Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Court Rules GPL Doesn't Violate Antitrust Laws

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the happy-penguins dept.

80

unix4reel writes "Internet Cases reports on a new decision from a federal court in Chicago holding that 'the GPL and open-source have nothing to fear from the antitrust laws. The suit was against IBM, Red Hat and Novell, arguing that by distributing Linux for free, they offered products at an unbeatably low price (free), thus discouraging new market entrants and stifling competition. The court took a different view, focusing instead on how the GPL fosters new development."

cancel ×

80 comments

w00t (4, Interesting)

thejrwr (1024073) | more than 7 years ago | (#16787965)

This just goes to show you, that the GPL is well written! Take that Microsoft!

Isn't that Wallace the Spam King? (1)

shankarunni (1002529) | more than 7 years ago | (#16787977)

Who's "plaintiff Wallace"? The Spam King?

Re:Isn't that Wallace the Spam King? (1)

schon (31600) | more than 7 years ago | (#16793318)

Who's "plaintiff Wallace"? The Spam King?

No; this is Daniel Wallace - net.kook, and inventor of "sciBSD", a purported OS, which in reality consisted of a (very) badly written HTML page.

just me or (-1, Offtopic)

x2A (858210) | more than 7 years ago | (#16787979)

are we gonna be able to reply to posts on this thread? Is it just my comp tha's got a problem? Or are replies to posts not showing up for everyone?

GPL is a little tough guy (5, Insightful)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 7 years ago | (#16787995)

Long live common sense!

Re:GPL is a little tough guy (1)

IAmTheDave (746256) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796010)

Long live common sense!

It's always uber-painful waiting for common sense to wake up. Look at Iraq, DRM, RIAA, GPL, NTP, etc., etc. - sometimes I feel like I have this ability to foreshadow common sense years into the future.

I know that everyone will eventually catch up, but it's so difficult to wait...

Unbeatable? I think not! (4, Funny)

thewiz (24994) | more than 7 years ago | (#16787999)

The suit was against IBM, Red Hat and Novell, arguing that by distributing Linux for free, they offered products at an unbeatably low price (free), thus discouraging new market entrants and stifling competition.

Wrong, free is not unbeatable; they just need to pay the end user top use their software!

Re: just me or (-1, Offtopic)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788001)

@ x2A

It's not just you. Slashdot has lost it's mind and decided to run things like digg.com in 2005. how very lame.

Unbeatable price? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16788003)

I would contend that OSS released under GPL does have a price.. that is, accepting of the GPL itself. I think that you will find that some people may find that a steep price indeed.

Re:Unbeatable price? (2, Insightful)

ErroneousBee (611028) | more than 7 years ago | (#16793354)

Users do not have GPL restrictions, only people modifying and distributing do.

The only restriction that might conceivably hit a user is if they give away Linux CDs, or sell PCs with Linux installed, as they become liable to distribute the source too.

Re:Unbeatable price? (2, Insightful)

BranMan (29917) | more than 7 years ago | (#16793444)


      Bzzzt! Wrong, thanks for playing. The GPL itself says, in plain english, that you did not have a chance to see the GPL beforehand, you did not sign anything, you do NOT have to 'accept' the GPL - the software is free to do with as you please. The only reason you need to accept the GPL is IF you are re-distributing it or distributing modified versions of the software - that is all the GPL covers. That's it. NO ONE just using GPL software has to accept the GPL at all.

Interesting thing about the opinion... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16788007)

See http://www.internetcases.com/library/cases/2006-11 -09_wallace_v_ibm.pdf [internetcases.com] , where the judge goes off the rails of reality in the very first paragraph:
Authors who distribute their works under this license, devised by the Free Software Foundation, Inc., authorize not only copying but also the creation of derivative works--and the license prohibits charging for the derivative work.


If the Court makes a mistake that fundamental -- the idea that you can't charge for software derived from other GPL software -- then we should all consider ourselves lucky that the opinion in toto was correct. IANAL, but doesn't this kind of "bug" open up possible avenues for appeal?

