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BitKeeper EULA Forbids Working On Competition 694

Col. Klink (retired) writes "BitKeeper's new EULA forbids working on the competition. Larry McVoy has told Ben Collins that he can't use BK because he works on subversion (a free revision control program). In fact, you can't use BitKeeper if you OR your company have anything to do with competing software. Free Software advocates who were upset when Linus decided to use non-Free software now have the opportunity to say 'I told you so.'"
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BitKeeper EULA Forbids Working On Competition

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  • by dirvish ( 574948 ) <> on Sunday October 06, 2002 @05:20AM (#4396196) Homepage Journal
    I don't feel like reading a EULA "working on" I assume that means contributing code. Is that correct? It doesn't mean using the program, right?
  • by patSPLAT ( 14441 ) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @05:29AM (#4396210) Homepage
    The Subversion folks would like nothing better than to displace BK.

    Larry McVoy has an entirely reasonable business concern. He has also now provided the momentum for that concern to materialize. This may provide the motivation for Subversion to produce the cvs.succ that we all wish for late at nights, writing posts such as this one.

    ~ pS
  • by caluml ( 551744 ) <slashdot&spamgoeshere,calum,org> on Sunday October 06, 2002 @05:30AM (#4396212) Homepage
    What was the reason behind not using standard CVS like other OSS projects?

    Is the kernel just too big for it?

    P.S. I don't have an opinion as to which oen they use - as long as the one they do use gets the job done, and is secure.
  • Too bad. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 7-Vodka ( 195504 ) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @05:30AM (#4396213) Journal
    It seemed like bitkeeper was working out quite well for the linux kernel. I liked the detailed changelogs that started apearing after the switch.

    Hopefully one of the teams working on Free alternatives will get it to a stage suitable for maintaining the kernel.

    I wonder what they'll be using when linux 4.x rolls around? Maybe linux will still be using bitkeeper and the HURD will be using something like subversion (assuming the HURD becomes easy enough for us mortals to use by then :)

    I'm hoping that by the time I wake up this afternoon there will be interesting comments by the top kernel hackers, the FSF and Linus about this.

  • by The Fanta Menace ( 607612 ) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @05:54AM (#4396248) Homepage
    The open source community will produce a better alternative under the GPL without using their software. Just like Windows is not the developer enviroment for the kernel, BitKeeper will not be the revision control software used for Subversion.

    This isn't the issue, however.

    The problem was that the developer of Subversion was also a kernel developer. I don't think that they were using Bitkeeper for developing Subversion - but the developer used Bitkeeper to check patches into the kernel. Now he cannot use Bitkeeper at all, and hence it is more difficult for him to work on Linux

    No, it's not Bitmover who is at fault here - it's a problem caused by using non-free software to develop Linux.

  • by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @06:01AM (#4396260)
    CVS is quite powerful and fast. I think just about any project for which CVS is not powerful enough probably needs to be broken up into larger numbers of independent source trees and groups of developers. And, yes, I include the Linux kernel in that assessment.
  • Re:RMS was right (Score:5, Interesting)

    by albalbo ( 33890 ) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @06:03AM (#4396265) Homepage
    Many slashdot posters seem to think Richard is just a voice crying out in the wilderness, but increasingly he seems to be a prophet.

    Absolutely right. Lest we forget, EULA clauses not allowing people to develop competitive (esp. Free Software) products is something Microsoft does []. And they were rightly derided for that. Are we saying just because Bitmover are giving away free stuff that we're not going to apply the same standards?

  • Alan Cox? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vsync64 ( 155958 ) <> on Sunday October 06, 2002 @06:04AM (#4396268) Homepage
    Does Alan Cox use BitKeeper, and if so, does he pay for his copy? I would imagine not, given his stances on free software and intellectual property.

    I'd like to point out that Alan Cox works for RedHat, whose operating system includes CVS. I would venture to guess that RedHat hackers have contributed to CVS, at the very least with a 1-line diff here or there. This makes RedHat both a reseller and a developer of CVS, and even if he doesn't personally have anything to do with CVS (doubtful) he is forbidden from using the openlogging version.

    I find it ironic that at a time when BitKeeper is trying to sway developers toward their product, they create onerous conditions which prevent a prominent developer and political spokesman from using said product on any sort of trial basis.

    Technically, I suppose I'm not allowed to use BitKeeper either, since I've written (and released, I think; I'll have to double-check) an add-on to CVS which parses and cross-references checkin logs.

    The really funny thing is that CVS is quite prevalent in the free software world, where it is extremely common to create patches and add-ons. The most effective referrals to BitKeeper would be from CVS hackers or those otherwise extremely experienced with it, but by preventing precisely these people from trying BitKeeper out, the one thing that could help BitKeeper the most -- a public defection from a "pet project" -- is verboten.

    It's rare that we get to see such an obvious case of shooting oneself in the foot.

  • Re:Alan Cox? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by another_plonk ( 534010 ) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @06:25AM (#4396312)
  • This makes RedHat both a reseller and a developer of CVS, and even if he doesn't personally have anything to do with CVS (doubtful) he is forbidden from using the openlogging version.

