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Usenix President - Linux Needs Better Paper Trail

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the follow-the-shredded-lawsuits dept.

Linux 166

Anonymous Coward writes "Usenix Association president Marshall Kirk McKusick is a veteran of BSD's intellectual property scuffle with AT&T in the 1990s, and he's got some thoughts and advice for the keepers of the Linux kernel going forward, commenting: 'There isn't a well-documented ownership trail with Linux. So, they have opened themselves up to a swamp of 'he said-she said' about where code came from'."

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166 comments

YAY haha (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9239995)

OMG FIRST POST :D:D:D hehehe

Re:YAY haha (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240022)

Congratualtions. You have made your mark on history. Centuries from now, this moment will be remembered. I'm flush.

The only problem with that quote is... its entirel (5, Interesting)

SeanTobin (138474) | more than 10 years ago | (#9239998)

Dating back to when linux (the kernel) didn't even have a version number, code was always attributed to where it came from. I'm sure everyone is familiar with at least the changelog [kernel.org] and its attributions. And of course actual comments with names and email addresses are all over the sourcecode itself.

Now, Mr. McKusick might have a partial point. Its entirely possible that some gremlin over at Caldera took a bunch of SCO's 'Intelectual' Property and threw it into the main kernel under the GPL. In which case once the lines of code are actually identified, I suspect we will know who contributed them in under 20 minutes (10 minutes of which will be the article sitting on /. in The Mysterious Future!) In the unlikely event of SCO ever saying which lines are thiers, we may end up with the interesting situation where a Caldera/SCO employee put them there - and get to slap SCO for abusing the legal system.

In any event, I'd be willing to put money on Linux's source code source documentation beating SCO's out any day of the week.

Re:The only problem with that quote is... its enti (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240057)

Ehh. Linux /always/ had a version number. Since day one, with v0.01, back in 1991.

Re:The only problem with that quote is... its enti (3, Interesting)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240208)

You know, I suspect they've already discovered copied code...by a Caldera employee. Possibly even with written permission on file.

But the point of their lawsuit is to prove that at least some of the code in Linux came from SCO's IP through IBM. They're damned sure not to point out any pasting they did. It would point to an apparent flaw in their logic.

(And whether that flaw is really a flaw, and not a dynamic company changing its policies, is a subject for another debate. But I won't represent them.)

Re:The only problem with that quote is... its enti (5, Informative)

imp (7585) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240225)

The changelog is insufficient documentation. It contains vague attributions that something changed somewhere in the code. It isn't specific as to what lines of code changed. Later, when you go back and try to find where a set of lines came from, a changelog doesn't help much.

With a source code control system, you know that so and so added on such and such a date. You can then go to that person and ask them where they got it from if there's ever any question.

In the BSD world (I do a lot with FreeBSD), this has come in very handy when code disputes come up. Being able to talk to the actual people that inserted the code into FreeBSD has helped to clear up what otherwise might have been viewed as something improper.

I've tried to do similar things with versions of linux in the past, only to discover that I could, at best, find what version they came into the tree at, and who collected the patch and sent it to Linus. I wasn't able to track it further without searching public mailing lists for the information (with mixed results).

while you might believe that it will take 20 minutes to identify the code in question, my guess is that's overly optimistic, unless the code in question was contributed since bk. It usually takes me at least 5 minutes to find out where code comes from in FreeBSD when there's a question, and cvs annotate makes the process *MUCH* faster.

I'm not sure I'd disagree with your comments about SCO being able to come up with where the code came from relative to Linux.

Re:The only problem with that quote is... its enti (2, Insightful)

E_elven (600520) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240316)

We all know Linux hasn't been in any sort of a version control system since version 2.2 after which the issues started alledgedly creeping up.

