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Perens Counters Claim of GPL Legal Risk 145

Posted by Zonk
from the not-so-fast-my-friend dept.
Microsoft Delenda Est writes "After ACT, a Microsoft front group, started claiming that the GPLv3 was legally 'risky' and could give rise to anti-trust liability, eWeek has published a rebuttal by Bruce Perens. Aside from the fact that IBM, HP, Red Hat, and a couple dozen corporate lawyers are watching over the creation of the GPLv3, there is already precedent that shows the GPL is unlikely to give rise to any significant liability — Daniel Wallace v. FSF. In that case, pro se litigant Daniel Wallace was all but laughed out of the courtroom for alleging the GPLv2 violates anti-trust law, and the GPLv3 clauses in question are simply clarifications and extensions of clauses in the GPLv2. Presumably, that is why the ACT neglected to cite any precedent substantiating their allegations."
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Perens Counters Claim of GPL Legal Risk

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  • *Yawn* (Score:1, Insightful)

    by MikeRT (947531)
    Group that is backed by Microsoft to kill GPL says GPL 3.0 is bad.
    Respected open source partisan says GPL 3.0 is good.

    No bias on that one...
    • I don't think you are going to get very far if you try to equate free software advocates with PR hitmen. One group is composed of volunteers out to promote software freedom and your rights. To do this, they share their code and documentation freely. The other group is composed of people who are paid to advocate positions, regardless of their personal beliefs - a job the more closely resembles prostitution than other professions. The company they represents thinks of developers as pawns to fuck over [slashdot.org] and

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dedazo (737510)
        The fact that you claim the moral high ground does not mean you are some sort of saintly martir. Everyone has an agenda. If you are one of these free software "advocates" I hope you're the exception rather than the [slashdot.org] rule [slashdot.org].

        The company they represents thinks of developers as pawns to fuck over

        Nice language. This seems to be your favorite soundbyte of the moment. Something some mid-level manager at a company with 60,000 employees said years ago. Talk about hanging on for dear life.

        I was wondering though - w

        • by inca34 (954872)
          You have completely failed to convince me that the "moral high ground" of FSF does not make them more likely to fairly, honestly, and straightforwardly represent my and the public's interests better than the other group.

          So he used some nice words to contrast volunteer positions versus paid positions, big deal. The essence of his argument boils down to this: We do what we do for the love or for the money. It turns out that people will lie for money. How many will lie for love?

          That may not make him or anyone
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by dpastern (1077461)
          Richard's ideals are far different to yours. He believes that everyone and everyone should be able to use Free Software, without fear of harrassment. He believes that software patents are blatantly illegal, and bad for business. He believes that supporting proprietary formats is bad, or that taking the community's hard work, and modifying it outside of the terms of agreement of the GPL is bad, and worse, illegal (and it is). If you don't like the terms of GPL software, get your hands off it. Simple.

          Goo
          • by dedazo (737510)

            Richard's ideals are far different to yours.

            Yes well, we've already established that, haven't we?

            Big corporate entities like Microsoft don't want you to use FSF software

            Please don't be ridiculous. Microsoft doesn't want me to use anything other than Microsoft software, period. They'd rather I run SQL Server instead of Oracle and Windows instead of OS X. The same way Toyota would rather I drive a Camry than a Ford Mustang. Why do you people insist on attaching such deep significance to simple commercial

        • by eno2001 (527078)
          I think the dissonance in your viewpoint vs. one like mine is that you mistakenly believe that your right to make a profit should have more power and validity than my right to be free. On the surface, those people who want to make money writing software have nothing wrong with them. For the most part many of them are well intentioned. But, when they believe that their right to make money with software should negate my right to create a competitive and completely free (both in terms of speech and gratis [
          • by dedazo (737510)

            you mistakenly believe that your right to make a profit should have more power and validity than my right to be free

            Oooh, can I be combative and cocky as well? Let me say this: your "freedom" stops precisely at the point where my right to make a profit starts. And since your hero Stallman has repeatedly claimed I'm a spawn of Satan (among other things) because I don't give him my code, we're likely to have a problem, no?

            On the other hand, if you're whining about patents (I suppose that's the center of y

      • by jayp00001 (267507)
        I think that the point of the ACT article is that gpl3 DOES take away your rights. IANAL but in essence it seems to me that GPL3 is trying to make it impossible for anyone that creates GPL3 code to partner with any commercial company. It also seems to say that if I wanted build upon your GPL3d work, I am not allowed protect my intellectual property. It also seems pretty ambiguous, and I think that when GPL3 goes to court (as seems inevitable) it will be decimated becaue of its ambiguity. If GPL3 wants to
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ericrost (1049312)
          There is nothing in any GPL v1, 2, 3.. that says you can't partner with a commercial company. There are many commercial companies producing GPL'd code (Canonical anyone?).

