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Linux Business

Businessweek Recommends License Switch for Linux 548

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

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  • No protection (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msgmonkey ( 599753 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:05AM (#10037623)
    I can't see how switching licenses will help.

    The licenses mentioned (patent clauses in GPL acknoweldged) deal with copyright and not patents which although people easily confuse are completely different legal areas.
    • by product byproduct ( 628318 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:11AM (#10037638)
      It's businessweek. Business people like to force a useless migration to something different every once in a while.
      • Re:No protection (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:52AM (#10037833) Homepage Journal
        If MBA's had been involved in Linux from the beginning, there'd be nothing to discuss.
        There'd be no Linux at all.

        Same old story... Come late to the party, then know all about how it's done.

        • If MBA's had been involved in Linux from the beginning, there'd be nothing to discuss. There'd be no Linux at all.

          Same old story with the suits. They like to pretentiously spew so much bullshit from their gullets, like they know what they're doing in this boardroom pissing contest, that someone needs to follow them around with a shovel. They're the same suckers that automatically write checks as pavlovian responses to software obfuscatedly described with catch phrases like "scalable", "robust", and "e-c

      • Re:No protection (Score:5, Insightful)

        by oolon ( 43347 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:14PM (#10038264)
        The point they miss (because they are looking back) is many corportate donors of software source in linux would never have done it if it was not GPL. As the GPL maintains a level playing field, if a competitor takes the code and uses it they have to give back (or rather forward). If Linux had been BSD all the donations could have just been torn out of linux and used in other things. I believe resulting in the donations not being made in the first place, do you think IBM would have dontated its filesystem if it thought Veritas could just take the good bits of the code?

        • No business has ever donated code to a BSD project. Oh no. Never happened.
          • by oolon ( 43347 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @02:26PM (#10038609)
            I was just saying the GPL rather a good method for attracting contributions, not that it was the only way. Companies (who are the copyright owner) can even use it to showcase the code and allow commerical licencing to companies if required (trolltech for example). If trolltech offered a BSD version they would have never sold anything. XFree86 which was BSD had alot of problems attracting manufactures to contribute driver code, evenually having to go down the binary route as a result. GPL seems a better half way house to me... but thats me I like GPL alot more than BSD licence.

        • Re:No protection (Score:3, Insightful)

          by znu ( 31198 )
          But the fact that software is licensed under the GPL may in some cases prevent companies from using software at all, which could reduce contributions. For instance, look at what Apple has done with Safari. Apple has created a proprietary browser and a proprietary rendering framework for OS X. Because the KHTML rendering engine was released under the LGPL rather than the GPL, Apple could leverage all of that code in that proprietary software. And in return, Apple has made massive contributions to KHTML. If i
      • by Tony-A ( 29931 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:21PM (#10038295)
        SOP for a new CEO.
        If it was centralized then decentralize it.
        If it was decentralized then centralize it.

    • Re:No protection (Score:5, Insightful)

      by smootc-m ( 730115 ) <smoot@tic.com> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:33AM (#10037732) Homepage
      Switching to a BSD license will just encourage code forking which is bad. We will just end up in another "Unix Wars" scenario with proprietary versions of GNU/Linux popping up with their own incompatible extensions.

      The real beauty of the GPL is that it encourages collaboration and sharing with the side effect that forking is discouraged. GNU/Linux is becoming the commodity OS precisely because of the GPL.
      • Re:No protection (Score:5, Insightful)

        by eric76 ( 679787 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @12:02PM (#10037882)
        I don't see that the GPL does anything at all to prevent code forking.

        Say you wanted a different version of Linux that did something differently. So you make the changes, however much they are and you donate them back to Linux.

        But the Linus doesn't have to accept those changes. Or he can pick and choose which portions he thinks are good.

        But since you donated your modifications back, you are free to use those modifications to release your own version.

        In a manner of speaking, there already is a fork of Linux. Except it's a fork that is built into the current release instead of a completely separate fork. I'm talking, of course, about SELinux from the NSA.