Re:The only problem with that quote is... its enti (4, Informative)

hughk (248126) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240510)

In theory, you need a CVS diff list at least. However, unless the commit comments are linked to a meaningful entry somewhere that shows where a change come from, you will have problems. It doesn't matter whether you use CVS or BK, you still need underlying mechanisms. One issue with Linux, is that it has a lot more contributors than *BSD, which tends to make things more complicated.

In the commercial world, you have change numbers which link to a documentation trail which shows who implemented something and why and who approved it. Linus is trying at least to improve the code provenance by looking at a certification chain between the patch generator, the maintainer and eventually Linus as release manager. Unfortunately, it still looks like a hunt through LKML for the documentation as you suggest.

Commercial SW needs better paper trails too. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240598)

The paper-trails of Linux are far better than most corporations.

Just because a corporation has a SourceSafe system doesn't mean people actually enter into the comments when they steal GPL'd code.

Good advice? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240004)

I don't think this person is who we should be taking advice from.

er (-1, Offtopic)

mastergoon (648848) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240008)

Which continent is Usenix on? I've never even heard of that country.

Good timing for this then. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240009)

http://news.com.com/Linux+contributors+face+new+ru les/2100-7344_3-5218724.html?tag=nefd.top

Re: Obligatory "truly scary" response (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240263)

Great. First racial profiling, then TIA, then USA-PATRIOT, now this. What's happening these days is Truly Scary.

Linux HAS a paper trail. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240012)

And it's double-quilted and feels real good against my heinie.

Source (5, Funny)

funkdid (780888) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240016)

I wrote it, the whole thing. Linus was my roomate at the time, he took credit for all of it. I was the one that worked with Santa Claus and the tooth fairy to develop it, not Linus! Problem solved.

Re:Source (3, Funny)

ydnar (946) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240305)

Fine. We'll call you The Real Napster.

Re:Source (2, Funny)

MisterFancypants (615129) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240310)

You and the "real Napster" from the remake of The Italian Job should get together and start a support group.

Re:Source (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240591)

The Santa Claus Operation?

Re:Source (1)

EngMedic (604629) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240773)

"... called it napster because of his nappy hair. IT WAS BECAUSE I WAS NAPPING!!"

paper trail? (5, Funny)

deft (253558) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240031)

About a thousand geeks just simutaneously
wondered what the hell paper is.

Oddly enough, all of those thousand geeks could tell you what a scroll is.

Re:paper trail? (4, Funny)

happyfrogcow (708359) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240092)

paper trail? it's the stuff stuck to your shoe when you leave the restroom.

how this applies to Linux, I have no idea. no need for the core dump jokes... we've seen em all.

Re:paper trail? (0, Redundant)

thenextpresident (559469) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240168)

"Oddly enough, all of those thousand geeks could tell you what a scroll is."

Well, of course. Your mage writes spells onto scrolls, or finds them. I mean, what else would a scroll be?

BTW, What the hell is paper anyways? Is it anything like papyrus?

Re:paper trail? (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240368)

BTW, What the hell is paper anyways? Is it anything like papyrus?

Sort of. They're both made of wood.

Unfortunately, while you can make papyrus with a good hand planar, it takes a dickens of a time to chew wood shavings into something that when dried makes good paper.

Not worth the trouble, IMO.

Re:paper trail? (2, Interesting)

ichimunki (194887) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240573)

Papyrus is not made of wood. It is made of reeds. Neither is a lot of your better paper made of wood. The better stuff is pure hemp or cotton in the West and bast (mulberry) in the East. In fact, even your basic wood pulp papers these days have so many clays and polymers (sizing and bindings which make it possible to even run paper through something like an ink-jet printer without it falling apart) in them that saying they are made from wood pulp is almost misleading.

If Linux is going to need a paper trail, I'd suggest a good acid-free archival quality paper. After Eldred v. Ashcroft-- and knowing the way Congress thinks-- Linus' great-great-great-grandchildren could well be defending the kernel from some sort of late-breaking attack over 100 years from now.