          However, it was always the goal of the GPL to make it such that if you wish to benefit from the years of hard work GIVEN to you FREELY by developers that created the GNU toolset, you would have to play by their rules. Which are very simple. Make your work freely available. Distribute the source code... now.. you can charge for the distribu
      • "open source partisan," what is that?

        I don't know about anyone else, but it sure sounds to me like you fit the bill.

        Just because Perens isn't being paid to make this statement (at least directly -- he makes his money largely from his free software advocacy, and this is part of that) doesn't mean that he's not a biased source. He's been one of the core supporters of the GPLv3 from the beginning. His position is just as unsurprising as Microsoft's.

      • by LionMage (318500)
        Partisan [reference.com]: "an adherent or supporter of a person, group, party, or cause, esp. a person who shows a biased, emotional allegiance"

        Don't know where "PR hitmen" came from, but the definition of partisan does seem to more-or-less describe Bruce Perens and a host of other advocates. Bruce might object to the terms "biased" or "emotional," but I think one could objectively point to other opinion pieces he's written where he shows some bias at the very least. Everyone is biased, so this isn't a particularly stron
  • Why tagged Linux? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gnuman99 (746007)
    Why is this tagged Linux? Linus already indicated that Linux will not be under GPLv3.
    • Well, if you call it GNU/Linux the way RMS wants, you'll realize that the GNU part (at least the non-LGPL) almost certainly will be GPLv3.
    • Re:Why tagged Linux? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:08PM (#18677989) Homepage Journal
      As has been reported here previously, Linus is actually pleased with GPL3 draft 3, and will at least consider placing the kernel under GPL3. He really did not like previous drafts. But even if the kernel stays at GPL2, the C library, the main library in a Linux-based distribution, would go to LGPL3, it's copyright is owned by FSF in full. So are GCC, Emacs, a number of other programs. And no doubt other projects will go to GPL3.

      Bruce

      • by Intron (870560)
        Of course, anyone who really doesn't like GPL3 for some reason is free to fork gcc, emacs, etc. and maintain their own GPL2 versions.
        • And those forks will have to be significantly better than the GPL3 originals if they are to last longer than a month or two. I can count the number of successful forks on one hand.
          • And those forks will have to be significantly better than the GPL3 originals if they are to last longer than a month or two. I can count the number of successful forks on one hand.

            They will be significantly better for people who prefer GPL2 over GPL3.
            • Re:Why tagged Linux? (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:02PM (#18678993) Homepage Journal

              And those forks will have to be significantly better than the GPL3 originals if they are to last longer than a month or two. I can count the number of successful forks on one hand.

              They will be significantly better for people who prefer GPL2 over GPL3.

              That won't be the users, since GPL3 doesn't restrict them at all. So, a GPL2 fork of any GPL3 product will need to be technically better to attract the users. It's unlikely that anyone motivated to fork backward to GPL2 will be able to muster sufficient community resources to make such a thing better than the GPL3 version.

              Bruce

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by squiggleslash (241428)

            You'll be surprised how significant a fork over a license change can be [xfree86.org].

            That said, I seriously doubt there will be much traction in GPLv2 forks, as most of the people who appear to oppose GPLv3 either have little respect behind the principles of GPLv2 (and argue as such), or oppose the GPL altogether (I am really not seeing heavy opposition from any group that believes in strong copyleft licenses, using arguments that are based upon the superiority of strong, copyleft, licenses.) Neither of the groups I

            • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:16PM (#18679265) Homepage Journal
              You'll be surprised how significant a fork over a license change can be.

              Why has *BSD acheived less of a market than Linux? Which of these popular reasons do you believe?

              • Because BSD came out for SCSI disks, and Linux came out for PC disks, and BSD has never been able to regain the early-mover advantage.
              • Because people like and respect Linus.
              • Because the good developers prefer sharing-with-rules licensing to gift licensing.
              • Because even RMS is more warm and fuzzy than Theo.

              :-)

              Bruce

              • by The Monster (227884) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @04:40PM (#18681511) Homepage

                Because even RMS is more warm and fuzzy than Theo.
                You're INHUMAN! And your inhumanity retroactively excuses code theft. Which we didn't do. How dare you accuse one of our developers of code theft! It wasn't deliberate; it was a mistake. We meant to rewrite the copied code before committing it to the tree, and thereby create merely a derived work of the original, but not 'derived' in the legal sense, mind you. We didn't really steal anything because it didn't actually run or anything.

                You inhuman bastards are the reason we hate Linux.

                </Theo>

        • by petrus4 (213815)
          Of course, anyone who really doesn't like GPL3 for some reason is free to fork gcc, emacs, etc. and maintain their own GPL2 versions.

          This is pretty much always said with the rhetorical implication that a fork of gcc in particular would require an impossibly large degree of intellectual labour to maintain seperately.