Re:Interesting thing about the opinion... (1)

colinleroy (592025) | more than 7 years ago | (#16792680)

The comments at http://lwn.net/Articles/208617/ [lwn.net] explain that quite well, I think. I thought the same as you initially, but it looks like the court did his homework in fact.

Re:Interesting thing about the opinion... (1)

Arnoud Engelfriet (566876) | more than 7 years ago | (#16793756)

I read that as "prohibits the distributor from charging *those who create derivative works* for creating derivative works". That makes sense given the "no additional restrictions" language of the GPL. Even if the judge meant "no one may sell his own GPL-derivative work" it's not something to base an appeal on. And not just because this *is* the appeal. That part of the reasoning is not crucial to the judge's finding. Had he omitted that sentence, the rest of the verdict would be just as sensible. Arnoud

Slashdot broken (0, Redundant)

SoapDish (971052) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788017)

For anyone who doesn't know yet, there was a database error, and we can't reply to eachother until it's fixed. It will take a few hours.

There is a story about it on the main page, please stop asking about it.

Victory over a paper tiger. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16788057)

The goodness of this victory is diluted by the fact that Wallace didn't have the money to properly argue his case. As such, it doesn't have much value as a precident. If someone with big bucks was making the argument, and if the GPL was being defended by someone with no resources, the decision could have gone the other way.

Note that the bully boys of the RIAA always go after people who don't have the resources to defend themselves. Even then they lose the occasional case. Justice in this country goes to whoever can hire the best lawyers.

Am I cynical? Yep.

A black day for Alexander Terekhov (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16788073)

What will he troll the usenet about now?

What was the Plaintiff thinking? (5, Interesting)

parvenu74 (310712) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788085)

This should have been a really easy case in which prove a lack of harm to the marketplace: simply copy the GPL software released by IBM, Red Hat, and Novell onto a DVD, write your own label on the disk with a Sharpie (Sam's Software Stack, perhaps?) and then sell it to someone right there in the court room and ask the judge and the defendants if there is anything in the GPL license or the law which makes that act illegal. Case closed.

This isn't obvious (5, Informative)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788097)

(IANAL)

It sounds like the case didn't deal with the GPL directly. The case dealt with selling software below cost. This is important, because in some states it is illegal to sell commodities below cost. (This was to deal with Wal-mart offering loss-leaders and driving small companies out of business). So it is a valid question to ask: Is it legal to sell software below cost? The court found that unlike commodities, the software industry can thrive with companies offering free software. That makes sense to me.

To put a fine point on this, it has little to do with the GPL (a copyright) since this was not an analysis of copyright. And it had little to do with open-source, since I can sell open-source software. It deals with free (as in beer) software.

Guy with no case loses to well funded corporation. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16788103)

So, some guy with no legal case loses to IBM's well paid legal team.

IBM has both the law itself, and reams of money on their side. The other guy doesn't.

This is about as close as it gets to an "open and shut" case.

What's this? (4, Insightful)

keesh (202812) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788119)

What's this? A court that gets it and actually understands technology issues? Amazing.

Re:Unbeatable price? (5, Informative)

Roger_Wilco (138600) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788121)

Wrong.

Like copyright law, the GPL says nothing about users. It merely grants people the right to make copies under certain conditions. Since using it does not require any permissions you do not already have, you do not need to accept the license to use it.

The same would be the case for non-free software, except for the existance of EULAs. (And they may be on shaky legal ground.)

Seriously, folks, read it sometime. It's the clearest bit of legalese you're likely to find.

What Price? (4, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788123)

I would contend that OSS released under GPL does have a price.. that is, accepting of the GPL itself. I think that you will find that some people may find that a steep price indeed
Unless you are comparing it to the BSD license, then there is no price. The GPL only restricts how you may redistribute the product. Most commercial software cannot be redistributed, so this is a non-issue. The GPL in no way inhibits your abilities to use the software.

Re: Victory over a paper tiger (4, Insightful)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788161)

Umm, if you think that someone with no resources could be successfully prosecuted for violating antitrust laws, you probably don't understand antitrust law at all. If you're too small to harm your competitors though anti-competitive activity, then by definition you can't violate antitrust law.

