPL license.

My solution is that I feel that I am a good enough programmer with enough people working with me that I can reverse engineer anything that I find in a closed source version of my module. Also I and my compatriots can make a better version to boot.

However if other people want too use GPL then they have the right to do so. I think the strength of the community relies on the cooperation of working on a project with the source code open to all. If somebody or some company take a version of that source and close it doesn't matter because the bazaar will beat the cathedral.

But hey if folks feel they need the copyleft that the GPL provides then they have the perfect right to do it. And I have to perfect right NOT to use it if the GPL is not right to me. But I do use in a project that is dependent on it then I need to abide by the terms of the GPL.

Rob Conley
http://www.alltel.net/~estar/orbiter.html
http://www.orbitersim.com

Reasoning works? (2, Insightful)

Jezral (449476) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345121)

...persistent, patient reasoning with people can convince them to do the right thing.

I wish I had seen the effects of that more often.

In my experience, people are fanatic about their way of doing something, even if it is completely illogical and not in their best interest.

Or maybe I am the wrongheaded zealot...nah, never...

-- Tino Didriksen / ProjectJJ.dk

Re:Reasoning works? (1)

John_Sauter (595980) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345450)

I belive Progfessor Moglen gives himself too little credit. It is the case that skillful, persistent, patient reasoning with people can convince them to do the right thing.
John Sauter (J_Sauter@Empire.Net)

Re:Reasoning works? (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345471)

In my experience, people are fanatic about their way of doing something, even if it is completely illogical and not in their best interest.

In general I've found it's possible to get people to change their minds, if they are reasonably intelligent and don't have a large investment in one particular viewpoint (ie little emotional attachment to it). Even then, it's still possible to defeat people in argument, even if they don't change their minds straight away, sometimes it seems to plant the seeds of doubt in their minds - maybe, just maybe, this guy has a point.

Silly though it may sound, I've had my mind changed by what I've read on Slashdot for instance many times. A year ago, I was of the opinion that X sucked and Linus should make all the GNOME developers work on KDE :)

My moderation of this interview... (1)

syle (638903) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345122)

+5 Insightful

My moderation of this comment... (2, Funny)

peterpi (585134) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345369)

-1 KarmaWhore

Great quote (5, Insightful)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345136)

The most important threat to the survival of free software is the concept of "trusted computing," which really means the building of hardware you as a user can't trust at all

Well said - this is a perfect example of Doublespeak, for which you could also say that the built-in presumption is that the user cannot be trusted.

Ours or his? (2, Funny)

fnurgel (98702) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345153)

"Here are your answers"...

I'm really not a language expert (this not being my home language and everything).
But I was pondering the "Here are his questions and here are your answers" and was just still wondering who's answers and who's questions was it again?

Re:Ours or his? (1)

Mononoke (88668) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345356)

But I was pondering the "Here are his questions and here are your answers" and was just still wondering who's answers and who's questions was it again?
The questions were given to him. The answers have been given to us. Yes, I'm a smartass.

I won't go into the GPL ramifications of the QnA transaction at this time.

Verbose interview... (0, Insightful)

$$$$$exyGal (638164) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345163)

Leave it to a lawyer to have one of the most verbose interviews on Slashdot ;-). Even the questions themselves were mostly very verbose. Just compare this interview with the one that William Shatner did [slashdot.org] . You'll notice that Moglen goes into much greater detail than Shatner, even though Moglen is, no doubt, way more busy.

--sex [slashdot.org]

Your karma whoring.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345201)

... is now beyond pathetic. Please go away.

Re:Verbose interview... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345502)

But Shatner was asked inane questions he's no doubt answered a million times before. "Do you like the new star trek?" "Do you think Kirk could beat up Picard?"

Moglen is a zealot looking for a soapbox, and just reaffirms the misguided opinions of the rest of the slashbots. Yes, I said misguided. Lawyers can be wrong too. His comments about free software being the 'primary means of releasing software in the next 10 years' are overly optimistic to say the least. I heard that 10 years ago.

Frankly, Shatners was a much more interesting read. This guys just some a-hole preaching to the choir.

Can trusted computing help FSF/GNU? (5, Interesting)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345176)

"Trusted" computers are computers that can be trusted by media companies not to run software that users can modify, so that media company "content" can be delivered without fear that software modified by users will exercise fair use rights that media companies don't want to allow.