          "Of COURSE you're free to fork gcc under GPL 2! But you'll find, after a few months, that in practice the program is just too complex to be able to maintain your own fork effectively. So when y
          • by sumdumass (711423)
            SO far, the people who would need to fork the GPL2 stuff is the companies not wanting to be bound by the extra restrictions. While this isn't a lot of people, it is significant on several ways.

            1:) they can higher developers to maintain the code.
            2:) The maintinence won't need to be the full blown development like the main project will need. All that will need to be maintained is the stuff neccesary to make it work for them.
            3:) Some developers will stay with GPLv2 because it would appear they are being forced
      • IIRC, Torvalds said he's pleased with the changes, not that he's pleased with GPLv3 itself. The misunderstanding boils down to a poorly written CNET headline:

        "I'm actually pretty pleased [com.com]. Not because I think it's perfect, but simply because I think it's certainly a lot better than I really expected from the previous drafts," he said in an interview. "Whether it's actually a better license than the GPLv2, I'm still a bit skeptical, but at least it's now 'I'm skeptical' rather than 'Hell no!'"

      • As has been reported here previously, Linus is actually pleased with GPL3 draft 3, and will at least consider placing the kernel under GPL3.

        Linus' position on a kernel licence switch has been greatly distorted. While he didn't like the earlier V3 drafts for some of its ideology he wouldn't have transfered the kernel over from V2 anyway for the simple fact that he doesn't have the copyright for the entirety of the kernel codebase. There is no practical way for him to contact all copyright holders to get appr
        • Re:Why tagged Linux? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:23PM (#18679381) Homepage Journal
          There is no practical way for [Linus] to contact all copyright holders to get approval for a switch in the license. The Linux kernel will always be GPL2.

          Fortunately, it's not as big a problem as you believe. But how can the Linux kernel project, with its thousands of developers, change its license? We can't even reach them all, and some of those developers are dead and their estates don't know software licenses from driver's licenses. But changing the license is easier than most people think.

          First, it's not a fundamental change: the intent of GPL 3 is that of GPL 2, the change is in the implementation. Given that, what would be required for such a change would be for Torvalds (or someone else) to publish his intent to start making releases with the new license, as a legal notice. A certain number of people would object, and they would have the right to require that their contributions be removed from the new release.

          The kernel team has never been loath to replace code when necessary, and never slow to handle the job, no matter how large the item to be replaced. Just look at the replacement of Bitkeeper with "git", a big job that took a ground-up rewrite and yet was working in five weeks. So, code belonging to GPL3-objectors would be swiftly dealt with.

          After some time passed, the release would happen under the new license, and life would go on. There is precedent for this, as Torvalds has already made two significant changes to the prelude to GPL2 on the kernel, publishing his intent and then making a release.

          Bruce

          • by qbwiz (87077) *
            So the kernel would still be infringing on the copyrights of the people who are out of the loop, but because they're out of the loop we don't care about them, and if they ever started caring about us they probably wouldn't sue us?
          • Bruce, maybe you can correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm not aware of a legal theory that would make this work the way you describe. Code licensed under GPLv2-only (as opposed to GPL v2 or later) can't legally be distributed under a more restrictive license, such as the GPLv3. To do so would be a copyright violation, and announcing one's intent to do so in advance would not change this. Linus of course can relicense his code, but not that contributed by others without their consent. Everyone, including Lin
          • by asninn (1071320)

            The kernel team has never been loath to replace code when necessary, and never slow to handle the job, no matter how large the item to be replaced. Just look at the replacement of Bitkeeper with "git", a big job that took a ground-up rewrite and yet was working in five weeks. So, code belonging to GPL3-objectors would be swiftly dealt with.

            No, I don't think that's true. The fundamental difference is that git was being developed when McVoy started interfering with actual development; Linus didn't mind t

            • by sumdumass (711423)

              hat's more likely is that code that was contributed as being under the GPLv2 *only* will slowly be replaced by "GPLv2 or GPLv3" code; and when all pieces are suitably licensed, there may be a switch from "GPLv2 or GPLv3" to "GPLv3 only", at which point the kernel would properly be licensed under the GPLv3. But it just as well might not happen, and if it does, it's going to be an evolution, not a revolution.

              You have to be careful. GPLv2 or later code contributed to a GPL2 only project can only be GPLv2 on

    • by hackstraw (262471)
      Why is this tagged Linux? Linus already indicated that Linux will not be under GPLv3.

      OK. Maybe I'm just behind the times or something, but what was "wrong" with GPLv2?

      I've glanced at the side-by-side comparisons between the two, and I see the changes, and I've heard many people gripe about GPLv3, so why is there a push for it?

      • by walt-sjc (145127)
        Because it allows for Novell / Microsoft type agreements???
      • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:13PM (#18678083) Homepage Journal
        OK. Maybe I'm just behind the times or something, but what was "wrong" with GPLv2?

        GPL has never stood alone, it has always depended on the local interpretation of copyright and other law to give it force, and those things change over time.

