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GPL 3 Forking Risks Discussed

Hemos posted more than 9 years ago | from the much-thunder-and-lightning dept.

Linux Business 356

sebFlyte writes ""I fear a lot of unpleasant forking action when the GPLv3 comes out." The words of Debian maintainer Matthew Palmer. ZDNet has an interesting look at the possibility of forking when GPLv3 emerges, with lots of reassurance from Eben Moglen (the FSF's chief lawyer)."

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Whew (5, Funny)

Captain Nick (741204) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044408)

At least they aren't GPL spooning.

LOL (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044416)

Either you are a sick fuck or I watch too much Oz. You know what I'm talking about.

From the GPL v2 text: (5, Informative)

azmaveth (302274) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044418)

TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR COPYING, DISTRIBUTION AND MODIFICATION

9. The Free Software Foundation may publish revised and/or new versions of the General Public License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns.

Each version is given a distinguishing version number. If the Program specifies a version number of this License which applies to it and "any later version", you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that version or of any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. If the Program does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published by the Free Software Foundation.

And from the Linux Kernel "COPYING" file (4, Informative)

Fruny (194844) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044433)

Also note that the only valid version of the GPL as far as the kernel is concerned is _this_ particular version of the license (ie v2, not v2.2 or v3.x or whatever), unless explicitly otherwise stated.

Re:And from the Linux Kernel "COPYING" file (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044451)

That means there will be no GPL v3 as far as Linux is concerned. Linus et al won't get every contributor to the table to agree to a license change. Without that happening, the kernel will have to remain under GPL v2 only. The relicensing of the Mozilla codebase (to the MPL/LGPL/GPL trilicense) has been a tedious process for the Mozilla project, and that is a considerably younger and smaller codebase.

Re:And from the Linux Kernel "COPYING" file (1)

Lussarn (105276) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044501)

If there is a will there is a way, we just have to wait and see.

Re:And from the Linux Kernel "COPYING" file (3, Funny)

R.Caley (126968) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044538)

If there is a will there is a way,

I believe the correct quote is ``where there's a will, there are a hundred schemeing relatives''

Linux: GPL2 *and* GPL3 (3, Interesting)

Stephen Samuel (106962) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044542)

I would expect that the GPL version 3 will be backwards compatible with GPL Version 2. As such some parts of Linux may remain under the GPL2 while others are updated to GPL 3 as they are maintained.

Making GPL2 and GPL3 incompatible with each other is the kind of thing I'd expect Microsoft to do.

Not that easy (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044574)

If GPL3 mentions anything that is not in GPL2 (ie it places restrictions relating to patent litigation etc) then it cannot be compatible with GPL2.

The only thing the GPL3 can do and still be compatible with GPL2 is to have fewer restrictions. In which case, what's the point, we already have BSD.

Re:Linux: GPL2 *and* GPL3 (1)

Minna Kirai (624281) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044595)

I would expect that the GPL version 3 will be backwards compatible with GPL Version 2.

Although there will be top legal minds writing GPLv3, that compatibility is likely to be impossible. I haven't seen a draft of GPLv3 yet, but I know that one focus is to enable users of software to get access to the source, even if they don't have access to the binaries.

Such a restriction (something like "you must offer the users of the software a copy of the source, or the same offer you got") would be constitute a "further restriction", violating section 6 of the GPLv2 [gnu.org] : "You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein."

(On the other hand, if there is no further restriction in GPLv3, then it won't vary substantially from GPLv2, and there will be little motivation for anyone to change)

The only way GPLv3 and v2 may be compatible is by falling back to clause 10, the brute force way: "If you wish to incorporate parts of the Program into other free programs whose distribution conditions are different, write to the author to ask for permission"

Re:Linux: GPL2 *and* GPL3 (3, Insightful)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044709)

I haven't seen a draft of GPLv3 yet, but I know that one focus is to enable users of software to get access to the source, even if they don't have access to the binaries.

That would be pretty stupid. Being forced to distribute source if you elect to distribute the binary is one thing. Being forced to distribute ANYTHING when you are just USING the software, however, is too ornerous to be tolerated. I would actively look for a GPLV2 fork of the code or use a closed source alternative before I would accept a license like that. And I sure as hell wouldn't recommend it to any of my clients.

acces to souce. (3, Interesting)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044766)

That would be pretty stupid.

Imagine a embedded device running linux. You can use it but the distibuter gives you no updated "firmware" and thus no binaries. The only way to find out it runs linux is to "hack" it.

This might a way builders of embedded hardware try to circomvent the GPL since they give you no access to the binaries. (This is the way the embeded hardware builder would explain it, this is open to discussion. )

Now comes the strange part: give out firmware updates would violate the GPL. now lets talk about stupid.

Re:And from the Linux Kernel "COPYING" file (2, Interesting)

azmaveth (302274) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044547)

Exactly. It is highly unlikely that the Linux kernel will ever fully be licensed under the GPL v3. At least, not until all the old code under v2 is replaced by newer code.