    Nope. You entire argument rest on the premise that CVS "contains substantially similar capabilities" to BitKeeper. It doesn't... not just in my eyes, but in the eyes of Larry McVoy and BitMover. Larry has repeatedly stated that if CVS was good enough, he'd never have had to start developing BK in the first place. CVS is fundamentally flawed in its design, and doesn't come close to BK in terms of capabilities. By far the biggest one is its lack of changesets, but there are others, too. Hence, RedHat shipping CVS has no bearing on use of BK by any RH employees. Now if Red Hat shipped TrueChange, Perforce, or (more relevant in this case) Subversion, then it would be a different matter. And even if they did, I'm sure Larry would make an exception, or modify the license slightly. He's a reasonable guy, and wants to do the right thing, but at the same time, he has a business to run, and staff to pay, and it's perfectly reasonable for him to take steps to protect that.

  • by ebyrob ( 165903 ) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @07:03AM (#4396379)
    From the site:

    If you can't afford a good source management product, use CVS, we'll help you migrate off of it when the time comes.

    Wow... We use CVS at work and certainly haven't felt it isn't "industrial enough" to handle what we're after. Quite the opposite in fact.

    Broken builds?? What do they think the last tagged version of the stable branch is supposed to be for?

    "plain text" a bad thing? I find I can usually trust products that keep plain things plain, much more than ones that try to over-complexify everything. If a developer can't handle managing several checkouts of a repository in his/her own work area, he/she probably doesn't deserve the title.

    RCS limitations? Be nice to see some of the most prominent listed if they are such a big deal.

    The multiple repository thing does seem interesting, but I'd think if it came to where you really needed it, something could be worked out using CVS without too much work... Actually, in practice it would seem better to get everything into the main repository as quickly as possible so everyone else can start testing on the code sooner, even if there was a bit more overhead associated with doing that.

    Course, maybe this BitKeeper appeals to managers more than actual developers...
  • by tomlord ( 473109 ) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @07:54AM (#4396448)
    > he was under the perception that the so-called
    > "community" would donate enough money to allow
    > him to accomplish that.

    No, I wasn't. The community did keep me afloat for longer than I otherwise would have been, while I worked on getting corporate funding for a small team to finish and polish the hell out of arch.

    Now an interesting question becomes: what does the bitkeeper license imply to IBM, HP/Compaq, Red Hat, Suse, Mandrake, and other businesses that depend on the linux kernel?

    This event points to a more general problem: the free software business world needs a better infrastructure for all projects, not just the kernel. Now they have one more reason to believe in the urgency of this need.

  • by yerricde ( 125198 ) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @08:55AM (#4396557) Homepage Journal

    After all, you don't see people complaining on LKML that Microsoft Visual Studio is not free.

    The Microsoft Visual Studio EULA doesn't prohibit licensees from developing GCC. On the other hand, the free(beer) BK license prohibits users of free(beer) BK from developing revision control software, even if they don't use free(beer) BK to develop such software.

  • hmm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Raven42rac ( 448205 ) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @09:08AM (#4396597)
    well that is just incredibly stupid and immature, that would be like an eula in phoenix or mozilla telling you that you can not use IE, not that you would want to anyway, but still, is this even legal?
    I thought EULAs were unenforcable, and usually get laughed out of court. I am no expert, so help me out on this one.
  • Re:Illegal (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06, 2002 @09:29AM (#4396660)
    1. You can contract your rights away. That is, private contract law can *supercede* the constituional rights. (Note: That illegal contracts, such as a contract for murder is void, since you never had the right in the first place to kill someone.)

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. One cannot contract away protections provided by law (including those enumerated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights). That is very clear. As for this EULA, if it's found to interfere w/ interstate commerce (and it probably can be interpreted that way), the Feds will be happy to get involved.

  • by tomlord ( 473109 ) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @09:50AM (#4396712)
    > Is there a website....

    No. I didn't say that commercial support has been found. It hasn't.

  • by gehirntot ( 133829 ) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @11:51AM (#4397071)
    This event points to a more general problem: the free software business world needs a better infrastructure for all projects, not just the kernel. Now they have one more reason to believe in the urgency of this need.

    At least for content management systems, there is a very solid CVS replacement:

    OpenCM [].

    One of the many features of OpenCM is cryptographic integrity protection.

    Go, read their webpage.

  • by dh003i ( 203189 ) <> on Sunday October 06, 2002 @12:12PM (#4397161) Homepage Journal
    No court in the nation is going to enforce those kind of EULA terms.

    It would be like MS saying you can't use MS Word if your using it to write up a document critical of MS, or to write up source code for something competing with an MS product.

    Most of these EULA terms are either unenforcible practically, or simply would not be upheld in a court of law. I believe the anti-competitive terms in this EULA are both. Firstly, as I said before, no court is going to enforce such non-sense. To do so would usher forth an era where every product includes a license forbidding you to use it if you work for or help a competitor. Secondly, this is simply unenforcible, or largely so. Why should anyone abide by this? There are no consequences if they don't, except perhaps being forced to stop using it. This is not a case where any financial damage enters the picture, so there's no potential cost to violating the license. Third, even if it is enforcible within the US, that can easily be side-stepped by hosting one's project outside of the US, where the US has no jurisdiction.