        When the GPL was written, there was no web, music came from phonograph records, video from tape, and rather than DRM there was rudimentary software "copy protection". The renaissance of microprocessors, software, the web and digital media worked a tremendous change in the law with many changes to copyright, patents, the nature of consent, contracts, tear-open licenses, and copyright permissions. And there have been many trials over those years that added interpretation to laws that GPL 2 depends upon. As the law changes, GPL must change to keep up with it, or it will become increasingly un-enforcible.

        Thanks

        Bruce

        • by PMuse (320639)
          The renaissance of microprocessors, software, the web and digital media worked a tremendous change . . .

          Seems to me to be more of a naissance, since there wasn't much of a dark age in computing between the invention of the microprocessor and now.
          • by SL Baur (19540)

            there wasn't much of a dark age in computing between the invention of the microprocessor and now

            Actually, I think there are several candidates for "dark age of computing". Pick one:

            1. The rise of the C/C++/Java (pick one) language instead of a more safe-by-design language as a programming standard.
            2. "Endless September" dating from when AOL users became a significant factor in Usenet
            3. Microsoft Windows 95 - dating from mail and network applications defaulting to behavior that had been proven unsafe a decade or more earlier.
            4. The takeover of email by unscrupulous advertisers - dating from when the majority of
            • by PMuse (320639)
              The so-called dark ages, if dark they were, lasted ~900 years and are characterized as a retreat from the scholarship and achievements of, inter alia, ancient Greece. While generations are short in computing, our analogy should be seeking a period of at least years when we forgot or ignored what those before us knew. Perhaps:
              • The disconnected era (between initial multi-user computing and the ubiquitous networks of today).
              • The pre-web era (though the advent of the web is more of a naissance without the 're'
      • by g2devi (898503) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:39PM (#18678589)
        Besides the other reasons stated (the N-M deal, the GPL depends on US-specific concepts), the GPL v2 is incompatible with more free software licenses than it needs to be and this leads to some license fragmentation.

        The GPL v3 attempts to fix this problem by adding a "permissions clause" which allows the original license owner to add other permissions (e.g. the LGPL is now the GPL plus some permissions) and by adjusting the license to be more compatible with the free software norm (e.g. the Apache license is now almost compatible with the GPL v3. The patent clauses are now compatible, unfortunately the Apache indemnity clause was a bit too strong for the GPL community to swallow. ).

        This "permissions clause" makes it easy for the average user to understand how different flavours of the GPLv3 can combine -- just drop incompatible permissions and end up with the common subset (which would be no less restrictive than the GPL v3).

        This could allow you to define the CPL, PHP license, Mozilla license, etc as GPL + some permissions and either get rid of the original license or publish "equivalent GPL+permissions versions" of these licenses along side the orignal (simpler) license so as to make it obvious how you can combine code from your license with other licenses.
      • Ask the authors of the majority of the licences in this [opensource.org] list that are copyleft.

        The simple reality is that GPLv2 wasn't perfect. Many projects have seen the need to create their own licenses, often licenses that are incompatible with the GPL. Some of those licenses are more liberal than the GPL, others are more strict. In many cases, small changes to the GPL that would have had the support of the vast majority of people who use it, would have made the license acceptable.

        The big one concerns the effects

      • by drsmithy (35869)

        OK. Maybe I'm just behind the times or something, but what was "wrong" with GPLv2?

        It's still too easy to "productise" GPLed code (eg: by tying it to a hardware device like Tivo did).

  • I think that the first legal risk that the Microsoft Corporation should worry about is the risk of pursuing anti-competitive business practices. Their historic success at monopolizing personal computing software has not escaped anyone's attention and we know that it isn't all because of their stellar products.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @12:57PM (#18677799)
    You could argue that the restrictions that GPLv3 is intended to prevent -- web services running off GPL software without sharing code, for example -- are a marketplace effort to move open source licensing closer to BSD-style.

    Thus, if the marketplace already views GPLv2 as too encumbered, it is unlikely that commercial code released in the future will be licensed under GPLv3, or that commercial entities will contribute to GPLv3 open-sourced projects. Before you argue that this is irrelevant, consider the amount of commercial code that has radically improved Linux in the past five years or so.

    I'm not sure if this an argument for or against GPLv3.
    • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:27PM (#18678345) Homepage Journal
      You could argue that the restrictions that GPLv3 is intended to prevent -- web services running off GPL software without sharing code, for example -- are a marketplace effort to move open source licensing closer to BSD-style.

      Well, this might be moot because GPL3 won't prevent the performance of web services using undisclosed modified internal GPL3 code. RMS feels that this is your right, and has only provided a way for people to optionally apply the Afero GPL, which does prevent this, to GPL3 code.