Re:paper trail? (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240646)

Papyrus is not made of wood. It is made of reeds. Neither is a lot of your better paper made of wood. The better stuff is pure hemp or cotton in the West and bast (mulberry) in the East. In fact, even your basic wood pulp papers these days have so many clays and polymers (sizing and bindings which make it possible to even run paper through something like an ink-jet printer without it falling apart) in them that saying they are made from wood pulp is almost misleading.

Huh. I don't doubt you, it's just that I was taught about paper in elementary school.

Re:paper trail? (1)

Seth Finklestein (582901) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240802)

Both of you: shut up with your stupid debates. You could put your time to more productive use by making my Linux software better.

Sincerely,
Seth Finklestein
Red Hat Investor
Fortune 500 CEO

Re:paper trail? (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240346)



Oddly enough, all of those thousand geeks could tell you what a scroll is.


Sure. That's an object you can collect in your favorite online game and sell on eBay. It's really a collection of bits - virtual property. What this has to do with paper, I have no idea. :)

Maybe he should read SlashDot (0, Redundant)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240034)

Maybe Mr. McKusick should have read this [slashdot.org] earlier post about how Linus is already on top of it. Can someone mark this story as redundant?

Re:Maybe he should read SlashDot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240095)

What about Linus got a letter from him?

What about both got a letter from someone that had those remarks?

It's not redundant at all. That's all some very interesting $0.02

Re:Maybe he should read SlashDot (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240137)

Maybe he did read that and the reason for his statment is to make it look like he has more influence then he does?

you know what i mean.. like when you tell the dog to roll over and he sits instead so you blurt out sit before his but hits the ground to make it look like he listened.

Re:Maybe he should read SlashDot (5, Insightful)

rsidd (6328) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240161)

Maybe Mr. McKusick should have read this earlier post about how Linus is already on top of it.

And maybe *you* should read RTFA (the McKusick interview)? He says explicitly that the paper trail was lacking "until recently" (by which he means the switch to BitKeeper). Maybe you should also learn some respect for people like McKusick who've been hacking free Unix since back when Linus was a kid. Among other things, this guy pretty much invented the modern Unix "fast file system", from which ext2 takes a lot of ideas. More recently, he's been responsible for softupdates in UFS (gaining the speed benefits of async mounts without compromising filesystem integrity in case of crashes).

Re:Maybe he should read SlashDot (-1, Troll)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240228)

And maybe *you* should read RTFA (the McKusick interview)?

And maybe *you* should learn the difference between a question and a statement and use the appropriate punctuation mark.

And when you're done with that, maybe *you* should work on recognizing tongue-in-cheek [reference.com] comments.

Re:Maybe he should read SlashDot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240354)

McCusick is a fag. He is as "gay" as a pink ribbon on Judy Garland's Easter bonnet. Maybe he can move to Taxachusetts and get "married" to another poofster. Thank God for AIDS.

Re:Maybe he should read SlashDot (-1, Redundant)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240167)

To the people who marked my post as redundant, please site the post BEFORE mine that make mine redundant.

..what post? (0)

mcc (14761) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240196)

Your link is broken.

News at 11 (2, Informative)

joib (70841) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240036)

It's not like this is some surprising new insight, see another article posted today: here [slashdot.org] .

Coming soon...Pamela Jones' Grokline.... (3, Informative)

LouisvilleDebugger (414168) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240037)

Is intended to allow the developers of Linux, as well as the various UNI*es, to register and tell what they know of their own roles, as well as the development of each feature of each version of UNIX flavored operating system. Stay tuned to Groklaw for the official announcement...we're working on getting the site up within the next couple of days.

Re:Coming soon...Pamela Jones' Grokline.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240098)

please oh please let it not be based on geeklog...

