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Businessweek Recommends License Switch for Linux

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the thinking-about-the-big-picture dept.

Linux Business 548

MadFarmAnimalz writes "BusinessWeek has an article about the perceived threat of patents to linux, citing the SCO case, the opening of OSRM, and the Munich situation as evidence for the veracity of their conclusion that Linux isn't safe. Their solution? Relicense to the BSD license or the Mozilla license. On a positive note, the article's author does link to RMS' article Why Software Should Not Have Owners; good to see Stallman being quoted and linked to in a publication Like BusinessWeek."

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548 comments

DUPE (-1, Offtopic)

ThisNukes4u (752508) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037611)

DUPEDUPEDUPEDUPEDUPE, it was last week too, damn are you guys that lazy?

Re:DUPE (2, Interesting)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037684)

I didn't see it last week. I'm glad it came through again. Besides, it gives us the opportunity to generate karma by reposting comments from the last story. :)

I'm not sure I understand the "advantages" the writer is laying out. A BSD'ed Linux would be cut off from a lot of the improvements that come back whenever someone modifies it to suit their own needs. Doing so would also lead to an immediate fork, wherein improvements could not be exchanged between the two branches. Finally, knowing that your work can be tied up into some black box, proprietary product will be a problem to a lot of the people working on Linux right now.

All this to avoid the patent situation? 60 of the 283 patents are owned by IBM, which has said that it won't enforce them (although I would prefer to see them grant a non-revokable, free license to use each in the Linux operating system). I would guess that 90% of those which remain are owned by companies that have entered into cross-licensing agreements with IBM, so starting a patent war would be a very drastic measure for them. Those which remain, hopefully, can be worked around.

The worst case scenario is one involving some company that has a patent portfolio, a demon lawyer horde, and enough money to keep litigation going for a long while. Think SCO II. But Linux survived that with little ill effect.

I think Linux is in a pretty good position, and I don't believe the patent situation doesn't justify the sort of remedies the author suggests.

stallman (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037621)

is a fuckin lunatic who doesn't show what "shower" even means.

No protection (5, Insightful)

msgmonkey (599753) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037623)

I can't see how switching licenses will help.

The licenses mentioned (patent clauses in GPL acknoweldged) deal with copyright and not patents which although people easily confuse are completely different legal areas.

Re:No protection (5, Funny)

product byproduct (628318) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037638)

It's businessweek. Business people like to force a useless migration to something different every once in a while.

No protection-Lead-ership. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037692)

"It's businessweek. Business people like to force a useless migration to something different every once in a while."

Upgrade to Boss 2004

Re:No protection (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037711)

Business people also like open source programmers to release their work under a BSD license rather than GPL.

Re:No protection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037659)

Only change that mighht help is to modify the gpl so that it addresses the patent isssue similar to the way the CPL does and maby even stronger.

Re:No protection (5, Insightful)

smootc-m (730115) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037732)

Switching to a BSD license will just encourage code forking which is bad. We will just end up in another "Unix Wars" scenario with proprietary versions of GNU/Linux popping up with their own incompatible extensions.

The real beauty of the GPL is that it encourages collaboration and sharing with the side effect that forking is discouraged. GNU/Linux is becoming the commodity OS precisely because of the GPL.

GPL affects patents issues (2, Insightful)

jeanicinq (535767) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037741)

Copyrights and patents are two different things.

If Linux is still not sold as commercial software, patents should not be an issue. Copyrights affect free and commercial software; however, patents only affect commercial software. Some business-people must have got their confusion when businesses like Red Hat, Debian, Yellow Dog, and more started to package Linux with commercial software and distributed it; it looked like commercial software. The GPL avoids patent issues, but that confusion makes it an issue. Some businesses want to find excuses that makes it an issue that their patents are valid in non-commercial software.

Re:GPL affects patents issues (4, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037785)

however, patents only affect commercial software.

Sorry, but this is not the case. In the U.S., patents even effect use. Use is clearly given by the law as one of the acts for which the patent holder can bring suit. You are liable for patent infringement by software that you write and use privately in your own home.

Yes, it's a broken system. We have to fix the law.

Bruce

Re:No protection (5, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037764)

He's a tech reporter who hasn't investigated the situation much and wrote the first thing that occurred to him. He did a pretty big disservice.

Switching from the GPL to BSD or another license would actually reduce the protection. It doesn't provide any incentive to license the patents for all users. Who do you think is going to develop all of this software if only big companies are able to distribute it legally? We'd be back to proprietary software and proprietary licensing.