      But your posting touches on a more fundamental topic, where the market is attempting to move Open Source licensing. There will always be a difference between the goals of companies who offer licenses along with their developed code, and companies who receive those licenses. Companies that receive Open Source code will always want BSD-style licensing as it gives them more options to keep their own development using that code proprietary. Companies that release Open Source code will tend to want a more restrictive license as this enables a dual-licensing revenue stream so that they can charge those folks who want to keep their development proprietary.

      We can leave the motivation of non-companies to another discussion, since your question did not touch upon it, but they often have reasons to want a sharing with rules (GPL) license over a gift (BSD) license. And of course a detailed discussion of motivation for gift or sharing licenses would be much larger than this little posting.

      Thanks

      Bruce

      • We can leave the motivation of non-companies to another discussion, since your question did not touch upon it, but they often have reasons to want a sharing with rules (GPL) license over a gift (BSD) license.

        One notable instance where creators (companies or no) often prefer a gift license over a sharing with rules license is when the software promotes a standard, where adoption of the standard (and a uniform reference platform for same) is often more important than the implementation itself.

        • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:32PM (#18679535) Homepage Journal
          One notable instance where creators (companies or no) often prefer a gift license over a sharing with rules license is when the software promotes a standard, where adoption of the standard (and a uniform reference platform for same) is often more important than the implementation itself.

          I state this in paper on which Open Source license to choose that I give to corporate customers. If you really want everybody to adopt it, even your worst enemy, use BSD. But then don't complain if they make it work incompatibly from your version, as Microsoft is wont to do.

          Bruce

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Khopesh (112447)

        RMS feels that this is your right, and has only provided a way for people to optionally apply the Afero GPL, which does prevent this, to GPL3 code.
        Affero GPL [wikipedia.org] is the correct spelling.

        I had to stop using scroogle's search scraper and go to google directly to get the spelling correction. I am sure there are others with this problem.
    • by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:52PM (#18679833) Homepage Journal

      Thus, if the marketplace already views GPLv2 as too encumbered, it is unlikely that commercial code released in the future will be licensed under GPLv3, or that commercial entities will contribute to GPLv3 open-sourced projects. Before you argue that this is irrelevant, consider the amount of commercial code that has radically improved Linux in the past five years or so.

      Yes, do consider the amount of corporate contribution to Linux, and then think about why that work has gone into Linux and not into BSD. Why have IBM, SGI, Red Hat and others chosen to put so much effort into improving Linux rather than BSD? I posit that the GPL, far from being a bitter pill that corporate contributors unwillingly swallow, is the reason they chose to contribute to and work with Linux. IBM, for example, has no interest in putting its efforts into improving a codebase that can be ripped off by Microsoft or other competitors. Code contributed to a GPL project reaps returns in the form of other code that the contributor gets to use, but code contributed to a BSD project may or may not.

      Consider Sun, also. They're in the process of open-sourcing Java, and there are strong rumors that Sun plans to license OpenSolaris under GPLv3. Why not BSD?

      Because BSD is better for those who take, and GPL is better for those who give. There are exceptions, of course, but in general contributors have fewer concerns with the GPL than with the BSD, and that is why the corporate world has overwhelmingly favored GPL over BSD. IMNSHO, it's also why the volunteer community has overwhelmingly favored GPL over BSD.

      What does this have to do with GPLv2 vs GPLv3? Well, projects that get corporate contributions are going to have to look and see if v3 poses any risks to the continued flow of contributions. In practice, I really doubt that any corporations who are willing to contribute and whose contributions we want are going to be put off by GPLv3 because v2 and v3 are essentially the same. v3 tightens up some loopholes and fixes the language, but the basic goals expressed by the license are identical, so the only people who might like v2 but not v3 are those who want to exploit the v2 loopholes -- meaning those who want to exploit the open source community and don't care about their reputation in that community.

      If GPLv3 keeps such bad-faith contributors out, I think that's a bonus, not a cost.

      • by init100 (915886)

        so the only people who might like v2 but not v3 are those who want to exploit the v2 loopholes -- meaning those who want to exploit the open source community and don't care about their reputation in that community.

        In other words, the SCOs of the world.

  • It works just fine without one. They are merely a waste of disk space. Licenses are for lawyers. Not for regular people, or computers. A simple "created by..." is good enough. Nobody can take the code away.
    • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:41PM (#18678629) Homepage Journal
      my computer doesn't parse licenses, it works just fine without one

      Then, you are not running any recent Mac or Windows system. Your computer probably depends on the work of people who would not have released their code at all without the GPL. Like the GCC developers, for example, whose work started with Richard Stallman's first implementation. GCC is most likely used to compile the system you are running.

      Richard Stallman agrees with you. He doesn't restrict your right to use the software. It is copyright law that restricts your right to distribute other people's software, to modify it, etc. Richard would rather that there were no copyright law. Since there is, he uses the GPL to turn copyright law upon its head as well as he can.