The majority of the article, however, is talking about the forking of individual software projects. Some developers might prefer the new license and submit code that is only GPL v3. Some might prefer the old license and continue to use GPL v2. This is where the forking could occur.

The funny thing is that the reason to switch exclusively to the newer license would be to limit freedom. You can continue to license your code under "version 2 or later" of the GPL and that way people can choose whether or not they like the new changes. By using "version 3 or later" instead, you would be forcing people to accept the licensing changes.

I don't want to start a flame war, but this kinda makes the BSD-style license a bit more attractive, eh? ;)

Re:And from the Linux Kernel "COPYING" file (2, Interesting)

R.Caley (126968) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044585)

Also note that the only valid version of the GPL as far as the kernel is concerned is _this_ particular version of the license

Does anyone know why Linus made this, at first glance, boneheaded decision?

What rights did he think the FSF were likely to give away in later versions of the GPL that he had to hold on to? It's hardly likely that RMS would have a deathbed convertion and make v20 of the GPL a BSD style licence.

Re:And from the Linux Kernel "COPYING" file (1)

Erik Hensema (12898) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044694)

It's hardly likely that RMS would have a deathbed convertion and make v20 of the GPL a BSD style licence.

It is unlikely yet possible. To exclude any uncertainty Linus decided to 'lock' the Linux kernel to the GPL version 2 and version 2 alone.

The terms of the license work now, why won't they still work when GPLv3 is out? It's not as if all kernel developers will suddenly convert to it making their patches incompatible with the kernel.

Re:And from the Linux Kernel "COPYING" file (1)

R.Caley (126968) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044719)

It is unlikely yet possible [that a later version of the GPL would be substantially more free].

I think the possibility of the FSF giving up politics is far, far smaller than the possibility of some problem being found with a specific version of the GPL.

Re:And from the Linux Kernel "COPYING" file (2, Interesting)

Daniel Vallstrom (649271) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044706)

Does anyone know why Linus made this, at first glance, boneheaded decision?

Probably because he didn't want to give a carte blanch *in case* a later version would be weak or bad in some way. (At least that was the reason I had once to not include the "or later version" option.)

Re:And from the Linux Kernel "COPYING" file (2, Interesting)

m50d (797211) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044777)

He didn't want any risk at all. He thought v2 was good enough and wanted to make it completely impossible that linux could ever become propriety. That's also why he doesn't have contributors assign copyright - makes changing the license much harder.

Mod parent up (4, Insightful)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044445)

I doubt we will see any unplesant forking ,The license must evolve just as the software does .
If we didnt patch the linux kernel and left security holes in it we would have alot of massive problems , the license is like any other code(all be it legal code) bugs will arise and it will need to grow to support new platforms and new inovations .
Thus the clause in the license that the parent states gives the backwards and forwards compatibility if you want it .
unplesant forking will rarely occur

Re:Mod parent up (1)

natrius (642724) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044472)

Did you read the article? Linux itself is licensed exclusively under GPL v2. To change to v3, every copyright holder would have to be contacted and relicense their code. Every other project that does not allow the software to be licensed under future versions of the GPL will have the same problem. This isn't to say that the GPL should stay at v2 forever, it's just pointing out that there are going to be growing pains.

Re:Mod parent up (1)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044507)

Yes , but i dont see where the pains will come from .
VS 2 and VS 3 will be fully compatible and i know the license allows for duel licensing (ala trolltech)
So the worst thing to hapen as i see it, will be the code having to be released as GPL2 and GPL3 code at the same time , and i know for a fact they will be compatible license
Perhaps im missunderstanding the situation , but i see this as a pure storm in the teacup

Re:Mod parent up (1)

Baricom (763970) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044527)

Dual-licensing only works if every person with a copyright interest in the code agrees. In practice, this is extremely difficult unless either the copyright holder doesn't accept outside patches, or requires a transfer of copyright to do so.

Re:Mod parent up (2, Informative)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044546)

True enough , and witht he kernel that is alot of people ,However I think there will be little problem here .
As i understand it , the GPL v3 address major issues with international laws which is a benifit to us all , and im sure the kernel developers will see it this way (anyone out there who is a kernel dev please correct me if im wrong)
The license is problemeatic if people in say Belarus dont have to abide by it and can just take the code for their own .The only problem will be caused if someone is trying to cause trouble , and if its just one person there code can be removed and replaced

Re:Mod parent up (4, Insightful)

Welsh Dwarf (743630) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044563)

The big problem though is that not all kernel devs are still contactable (or even still alive), so there would be a fair amount of rewriting involved in anycase.