Bruce

Simple BSD allows rape (4, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037772)

Business doesn't want to be restricted, no minimum wages, maximum working hours, safety rules, GNU style licenses.

The BSD license allows you to use the code without ever having to give back. Exactly the way business uses it.

The only thing you need to know about BSD is that Microsoft favours it.

Re:No protection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037822)

FUCK THE GPL!

In other news.... (5, Insightful)

rokzy (687636) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037625)

Women should give up their personal rights to make it easier on people who want to rape them.

Re:In other news.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037670)

I absolutely agree! And so do the moderators, apparently.

Re:In other news.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037760)

I guess this is ment as satire. Mod parent up, since this is exactly what the businessweek article is saying.

Re:In other news.... (0, Offtopic)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037821)

I don't know about this whole "rape" thing...
Couldn't all Women just turn into super-sluts?

Less incentive to develop (5, Insightful)

dukerobinson (624739) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037627)

if this were to happen, which I find highly unlikely, for one thing there would be a fork straight away. It would be just like the Xorg and Xfree split. Also, under the bsd license commercial proprietary software can integrate the open-source work, so why would anyone slave away at developing linux, only to have their work immediately integrated into commercial applications, the original developers not to see a dime. There is all kinds of bsd code in windows, for example.

Re:Less incentive to develop (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037630)

I thought developing software wasn't about selling the software and making a dime of it?
btw, ask why *BSD developers "slave away" at developing these OSs.

Re:Less incentive to develop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037647)

well, since their OS is dying it doesn't matter.

Re:Less incentive to develop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037651)

I think its more of a case of if I cannot make a dime from it no one else should either and if you want to play with my toys, you have to give them back when your finished.

Re:Less incentive to develop (1, Insightful)

turnstyle (588788) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037655)

"Also, under the bsd license commercial proprietary software can integrate the open-source work"

And the freeddom to use the code in closed commercial applications makes it *even more free* than restricting it to only other open source projets.

Re:Less incentive to develop (5, Insightful)

rokzy (687636) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037691)

no it doesn't. that's like saying being able to kill people increases your freedoms.

it may be true for a minority of people who want to kill, but it means that EVERYONE loses the "freedom" to feel secure against random deadly attack.

taking it further, the most free society is one with no laws whatsoever, but in such a society freedoms can be easily lost.

the GPL is like "Civilisation for Software" - it may mean you lose some freedoms, but in return the freedoms it gives are protected.

Re:Less incentive to develop (4, Informative)

jsebrech (525647) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037765)

A real life example: the linux kernel is BSD-relicensed, DistroInc turns it into a closed source kernel on which a closed source linux distro is based. DistroInc has gained freedoms by the relicensing, but everyone else has lost them, because if the kernel were not relicensed, DistroInc would have to have made their improvements public, thereby benefiting everyone in the community, giving them higher freedom to use DistroInc's advancements.

Re:Less incentive to develop (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037792)

it means that EVERYONE loses the "freedom" to feel secure against random deadly attack.

That feeling, unfortunately, is illusory, and always will be. Making killing illegal, with stiff penalties for killers, makes it less likely, not impossible, that you will be the victim of a random deadly attack.

Re:Less incentive to develop (1)

spektr (466069) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037699)

And the freeddom to use the code in closed commercial applications makes it *even more free* than restricting it to only other open source projets.

Then just use *BSD!

Everybody who doesn't like the GPL should contribute to BSD. Of course, most people who rant against the GPL just want to consume, not contribute.

Re:Less incentive to develop (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037705)

More free in which sense?

The BSD license gives maximum freedom to the programmer.

The GPL license is written to ensure the freedom and availability of the code itself.

Which license a developer chooses depends entirely on his or her goals. For the 99% of companies who intend to simply *use* the software rather than *redistribute* it, there is no effective difference between the two licenses.

Because of that, I really don't see where the writer is coming from.

Less incentive to develop-Free CSA. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037714)

"And the freeddom to use the code in closed commercial applications makes it *even more free* than restricting it to only other open source projets."

So why don't they release their closed source applications under the BSD license? Or is this some kind of lopsided freedom you're arguing for?

Re:Less incentive to develop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037726)

Yes, BSD is a more free license than GPL. It gives more freedoms to the user of the code. However, that is only a pro-BSD argument if one want to have a as free license as possible.