      Bruce

      • by iminplaya (723125)
        What I'm saying is that the computer doesn't read and agree with a license when I fire it up. "Trusted" computing is an apparent attempt to change that, I suppose.

        Since there is, he uses the GPL to turn copyright law upon its head as well as he can.

        Yes, I actually DO agree with that. GPL derives its power from copyright law, which of course is a good thing. I am happy to see this happening for that reason. But a big problem, to me anyway, is multiple licenses in one program. Talk about bloat! The big compan
      • Richard Stallman agrees with you. He doesn't restrict your right to use the software. It is copyright law that restricts your right to distribute other people's software, to modify it, etc. Richard would rather that there were no copyright law. Since there is, he uses the GPL to turn copyright law upon its head as well as he can.

        Are you intentionally trying to make Stallman out to be Jesus? Your style is exactly like that of religious people who try to indoctrinate kids. "Jesus loves you. He would rather th
        • Are you intentionally trying to make Stallman out to be Jesus?

          I do not happen to be a member of a religion that preaches belief in Jesus. On the other hand, I have experience that Richard is a living individual :-)

          The original posting "my computer doesn't understand licenses" was sort of deliberately simplistic and childlike, and this may have flavored my response.

          Then again, the spirit of St. IGNUtious may have posessed me. Here, [declan.net] child, you may have an icon of St. IGNUtious.

          Bruce

      • by volpe (58112)
        Richard would rather that there were no copyright law.

        If there were no copyright law, all his work would be in the public domain. If that were the case, I could take it, modify it in a neat and innovative (i.e. valuable) way, and sell DRM-laden binaries without having to redistribute either his original source or my patches. If this is the way RMS would rather it be, he's certainly free to put all his work in the public domain, isn't he?
        • If this is the way RMS would rather it be, he's certainly free to put all his work in the public domain, isn't he?

          The problem with putting his work in the public domain is that you can take the work and make a copyrighted modified version. So, public domain unfortunately plays into the hands of people who want to make copyrights with restrictive licensing.

          Bruce

    • IANAL but i think that every program from the smallest "hello world" up has some sort of license so just remember
        lawyers are just folks that never stopped playing in the debate club and laws are just the "rules of the game"
      • by iminplaya (723125)
        The license is there, but the program will run without it. To the computer it's just another occupied block of disk space that goes completely unused. That much less space for my documents. But you're right. We're just caught in the crossfire in a fight amongst lawyers.
    • Licenses are for lawyers. Not for regular people, or computers. A simple "created by..." is good enough.

      They're also for coders. A lot of coders will refuse to code if the result is going to be placed under an unfavorable license.

      And for consumers. I think you like the guarantee that your software will be reasonably priced (probably free) and that if the original developers give up, someone else will maintain the software so your documents don't bitrot when you move to a different computer architecture, etc
  • Does Microsoft know anything about anti-trust?

    Well, I suppose they are anti-trusting their consumer base.

  • But, to Perens, the fact that Microsoft is currently giving to customers coupons that can be redeemed for a copy of SUSE Linux indicates that these coupons are intended to be redeemed for a copy of the copyrighted GPL 2 software.

    "So, Microsoft is actively participating in distribution of the GPL2 software today, and must have assented to GPL 2 to do that, because any distribution without assent to GPL2 would be infringement. Under GPL 2, they have already given away the rights to use Microsoft patents th

    • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:33PM (#18678477) Homepage Journal
      Giving away coupons makes Microsoft a distributor of GPL2 software as much as giving away free BigMac coupons makes a radio station a BigMac distributor.

      The word "coupons" might have led you astray. What Microsoft is giving out is paid-up Novell licenses which Microsoft pays for. Either the distribution or support inherent in those licenses, which is done on Microsoft's behalf, involves copying: a direct infringement if you haven't agreed to the license. And there is also the potential for contributory and vicarious infringement in the law. In contrast, when a radio station gives out Big Mac coupons, it is always doing so on behalf of Macdonands, who is paying for that form of advertising. So, it's not the same thing at all.

      Bruce

      • Ok, I'm confused:
        Your original statement says:

        "So, Microsoft is actively participating in distribution of the GPL2 software today, and must have assented to GPL 2 to do that, because any distribution without assent to GPL2 would be infringement. Under GPL 2, they have already given away the rights to use Microsoft patents that are applied in the Novell distribution, for any use in any GPL software, by anyone, forever," Perens said.

        You then further clarify:

        What Microsoft is giving out is paid-up Novell licen

        • If you ship something by UPS, they are doing the shipping on your behalf, you are the one with legal liability. In contrast, Microsoft showed detailed knowledge of the product's provenance and its licensing in their announcements, etc., and is having Novell ship it and render services (including modified copies) on Microsoft's behalf.

          Bruce

  • by filesiteguy (695431) <kai@perfectreign.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:00PM (#18677881) Homepage
    Wow! After reading that the GPL v3 could constitute a legal risk by me, I'm happy I'm using SUSE and not <insert distro here>, which isn't covered by the non-agression treaty setup between Microsoft and Novell.