Re:Mod parent up (1)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044575)

Would this be so much of a problem , if so then i see that as a major flaw in the GPL v2 , if they are not avaliable to contact then i would move ahead witht he change and if they later contacted me and disagreed it could be removed , if they are dead then IANAL but would the copywright not either drop or pass to a family member

Re:Mod parent up (1)

natrius (642724) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044597)

Would this be so much of a problem , if so then i see that as a major flaw in the GPL v2

No, it's a flaw in the Linux kernel's use of the GPL v2. It'd be easy to move forward if they had included the "v2 or later" clause, but they didn't. I'm sure there was a reason behind it, but this issue isn't the fault of the GPL itself.

Re:Mod parent up (1)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044606)

Too true ,The reason it was licensed as GPL 2 explicitly is something i think that requires some investigation , as it may shed some light if this will be a major pain or not.
If anyone has any background please don't keep it to yourself
I would fathom a guess that it may have had to do witha flaw in GPL vs1 or fears about the changing nature of the GPL license but those are just guess

Re:Mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044599)

Things not specificly stated in a will general revert to the government

Re:Mod parent up (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044786)

The recommended way to put your stuff under GPL is "version 2 or any later version published by the free software foundation". It's not a flaw in the FSF setup, it's a flaw in linus' deliberate decision to say v2 only.

Re:Mod parent up (3, Informative)

natrius (642724) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044541)

VS 2 and VS 3 will be fully compatible

I'm not an expert on the GPL, but I don't think this is true. Version 3 of the GPL will add additional restrictions on top of what v2 does. GPL v2 explicitly states that you can't add more restrictions. The only way GPL v3 would be compatible with v2 is if it took away restrictions, which I don't think is the case.

Re:Mod parent up (1)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044565)

Hm i had not though of that , However will the vs 3 add restrictions as such or will they be safegaurds ,or explicit wording to ensure compatibility with international laws as i understand it
well it would be odd if they made it incompatible
((Joke)) unless ofcourse they are trying to crush linux for the glorius rise of HURD((/joke))

Re:Mod parent up (1)

Simon (815) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044799)

Version 3 of the GPL will add additional restrictions on top of what v2 does. GPL v2 explicitly states that you can't add more restrictions

Clause 9 from the GPL 2 text says that you *can* use v2 with a later version of the GPL.

It may appear that the "no additional restrictions" clause in v2 might come into conflict with clause 9 and a GPL v3 (or later). But in this case I think that clause 9 clearly takes precedence. That appears to be spirit of the license and the intention of clause 9. You would have a hard time arguing that "no additional restrictions takes precedence" is how the GPL v2 should be read. IMHO.

--
Simon

Re:Mod parent up (3, Interesting)

R.Caley (126968) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044562)

Yes , but i dont see where the pains will come from .

Every compyright holder must agree to a change in licence, no matter how compatable the licences.

Do you want the job of goiong back through a the history of a major open source project and identifying everyone who made a non trivial contribution to the code, then finding them (all you have is an email address from 10 years ago), confirming it is the right person, getting in touch, getting them to sign a bit of paper, chasing them when they have better things to do, dealing with the heirs of the ones who have died... and doing that under many different legal systems.

Yes, there will come a point where the remainig small contributions can be deleted and reimplemented, but they you have to do all the testing required to reassure everyone that the new function is at least as stable and secure as the previous one.

No fun at all.

Re:Mod parent up (1)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044591)

Correct me if im wrong , but is there not a list of kernel developers with contact info .It is good honest Office administration work ;) it would bore the hell out of me but it may be needed.
Lets just hope we learn from this atleast ,as i would hate to see the same hapen with GPL 4.
Though the point being , GPL3 only needs to work with GPL 2 , GPL 2 does not have to work with GPL 3 as such , the kernel and other projects could continue on with GPL 2 and new projects could stay with GPL3 and keep the GPL 2 licensed code GPL 2 licensed

Re:Mod parent up (1)

R.Caley (126968) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044618)

Is all that information up to date for everyone who has been a developer?

Is every contribution from a non-developer (eg emailed in pateches) legally signed over to one of the developers?

Lets just hope we learn from this

The normal way of licencing under the GPL would be `versionN or later', so any project caught by this now either has a reason, and so will be in the same position next time, or was at some point headed up by an idiot, and we can't avoid that happening again.

Re:Mod parent up (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044648)

Yes there is a list. I read about it when the SCO BS started going down. It is how they checked for any violating ip initialy.

This problem may have been made less of an issue then it would seem. I think they have already done some legwork in tracking down alot if not all of the contributors and have current information because of SCO claiming rights to ip in the kernel. I may be wrong on the amount of work done but a simple website with a "send email with your willingness" to area and instructions to to incluide the contact information that was in use when the code was submited should verify most of the intentions. It would at the minimum narrow the scope of the project down. This site could also be "hidden" from the public and a mass email to all the "known" contributers could direct them to the site.

While this wouldn't be complete, it would give somewhat of an idea as to if it is possible to even change and what kind of timeline would be neccesary if it is. You might also have holdouts liek companies that have gone belly up or are in litigation and the ip contributed is seen as an asset in a court. You also might have problems with persons in certain areas that see the GPLv.3 as a limitation to freedom because the copyright laws it sanctions or limits goes beyond what thier local government permits-enacted.