GPL on the other hand, is better for the propagation of free software in the long term, and better if one wants to keep the software that one writes free.

I, for one, does not want to help "my enemies". (namely commercial software producers) :)

Re:Less incentive to develop (2)

zarr (724629) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037750)

What's most important, freedom for developers or freedom for users? The GPL is all about freedom for users, while the BSD-style licenses give much more freedom developers/corporations to do whatever they want with the code.

Personally, I'm going for freedom for users. I want the software I use to be open source. I want to have the ability to bugfix and extend the programs I use. I don't want closed source programs to hijack my data!

More people should read the GPL [gnu.org] and some of the background info on why it is the way it is. Then maybe we would have fewer of the BSD-is-more-free-than-GPL trolls (I'm not necessarily implying that the parent poster is one of them...)

Re:Less incentive to develop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037757)

"And the freeddom to use the code in closed commercial applications makes it *even more free* than restricting it to only other open source projets."

Maybe linus and others didn't do all that work only to discover that they were working on the next version of Windows all along, and that they were going to be told "pay up and sign this licence" when they wanted to see the changes that other people had made to their work...

Re:Less incentive to develop (1)

wfberg (24378) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037763)

"Also, under the bsd license commercial proprietary software can integrate the open-source work"

And the freeddom to use the code in closed commercial applications makes it *even more free* than restricting it to only other open source projets.


Including the freedom to restrict it further. Or to pull SCO shenannigans, like sueing IBM for copying their precious code, whilst giving it away for free themselves.

If killing wasn't a felony, you'd be "free" to kill AND to get killed. Is that true freedom?

Re:Less incentive to develop (3, Insightful)

stemcell (636823) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037767)

"And the freeddom to use the code in closed commercial applications makes it *even more free* than restricting it to only other open source projets."

It's only "*even more free*" in the short term. As soon as some punk improves it and closes the source the whole thing becomes much less free.

Which I imagine would be particularly irritating if they took something you'd written, added a function that you really wanted but didn't have the time / ability to code, and then deprived you of the right to use their modifications of *your* work without paying them a fee.

Stem

Re:Less incentive to develop (2)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037814)

And the freeddom to use the code in closed commercial applications makes it *even more free* than restricting it to only other open source projets.

That's why the GPL'd Unix clone is currently getting more attention than the BSD-licensed versions. The most free doesn't necessarily imply the most popular.

This is especially true of the big corporate code contributers. They are using the OS to sell hardware and support services. They just aren't going to release their improvements to the OS in a totally free manner that lets a competitor fork their code in secret to gain a competitive advantage.

Sometimes it's annoying that there's a lot of GPL'd code out there that would be nice to use in an incompatible fashion. However, that's just life. You don't get something for nothing all the time.

Re:Less incentive to develop (0, Troll)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037667)

Also, under the bsd license commercial proprietary software can integrate the open-source work, so why would anyone slave away at developing linux, only to have their work immediately integrated into commercial applications, the original developers not to see a dime.

Oh, the irony. Software shouldn't have controlling interests, remember? It should be free! So sayeth the great RMS.

If you don't like this sort of feedback, don't use misleading terms like "free software" in connection with the GPL.

Despite this, BSD is still here. (1, Offtopic)

jhines (82154) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037671)

BSD refuses to die. Free, Net, and Open have their supporters and developers.

Re:Less incentive to develop (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037685)

I've always looked at it like this: If my code is used in a commercial product, that does not change how free it is. It is still available, from me.

If my code is changed, the changes are not mine. They have nothing to do with me, I had no part in them. The changes should belong to the person who put the effort in to make them. The code I wrote is still freely available and the only possibly proprietry parts could be those I had no hand in helping with. I don't see why I should enforce rights over changes that I put no effort into.

Your "nobody would slave away" argument holds no weight. The BSDs have plenty of developers. So do apache, mozilla and many others.

Leave me alone (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037629)

I have written code for Linux and I decided to put it under the GPL. Get over it. I won't change it. I feel that the GPL gives me the kind of protection I want to have. BSD license would mean that scum like SCO can abuse my code. I am sure they would love that but it won't happen. So you stupid reporters and lawyers can as well stop argueing about license switches BECAUSE IT WILL NOT HAPPEN. Go away.

Re:Leave me alone (2, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037731)

So you stupid reporters and lawyers can as well stop argueing about license switches. . .

It doesn't work like that. I think it takes a silver bullet or something.

In any case the article evinces the same basic flaw in perception that we see over and over again, no matter how many times you explain it to them they will persist in thinking of Linux as a product.