    Think about the droves of people and organizations who will now be joining us (Microsoft and Novell) in ensuring their users and customers are lawsuit-free by only using GPL v2 and hiding behind the MS agreeements.

    Thank you ever so much, Steve!

    Thank you Ron!

    Seriously - I figure the GPL v3 is being worked over so much that - like v2 - whatever challenges will hold up just fine.
  • by MarkWatson (189759) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @01:05PM (#18677951) Homepage
    Hey, I actually read the article - I must be new here :-)

    I am looking forward to the V3 release of GPL and LGPL. I especially like the way the new LGPL draft basically just references the V3 GPL (draft), with exceptions.

    I believe that Microsoft's claims of anti-competitiveness of the new GPL is laughable. Microsoft sets a high standard for anti-competitive activities, in my opinion. Also, people and organizations who want to live, play, and build systems in the LGPL/GPL infrastructure world should be allowed to do so - Microsoft's push here seems to be desiring to remove people's freedom to pick alternative (to Microsoft) development strategies. No big surprise.

    I have some influence on my customers (I am a consultant) and I use this influence to convince them to go open source on more of their projects.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mr_mischief (456295)
      I don't get the whole anti-competitive thing either.

      Let's look at three scenarios:

      Let's say you grant me a license to your software, and license it GPL. If I give or sell a copy to my competitor, I must give him the same chance to make changes that I had. How is that anti-competitive? It sounds like it levels the field, not the opposite. If I write software that does the same thing later, I have the choice to write it from scratch, to pay for libraries, or to release my sources and build on what you license
      • by init100 (915886)

        Let's say you grant me a license to your software, and license it GPL. If I give or sell a copy to my competitor, I must give him the same chance to make changes that I had. How is that anti-competitive? It sounds like it levels the field, not the opposite.

        The court that threw out Daniel Wallace lawsiut against the FSF more or less said the same thing:

        [T]he GPL encourages, rather than discourages, free competition and the distribution of computer operating systems, the benefits of which directly pass to consumers. These benefits include lower prices, better access and more innovation.

    • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:07PM (#18679097) Homepage Journal
      Thank you. You might find this one [technocrat.net] useful as well. I wrote it just before GPL3 version 3 came out, the conclusions are unchanged upon reading the third draft. The scope of GPL3's tivo-ization restrictions has been reduced somewhat, but my advice on how a company could handle DRM still applies.

      Bruce

  • by srmq (123358)
    Perens thinks that with the Novell-MS deal, MS is granting rights to all their patents that may be used in a SUSE distribution for any use in any GPL software. And this under the current GPL 2.

    ... to Perens, the fact that Microsoft is currently giving to customers coupons that can be redeemed for a copy of SUSE Linux indicates that these coupons are intended to be redeemed for a copy of the copyrighted GPL 2 software.

    "So, Microsoft is actively participating in distribution of the GPL2 software today, and m

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bruce Perens (3872) *
      Perens thinks that with the Novell-MS deal, MS is granting rights to all their patents that may be used in a SUSE distribution for any use in any GPL software. And this under the current GPL 2.

      This started with a legal theory that Eben Moglen, FSF general counsel, gave at the FSF annual meeting. Someone should interview him on it.

      Bruce

  • Microsoft delenda est... Cato the Elder, Scipio, et al would be proud! Throw the Tarquins off the Tarpeian Rock!!
  • by sux0rz (90490)
    If anyone knows anti-trust lawsuits, its Microsoft. However, they've never been concerned about them in the past.
  • Thanks ACT, for providing criticizim at such an early stage, providing an opportunity to review the GPLv3 before release. Thank you for the increased public attention.

    Allowing the FSF to defend GPLv3 against FUD early in the game simply makes it less likely that people(customers) will be affected by FUD at a later date after GPLv3 has been deployed.

    ACT is stupid.

    • Wow, you're right!! We're dumb. We spend money to do a legal analysis of the GPLv3 to look at potential downfalls and then share it with the community during the comment period... when they can actually change it.

      If we were just trying to spread FUD, that would be idiotic!!!

      Perhaps you, Bruce and the rest of the community would be better served by reading, digesting and taking lessons from the actual content of our work we provided, rather than simply launch ad hominem attacks.