But can the "trusted computing" scenarion be used to protect GNU works? Can we make sure that others are not infringing on the GPL using this or am I grasping at straws here? Is there anything in this initiative that could be used to promote our freedoms?

Re:Can trusted computing help FSF/GNU? (3, Informative)

aridhol (112307) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345341)

Can we make sure that others are not infringing on the GPL using this
No.
or am I grasping at straws here?
Yes.

OK, now to be a little more helpful ;)

Trusted computing requires that the binaries be signed by a trusted signer. For example, Company A is a trusted signer, and Product B is GPL. Company A can take Product B, modify it to their heart's content, and publish it as their own. As long as they sign it, the computer will run it. The computer has no notion of license, just signed or unsigned.

Re:Can trusted computing help FSF/GNU? (1)

lederhosen (612610) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345353)

>But can the "trusted computing" scenarion beused
>to protect GNU works?

No.

>Can we make sure that others are not infringing
>on the GPL using this or am I grasping at straws
>here?

No, you are grasping at straws here.

>Is there anything in this initiative that could
>be used to promote our freedoms?

No.

Re:Can trusted computing help FSF/GNU? (1)

spitzak (4019) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345589)

No.

Free software means the user can modify it, including modifying it to work around any hardware restriction.

In your will? Yikes! (4, Funny)

egg troll (515396) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345202)

Now RMS is going to hunt you down and assassinate you for your insurance money! That RMS is like cat, or a ninja, or a ninja cat!

Paradigm really doesn't matter? (4, Insightful)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345224)

The language or programming paradigm in use doesn't determine the rules of compliance, nor does whether the GPL'd code has been modified. The situation is no different than the one where your code depends on static or dynamic linking of a GPL'd library, say GNU readline. Your code, in order to operate, must be combined with the GPL'd code, forming a new combined work, which under GPL section 2(b) must be distributed under the terms of the GPL and only the GPL
That's pretty broad. If I take that really literally, then if my networking program does DNS lookups in order to make it easier for users to specify what host they want to talk to, then my program is a "combined work" with a DNS server program?

That's obviously absurd. (Right? Please tell me I'm right!))

Somewhere there's some line that is crossed that determines whether two works are really combined or not, and I think that the JAR question was intended to nail that down. At face value, Moglen's assertion that the paradigm doesn't matter, seems pretty radical IMHO. Because if it really doesn't matter, then the whole internet is one combined work.

Re:Paradigm really doesn't matter? (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345314)

Its simple -- your program doesn't require a GPL DNS server, it just requires a DNS server.

'nuff said.

Re:Paradigm really doesn't matter? (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345367)

Ok, then back to the JAR example: the program doesn't require the GPLed JAR, it just requires any JAR that happens to implement that interface.

Re:Paradigm really doesn't matter? (1)

lederhosen (612610) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345597)

>Ok, then back to the JAR example: the program
>doesn't require the GPLed JAR, it just requires
>any JAR that happens to implement that interface.

Right.

Re:Paradigm really doesn't matter? (2)

John_Sauter (595980) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345324)

The "line" you cross is distribution. If I write a program that depends on a GPLed work, such as the Linux kernel, I can distribute it without licensing it under the GPL if I require my users to obtain the Linux kernel from a different source. However, if I distribute the Linux kernel along with my program, as a convenience to my users, then I am obliged to offer the source code not only for the Linux kernel but also for my program.
John Sauter (J_Sauter@Empire.Net)

Re:Paradigm really doesn't matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345574)

Are you sure about that?

If this were true then I could write a proprietary program using the GPL'd Qt/XLL library. I could then distribute my program to whomever I chose ... licensed under a proprietary license ... as long as I didn't also distribute the GPL'd Qt/X11 ... and Trolltech could not say anything about this?

Somehow I don't think that is the case.

Re:Paradigm really doesn't matter? (1)

spells (203251) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345487)

That line needs to be clearly defined (although we are talking about the law), otherwise MS will start talking about the viral GPL again.

Re:Paradigm really doesn't matter? (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345526)

That's pretty broad. If I take that really literally, then if my networking program does DNS lookups in order to make it easier for users to specify what host they want to talk to, then my program is a "combined work" with a DNS server program?