Not to mention the fact that they rarely even know what the hell they're talking about, e.g. the statement that SCO acquired the UNIX trademark. When you see uninformed shit like that in an article you know that the article is, well, uninformed.

Move along, nothing to see here but media hack.

KFG

Re:Leave me alone (5, Insightful)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037775)

Exactly, i think most serious open source coders are well aware of what the license they choose means. I specifically choose GPL instead of LGPL for a library i'm writting because that's what i wanted.

I'm sorry if our licenses arn't corporate friendly.

All your software are belong to us! (5, Insightful)

bap (75675) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037631)

That's an article? People who want money for nothing demand a gift with no string attached? Their message to the authors of Linux: "All your software are belong to us!"

Re:All your software are belong to us! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037742)

> People who want money for nothing demand a gift with no string attached?

I bet they want their chicks for free too.

is the desktop immune? (0, Offtopic)

krayfx (694332) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037635)

...osrm study cites the risk being mostly in areas such as sendmail, samba, and linux. is the dektop safe as yet? is there any potential timebomb ticking in linux, that might make linux redundant when MS opens its arsenel ? i am mighty curious to know.

But how would changing licenses help? (3, Insightful)

OneDeeTenTee (780300) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037637)

The issue with patents is that certain basic ways of accomplishing tasks can be restricted.

Changing licenses won't prevent the use of litigation to suppress open source tools which do the same things as commercial products.

Re:But how would changing licenses help? (1)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037662)

The issue with patents is that certain basic ways of accomplishing tasks can be restricted.

The more pressing issue is that this can be easily done for things that have been around for ages by people/corporations who didn't even invent the tasks.

Not even an article (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037639)

It's a commentary, AKA an opinion piece. Look, I can write an opinion piece, too.

Microsoft should switch to the GPL.

Hey, someone submit this to Slashdot. Here's an idea for the text. "Slashdot has an article suggesting Microsoft should switch to the GPL."

Why don't they mention FreeBSD, OpenBSD, etc? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037641)

Are there any practical reasons they can't use FreeBSD/OpenBSD/NetBSD instead of Linux in situations where a BSD-style license is preferred over GPL?

Or is it simply because they've never heard of it due to lack of marketing?

Re:Why don't they mention FreeBSD, OpenBSD, etc? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037796)

Because BSDs SMP is a super weak hack and it doesn't even have a real journaling filesystem yet?

Re:buzzwords (3, Interesting)

Bastian (66383) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037803)

buzzwords. buzzwords. buzzwords.
buzzwords. buzzwords. buzzwords.

BusinessWeek's readers are businesspeople.
Business is about making money.
There are two ways to make money.
1. Visionaries and geniuses can create buzzwords.
2. Everyone else can jump on the buzzwords as soon as they realize that the buzzwords are buzzwords.
BusinessWeek caters to the second group because it's a market several orders of magnitude larger.

buzzwords. buzzwords. buzzwords.
buzzwords. buzzwords. buzzwords.

Linux is a buzzword. *BSD is not.
This means that all the buzzword people jumped on Linux.
This guarantees that in the future, Linux will have more buzzwords than BSD.

buzzwords. buzzwords. buzzwords.
buzzwords. buzzwords. buzzwords.

The next important rule with buzzwords is that you have to take a convoluted path to get to your buzzwords.
This is the rule that explains why we have a group of people working hard at developing Linux for the Macintosh as well as a group of people working hard at developing Darwin for the PC.

buzzwords. buzzwords. buzzwords.
buzzwords. buzzwords. buzzwords.

(** note: The author realizes that there are indeed practical reasons to make many of the decisions mentioned above. In fact, he has jumped on a couple of the bandwagons mentioned above, both for practical reasons and because of buzzword bandwagoning. The problem is systemic, has been around for thousands of years, and can only be solved by the GPL.)

Not going to happen. (5, Interesting)

BJH (11355) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037642)

Even if this were a good idea (which it's not - it's roughly on a par with somebody who is being attacked by rabid hyenas deciding that they'd be safer if they distracted the hyenas by attaching large chunks of fresh meat all over their body), it would require that either:
a) Anybody with significant (as in more than 20-30 lines or so) contributions to the kernel give their approval for the switch, and it ain't gonna happen because even if Linus went for it, Alan Cox is very much pro-GPL and has large chunks of code all over the kernel

or:
b) Somebody strip out or rewrite all parts of the kernel copyrighted by people who objected to the license change, which in the end would probably amount to an effective rewrite of the whole thing.