Re Unbeatable price? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16788163)

Unless you are comparing it to the BSD license, then there is no price. The GPL only restricts how you may redistribute the product. Most commercial software cannot be redistributed, so this is a non-issue. The GPL in no way inhibits your abilities to use the software.

That is exactly what I am comparing it to. I am saying that the GPL has a price for certain "consumers", namely those that want to use the software as part of a bigger product.

GPL licensed software might be incompatible for me, because I may not be able to accept the license for a myriad of reasons. Therefore, there is ground for competition. I likened this to the "price" of the software.

Re:Re Unbeatable price? (1)

hesiod (111176) | more than 7 years ago | (#16798274)

So you are saying that you are writing software that depends on some free software and you are mad that you can't use the free software in your non-free software? If you're a good software developer, then you can rewrite it.

Challenge was doomed because of the Constitution. (4, Insightful)

Zaphod-AVA (471116) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788183)

Challenging the GPL on those grounds was doomed to fail, because the GPL's intent, and the intent of copyright are the same.

From the good ol' Constitution, Section 8:

"Congress shall have the Power"... "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries"

The whole reason we have copyright is to promote the useful sciences and arts, which is exactly what the GPL is for as well, they simply use different methods.

Re:Challenge was doomed because of the Constitutio (1)

theonetruekeebler (60888) | more than 7 years ago | (#16822472)

Now try telling the RIAA and MPAA their copyrights are secured "for limited Times." That limited time has been bumping up decade after decade. There's a (MS Word) paper [vaughnbox.net] tracing the history of copyright in the U.S., noting how copyright profiteers have lobbied relentlessly for increased control and rights they never had before.

To be honest, I think the GPL actually protects re-users because otherwise copyright would work against them. The Linux kernel, for example, contains the original work of hundreds of individual developers, each of whom has copyright over his code. If you use their code without agreeing to the GPL, well, you're using a lot of copyrighted source code without the authors' permission, aren't you? In fact this is how GPL challenges against companies like Linksys and Cisco have worked:

Developer: You're using my code in your product.
Company: So? You open sourced it. Your loss!
Developer: So you agreed to publish *your* source code.
Company: Piss off!
Developer: My source code is copyrighted by me...
Company: Wait a minute...
Developer: ...and your product is a derivative work based on my product. Shall we discuss royalties now, or in front of a judge? Oh, and I'm just one of about sixty people you'll be having this same conversation with.
Company: *grumble* Err, let me just run this by my lawyer.
Lawyer: You did *what*?
And that's how it's gone, every single time.

Copyright can be use for both good and evil. But copyright protection these days is usually a synonym for profit protection.

That's Daniel Wallace (2, Informative)

darthlurker (663459) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788201)

Not Spamford. Sounds like another "entrepreneur" who's considerable initiative and risk appears to be the extremely dangerous task of filing lawsuits. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Wallace_(plain tiff) [wikipedia.org]

Those pinky-commie judges! (2, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788205)

It simply isn't American to charge nothing for nothing! How could they rule that it's ok to give stuff away for free?

Re:Isn't that Wallace the Spam King? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16788207)

He is a nut job that makes SCO look sane. I think he has been selling this idea online for a long-time. This is the second case where he has been laughed out of court. He tried suing the FSF for the same thing, basically, that he tried suing IBM and company for. Really, I think he is some crackpot, lawyer-wannabe who thinks he will actually manage to win one of these cases.

Not an unbeatable price. (1, Redundant)

Aqws (932918) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788213)

Free isn't an unbeatably low price. You could always pay people to use your software.:p

Stifling market entry? (5, Insightful)

Miseph (979059) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788237)

Admittedly, I didn't RTFA, but if the summary above is at all accurate, and part of the argument is that GPL software being "sold" for free prevents new competition, then isn't the entire argument obviously flawed? Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Blizzard, Adobe, etc. all make a killing on non-GPL software; is someone really going to try and tell me that GPL licensed software has made it too hard for them to compete?