Re:Coming soon...Pamela Jones' Grokline.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240166)

Is it just me, or when guys hear "Pamela" do they get all hot and sweaty picturing this [wallpapers.cz]

Re:Coming soon...Pamela Jones' Grokline.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240238)

Good -- maybe I'll be able to buy *BSD insurance from her and Perens also!

better paper trail.. (-1, Redundant)

loconet (415875) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240043)

Hey Mr. McKusick, RTFA [slashdot.org]

Site's a little slow (2, Informative)

karmatic (776420) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240046)

Site's a little slow already (darn subscribers), so here's a Mirror [tinyurl.com] .

Note: This doesn't mean I agree with this crap. As a coder, I can certainly understand their wanting to write code more than document everything. Really, shouldn't CVS logs be as much "proof" you wrote it as you need? It's far more work to try to fake writing it by changing other's code, than it is to just do the work itself.

Re:Site's a little slow (1)

xanadu-xtroot.com (450073) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240404)

Interesting. [slashdot.org]

Re:Site's a little slow (0, Offtopic)

karmatic (776420) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240690)

Yes [slashdot.org]

Re:Site's a little slow (1)

xanadu-xtroot.com (450073) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240739)

. We were Akamai customers and were not charged on a per GB but we paid a flat fee for up to and including 1MBps average per month.

WE who?

Re:Site's a little slow (2, Informative)

GridPoint (588140) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240437)

One of the main points of the article is that the (earlier) Linux versions lack any kind of CVS logs. The situation has been remedied when Linus started using BitKeeper, but there are years of development that cannot be tracked using a single source revision control system. This makes things quite complicated as the developers must dig through mailing lists and other means of communication to find out who really wrote what. "[...] they will have to dig themselves out of the swamp [...]", as said by McKusick.

(Oh yes, and just so you know, Marshall Kirk McKusick [mckusick.com] isn't just some law-monkey, he is one of the leading BSD developers and has, among a lot of other stuff, written stuff such as the SoftUpdates [mckusick.com] FreeVSD filesystem extension which allows for running fsck as a background process during normal system operation.)

'he said-she said' (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240060)

Uh, this must be a typo. Linux developers arguing over the source for changes would always be; "he said-he said - then they got into a hissy fit hair-pulling fight"

Glad I could clear that up.

Re:'he said-she said' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240400)

And then a corollary on Godwin's law would be invoked: "The first Linux developer to cry gets credit for the code."

A new agreement (5, Interesting)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240082)

I guess, in the spirit of the GNU GPL, they'll have to come up with something, call it the FDA - a "Full Disclosure Agreement" that you *must* sign before contributing code, stating that you WILL tell everybody about the project and publish your code contribution, sort of a bizarro-world NDA.

Re:A new agreement (1)

geomon (78680) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240266)

If that is going to be the standard, then Linux-ISVs better get cracking and provide a digital signature capability.

Or is there one around already? The only reason I continue to maintain a Windows partition is because our time cards are electronic and our digital signature software is Windows-only.

Re:A new agreement (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240362)

You are using digital signatures that aren't based on a standard, documented algorithm like SHA1? Better make sure your closed-source Windows implementation isn't snake oil... You should read what Schnierer has to say about unpublished proprietary encryption algorithms (for example in 'Applied Cryptography 2nd Ed'). FWIW, there are Linux implementations of just about every significant published digital signature standard.

Re:A new agreement (1)

geomon (78680) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240477)

Good point! You should have posted this sans AC.

Please Mod Parent Up!

Ownership trail? (1)

Nordicfire (781522) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240088)

Uh. What's this crazytalk about ownership?

Isn't the whole purpose of GPL that no-one can "own" any of the code?

Re:Ownership trail? (2, Informative)

chromatic (9471) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240143)

No. It's that no one can take away your right to fork the software, your right to use the software as you see fit, your right (or your proxy's right) to examine and change the software if you desire, and your right to redistribute the software, as long as you allow other people the same rights.