    What really annoys me about this BitKeeper people is their audacity to say that they are actually trying to help the community. No, they are not. They are doing this to make money, not to help the community. Its fine that they want to make money, but its not fine that they try to say that a Free Software project isn't trying to help the community, and that they are. The Ben Collins was right not to help BitKeeper, as BitKeeper has now proven by these draconian licensing terms. Helping non-free projects will invariably harm the Open Source (OSI-compliant) and Free Software (FSF-compliant) communities, in several regards. Firstly, it will encourage people to use non-free software. Secondly, as non-free software will become more popular and universal, the community will become more vulnerable to draconian EULA licenses like BitKeeper's.

    That aside, this is just proof that Stallman was right. You can't rely on a product with a EULA. They will always include draconian licensing terms. We should be switching over to Subversion and supporting that.

    Supporting non-free software will always hurt the cause of Free Software, and will ultimately hurt development of Free Software (which includes the GNU/Hurd; GNU/Linux; and the Free-, Open-, and Net -BSDs.

  • "The sad part is that many software companies tries to control HOW you use the program, WHO uses it and WHAT they use it for."

    Yes, and changing the license AFTER you have already started using the software is bait-and-switch.

    Thanks to this abusive policy, Bitkeeper now has tons and tons of bad publicity. With certainty, the bad publicity will cost them more than any extra money they would have made from the bait-and-switch. Incidentally, did I mention bait-and-switch?

    Every company that would have paid for the Bitkeeper product interprets this sneaky activity very clearly: If they can do sneaky things to Linus, they can do this to our company, too. We should stay away from them. They are not trustworthy.

    This is typical of technically capable people who know nothing about marketing and think there is nothing to know: Work for years to build the product, and sink the company in an afternoon.

    Truly innovative industry leaders like Microsoft would never do something so low and mean as change the contract after companies have already decided to use the product: EULA (End User License Agreement) for a security bug fix []. (Don't croak, it's a joke. Don't blink, read the link.)

    VA Software, owner of Slashdot, uses a sneaky tactic, also. As you can see from the stock price [], the VA Software executives are people of great business insight. At the top of every Slashdot article, it says, "The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them." This sounds like you own your comments, doesn't it? However, the OSDN Terms of Service [] says at section 4, CONTENT, paragraph 6, that they own your comments, too. It's as though Chevy sold you a car, but gave its executives the right to come around and use it, also. (I don't like sneakiness. All my comments belong solely to me. Slashdot would not have the importance it has now if the members knew that they were losing control over their writing.)

    It's no fun to work at an abusive company. We are seeing a rise in the number of sneaky contracts. This seems due to, not only technically capable people who are ignorant of marketing, but also the presence of people with no technical knowledge at technically oriented companies. These people cannot contribute to the real work of the companies; all they can do is invent ways to abuse the customer.

    As companies become more abusive, it becomes more miserable to work there. If you are good at what you do, quit and get a job somewhere where people are treated like people.

    The final EULA: EULAs are becoming more and more abusive. I decided to jump several steps ahead and write the final EULA:
    1. I can do anything I like.
    2. You have no power.
    3. You can't say anything bad about me.
    4. Everything belongs to me.
    I knew a 3-year-old who said this. He has since become an adult, which is more than I can say for some executives.
  • by rgsmith ( 473418 ) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @02:09PM (#4397716)
    How about the SourceForge analogy?
    Suppose someone were using SourceForge's free service to develop a product which would compete directly with SourceForge's commercial offering.

    You mean like this?

    Xoops Forge []
  • by Frater 219 ( 1455 ) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @02:31PM (#4397819) Journal
    I'm not exactly sure why I'm not allowed to post it, as nothing says "you may not post this", but it is copyrighted to them, but I don't really know what that means.

    The text of the price list can be copyrighted. The fact that company X offered to sell you product Y for price Z cannot, as it is expressions and not facts or ideas that are copyrighted. IANAL, but unless you're under an NDA or another contract not to disclose the prices you were offered, I think you can safely tell someone else what those prices were. Copyright on the price list just means you have to express those facts in your own words.

  • by kubrick ( 27291 ) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @02:48PM (#4397907)
    Ben Collins works on Subversion, and packages glibc for Debian, and does work on the Linux kernel. And he didn't send a Netwinder to Larry McVoy.

    He was using BitKeeper to work on the Linux kernel, as requested by Linus; now it is impossible for him to do so because of his work on the Subversion project. A number of people feel that the development of an important Free Software project should not depend on a non-Free version management system, especially one where the rules as to who is allowed to use it keep on changing.

    I wonder if it's the work on Subversion or the missing Netwinder that caused all this...

  • Is this enforceable? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ninja Programmer ( 145252 ) on Sunday October 06, 2002 @07:50PM (#4399253) Homepage
    This license stipulation doesn't sound enforceable. My recommendation: For anyone in the situtation where this applies, just violate the license. I don't think there is anything they can do to you.

God made machine language; all the rest is the work of man.