Besides, Linux "vendors" are really in the support business. Nobody is stopping anybody from opening up their own support business for any distro they want. It can't even be argued that the 'vendors" have some sort of unfair advantage because of exclusive access t5o the source code... because they are required to distribute it, for free, to anyone who wants it. Even direct competitors! The only barrier to entry for me from slapping a decal on my car and declaring myself a traveling Linux support tech for hire is that, well, I'd be a thoroughly useless Linux support tech. And blaming that on IBM just won't fly no matter how good my lawyer is.

Same person that sued FSF (5, Informative)

Dr_Art (937436) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788239)

This is the same person [wikipedia.org] that unsuccessfully sued the FSF, also for alleged antitrust reasons.

RE: This isn't obvious (1)

Vexo (825223) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788269)

(IANAL) It seems completely obvious to me that prohibitions to selling below cost do not apply to free software. Ignoring the whole "software is not an actual good" argument, charities and other "freebie" programs offer things below cost all the time. Even calling these cases "sales" is dubious, and the same distinction should hold for F/OSS. A law designed to prevent anti-competition by banning loss-leaders and the like should only apply to an entity that can compete! Charging for service or distribution is another matter entirely.

Besides, although the R&D cost of software may be high, the marginal cost of production (the cost to produce one more unit) is essentially zero. It is hard to sell something for less than zero.

Re:What was the Plaintiff thinking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16788277)

And this is why programmers should not try to be lawyers.

FYI, that act would be illegal. See Red Hat's trademark policy [redhat.com] for details.

antitrust (4, Interesting)

mikeee (137160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788279)

The interesting point the court made is that antitrust law is made to protect consumers, not businesses. Selling below cost violates antitrust only if it's part of a plan to drive out your competitors and jack up prices later. Since the GPL doesn't allow the 'jack up prices later' part, there's no anti-trust harm to consumers, and no grounds for action.

My question... (1)

FuzzyDaddy (584528) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788349)

was Grommit also a plantiff?

GPL has no price (3, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788357)

I would contend that OSS released under GPL does have a price.. that is, accepting of the GPL itself.


And you would be wrong, since accepting the GPL is not required to receive or use GPL'd software, by the terms of the GPL itself. It is only required to have the privilege of modifying or distributing software distributed under the GPL. Its not an EULA. You lose no right that you had without the GPL when you accept the GPL, you simply gain limited privileges that you did not have before.

Re:GPL has no price (1)

strikethree (811449) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796468)

It is only required to have the privilege of modifying or distributing software distributed under the GPL.

IIRC, this statement is not true either. If you change your "or" to an "and" it should fix it though. You are explicitly allowed to modify GPL software with no obligations incurred until you decide to distribute.

strike

Re:GPL has no price (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#16799088)

You are explicitly allowed to modify GPL software with no obligations incurred until you decide to distribute.


Well, its unlikely that anyone is going to know or take any action if you modify a copy without distributing it, but see paragraph 4 & 5 of the GPL:

4. You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under this License. Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License. However, parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long as such parties remain in full compliance.

5. You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License. Therefore, by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of this License to do so, and all its terms and conditions for copying, distributing or modifying the Program or works based on it.


Also, note that even if you accept the GPL, it doesn't impose any conditions on modification that aren't distributed except (and this even may be arguable) the 2(a) requirement of prominent notice of modification in the changed files, so its not like its a big deal in any case if you aren't distributing, to be sure.

Re: Interesting thing about the opinion... (2, Interesting)

frankie (91710) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788367)

and the license prohibits charging for the derivative work.

Mr Coward misinterprets what that sentence is saying. It's not saying you can't sell derivative copies (pretty sure none of these [google.com] are directly from Mr Torvalds); it's saying the licenser (original seller) isn't allowed to charge the licensee (new buyer) royalties if the buyer wants to sell their own version. Which is exactly correct.

FUCKER (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16788377)

to haapen. My [goat.cx]

Reply to geoffspear (2, Insightful)

Eric Damron (553630) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788455)

Sorry, because of the database error we can't reply in a thread so I'll just reply here.

geoffspear wrote: "Umm, if you think that someone with no resources could be successfully prosecuted for violating antitrust laws, you probably don't understand antitrust law at all. If you're too small to harm your competitors though anti-competitive activity, then by definition you can't violate antitrust law."