I can see all kinds of reason why one wouldn't want to change. I'm also wondering why it would be neccesary to change? The clause of "future versions" makes me worry about someone placing "for non-comercial use only" or somethign simular into the GPLv.20 and having it auto-enacted. I doubt that would be the case but does concern me.

Re:Mod parent up (1)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044662)

What is perhaps needed , is a GPL license license , Something to insure that the GPL must assure some basic freedoms and restrictions with the code (IE: copyleft).
This is perhaps needed to stop the GNU licenses ever going sour with these clauses
Infact i would hope that this already exists

Re:Mod parent up (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044790)

I've thought of something like "this software may be licensed under any license meeting the DFSG provided such a license would not allow the subsequent licensing of the software or any derivative under a license which did not meet the DFSG". Not sure how good that is legally though.

Re:Mod parent up (1)

R.Caley (126968) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044741)

The clause of "future versions" makes me worry about someone placing "for non-comercial use only" or somethign simular into the GPLv.20 and having it auto-enacted.

Can't happen. Since you have the right to pick the version of the GPL you licence the code under, you must always have at least the rights in the named GPL version. All a later one can do is give you more rights. Eg, if v6 GPL had a no commercial use clause, you could continue to use it commercially under the v5 GPL.

The reason for the `or later' clause, AIUI, is that it is always possible that the current GPL will be found too restrictive for it's intended effect (eg in some jurisdiction no one considered when drawing it up, or because of some legal decision in the US or EU). If that happens the FSF can release a new version, and everyone now has the choice to take emacs under those terms instead of the broken original ones.

Re:Mod parent up (4, Interesting)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044526)

Some of the contributors are dead, too, in the non-figurative sense.
Try to get them to relicense the part they hold the copyright on.

Linux is the biggest GPLed project, with many thousands of separate copyright holders. The mere code audit would take years, not to mention trying to actually contact them. They are often unreachable, their mail address may be no longer valid, they may use the name Anonymous Chinese Dissident #75483, they may be in a persistent vegetative state, etc etc.

And the Berne convention forbids you to ignore even a single copyright holder.

Re:Mod parent up (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044570)

Ohhh.. I have a doomsday scenario. Let's say one of those dead dudes' brother - who cares nothing about computers and software - gets a phone call from a lawyer saying they need him to grant permission to change the license on his code in the linux kernel. He quickly calls his lawyer who gets in touch with Microsoft and sells the rights to that little bit of the linux kernel to Bill. Now Bill can say "nope, you can't upgrade to GPL v3." Linus has to get someone to strip out the code that Bill now has a claim to and anything that is a derivative work. They have to be really careful cause if Bill's lawyers do a code audit and find out that just a little bit of the code is still in the GPL v3 linux kernel Bill can use that little known clause of the GPL which allows to you prohibit people from further distributing your source code. Bill could actually revoke Linus' right to distribute the linux kernel!

Of course, then the linux hackers would just remove the last traces of the code Bill owns and release a legit GPL v3, but Bill could probably sue the shit out of them all anyways.

So called doomsday scenario (1)

nickco3 (220146) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044617)

Let's say one of those dead dudes' brother ... [snipped] ... sells the rights to that little bit of the linux kernel to Bill.

OK. And then what?

Linus has to get someone to strip out the code that Bill now has a claim to

OK. Shouldn't take long.

So what else? You mean that's it? That's all? That's your doomsday scenario?

If you pick a piece of the kernel code at random it's probably a driver, hardly a doomsday scenario. Even if we lucked out and lost a critical component like the scheduler, there are any number of competing implementations that have either been discarded or never made it into the official kernel. It's not like we'd be starting from scratch.

All that so-called "wasted effort" on competing implementations that Slashdotters piss-and-moan about is actually genetic diversity that helps guarantee Open Source software's long term survival.

Re:So called doomsday scenario (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044668)

Uhh.. say it is a driver. Say it's self contained. What about those people who wrote a similar driver by taking the existing one, stripping bits out and adding bits in? I mean every driver looks kinda similar.. Bill's lawyers could easily claim that every driver that "looks like" the one Bill has a claim on is derived from it. If you argue he'll drag your ass into court (not IBM, not some legal fund, YOU) and ask you questions like "so you're tell me you've never read the source code to another driver before you wrote yours?" "Oh, you did? Then how can you be so sure you never read the source code to our driver and accidentally copied it into yours?" And that's the kind of shit lawyers will ask you. They'll make it look to a judge like you've never put any effort into making sure you had "clean hands" because the license said you were free to copy. Then once Bill's lawyer has shown you can't possibily have clean hands he'll say that you have no authority to change the license on your own code without his permission. Your driver won't be going into the GPL v3 linux kernel either.. and when some significant portion of the linux kernel has been put on dubious ground it'll be really easy to say that the whole kernel is dubious.