IANAL, but ... like most legal documents, there is a certain amount of slack involved, a certain fuzziness which is open to interpretation. Most of the time, common sense rules the day, and everybody lives happily spending their time Getting Things Done.

Occasionally there may be a dispute over the wording, or the interpretation. At that point, the two parties can normally resolve the issue between them. If they can't, then it goes to court, and the issue is decided there. If it's law, then it goes down as "case law" and in future judges will use it to aid them in their judgement. I don't know what the equivalent is for software licenses.

Basically the GPL is an agreement between two human parties. It implies a modicum of cooperation, of flexibility. If that cooperation doesn't exist, then the lawyers become useful :)

Re:Paradigm really doesn't matter? (2, Informative)

ctid (449118) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345571)

The issue is linking. Is your program linked (in the compilation sense of the word) with the DNS server? If you contact the DNS server over a network, your program is not linked with it, even if the DNS server code is GPLed. If you've incorporated GPLed code into your program, then your program becomes GPLed (this is a gross simplification of course).

Re:Paradigm really doesn't matter? (3, Interesting)

spitzak (4019) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345768)

I think the answer is that although the GPL could in theory lead to perverse examples, this never happens in the real world.

It is obvious that the DNS server was written to allow closed-source software to call it. Otherwise it would be quite useless, people would not use it, or ignore the restriction (because it is impossible to enforce technically). I think all the really perverse examples that can be come up with it can be shown quite obviously that the writer intended non-GNU software to call it.

As for "libraries", it seems that all real-world examples are LGPL or similar. The only counter-example I have ever heard of is readline, can anybody (even RMS) name another? By this I mean a library that could in any concievable way be used by more than one program with significantly different functions. Libraries designed to work around the Windows DLL limitations so that "plugins" can load do not count.

In the real world (as opposed to RMS's fantasy wourld) the LGPL (or an even looser version that explicitly allows static linking, like I use) very well protects your clever algorithim from being stolen. People have to use your library (or write possibly worse algorithims from scratch) and that can hugely limit the amount of damage they can do with their closed-source, since the library and what it does is open, and because the license requires that reverse-engineering be allowed.

IMHO putting the GPL on libraries seems to be an attempt to lock the *interface* so that non-GPL code cannot call it. This sounds suspiciously like what MicroSoft does. It also does not work, the result (like for readline) is that nobody uses the library at all. Even for GPL code, since part of the GPL is the freedom to change your own code to be non-GPL if possible, and using that library means that is not possible.

Beneficiary? (-1, Flamebait)

labratuk (204918) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345233)

Right now, the only organization I have listed is the NRA - they make it pretty easy to set this sort of thing up.

The NRA? I don't know all about your U.S. organisations, but isn't that the National Rifle Association?

You are leaving them as a Beneficiary? Let me get this right.

So when you die, you can help other people join you?

Re:Beneficiary? (5, Funny)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345299)

The NRA? I don't know all about your U.S. organisations, but isn't that the National Rifle Association?

You are leaving them as a Beneficiary? Let me get this right.

So when you die, you can help other people join you?


No, no. You're thinking about the National Murderer's Association. The National Rifile Assocation just helps people be killed in an effiicent manner, often taking their murderers with them--as opposed to a rather gruesome knife fight. ;)

Re:Beneficiary? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345339)

No, so when he dies he will help people protect themselves.

"Look, honey!" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345380)

"It's a troll!"

But, I'll bite.

Contrary to the popular belief held by bleeding heart liberals, the NRA isn't in the business of killing people, or teaching people to kill.

I'm willing to wager that no organization is anywhere near as intensly focused on preaching gun safety than the NRA. Furthermore, they're continually involved in fighting for the provision of rights to privacy - not just for their own members, but for all citizens of the United States.

Ah, hell, I can't. I can't do it without lowering myself to your level. Well, so be it.

You, sir, are a fucking idiot.

Color Me Confused... (4, Interesting)

redragon (161901) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345249)

"Eben:

The language or programming paradigm in use doesn't determine the rules of compliance, nor does whether the GPL'd code has been modified. The situation is no different than the one where your code depends on static or dynamic linking of a GPL'd library, say GNU readline. Your code, in order to operate, must be combined with the GPL'd code, forming a new combined work, which under GPL section 2(b) must be distributed under the terms of the GPL and only the GPL. If the author of the other code had chosen to release his JAR under the Lesser GPL, your contribution to the combined work could be released under any license of your choosing, but by releasing under GPL he or she chose to invoke the principle of "share and share alike.""