IANAL but I don't think your statement is entirely accurate. I don't think a monopoly has anything to do with how much money you have or earn from your product. I could be wrong and if so I hope an actual lawyer will correct me but I believe that a monopoly is based on how much of a market share you control.

It would seem intuitive that if you controlled a monopoly share you would have lots of income from that share but in the case of Open Source many companies give the software away for free and earn their income through support services/contracts etc.

In a case like this your product could hold a monopoly share but if your services were not bringing in any money you could still be dirt poor.

Cheaper than Free (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788461)

You can go cheaper than the low low price of Free.

Pay people to buy it.

Or, under some definitions, sell below costs ala XBox360, PS3, Zune...

Call In Ballmer (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16788479)

The suit was against IBM, Red Hat and Novell, arguing that by distributing Linux for free, they offered products at an unbeatably low price (free), thus discouraging new market entrants and stifling competition.
They should've just got Microsoft to explain how the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is much higher with OSS than with Windows - the case would have been thrown out there and then!

Re:Unbeatable price? (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788571)

You don't have to accept the terms of the GPL if you only want to use the software... you only need to accept them if you want to create derivative works (since the only way the GPL denies you permission to copy the original work is if you try to create a derivative work without agreeing to the license).

How to compete with free (1, Interesting)

phorm (591458) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788575)

Offer a consistently superior contract. In the OS business would, offer a consistently superior product for free, and charge for a good service contract.

Re:Victory over a paper tiger. (4, Informative)

kilgortrout (674919) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788617)

The author of this opinion, Judge Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, is from the University of Chicago and is very highly respected, particularly for his opinions dealing with economic issues. He is a Reagan appointee and is noted as a very intelligent and intellectual free market proponent, in keeping with his U of C econ background. His opinions carry a lot of weight among other judges within the federal judiciary, particularly on commercial and antitrust issues.

He also has a reputation of not suffering fools lightly and he can be extremely confrontational in oral argument. I've argued two appeals before him and it's an experience I'll never forget. At any rate, the fact that this opinion came from Judge Easterbrook will carry a great deal of weight. The precedent isn't tarnished by the lackluster plaintiff. Nobody else would have the balls to contend the GPL violates antitrust laws; it's a frivolous argument from a nut. I'm sure Easterbrook tore this guy a new one in oral argument.

Re:Interesting thing about the opinion... (1)

karlto (883425) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788713)

If the Court makes a mistake that fundamental -- the idea that you can't charge for software derived from other GPL software ...

I'm not sure that's what it says - I read it as not being able to charge other parties for the derivative works they create.

In response to the FUD spreader up above... (-1)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788775)

And you would be wrong, since accepting the GPL is not required to receive or use GPL'd software, by the terms of the GPL itself. It is only required to have the privilege of modifying or distributing software distributed under the GPL.

Idiocy. Under the upcoming GPL v. 3, accepting e.g. a GPLd webserver will force me to distribute the source of my programs that run ON TOP OF IT even when no modification has been made to the server itself. So, by accepting GPLd software, you will have to distribute not only the source of any modified version (if you distribute it at all), but also the results of your work if you used the software to actually DO something.
What's funny is that OSS advocates were screaming in disgust when FUD-spreaders went around saying that if you use OopenOffice.org you have to give away all your documents because of the viral nature of the license. Thanks to GPL v. 3, this is exactly what will happen. Well, if RMS has it his way. Thank god Apache is not GPL, and again that sensible people are making better OSs than Linux. I wonder why Linux is still involved with it.

Paper Tiger? (1)

mutube (981006) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788799)

Reply to this [slashdot.org] .

While this may have been a fairly gentle attempt at testing the GPL under antitrust, I doubt the GPL would be in much danger regardless of who it faced. There are enough people with investment (monetary, ideological or otherwise) in the survival of the GPL to stump up the cash should it depend on it. If we all gave a fiver...

can this be appealed? (1)

gravesb (967413) | more than 7 years ago | (#16788905)

IANAL, but a law student. If the judgment is in your favor, even if all of the underlying facts or statements by the judge are incorrect, you cannot appeal. So, even if the judge misstated the GPL, the fact that he ruled in the favor of the parties defending the GPL means that they can't appeal to get his statements fixed.