Now, with all that pain fresh in your mind, can you think of a really good reason why we'd ever need to move the linux kernel to GPL v3? Is it really worth it?

Re:From the GPL v2 text: (1)

Daniel Vallstrom (649271) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044614)

The problem is presumably that many choose not to add the "or any later version" option to their license.

The reason why people don't add the option is probably because if a later version of the license is weak or bad, they don't want to give users carte blanch to use the new bad license version.

However, since the new license version is, by the look of it, better and stronger, most should have no problem licensing their programs under the new GPL version.

On the other hand, people might quit licensing under the old versions since the new one is better.

Re:From the GPL v2 text: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044718)

Ummmm... you are aware licenses can be revoked!

If GPLv2 is revoked in its entirety by GPLv3, then that clause is meaningless

Is it just me... (3, Interesting)

Xeth (614132) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044419)

Or is this not the best time for the Open Source community to divide itself (admittedly, there may never be a *good* time for such an action...)? Is the GPL much of a problem in its current incarnation? Like they say, if it ain't broke...

Re:Is it just me... (4, Insightful)

Aadain2001 (684036) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044431)

After reading the article, it seems like those who think there will be a "division" don't really understand the whole of the Linux world. There are MANY licenses in use by the FOSS world right now, and adding a new version (which addresses international copyright laws and patent issues) will not cause Linux to split into multiple camps. If GPLv3 turns out to be bad, then no one will use it and GPLv2 will remain the most used license. In the FOSS world, no one forces you to do anything like use a specific license when you want to use anyone instead (the developer that is, not the end user).

Re:Is it just me... (2, Insightful)

natrius (642724) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044498)

If GPLv3 turns out to be bad, then no one will use it and GPLv2 will remain the most used license.

This isn't the issue. Even if GPL v3 is good and lots of people want to move to it, projects that are licensed exclusively under GPL v2 (e.g. the Linux kernel) are going to have trouble moving forward to the new license. There are a lot of copyright holders to contact and agree to the change in order for it to happen. All that people are saying is that lots of forking could happen. Assuming everyone agrees to the changes presented in v3, it won't that much of a problem, but there's still work to do to change over to the new license.

There are MANY licenses in use by the FOSS world right now, and adding a new version (which addresses international copyright laws and patent issues) will not cause Linux to split into multiple camps.

If you haven't noticed, each license essentially creates its own community around it. You can't take code from the Linux kernel and put into into the BSDs. The problem with a new GPL version is that these incompatibilities will occur within an already established community, and break it apart unless everyone changes.

I feel... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044420)

there is a grave disturbance in The Force.

Re:I feel... (0)

shenanigans (742403) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044634)

You mean The Source.

I'm always looking... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044426)

for some forking action, but I never seem to get any.

Oh yeah, this is slashdot.

Re:I'm always looking... (1)

AvatarofVirgo (865568) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044484)

Looking for forking action on slashdot... Reminds me of the beach scene on Eurotrip.

You only end up with naked over weight drunks chasing after teenage /. poongtang.;)(I think I spelled that right)

And if your wondering if I'm talking about the beach or slashdot than I'm talking about both. Well, except for the /. part.

Re:I'm always looking... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044503)

You better not fork on the table you son of a bitch.

Re:I'm always looking... (1)

mysticwhiskey (569750) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044646)

Practise safe forking - type with rubber gloves.

Pleasant forking action? (4, Funny)

Cruithne (658153) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044432)

Has anyone ever encountered any pleasant forking action? This google image search is leading nowhere... perhaps safesearch needs to be off?

hmmm (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044434)

site's responsive
6 comments

oh no its the rapture

hello ...
can anybody hear me?

An impractical question (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044448)

Since the majority of GPL-ed code (with Linux kernel being the most notable exception) is licensed under "GPL v2.0 or (at your option) any later version", wouldn't it be theoretically possible for FSF to publish, for example, GPL v10 saying "You can use and modify this software without any restriction whatsoever, but only if you are Microsoft (Sun, Google, whatever)"? In other words, they can effectively sell the rights to close the sources off all GPL-ed Free Software. Of course, Richard M. Stallman wouldn't do this, but, sadly, he will not live forever, and anyway, whole system shouldn't base its existence and safety on one man.

Re:An impractical question (1)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044457)

http://linux.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=143673&c id=12044418 [slashdot.org]
As this poster states , the clause in the license allows us to avoid any situation such as this and secures the copyleft .
However if said did hapen (which i strongly doubt) the only thing to occur would be the license would become more BSD license like allowing people to use the code with your supposed vs 10 for closed source projects

Re:An impractical question (4, Insightful)

azmaveth (302274) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044481)

Yes, the GPL could be changed in the future this way. No, it wouldn't effectively "sell the rights to close the sources" as you can still choose to use the earlier version of the license. You are not forced into using a later version - it is left as an option.