GPL does NOT grant you rights... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240289)

It actually is inaccurate to call what the GPL grants you a "right." A right can only be granted to you by a sovern governmental entity, or God. The GPL only grants you permission to share code, modify, fork, etc... Now, that permission comes with the promise that they will never be modified. That, combined with the reality of the hodgepodge of copyright ownership all mixed into a program all work to make it near impossible to revoke that promise; but it is still, nonetheless, a promise.

GOD does NOT grant you rights... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240497)

>A right can only be granted to you by a sovern governmental entity, or God.

Huh? You carp about inaccuracy and then, in the next breath, you misspell "sovereign" (assuming that is what you meant) and talk about God granting you rights?

Re:Ownership trail? (2, Informative)

julesh (229690) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240232)

No, the purpose of the GPL is to provide everyone with access to the code and allow them to use it in their own GPL programs.

All contributors to Linux still own the sections that they contributed. Some projects are run differently, for instance the FSF owns the code to all of the official gnu projects, because they ask contributors to assign copyright to them.

The ownership is important if you later want to change the license, for example by granting somebody permission to do something that isn't usually allowed by the GPL (e.g. distribute a modified version that isn't under the GPL).

If ownership of the code is restricted to a few well-known people this can be done, in the case of the linux kernel it couldn't, because if any contributor couldn't be contacted/refused (there'll be quite a few, I suspect), then their code would have to be removed. If it were important it would then have to be replaced.

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240234)

In fact, if there weren't strong copyright laws protecting the copyright holder of the code, then the GPL would be useless.

Here is the breakdown. The GPL is a license. A license is permission to do something you would normally not be allowed to do. IN this case, copyright laws expressly forbid anyone other then the copyright holder ("owner") from distributing or publishing the code. (with a few exceptions for fair use, etc...) Now, in order to use that code, the copyright holder has to grant you permission. In this case, the GPL is the grant of permission. The author says, "so long as you abide by the terms of the GPL, you have my permission to use my code." The GPL explains all of this in its preamble. You should read it sometime.

Re:Ownership trail? (1)

milgr (726027) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240235)

IANAL, but as I understand it, even with the GPL, someone still owns the rights to the code. Typically this is the author. But the author may convey those rights to another entity - such as another user, a corporation, or the EFF.

The GPL gives the users some rights - such as the ability to modify the code, and redistribute the code.

Even after distributing code under the GPL, the author could decide to distribute it under a commercial license.

infOrmative M4reMare (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240091)

Re:infOrmative M4reMare (0, Offtopic)

julesh (229690) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240258)

for the s7ate of And its long term [goat.cx]

Right. The link text makes no sense, and the link points to the wrong site. Even the goatse.cx trolls are going downhill these days.

What's wrong now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240110)

What's wrong with how it's documented now? It just seems like some people want a system in place to enable them more accurate blame a particular person or involved party. Some people also seem to want a better documenting system in order to be able to better defend against copyright and or patent infringement allegations.

I feel that having to deal with an issue like this dimishes the free flowing spirit of open source. Time and energy may be better spent attempting to get governments to legislate exemptions for open source users. Heretical you say? No, I say, and here's why: from time to time we see things that lose trademark/copyright status because they have become generic and an integral part of a society. Now why can't the same concept apply to open source as it pertains to copyrights and patents?

Re:What's wrong now? (1)

Kiryat Malachi (177258) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240324)

Because the GPL relies on copyright law to enforce itself, which would make an exemption entirely pointless?

Now, an exemption for BSD-licensed software, that might be useful.

It's not really a problem (4, Interesting)

maximilln (654768) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240112)

From what I've seen ownership never becomes a problem until large amounts of money become involved or until one group attempts to sandbag another group based upon their ownership. Since this is the open source community, most commonly under the GPL license, there is no worry about this sandbagging unless someone attempts to take a fork and make it commercial.