Re:In response to the FUD spreader up above... (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 7 years ago | (#16789045)

> Under the upcoming GPL v. 3, accepting e.g. a GPLd webserver will force me to distribute the source of my programs that run ON TOP OF IT

Pure and unmitigated bullshit! That's not even possible, since the GPL doesn't force anything! It relies on copyright law for its teeth, and your programs on top of the web server would not be derivative works as defined by copyright law, so there's no way for the GPL to affect them! What will change in the GPLv3 is that if the webserver (or a webapp) comes with a built-in option to download its own source, you will not be able to remove that option, and must ensure that any modifications you make to the server (or app) itself are reflected in the source that gets automatically downloaded, but there's absolutely nothing about magical "infection" of unrelated products. And that only applies to programs which already include the option to automatically download their own sources--a pretty small list indeed.

Where do people come up with this crap?

Re:GPL is a little tough guy (1)

Mahler (171064) | more than 7 years ago | (#16789049)

Indeed, it should be called CSL, the Common Sense License

Publish OpenOffice.Org documents? (1)

JoeInnes (1025257) | more than 7 years ago | (#16789159)

There are a number of reasons this is not legally required. Number 1, a document produced using a program licenced under the GPL does NOT constitute a derivative work, and as such, these documents are not required to be licenced under the GPL. Number 2, the GPL does not give the user an obligation to distribute his or her work. Admittedly, it's not ideal, but you would not be required to release copies of anything. You could keep all of the document on your computer, and then not be subject to the terms of the GPL. This is purely hypothetical, and assumes that any document produced would be subject to the GPL, which it wouldn't. Joe Innes

Re:GPL has no price (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16789211)

Copyright law prohibits copying a protected work without permission. Permission is therefore required to legally load software onto a system, which is a prerequisite of using it. While using the software is technically outside the scope of copyright law, practically it can be seriously influenced by it.

The GPL grants the copying subject to certain stipulations on modification and distribution, not on use, but EULAs are a different horse indeed. You must accept the GPL's stipulations in order to load the software, and there are some people who really object to those stipulations, so there is a price involved. Of course, all of the objectors I've read, were objecting precisely because they wanted to take the code and turn it into their product, which is precisely what the GPL was written to prevent, so I have no sympathy for them.

More typical Slashdot "logic" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16789229)

The suit was against IBM, Red Hat and Novell, arguing that by distributing Linux for free, they offered products at an unbeatably low price (free), thus discouraging new market entrants and stifling competition.

But when Microsloth did that with IE, it WAS so construed.

The antitrust laws are sufficiently plastic that any activity could be ruled illegal under them.

Re: can this be appealed? (1)

Dr_Art (937436) | more than 7 years ago | (#16789297)

(IANAL) The case was dismissed "with prejudice" and the dismissal was based on the failure of the plaintiff to show that he suffered damages or that antitrust law applied to him since he was a "producer" and not a "consumer". "With prejudice" means the plaintiff has lost and can't appeal. The statement about the GPL was not a finding, but simply some explanation used by the judge. So there'd be no reason for the defendant to appeal to correct the explanation.

For example, if the judge said "I find that you are not a consumer. One reason that you are not a consumer is that the sky is green." There would be no reason the appeal that the sky is rather blue. But if the judge said "I find that the sky is green and that you are not a consumer.", then we might have to worry about green skys becoming a legal precedant.

Re: can this be appealed? (1)

JoeInnes (1025257) | more than 7 years ago | (#16789377)

IANAL either, but surely linguistically the first statement makes an assumption about the plaintiff based on a fact that not only is obviously untrue but is irrelevant. Therefore, logically, the plaintiff should (whether or not he does) be allowed to appeal, either on grounds of the judge being biased, mentally unstable, or both? The second statement makes two seperate assertions, that are not dependent on each other. There is no logical need to dispute the sky being green, even if it's wrong, as it's a completely different statement. If the judge said "You're not a consumer, and I'm hungry", then he may or may not be hungry, it doesn't matter, the first part of the sentence is the important part. (In the example given, this is the second part).
IANAL, but I am a linguist, and a pedant.