Re:An impractical question (1)

natrius (642724) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044525)

No, it wouldn't effectively "sell the rights to close the sources" as you can still choose to use the earlier version of the license.

You can never sell the rights to close the sources without reassigning copyright.

If the GPL was changed like the grandparent poster suggests, as long as someone has a copy of the code out there that says "GPL v2 or later", they can use the code under the terms of the GPL v10, which can say whatever the FSF wants it to say. That's the whole reason behind why some people restrict the license to v2.

With that said, it doesn't sell your rights to close the source, because you have the copyright over the software. The version you have released will always be under the GPL as long as someone has a copy of it, but you can add new stuff to it and only release binaries.

Wrong (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044697)

Yes, the GPL could be changed in the future this way.
And at that point a lawyer would be involved, and it would undoubtably be ruled that the proviso:
Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version
had been violated and the "upgradable" nature of the old code would be void.

This is the main danger with instituting a newer version. The more it does over the current version the less obviously it will be in the "spirit" of the current version.

Re:An impractical question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044781)

But if Microsoft (google, whatever) chooses to fork linux kernel into v10, they could right? And from there develope on it themselfs as closed source...

Re:An impractical question (1)

latroM (652152) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044502)

Quoting GPL: "The Free Software Foundation may publish revised and/or new versions of the General Public License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns".

Re:An impractical question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044504)

Copyright expires after 28 years (*), after which the work passes into the public domain. Microsoft will have the right to use Linux 1.0 eventually, even is the GPL never changes.

(*) the length of the 1710 statute, which I hope someday returns into force.

Re:An impractical question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044514)

Microsoft will have the right to use Linux 1.0 eventually, even is the GPL never changes.

But not before Bill Gates expires!

Re:An impractical question (2, Informative)

jeroendekkers (803638) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044589)

No, the FSF can't modify the GPL whatever way it wants. Read the GPL:

9. The Free Software Foundation may publish revised and/or new versions of the General Public License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns.

Re:An impractical question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044610)

The theoretical version 10 would only affect code already extant at the time, or any code that those mentioned in this theoretical version chose to release under this licence. Thus people would be free to take code released under version 9 and develop it as before.

Re:An impractical question (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044796)

No, because the GPL says future versions will be "similar in spirit". The FSF publishing a license like that would invalidate the GPL so no-one but the copyright holder would be able to distribute GPLed code at all. It would cause a mess, but it wouldn't let you close the source.

I wouldn't trust RMS (3, Interesting)

iamacat (583406) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044452)

He has a particular purpose in mind, which is forcing everyone to release source to their software. Personally, I have a different goal - releasing my pet projects for free while making sure any commercial users will talk to me and negotiate attribution, compensation and so on. GPL V2 seams Ok for that, but I will never put an "... or later" clause. Maybe eventually FSF will prevent me from using my own code in commercial products or something. I am not sure intellectual property laws are beneficial (at all or beyond say 5 year duration), but even if people are allowed to copy binaries, I sure shouldn't be forced to give up my source.

Given that Linus/many Linux developers seem to have somewhat different goals than RMS as well, it would indeed make sense for Linux developers to fork the license. It's time for something that follows pragmatic wishes of most free software developers rather than one person's political agenda.

Re:I wouldn't trust RMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044475)

I'd just love it if Linux "forked" to a new license and RMS would STFU about it being some kind of subcomponent of the fantasy "GNU" system that he likes to call "GNU/Linux". WTF would he call it if the "GNU" utils and the Linux kernel had a different license? The GNU/kinda-sorta-GNU-Linux OS? blah.

Re:I wouldn't trust RMS (1)

latroM (652152) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044488)

It isn't about the license, it is about the building blocks of the operating system and about the principal author of the system whose development begun as GNU.

Re:I wouldn't trust RMS (4, Insightful)

latroM (652152) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044480)

...Maybe eventually FSF will prevent me from using my own code in commercial products or something.

They can't do that. If you have written the code you can do whatever you wish with it. GPL allows you to use the software under it commercially.

It's time for something that follows pragmatic wishes of most free software developers rather than one person's political agenda.

I don't know about you but I value my freedom with free software. The pragmatical POW is too narrow.

Misunderstandings (4, Informative)

bonniot (633930) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044500)

I will never put an "... or later" clause. Maybe eventually FSF will prevent me from using my own code in commercial products or something.
I think you have two misunderstandings:
  1. As the copyright holder, you can always decide to release your code under another license.
  2. The "or later" clause is at your option, "you" being the licensee. This means that that clause can only grant new rights, not remove rights, since anybody can always decide to chose to see the software as licensed under GPL v2. This is similar to dual licensing.
Both points mean that your fears are not founded.

Re:Misunderstandings (3, Insightful)

Minna Kirai (624281) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044558)

The "or later" clause is at your option, "you" being the licensee. This means that that clause can only grant new rights, not remove rights, since anybody can always decide to chose to see the software as licensed under GPL v2. This is similar to dual licensing.