No can do! (5, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037643)

If it's GPL'd, then everything up to the license chance would still be GPL'd, and it would immediately fork into GPL'd and non-GPL'd.

Of course, then the BSD licensed stuff would be copied back into the GPL'd fork, as is allowed.

Result - A full-featured GPL'd version, and a non-GPL'd version without all the features that it can't include as it would be a violation of the GPL.

In other words, why bother? It ain't broke - don't try to "fix" it.

Re:No can do! (1)

Simon (815) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037787)

Of course, then the BSD licensed stuff would be copied back into the GPL'd fork, as is allowed.
I think the more important question is, would there actually be any new BSD licensed stuff to copy into the GPL version? Companies are not required to release their changes in source form under the BSD licence. After all, that is the primary difference between the GPL and BSD licenses.

--
Simon

hail (0)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037644)

repeat after me: I belive in GPL.

Re:hail (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037694)

While I disagree with the article, I can't help but notice the author got one thing right: the GPL is less of a legal document in our eyes and more of a religion. Like all religions, we have to be careful about losing sight of our purpose because of "ancient traditions."

The GPL Ver. 2 is great and works today; but we always need to ask ourselves if it is ready for tomorrow. Maybe we'll need to migrate to a version 3, or maybe we'll need to migrate to BSD. The point of this article, IMHO, is that we need to keep questioning whether the GPL is still working for us.

(posting as AC to protect my karma)

Logistics (4, Insightful)

keiferb (267153) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037646)

The logistics of a license switch are staggering, especially when you consider a project the size of the Linux kernel. IANAL, but wouldn't every contributor to a given project, no matter how far back as long as their code's still there, have to sign off and approve of the license change?

Sounds like a headache and a half to me.

idiot (3, Insightful)

sPaKr (116314) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037648)

This guy knows nothing of what he speaks. The open group owns the Unix trademark. SCO claims to own the source and rights, but thats disputed by Novell the previous owner.

when will they learn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037650)

you can't put the fucking cat back in the bag. Its dumb to think that you can just "turn linux into BSD" etc. On a side note, as much as i would like to see linux being ran by massive companies, I don't really give a fuck. What Walmart runs in their datacenter really doesn't concern me. If everything in the US courts went against GPL etc, and it was illegal to use linux in the USA. They would used it everwhere else. Futher putting the USA in the eyes of the other industiralised nations in the catagory of a despotic regime.

License? We don't need no . . . (1)

shubert1966 (739403) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037652)

Funny, why would any personal user give a sheist about the license?

This being about corporate interests then, and me being a private entity, why should I give a sheisty sheist what SCO thinks of themselves?

What's important to note is the overall quality of life for the citizens of the United States - our best interests are to not penalize *nix users at all - it's too late in the game and many a small business would go out of business because of the cost associated with compliance or monetary settlement.

Not that government has ANY idea on how to secure their own machines, or tax internet sales, or stop Bill Gates and his remora-ware oompaloompas [supermanfred.it]from making a mint on anti-virus and spam software.

Silly bastards.

Re:License? We don't need no . . . (1, Funny)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037704)

What's important to note is the overall quality of life for the citizens of the United States

You arrogant, selfish little nerd.

Love,
Everyone in the rest of the world who supports or contributes to OSS.

Re:License? We don't need no . . . (1)

shubert1966 (739403) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037761)

I thought of that when I wrote it and felt that it was important to recognize that the scope of enforceability would be limited to USA. The point of the sentence was to identify that the PEOPLE come first. That I failed to include the majority of the planet is offensive, I just didn't think that rest of the world gave two sh!ts about copyright or trademark infringement.

Arrogant? No.

Ignorant. Sure.

Thanks for your input because I had no intention of generating the emotion you acquired from reading my post.

No blood - no foul.

Re:License? We don't need no . . . (1)

sg_oneill (159032) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037793)

I thought of that when I wrote it and felt that it was important to recognize that the scope of enforceability would be limited to USA. The point of the sentence was to identify that the PEOPLE come first. That I failed to include the majority of the planet is offensive, I just didn't think that rest of the world gave two sh!ts about copyright or trademark infringement.