Re:In response to the FUD spreader up above... (1)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 7 years ago | (#16789383)

Idiocy. Under the upcoming GPL v. 3, accepting e.g. a GPLd webserver will force me to distribute the source of my programs that run ON TOP OF IT even when no modification has been made to the server itself. So, by accepting GPLd software, you will have to distribute not only the source of any modified version (if you distribute it at all), but also the results of your work if you used the software to actually DO something.
What type of non-sense is that? TTBOMK, There is no clause that says anything at all like that. The closest thing to that is the clause that allows a GPLv3'd application with a web interface to require derivatives to maintain the ability for the users to obtain the source of the web application. That only applies to the web application, not to anything run under it, and it only applies to web applications that already have a means of transmitting its own source to the end user, and only applies if that license Option is invoked.

Re:Interesting thing about the opinion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16789397)

The Court made no mistake. Please read the GPL:
"...
1. You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program's source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an appropriate copyright notice and disclaimer of warranty; keep intact all the notices that refer to this License and to the absence of any warranty; and give any other recipients of the Program a copy of this License along with the Program.

You may charge a fee for the physical act of transferring a copy, and you may at your option offer warranty protection in exchange for a fee. ..."
so, IANAL too, but as I understand you are allowed to charge for a service of distribution and/or "warranty protection" (any meaning you want to give to this term), otherwise you are not allowed to ask money for the software itself - GPL says nothing about it, so "charging for the derivative work" is in fact not allowed.

'Victory over a paper tiger' NO NO NO (2, Insightful)

Mammothrept (588717) | more than 7 years ago | (#16789411)

Anonymous Coward asserted:

"The goodness of this victory is diluted by the fact that Wallace didn't have the money to properly argue his case. As such, it doesn't have much value as a precident. If someone with big bucks was making the argument, and if the GPL was being defended by someone with no resources, the decision could have gone the other way.

Note that the bully boys of the RIAA always go after people who don't have the resources to defend themselves. Even then they lose the occasional case. Justice in this country goes to whoever can hire the best lawyers.

Am I cynical? Yep."

You and a lot of other people will be rereading bits of this opinion for years. It was written for law school textbooks as much as it was to dispose of this case.

First off, it was a Court of Appeals decision, not a trial court. Second, it was Frank Easterbrook, a very well known and somewhat regretfully, well-regarded senior judge. He is a big in the Law and Economics school of judges and other judges pay attention to his stuff. He doesn't cream the plaintiff on something mundane like standing or another procedural issue. Instead, he deals clearly with the most basic antitrust and GPL philosophy issues imaginable. And he gets it right.

Threadless reply (1)

MrCopilot (871878) | more than 7 years ago | (#16789485)

This should have been a really easy case in which prove a lack of harm to the marketplace: simply copy the GPL software released by IBM, Red Hat, and Novell onto a DVD, write your own label on the disk with a Sharpie (Sam's Software Stack, perhaps?) and then sell it to someone right there in the court room and ask the judge and the defendants if there is anything in the GPL license or the law which makes that act illegal. Case closed.

Ahem, please remove all copyrighted artwork and trademarks before redistributing.

But your point is well taken, The playing field is leveller(?) than ever, and I believe the Judges were able to come to that conclusion.

GPL wins in court, was there really ever any doubt? Uncertainty? Fear?

Feeling a little pollyanna after recent events?, maybe.

Antitrust? (2, Interesting)

linuxhansl (764171) | more than 7 years ago | (#16789537)

The court took a different view, focusing instead on how the GPL fosters new development.

Why does it even matter what the court thinks about beneficial or detrimental effects to the software business? There are some folks who work on software in their own time and release it for free. Who will deny them their right to release whatever they own for free?

What's next? A writer releasing short stories or books for free... Will we also need a court musing about whether this is violates antitrust law?

This case should have been thrown out in the beginning.