Yes, but anyone who exercises that option may possibly find himself in the sad position of seeing commericial projects modify and re-release her code, without giving source OR compensation.

The "or later" clause gives RMS (or whoever takes over the FSF someday) the option to do ANYTHING with any code released with GPL version X "or later". It sounds a little insane, but we should remember that Microsoft has enough dollars to buy almost anything, included the FSF!

Re:I wouldn't trust RMS (1)

MathFox (686808) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044518)

For slightly different reasons than you state I would not add a "or later" clause to the copyright notices in my programs. As copyright owner I can allways change the conditions for my open source distribution of my programs. I do trust that the FSF has the well being of Open Source in mind.

I will certainly read the GPL V3 and consider using it on new projects. (Or use an "this project can be distributed under the terms of the GPL V2 or GPL V3" clause.) Only when I find the text acceptable.

Wow, (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044535)

if you don't trust RMS then why the fuck are you using his license? Seriously. RMS is the pope of Free Software. When he says X is Free Software and Y isn't, that's it, end of discussion. So if you don't trust RMS, bugger off and use a BSD license or some other license.

Re:Wow, (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044553)

RMS is the pope of Free Software.

Does that make Bill Gates the antichrist?

Re:Wow, (4, Insightful)

Minna Kirai (624281) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044573)


if you don't trust RMS then why the fuck are you using his license?


People change. They can turn greedy and resentful. They may grow old and senile. And inevitably, they will die, and the organizations they lead will be repopulated with other people whose ideas are non-identical.

Someone's past actions are infinitely more trustable than his future.

If you trust RMS today, then use the GPL. If you trust RMS and all his succssors in the future forever, certain they can never be bought, bribed, or bludgeoned, then use GPL plus "at your option, any later version"

Re:Wow, (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044627)

Well firstly, RMS has never changed. He's been the same since the 70s. Even physically, he's like the unaging man. As for the Free Software Foundation, there is absolutely no possibility that it could suddenly change policy, and even if it were to do so, some future version of the GPL which wasn't in the spirit of the current version of the GPL would simply not be valid. There's checks built into the GPL specifically to prevent that.

Re:I wouldn't trust RMS (2, Insightful)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044554)

Note that RMS still haven't realized his error where it comes to GFDL. In nearly every reviewer's but the FSF point of view, GFDL is flawed to the point of uselessness, and yet RMS sticks to his standpoint.

From what I see, people are escaping the leaking GFDL ship like crazy, with FSF manuals and Wikipedia being the biggest bastions.
The former is governed by RMS, the latter is simply too big to allow relicensing.

I don't trust YOU (1)

Jonti (795505) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044580)

(RMS) has a particular purpose in mind, which is forcing everyone to release source to their software.

Please could you cite your source for this? I mean, I agree that there is a case to be made that any software offered for sale should "display its ingredients" as it were. One could argue that people and corporations should have a right to see what the software they need to run actually does.

But I'm not sure that RMS has specifically called for legislation on this. Can you help out with a reference to back up your claim, please?

Re:I wouldn't trust RMS (1)

femto (459605) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044636)

The GPL states that you can use either the version at the time of release OR a later version. Consequently a user is free to ignore any new versions and continue to use code based on the license it was released under.

As for authors, are they going to sue themselves for copyright infringement? An author can do whatever they want with their code.

Yes, but... is it workmanlike (3, Funny)

Anonymous Cowdog (154277) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044456)

All this talk about forking is well and good. But what inquiring minds want to know, is will the GPL3 be written in a workmanlike [slashdot.org] writing style.

Can't see the problem (4, Insightful)

rescendent (870007) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044464)

Presumably this is to allow more protection from/for patents and copyrights.

Most distributions include demo versions of commercial software, software in the public domain and software under other licences.

Apache is included in most distributions and apache is under the Apache License and apache aren't entirely convinced their licence is compatible with the GPL...

If Apache can be included, where's the problem?

Just some early morning thoughts...

Re:Can't see the problem (1)

chadruva (613658) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044601)

I don't see a problem to include Apache on a Linux distro, even if apache license is not GPL compatible.

The GPL license dosen't cover materials distributed on the same medium as GPL Software.

Altough it would be nice having Apache to be GPL conpatible, soo we can use GPL plugins with it.

Stop being afraid of Change (5, Insightful)

ites (600337) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044470)

Remember that the version 2 of the GPL dates from June 1991. It is an incredible document, and I agree with Moglen's assertion that it's the basis of a multi-billion dollar industry. Stallman will go down in history as a visionary.

But after 14 years, GPL/2 is starting to age. Yes, it addresses current problems, but remember that software written and licensed today must still be protected and viable in 15 years' time.

There is absolutely no point in postponing the introduction of GPL/3. There must be a migration, and there will be a period of overlap.

But change is not something to fear in itself. It's something to plan and to manage, and in this case, it's essential.