Eh, Your cool ;)

sincerely (a foreigner). We do get grumpy americans occasionally forget theres life outside them borders, but by the same token apreciate it when you guys remember :)

(now, if you *really* want to impress me, put yerself in my boots ;) ;) ;) ;)

So let me get this straight... (1)

Thumper_SVX (239525) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037656)

We're being asked to change licenses when the GPL has NEVER BEEN STRUCK DOWN IN COURT???? OK... this seems like a troll to me.

Oh, and it's a dupe... but that's cool because I didn't get a chance to read the article last time... this time I did.

Seriously... it's sort of putting the cart before the horse. The only real problem I perceive with Linux today is that it's a large target. The GPL is not the problem, from the perspective of monolithic software corporations the whole product is the problem. Most big businesses would love to find a hole in the GPL that they could use to usurp Linux for their own ends. So far there hasn't been one.

However, I do think it might be prudent to review the GPL in really great depth (something that is sort of going on over at Groklaw) to make sure there ARE no loopholes. I want Linux to remain free.

Oh, and in answer to anyone who might ask... I use Linux not because it's free... not because I'm a geek... I use Linux because it WORKS. There's nothing that an MS operating system does better that I care about. No, I don't play games (don't have time).

Re:So let me get this straight... (4, Insightful)

oolon (43347) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037677)

But this is what people just don't get. Linux like all other GPL source is copyrighted, If the GPL licence agreement is proved to be invalid that does not mean suddenly linux and all other GPL code is now public domain. Linux would still be copyright and everyone who was not the copyright owner would not have a valid license to use it. Until issued with a new agreement from the copyright owner. This is one of the strenghs of the GPL, if your defeat it you can no longer play with the toys rather than being able to steal them.

James

crackhead... (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037663)

With no single owner, the closest thing it (Linux) has to a central authority is the Open Source Development Lab

Re:crackhead... (2, Informative)

mistered (28404) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037693)

or the SCO Group (SCOX ), which acquired the Unix trademarks. Geez, that's the one thing SCO admits they don't own.

License Change (5, Informative)

EinarH (583836) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037668)

Groklaw had an article [groklaw.net] about this some days ago, there are tons of discussion there why a license change;
1. Would be stupid.
2. Won't happen.

Lamest.... article.... ever.... (5, Insightful)

gsfprez (27403) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037678)

in light of IBM's use of the GPL to shutdown a major copyright infringer, SCO...

and in light that this author decided to publish an outdated article - he continues to talk about how IBM is being sued for copyright infringement, while the hunter is now the hunted in the SCO vs IBM case with IBM arguing (very well) for partial summary judgement that IBM is 100% in the clear on Linux while its SCO who is now clearly in violation of copyright law...

but mostly because his very first premise is utterly false - "How does software owned by everyone and by no one survive in a world where copyrights and patents shape the legal landscape?"..

this article is lame...

Dear Mr. Wildstrom.

The GPL has NOTHING to do with your precious IP or ownership of software. The GPL is ONLY about two simple things - distribution and use. Just like EVERY SINGLE OTHER software license.

It is obvious you do not understand this. I suggest you read the two [groklaw.net] latest [groklaw.net] court documents from IBM, who are doing two things you claim the GPL does not allow...

1. claiming ownership of their GPL licensed software and
2. are asking the courts to prevent a copyright infringer from reditributing their software without their permission.


The easiest way to understand how the GPL works and why it works is to read those court documents - because its heart is exactly what the GPL is about - controlled distribution of owned software by the copyright holder.

As my history teacher was fond of saying to the kids that wrote their papers the night before as they watched The A-Team - "please grasp the concept, then rewrite your paper".

Relicensing? No thanks! (2, Interesting)

Xetrov (267777) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037679)

Switching licenses would probably be the most painful thing to organise.

Firstly, everyone who has contributed code to the kernel would have to give permission for the license to be changed, or have to re-submit their code.

No, it is nowhere near as easy as saying "lets change the license".

Secondly, the Linux kernel has got some pretty darn cool code it in now. The GPL ensures that companies cannot take that code and do anything they like with it without releasing their modifications, eg Microsoft + BSD Networking code.

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037682)

I stopped reading when I saw "Linux, the most important piece of free, open-source software". Sendmail? BIND? Apache? I wish we could mod the articles (-1, Redundant). This isn't anything we havn't seen before, just dumbed down for the masses of BusinessWeek readers. Why is crap like this on sla.. oh..