Is this where the need for a paper trail comes in? Suppose someone takes the kernel and starts their own independent development on it. Hypothetically, in five years, they could rewrite or replace over 50% of the kernel with their own code. From what I understand the GPL license requires that any code that it becomes part of must also be GPL. If the total code package is several million lines, however, who is going to pay to subpoena the source code for a commerical product to prove that it was indeed started from a GPL/open source project? Who will pay to have the code audited and what prevents a potentially unscrupulous commerical entity from playing mix and match with subroutines so carefully that the resulting audit would take more time to arrange properly that to actually audit the lines one by one?

I suppose, in this case, the paper trail wouldn't make a darn bit of difference. The paper trail isn't going to make it any easier to subpoena source code from a commercial entity if they're stonewalling.

Enter my tin-foil argument that Windows9x/2x is nothing more than badly mangled Linux and a customized window manager built with a crytpically designed compiler--but no one ever gets to see the source code so they'll never be able to prove it.

Code Slippage (5, Funny)

Eberlin (570874) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240115)

Ok, so if I hypothetically had this idea to include a few lines into the kernel...I managed to slip a couple of lines of code into a "thank you" postcard to Linus eons ago. After reading it, he thought it was utter rubbish and tossed it away.

Actually, he was so pissed off about the whole stupidity that it motivated him to stay up an extra two hours hacking away. So technically, some of his code should be attributed to me, right?

Much like how some of that code should be credited to Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and a few different candy bars. So where's the documentation on that?

All the changelogs, the comments, and any other bits of documentation aren't enough. Where's the credit to the pizza delivery guy? He helped develop some of that code! Ingrates, I tell ya.

Re: Naming Conventions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240783)

Stoned Beaver might have been an allusion to the Tooth Fairy. Linus was REALLY trying to let the proverbial paternity cat out of the bag. Them Alexis folks were just a bit slow on the uptake, that's all.

Funny how this coincides with... (5, Informative)

yarrick (583362) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240116)

Slashdot: Process Improvements [slashdot.org] Wasn't Linus just talking about authors signing kernel submissions?

He said She said (2, Funny)

NodeZero (49835) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240127)

they have opened themselves up to a swamp of 'he said-she said' about where code came from.

He said "If I tell you, i'd have to kill you".

Grokline (-1, Troll)

themaddone (180841) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240132)

Isn't Grokline (soon to be www.grokline.net, created by the legendary PJ of Groklaw) supposed to do something that's very similiar to this?

He said, she said ? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240144)

I'm pretty sure it's he said.
: )

And ironically... (4, Insightful)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240147)

The ad on the right part of the screen is a Microsoft ad claiming that "Mainframe Linux was found to be 10x more expensive than Windows Server 2003" at fileserving. Jeez, apparently you need a mainframe to work as a fileserver these days... sounds like somebody was comparing apples to oranges there. Great ad for "searchenterpriselinux.com".


Also, I would imagine that pretty much every kernel code submission is traceable to it's submitter. As far as I know, every specific line of code that has been brought up by SCO has been tracked down and attributed to it's submitter. Beyond that, there's really no way for BSD, Linux or anybody else to _know_ that the person submitting a patch really owns the copyright to it, or is acting as an authorized agent of their employer who owns the copyright to it. At some point, there is good faith. Yes, a well-documented paper trail would be nice, but requiring patch submitters to submit signed documentation with their patches would place an immense administrative burden on somebody, and it wouldn't prove that no copyright infringement has occurred, it would just blame-shift to whoever submitted the patch. I don't think that would legally remove the possibility that an unscrupulous company could go fishing for damages, a la SCO. It would also effectively remove the bazaar-like openness that Linux has, in contrast with more closed, insular projects with their rigid committer lists and uberpolitical machinations (XFree86 anyone?).


But I guess from a PR perspective this guy has a good point. Having some big pile of papers to point to and say "look, this documents that all contributers have copyright to their patches, and every line of code is accounted for" - this might help dissuade outrageous claims like SCOs and allay the fears of the business community, which likes to know that there are reams of bureaucratic documentation proving that the code is clean.