Based upon this, wouldn't any software linking against libraries (assuming they GPL-ed) on a system be required to be GPL-ed? Seems like it would be difficult to write any software that didn't need to be GPL-ed if you were doing it on a Linux system.

I'm just curious, trying to understand better.

Re:Color Me Confused... (3, Insightful)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345307)

>> Based upon this, wouldn't any software linking against libraries (assuming they GPL-ed) on a system be required to be GPL-ed?

Yes

>> Seems like it would be difficult to write any software that didn't need to be GPL-ed if you were doing it on a Linux system

It is, though not impossible. Not every library on every linux system is GPLd, and you can always statically compile against the proprietary libraries (after you licensed them) that the GPL'd ones are based on.

Ever notice commercial linux softwares tend to have gigantic executables?

There's a certain 'indian-giver' aspect to the GPL thats distasteful when applied to library code. Luckily most are bright enough to use the LGPL, and no doubt the true GPL'd libraries will fade away into non-use (like proprietary ones like Motif largely did)

Re:Color Me Confused... (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345592)

It is, though not impossible. Not every library on every linux system is GPLd, and you can always statically compile against the proprietary libraries (after you licensed them) that the GPL'd ones are based on. Ever notice commercial linux softwares tend to have gigantic executables?

That's not entirely accurate. In fact, virtually no system libraries are exclusively GPL, and in the rare cases that they are, they normally contain exception clauses that let you avoid using a free or open source license (or they are dual licensed).

The reason commercial programs are often so large is because we really suck at binary distribution. Making portable binaries is hard work, which we cunningly avoid by distributing software as source. Commercial software doesn't do that, nor can it make a new binary for every version of every distro, so they statically link stuff to keep themselves sane.

Re:Color Me Confused... (1)

lederhosen (612610) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345504)

>Based upon this, wouldn't any software linking
>against libraries (assuming they GPL-ed) on a >system be required to be GPL-ed?

Yes.

>Seems like it would be difficult to write any >software that didn't need to be GPL-ed if you >were doing it on a Linux system.

Not realy. Glibc is GPL with an exception that permits dynamic linking for any program.

Gtk is under LGPL, X is under a BSD-like license
and so on...

Just don't try to link readline!

Re:Color Me Confused... (1)

gnuadam (612852) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345531)

The LGPL [gnu.org] was born to address this problem [gnu.org] . The GNU folks argue that if you link to a GPL'd library, your code must be GPLed as well. The LGPL is not as strict, and thus many useful libraries are LGPL instead of GPL - allowing other licenses to exist on a linux system. Not everyone [helsinki.fi] agrees with this interpretation, though.

GPL FAQ (1)

sleepingsquirrel (587025) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345538)

Based upon this, wouldn't any software linking against libraries (assuming they GPL-ed) on a system be required to be GPL-ed?

Yup. You can find this answer and many others like it in the GPL FAQ [gnu.org]

Re:GPL FAQ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345709)

The answer in the FAQ can be simply incorrect!

There are several loopholes around the simple reasoning that linking with a GPL'ed library would force you to GPL your sources.
1) The author of a work decides the Licence
2) The author distributes his work
3) The library is distributed seperately
4) The end user creates the combined work
I can't predict how an American court will rule; but I expect that a Dutch court will not find any problems.

I know that Eben Moglen has to support FSF politics; well I would like to see all sources opened too!

Re:Color Me Confused... (2, Informative)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345759)

Yes, software that links with a GPLed library needs to be released under the GPL. However, most of the libraries on a typical GNU/Linux box are LGPLed, and not GPLed. Readline is the prime example of a widely used GNU library that is released under the GPL.

Expiration of copyright and GPL (4, Interesting)

WetCat (558132) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345253)

What happens with GPL-ed code after the
copyright on it is expired?
I probably can do with that code whatever I want.

Thanks to Disney and Friends.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345429)

..copyright on GPL programs will *never* expire. ;)

Jokes about the idiocy of length in regards to copyright aside, I don't think that matters much on software. Even if it was a flat life-of-author thing, in the computer industry, by the time such software came under public domain it would be 'useless' to the majority of the population.