Last thing: if you followed the FSF's recommendations as to how to use the license, your code would contain this text:

# This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or
# modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as
# published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of
# the License, or (at your option) any later version.

Which all my company's GPL software contains.

Thanks to Moglen, and the FSF for their fantastic work.

Re:Stop being afraid of Change (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044664)

There is absolutely no point in postponing the introduction of GPL/3. There must be a migration, and there will be a period of overlap.
Personally I think they shoul come up with an interim licence. One which is a "beta" of version 3 that also allows for code to be used under version 2 or the future version3. I think it's important to test the waters with new code and get some feedback. Any licence that is going to retroactively apply to some code should have a period for input. Without peer review, who knows what will end up in it [creativecommons.org] . (Search for "enconomy", I doubt the World Bank is going to call anything that...)

Pro-fork!!! (-1, Troll)

Duncan3 (10537) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044483)

Forking is one of the greatest things about open source, we need more of it!!!

I mean, if it wasn't for duplicating effort, everything would work already, Microsoft would be dead, and what would people do for hobbies? If it wasnt for reinventing the wheel, what would the young coders do? And don't even mention what would happen if we didn't rewrite all the code in a new language every few years - no jobs!

Forking, reinvention, and recoding - love them!

How many IM clients in Sourceforge the days I wonder, up to 1k yet?

Re:Pro-fork!!! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044536)

Story of a Software Project Aplha:

Step 1:
Project Alpha released under GPL2

Step 2:
Developers work on 'Alpha' for many years. Peace and contentment rules the land.

Step 3:
GPLv3 is released, includes software patent language.
Developers revolt! Some want GPLv2 Some want GPLv3..

Step 4:
Alpha.fork1 is GPLv2, and Alpha.forkb is GPLv3.
developers work on their respective forks, mutual resentment burning.

Step 5:
All the improvements from .fork1 get incorporated into .forkb.. because ALL GPL VERSIONS ARE AUTOMATICLY COMPATABLE WITH NEWER VERSIONS.

Step 6:
Developers in .fork1 collectively go 'DOH!' and decide to stop being buttsticks and use GPLv3 like everybody else is. The forks combine.

Step 7:
Developers work on 'Alpha' for many years. Peace and contentment rules the land.

Re:Pro-fork!!! (0)

dadjaka (827325) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044629)

Actually, I read on /. that several of the clients just copy work that others have done. While I doubt that they will ever join up, there may not actually be that much duplication.

Unpleasant forking (-1, Redundant)

soniCron88 (870042) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044522)

"I fear a lot of unpleasant forking..." Oh, get the fork outta here. No such thing as an unpleasant fork. Unless she's got forking warts. Then it'll just fork you up big time.

Whats all the hubbub? Bub? (2, Interesting)

mnmn (145599) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044551)


So what is in GPL3 thats causing all the commotion? All I hear is people saying they'll do this and that and them saying no we wont, and when its out you wont worry. Does anyone even know what differences will be in GPL3?

The only change I'd like to see is " this code cannot be used by Microsoft or SCO or its subsidiaries, or employees in any fasion ". Or better "this code cannot be used by GW Bush to kill innocent people in any country under any circumstances whatsoever" or something to that effect.

Theyre using WindowsNT to drive the battleships anyway.

Re:Whats all the hubbub? Bub? (1)

latroM (652152) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044722)

That wouldn't be neither free software nor open source then

You knew it was coming... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044559)

1) License fork
2) ???
3) Profit!

Licence the GPL more restrictivly (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044561)

with a Creative Commons Licence that noone can derive from it.

Concisely put: (2, Funny)

mas5353 (870037) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044579)

while(1) fork();

Shocky ! (0, Offtopic)

ReidMaynard (161608) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044598)

Shocky is, quite simply, for people who have trouble waking up. When the alarm clock goes off and the snooze button is pressed, Shocky will give a mild 500 volt shock. Each successive Snooze press increases the voltage by a factor of 10 !

Great gift for Xmass .. Stock up Today.

Re:Shocky ! (1)

mysticwhiskey (569750) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044657)

Wake up - you've posted in the wrong forking topic! BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZT!!!!

Re:Shocky ! (2, Informative)

koreaman (835838) | more than 9 years ago | (#12044667)

LOL but...
posted in the wrong topic

Version 3: to good to use (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12044696)

Forking seems like less of a problem than the simple that Linux simply cannot practically be released under a license other than the GPL v2. Linus established Linux as being licensed specifically under version 2 of the GPL. All contributors to Linux hold the original copyright to the code the contributed. The contributions -- as modifications to code explicitly licensed under only version 2 of the GPL -- are themselves explicitly licensed under only version 2 of the GPL. Even if there were compelling reasons to migrate Linux to GPL v3 (patent provisions, etc.), the only way to do so legally would be to contact every single contributor to Linux ever and get them to explicitly agree to re-license their contributed code under the new version of the GPL.
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