Re:And ironically... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240214)

Great ad for "searchenterpriselinux.com".

FYI, Slashdot runs those ads constantly. They're probably 15-20% of the banners I see here.

Re:And ironically... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240376)

In your hosts file include this line:

127.0.0.1 ads.osdn.com

It works good.

obvious: a little late?? (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240153)

Isn't that sort of like trying to trace the sources of popular fables after years of circulation? I agree that for any new module, the author information should be included. For existing modules, however, trying to figure that out is gonna be really hard. Except for the guy that has the patent on the blinking cursor, and other places where a clear intent to earn $ was present from the get-go. Unlike SCO, which seems to only care since Linux became^H^H^H^H^H^H started looking like a threat to UNIX.

Don't they (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240233)

Don't they have the email address and identity of the person who submitted it originally to the linux kernel mailing list?

As long as the maintainers made a good faith effort to get a name and contact information for each contributor, not just a hotmail address or something, I don't see where the problem lies.

He needs to read slashdot (-1, Redundant)

s7726 (742427) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240181)

This [slashdot.org] covers that.

How many closed source people copy code? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240185)

How many closed source companies copy code from various places? I would say open source is the least likely place people will do this considering how easy it is to get caught.

Anyone out there have personal knowledge?

Re:How many closed source people copy code? (2, Interesting)

jimfrost (58153) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240590)

How many closed source companies copy code from various places?

I can't tell you about the industry as a whole, but so far I haven't seen even one case of a large body of source that didn't have code cribbed from somewhere else (my current employer excluded, I haven't been here long enough to know one way or the other).

Often this is not widely known, i.e. only one developer might know it happened.

I do note that over time the practice has become more strongly discouraged. I believe it was the GPL that was behind a lot of that, with smaller companies anyway, because the GPL has been a very tempting code base -- but with obvious legal strings attached.

What verification mechanisms are there? (1, Redundant)

asmellysock (649878) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240243)

When someone submits a potential change to Linux, what mechanisms are in place to verify that the submission is not copyrighted material? Also, what mechanisms are there to eliminate a copyright infringement once one is discovered?

the payper trials of corepirate nazi stock markup (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240255)

felon execrable, could use improvement too, starting at the top.

lookout bullow.

all is not lost.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators... the evidence is overwhelming.

Surely he means PDF (4, Funny)

Mustang Matt (133426) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240275)

Paper? What's paper?

Re:Surely he means PDF (1)

denlin (733557) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240581)

if they're creating the documents, you surely mean word [microsoft.com] or more likely LaTeX [latex-project.org] . :)

And I think (1)

Zapdos (70654) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240307)

That we should call this Unix-like operating system Linux.

FSF compliancy (1)

kjd (41294) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240309)

The FSF has been covering their/our asses [fsf.org] on this kind of stuff for years.

Libertarian Solution: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240317)

Sell it to the highest bidder. The only function of government is to guarantee private property (and wage war on selected enemies). By securing Linux in private hands we can guarentee that it will be judged fairly in the marketplace.

Pot, Kettle, Black (0)

Rex Code (712912) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240390)

Kirk has been involved with FreeBSD since forever and knows damn well that FreeBSD isn't documenting where code contributions come from any differently than Linux is.

Yes, it's an important topic, but Kirk choosing Linux as his example is just plain wacko.

Re:Pot, Kettle, Black (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240438)

echo 'Dude, you're an idiot.'

# EOF

SCO *WILL* look foolish? (2, Funny)

ecklesweb (713901) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240398)

In the end, I think SCO will look foolish.

In the end ? I like to think there's no time like the present.

Don't worry about it, except for big additions (2, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240405)

I wouldn't worry about it. Look how much effort SCO has put into finding infringements, how unsuccessful they've been, and how much trouble they're in now. Once the SCO case is over, nobody is going to challenge Linux for a long time.