Re:Unbeatable price? (1)

volpe (58112) | more than 7 years ago | (#16789653)

It's not a very steep price if you're just *using* the software.

"You sir have been legaly ajudicated an idiot." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16789661)

Its too bad the court could not further rule that wallace is also an idiot.

Re: can this be appealed? (1)

Dr_Art (937436) | more than 7 years ago | (#16789711)

(IANAL) I don't suppose there would be anything to prevent a plaintiff from filing an appeal even if their suit were dismissed "with prejudice". If the plaintiff could show the judge was obviously biased, mentally unstable, or both, then the appellate court would theoretically be able to remedy it (e.g., vacate the judge's ruling). But to be more precise, the "with prejudice" means the original judge won't hear any additional motions by the plaintiff on the case. If the appellate court (and so on up the chain of appellate courts) agrees with the judge, the plaintiff is out of luck.

The point I was trying to make was that the important part is the judges' finding and not the irrelevant statements about the GPL with respect to derivative works.

assholes change tune to suit themselfs (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#16790129)

honestly the GPL hating pricks out there need to STFU. on the one hand they put out bullshit "proving" that linux costs more, on the other they go to court claiming linux is unbeatably cheap - make your fucking minds up.

Unbeatably low price? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16790329)

But Microsoft claimed that the total cost of ownership for Linux is higher than that of Windows.

this will become a problem when... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 7 years ago | (#16790846)

....consumer choice becomes illegal.

For that is what teh GPL is alll about.... comsumer choice, be the consumer a developer or an end user

Re:Unbeatable price? (1)

nhaines (622289) | more than 7 years ago | (#16791240)

Hardly. The GPL is not an end user license. It's something you only have to accept if you distribute the software verbatim or modified.

You're free to do all the usage and private modification you like.

Dan Wallace's Online Rantings (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 7 years ago | (#16791660)

http://search.messages.yahoo.com/search?.mbintl=fi nance&q=walter_oak_night&action=Search&r=Huiz75WdC YfD_KCA2Dc-&within=author&within=tm [yahoo.com]

Or use this url:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/t9uxc [tinyurl.com]

Otherwise known as "how so many brain cells can get so much wrong"

Laughter inducing.

--
BMO

Re:Unbeatable price? (1)

Eivind (15695) | more than 7 years ago | (#16791676)

That doesn't work. Because they're talking of the terms for *using* the software, not the terms for *redistributing* the software.

The terms for *using* GPL-software are very simple: You may use GPL-software in any way you want.

You are not even required to accept the GPL if you are only *using* the software.

Doesn't get much simpler than that.

So, no. *using* GPL software has no price. And no conditions whatsoever imposed by the GPL.

It *is* ofcourse subject to the limitations in laws. If you do something with a piece of GPL-software that is illegal in your jurisdiction, you can offcourse be punished for this. But that's not a GPL-issue.

Another Wallace (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#16791808)

Sanford Wallace [wikipedia.org] , the "spam king".

Daniel Wallace [wikipedia.org] , who might have helped FSF by giving them a valuable prior case.

Unbeatable price? Yes, for end users. (2, Insightful)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#16791822)

You don't have to accept the GPL if you are an end-user.

The only people who have to worry about the GPL are those who are going to redistribute the code.

Re:Unbeatable price? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16792212)

No, you don't have to accept the GPL to use the software. The GPL only covers redistribution of the software (or derivitave works).

Some installers, such as MySQL for Windows, make you click through the GPL to proceed. This makes no sense, and as the FSF point out, you'd be entirely within your rights to hack software to avoid that.

Re: Victory over a paper tiger (1)

ChetOS.net (936869) | more than 7 years ago | (#16792306)

Perhaps I am misunderstanding what you are saying, but it was *against* IBM, Redhat, and Novell.

The little guy with no resources was suing them, not the other way around.

Re: Victory over a paper tiger (1)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 7 years ago | (#16793986)

Yes, and it literally couldn't be the other way around; Microsoft couldn't try to sue a little guy with no resources for selling GPL'ed software based on antitrust law, because by definition nothing the little guy with no resources does can possibly violate antitrust law.
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...