* Useless in the sense that it would be hard to make money off of it, just as it would presently be hard to make money off, say, the ENIAC.

It'd still be a great tool for teaching the history of software development and so forth - and I can't see anything wrong with that. Hell, if someone digs up my code in seventy years and says, "See, they did it this way back then.", I don't know whether I'd laugh or feel honored. ;)

Ask the Bono estate (1)

yerricde (125198) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345490)

What happens with GPL-ed code after the copyright on it is expired?

The Bono Act, together with the Eldred v. Ashcroft precedent, seems to make this question a moot point.

Re:Expiration of copyright and GPL (3, Interesting)

JoeBuck (7947) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345582)

It's a moot point: no copyright on GPLed code will ever expire, because we lost the Eldred case. This means that Disney will have its paid congresscritters extend the copyright term again every time Mickey Mouse threatens to go into the public domain. As a result, all GPLed code will always be copyrighted.

If we had won Eldred, then eventually GPLed code would enter the public domain.

Trusted computing as the true enemy (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345263)

I find it highly meaningful that he would see this as the true enemy of free software. Another question is: how do we stop it? What if, a few years down the road, you cannot buy a CPU or motherboard that doesn't contain it?

Lawyer (3, Funny)

twoflower (24166) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345296)

Legal questions, on Slashdot, being answered by a lawyer.

How refreshingly novel.

Re:Lawyer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345323)

But the GNU hippie up on a pulpit preaching about Open Source is same-old, same-old.

In Soviet Russia (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345321)

His mother can proudly say about herself:
Ebena Mat!

Eben (1)

diablobynight (646304) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345325)

Doesn't that mean "father of" in some older languages

I dont understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345350)

....Your code, in order to operate, must be combined with the GPL'd code, forming a new combined work,....

from that sentencew than ANYTHING that is written for linux MUST be GPL'd.

as your app, in order to operate, must be running in linux.

It's awfully sticky...

Re:I dont understand (4, Interesting)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345604)

Theres precious little thats written just for linux. Most apps will compile under a dozen or so flavors of unix, like HP-UX, Solaris, BSD, etc, etc.

What I dont get is say I write an application FOO, which requires certain library routines from BAR. BAR is proprietary under HP-UX (for example). There's a copylefted GNU/BAR for linux.

I can release my FOO binaries for HP-UX as proprietary (closed) license, but if I want to sell it to linux systems, it requires GNU/BAR so now I must open the source?

I'm confused about this claim (3, Informative)

CoughDropAddict (40792) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345354)

Your code, in order to operate, must be combined with the GPL'd code, forming a new combined work, which under GPL section 2(b) must be distributed under the terms of the GPL and only the GPL.

Section 2(b) of the GPL does not contain the "only under the GPL" part of that statement. It is my understanding that if I write a program that links against a GPL library, I may distribute the source code to my own program under the terms of (say) the MIT license as long as I also provide it under the terms of the GPL.

Re:I'm confused about this claim (1)

lederhosen (612610) | more than 11 years ago | (#5345444)

>... forming a new combined work ... must be
>distributed under the terms of the GPL and only
>the GPL.

I.e. your code can be distributed under BSD,
but the combined work (BSD + GPL) must be under
the GPL.

Othervise you could unGPL code by adding a bit
of code under the BSD licence.

Re:I'm confused about this claim (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345715)

No. The dual-license doesn't mean you can just pick and choose terms as you please. On the other hand, no court has established that distributing source code that could be linked to a GPL library is therefore a part of a joint work. If the GPL library was written explicitly for this one non-GPL program, though, the legal status might be different. Obviously it's safe to distribute your source that when compiled is linked against a standard library of some sort, even if a GPL implementation exists. The FSF asserts these things as if they are legal fact when for the most part they are simply the intentions of the GPL.

Caught in a lie. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5345513)

He says that GPL'd software "can be freely copied, modified and redistributed".

That's so blatently false that it can be nothing but a practice of "THE BIG LIE" technique of promoting a philosophy.

GPL'd software obviously cannot be freely copied, modified, or redistributed, otherwise we'd say it is in the public domain. The purpose of the license is to describe just how the software MAY NOT be freely copied, modified, or redistributed.
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