Meanwhile, SCOX [yahoo.com] is down to 4.74 today. Volume is about a third of the 3-month average; they're falling off the investment radar. IBM's latest set of legal moves put SCO in worst shape than they've been since the litigation started. SCO has an earnings call and webcast [yahoo.com] on June 2. Tune in and hear Darl try to talk his way out of this one.

What? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240409)

'There isn't a well-documented ownership trail with Linux. So, they have opened themselves up to a swamp of 'he said-she said' about where code came from'

So what? There is a basic flaw in this argument! In the USA anyway, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Anybody alleging that source was stolen and placed into Linux must prove that source code:
a. existed somewhere prior to being placed into Linux
b. was stolen, not just happens to resemble code that might have been developed independently by someone else

In short, there should be no burden of proof on Linux's part to prove that the source was not stolen; the burden of proof must be on the accuser to prove that the source was stolen!

Knowing who submitted exactly which piece of code to Linux will not drain the swamp of 'he said-she said' about where code came from'. In fact, it will make it a lot worse. Consider: company A claims that some portion of Linux source, submitted by person B, was stolen. Person B had business dealings with company A prior to or during the time that the source was submitted. Company A will say that this proves the source was stolen from them since person B obviously had opportunity! They will claim this even if person B had dealings totally unrelated to software within company A.

Re:What? (4, Interesting)

praksys (246544) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240531)

In the USA anyway, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

That is only true in criminal trials, and not always true even then. Copyright is civil matter, so the standard is usually "on the balance of the evidence". If one side can produce a pile of documents relating to the development of some code, and the other side can only produce a guy who says "I wrote it" then it is a pretty safe bet that the side with all the ducuments will win.

Sound stupid? Welcome to the wacky world of intellectual property.

This is ridiculous. (4, Insightful)

JessLeah (625838) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240428)

It's very easy to document where code did come from. But it's virtually impossible (if not 100% impossible!) to document that code did not come from any commercial source. By definition, to "prove" that any given piece of code didn't come from a commercial source, you'd have to take every single piece of commercial source code written up to and including the day of the disputed source's release, and grep it.

RMS:I told you so (4, Interesting)

line-bundle (235965) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240496)

Was this not one of the reasons the GNU project wanted copyright assigned to it?

BSD already has a paper trail... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240536)

Its called a death certificate!

foo (3, Interesting)

JDizzy (85499) | more than 10 years ago | (#9240551)

This is why the old 4-clause bsd license enforced the notion of not being able to remove the copyright notice itself, and always giving credit for authorship of the code, plus the normal lack of warranty bits. RMS has quotes on the internet and his fsf.org site about this, and to summarize he says that it is too much of a burden to mark the names of each and every contributor to the code. This is just the way the GPL assymilates code, and makes it stink. Marshal is probably right about this since he was at the CSRG when BSD came under the gun about att code infringment..

"he [Linus] knew where everything came from!" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240587)

"Isn't Linux documented in this way?
McKusick: Up until fairly recently, Linus [Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux kernel] didn't believe in source code control systems. My understanding is that he felt that the source code on his machine was the master source --he knew where everything came from -- and you didn't need to use source code control because he had centralized control."

He (might) know where everything comes from, but does he know where all the forwarders get their code from? (be it either: their brain, their team at work, text books, leaked code, etc...)

Going Forward (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9240661)

That phrase is my enemy. Where else are you going to go in the timeline? Sideways? Back in time? ...idiots.

Once I was in an "information session" where the presenter used the retarded phrase "going forward" at the end of almost every sentence for a good 5-10 minutes. Argh! Idiots!

PHB: "You seem like a motivated employee with growth potential. Let me zip off an email to BOB in ACCOUNTING so he can matrix you in on a teleconference today at TWO with our HOUSTON office......SYNERGY!!"

Speak English, Klingon dogs!
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