Busenessweek troll (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037689)

A few points. First, the author misrepresents the GPL:
The GPL not only requires that any programs licensed under it be freely distributed but also that any modifications made to the software, or any other software derived from it, are themselves automatically covered by the GPL.
The GPL does not require that any programs licensed under it be freely distributed. It only requires that if you distribute it, you also make the source available. You may charge for the binaries if you want. You may also keep it closed-source if you do not wish to distribute it (in-house projects).

Second, the author advocates a "more commerce-friendly license" for Linux. However, he fails to give any reasons why the creators and contributors to Linux want to make it more "business friendly". Persumably, all the Linux contributors know they are releasing their code under the GPL and want to release it under the GPL. They are also free to contribute to *BSD if they like the BSD license better.

Third, the author cites Apple as an example of a company that chose FreeBSD over Linux because of the "commerce-friendly license". However, he completely ignores the fact that Linux has a much bigger mind and market share in business than *BSD, despite the "business unfriendly" GPL, and despite the fact that *BSD proponents constantly harp about the technical inferiority of Linux.

Bad understanding of the GPL (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037690)

Unfortunately, the GPL is hardly a model of clarity, and few disputes involving it have gotten to court, so case law has done little to clarify its meaning.

The GPL is actually very clear - derivative works of a GPL licensed work must also be GPL, otherwise you have no license to redistribute. It hasn't gone to court because if you claim the GPL is invalid, and redistribute something, then you are guilty of copyright infringement.

"Some people argue that the GPL as a whole isn't even enforceable.... "

Thats correct, it isn't, since the GPL only grants you rights. How can you enforce a license has no restrictions but only grants users redistribution rights that they otherwise wouldn't have?! Copyright law, however, is enforceable.

Hey, Businessweek! (1)

imag0 (605684) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037702)

Write your own operating system.
License it however you like it.
Otherwise, piss off.

Thanks!

Signed,

The Linux Community.

Defeating the point of Linux (3, Insightful)

raistphrk (203742) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037712)

Relicensing to the BSD license would pretty much defeat the point of GNU/Linux. I definitely think Linus needs to do more to make sure the code he commits isn't proprietary, but switching licenses?

The logical complications of changing the license to BSD would be a nightmare. Individual committers could file suit against FSF, or whoever might "own" the newly licensed code, to get a court order for their code to be removed if it's not licensed under the GPL.

Of course, somebody else could just fork Linux under the GPL again.

BSD License won't help (1)

juergen (313397) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037715)

This guy is either clueless, misled, or actively trying to mislead people.

The BSD license woud not have helped in the whole SCO fiasco. The only thing the BSD license really does is disclaiming of any liabilities of the software writer (license giver) -- so users and integrators (licensees) are still at risk of getting the crap sued out of them.

Jürgen Strobel

How would a switch protect against patents? (3, Interesting)

mslinux (570958) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037724)

I don't understand how switching to another license (BSD, Mozilla, etc.) would protect the kernel from patent infringement suits.

I do see how it would make it more "commercial" friendly, but IMO, that's all it would do. If it were licensed under BSD, then companies such as MS, Apple, etc. could take the kernel, use it, change it or whatever w/o showing the changes... just like Apple has done with much of the FreeBSD code.

Of course... (1)

mehaiku (754091) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037727)

How dare we rob corporate America of the right to embrace and extend code with a silly license?

Wont make a difference (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037728)

If you don't own the copyright of the code, you don't have the right to redistribute it, or re-license, regardless if you do it under GPL or BSD or XYZ.

You still have to pull the code, and you are still open to be sued for its use.

The key point is its NOT YOURS...

( we are talking where the original copyrights forbid redistribution, if its copyrighted under some 'free' license already, then of course this doesn't apply )

Now this really is FUD. (1)

argent (18001) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037730)

Crikey.

Look, I prefer the BSD license myself, and I'm also concerned about the potential it has for unintended contamination of aggregated works, but this is not new news and it's not related to the license, and for the most part the potential problems in the GPL don't seem to be evntuating.

It's obvious that they're using the recent patent issues... which are entirely unrelated to the license the software is distributed under... to spread uncertainty about the GPL. Licensing the software under the BSD license or the MPL or the APL or the Artistic License or even something new like a variant of the Creative Commons license wouldn't make any difference if someone filed suit over a patent.