      Just a thought, not a serm

      • I don't care about your work, it will fail. Proprietary software fails all four core concepts in economics, it's a pipedream. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economics#Core_conce p ts [wikipedia.org] It's like fiat money except, comparatively, very few people have a vested interest in keeping it afloat. The proprietary software industry as a whole may simply be decreed (in court) as worthless at any time. It's a naturally occurring service industry, and software vendors are selling cdr's marked up several million times, this w
        • Thanks for all your really thoughtful commentary. You're such a kind, open-minded, and well-reasoned human being. No wonder the quality of discussion is so high here on Slashdot.
          • *REVISED*
            I am not a lawyer, go argue this with a lawyer, leave me alone. Charge me with anti-trust and you can talk to my lawyer. Otherwise stfu!
  • Key quote: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gillbates (106458) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:06PM (#18679075) Homepage Journal

    We note that the draft of the GPLv3 does not tear down the bridge Microsoft and Novell have built for their customers. It is unfortunate, however, that the FSF is attempting to use the GPLv3 to prevent future collaboration among industry leaders to benefit customers..

    I believe what Horacio Gutierrez really meant was: "It is unfortunate, however, that the FSF is attempting to use the GPLv3 ... to benefit customers..."

    Because Horacio's argument just doesn't make sense. Typically, industry collaboration works to benefit the industry, not the consumer. In fact, I believe the boards of most corporations would consider collaboration among companies to reduce price and increase features (thereby reducing profit margins) to be a breach of fiduciary duty on the part of the CEO. I'm not aware of any company trying to decrease its profit margin, yet this is what Horacio suggests. In fact, I think it is just the opposite: industry collaboration tends to stifle new features, increase cost, and reduce the functionality and usability of software. The FSF is actually having a positive impact on the industry by virtue of its increasing competition. It is the classic example of how capitalism minimizes inefficiencies in markets - currently, the major proprietary software makers aren't very efficient at producing what the market wants. In comes the FSF, and solves the problem.

  • Hope the person who wrote this isn't a programmer, I sure wouldn't want to use any software (s)he worked on.

    The idea that the GPLv3 is likely safe from litigation because one case against GPLv2 was laughed out of court is itself laughable.
  • Interesting twist (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gillbates (106458) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @02:34PM (#18679573) Homepage Journal

    The threat of being completely cut off from the ability to distribute GPL code can easily be seen as extreme and unfair for any company...

    I believe even Microsoft is being forced to admit the power of free software.

    Remember when Microsoft said Linux was irrelevant? When Balmer called it a toy?

    Now it seems they are making the claim that free software developers must allow Novell to distribute their works, according to Novell's conditions, or suffer liability under a claim of tortious interference.

    So it would seem that:

    • Free Software does have an impact on the business world, and:
    • Microsoft is laying claim to it, as if they own it.
    • Developers of free software could be forced to distribute it under Microsoft's terms, or face liability under theory of tortious interference. That is, even though you gave away your software for free, you aren't allowed to change the license terms if it interferes with someone else's established business.

    What is particularly galling about this position is that Microsoft's lawyers seem to be of the opinion that if someone stopped giving away their software - software upon which Microsoft has built a business relationship - that Microsoft can now sue the author, who received no money for his work, for damages.

    Yes, this is our legal system at work. Where the refusal to give away software can get you sued.

    I imagine by this reasoning, Microsoft could be sued for tortious influence the next time they raise the price of Vista.

    • Hmmm... It seems to me that Microsoft could have a problem here. They specifically crafted their agreement with Novell to interfere with Novell's license to use Linux (the GPL). The changes on patents in GPL v3 are just clarifications. Version 2 already "makes it clear" that patents must be licensed for everyone's free use or not licensed at all. Novell's deal with Microsoft is framed as a "covenant not to sue" Novell's customers, but it is in fact a license for their customers to use Microsoft's paten
  • Read the Papers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dick Wilder (1086699) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @03:56PM (#18680843)
    Bruce Perens has responded to the papers I wrote for ACT without having read them. He made the absurd statement to eWeek, repeated here, that the Daniel Wallace case "shows the GPL is unlikely to give rise to any significant liability." I was talking about GPLv3, not an earlier version and the Daniel Wallace case was based on a predatory pricing theory - not group boycott theory as I discussed. Different facts, different law, different result. It would be great if someone with some legal training look at this, if not Mr. Perens. They are at http://www.actonline.org/documents/ACT-GPLv3-Legal -Risks.pdf [actonline.org] and http://www.actonline.org/documents/GPLv3-License-o r-Contract.pdf [actonline.org].
    • Re:Read the Papers (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @06:53PM (#18683241) Homepage Journal
      Mr Wilder, had you sincrely wished to solve any problems with GPL3, there were avenues open to you including participation in the committees and use of the feedback process. But that's not your role here. Your employer is a lobbying front for Microsoft, a company that has a vested interest in spreading fear and doubt about GPL3.

      I checked with Eben Moglen, general counsel of the Free Software foundation, before writing a rebuttal to the eWeek material. Moglen had seen your paper and did not consider it worth his time to respond.

      I responded to your quotes in eWeek since they had already run in the press. I have no desire to propogate the rest of your material.

      I think it would be helpful for you to debate your material with an attorney supporting GPL3, instead of me. Unfortunately, we have not yet found an attorney who sees sufficient merit in your work to find it interesting to engage you.

      Bruce

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