Two words.. (2, Interesting)

tobybot11 (639553) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037743)

Two words for you on this whole patent train of contention.. Prior Art. One of the subtleties of computer history that most business/businessweek people of the "I'll get paid for idemnification insurance" crowd fail to recognize, is that patents on software didn't start coming into vogue with the big corporations until the late 90's. Most of the intrinsics in the open source world, within linux, have been around longer than that. Let's take for example the sudo example from a few days ago. Though Microsoft's patent wasn't exactly the same, the patent would never be able to pass the prior art test. There were too many examples in the open source world that existed prior. Fortunately, there are a few big companies that get it and will help to protect the open source world using the built in protections within the law. The benefits to the many far outweigh the profits of the selfish. It's too bad there isn't an IBM/Novell/Redhat there to protect those poor souls being trampled by the RIAA.

Asking the wrong questions (4, Informative)

irexe (567524) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037758)

From the article:

How does software owned by everyone and by no one survive in a world where copyrights and patents shape the legal landscape?

Shouldn't that be:

how can copyrights and patents survive in a world where software is owned by everyone and by no one?

Hey, Businessweek, stuff it. (2, Interesting)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037769)

Oh, if those OSS people would just use a different license, then you'd get the backing of the business community. Ooooweeee.

Here's a clue for Businessweek and the rest of that crowd: Most OSS developers started their projects to be free from the advice and oversight of the business community. You're barking up the wrong tree.

OSS developers are professionals, they're business people themselves quite often. They're very good at what they do and have thought through the licensing issues a long time ago. You can't tell them what to do and it's never been about market share.

If you don't like the GPL, then don't use it. It's your loss. I think about a 100 companies chipping in to make improvements to OpenOffice. They get back a product that saves them thousands, maybe even millions in license fees. I'd call that a pretty good investment. Yes, other companies and people that didn't pay will get those improvements and savings as well. Too bad. You still saved millions, it's still a good deal and economically more efficient. Thousands of companies all paying for the same software that does the same thing is economic insanity.

Invest in sanity, invest in OSS.

So, Invent Something Better and Patent It (1)

reallocate (142797) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037777)

If a patent bothers some GPL types, why don't they invent a better way to get the job done, patent it, and move along?

That would seem a positive approach, as opposed to the existing compulsion to posture as victims of the patent system. If someone's motivation is to become a victim, they aren't likely to create useful software.

On the other hand, if the real objective is political -- abolish patents -- then come clean. Not that there's a Fat Chance of patents going away. People own what they invent or create. The only place that isn't true is in some sort of airhead communal fantasy.

Slashdot Recommends License Switch for MSOffice (4, Funny)

originalhack (142366) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037778)

Well, as long as the people that don't hold the copyrights are suggesting that those who do change their licenses, I think Slashdot should suggest that Microsoft switch the license for Office to (GPL or) BSD.

MPL instead of the GPL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10037788)

The writter suggests using less restrictive licenses such as the BSD license or the MPL license instead of the GPL. But when I glanced over the MPL, it seems to require pretty much the same things as the GPL (derivative works are under same license, source code with the distribution). Is there a significant difference between the GPL and the MPL?

Mold insurance? (1)

bstarrfield (761726) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037809)

A central point in the article's thesis comes from material written by Open Source Risk Management. That firm is claiming that Linux may violates 283 patents. Which is well and good for OSRM, as they stand to gain by scaring people into purchasing their patent indemnity insurance. Not to be specious, but this reminds me of those firms that sell mold insurance to homeowners while at the same time publishing articles talking about the need for mold insurance. So, OSRM scares the heck out of companies through FUD - possibly some legitimate FUD, though - regarding Linux patents and makes money off of it. Great.

The patent issue - as discussed numerous times on Slashdot - seems to be spinning out of control. Of those 283 potentially disputed patent violations, how many of those violations were constructed in the last few years by firms who exist solely to make money off of exploiting the patent system? How many of the patents have been granted by an incompetent US Patent Office that can barely recognize the concept of prior art? So, we make a gigantic switch in the Linux license to make up for yet another abuse of the patent system.

The US technology industry was helped greatly by a strong patent system, but now its rapidly getting out of control. The point of patents was, according to the Founding Fathers, primarily to encourage the development of new technology and information. Now its been turned into hucksterism that reminds me greatly of the Great Domain Name Gold Rush, where legal loopholes become more valuable than creating much of anything.

I recommend a switch for Businessweek (1)

mst76 (629405) | more than 9 years ago | (#10037819)

When I passed a newsstand yesterday, I noticed that Businessweek magazine charges money for their magazine. After thorough research (well, some introspection), I've come to the conclusion that Businessweek can significantly expand its market by giving away their magazine for free.

I will come to collect my consultancy fee next week.
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