        What switching to the BSD license would really encourage is everyone else, for example, Microsoft, to be free to use the code for their own commercial purposes.

        By switching to the BSD license, Microsoft could release their own closed and proprietary version of Linux. For example, they could use the Linux code to enhance Windows and make it able to run any and all Linux programs available.
        • Re:No protection (Score:5, Insightful)

          by grumbel ( 592662 ) <grumbel+slashdot@gmail.com> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @12:11PM (#10037917) Homepage
          The GPL doesn't prevent forking, it just makes sure that code can be merged back and forth between the forks at all times, so that stuff like the WineX vs Wine scenario can never happen with the GPL.
          • Re:No protection (Score:3, Informative)

            by Tony-A ( 29931 )
            You beat me to it, but I'll add this.

            The GPL doesn't prevent forking
            Round 1. True.
            Round 2. Pretty much true.
            Round 3. Significant amount of merging of Round 1 forks.
            Round 4. More merging.

            With a constant forking rate, GPL should eventually reach a smallish number of forks. The GPL does prevent someone from holding turf just because of a few improvements. If they're actually good, in general, "everybody" will have them.

            The "Unix Wars" scenario is a result of everybody finding some way, any way, to make th
        • Re:No protection (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Ruie ( 30480 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @12:55PM (#10038164) Homepage
          GPL does help with code forking - it gives you the freedom to do with the fork as you please.

          As opposed to buying forked software (say Mac OS X) and then having to wait for the developer to fix bugs in the portions of code that are binary only.

          In other words, the help is not in prevention of forks, but rather in making it easy to merge them back.

      • Re:No protection (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ArbitraryConstant ( 763964 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @12:29PM (#10038018) Homepage
        Switching to a BSD license will just encourage code forking which is bad.

        As opposed to what, picking a development model that forces distributions to fork? 2.6 is the active development kernel, and distributions are now responsible for putting together a stable kernel.

        This will cause more situations similar to what Red Hat has done with their heavily customized 2.4 kernel. Distributions will have their own heavily patched kernels that can no longer be easily migrated to the current vanilla versions. There are several distributions with the resources to do this by themselves, and the smaller ones will probably band together to do it as well. If that's not a fork, it's the closest thing to it and will probably lead to a fork in the future.

        It's not the BSD license that encourages forks. There were (are) two factors:

        -Commerical forks can get specs on hardware that open source ones can't. Since they can't give the code of the driver back to the community, they must fork.

        -The BSDs (not the license, but the OSes) are designed as complete operating systems, with a userspace and a kernel in one package. This encourages forking because it's less modular than Linux.

        It's not the licenses that do it, it's the unique position the BSDs are in. There are BSD licensed projects which do not fork, such as Python, which uses a license similar to BSD. By similar, I mean it explicitly says you can fork, keep the code secret, and sell the results. Python hasn't forked because there's no motivation for people to do it.
        • Re:No protection (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Tony-A ( 29931 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @03:31PM (#10038942)
          BSD has a few forks.
          Linux has many forks.
          Main-line linux, as on kernel.org
          Red Hat Linux, with a modified (forked) kernel.
          Various patch sets that haven't (yet) made it into the main line.
          By applying different combinations of patch sets, you can have more different possible kernels, this is before you start configuring, than there are places to put those kernels.

          The critical difference is that Red Hat 2.6 is a fork from the main-line 2.6 not a 2.6 fork of Red Hat 2.4. Forks that aren't worth keeping up with just wither and die. Linux gives the outward appearance of not forking, because there is about as much merging as there is forking.
      • by Estanislao Martínez ( 203477 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @02:45PM (#10038723) Homepage
        Switching to a BSD license will just encourage code forking which is bad.

        Which is exactly why there are like 50something different forked BSD systems, each of them unpredictably different from the next. Oh, wait, no.

    • Re:No protection (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:39AM (#10037764) Homepage Journal
      He's a tech reporter who hasn't investigated the situation much and wrote the first thing that occurred to him. He did a pretty big disservice.

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


      • by Lulu of the Lotus-Ea ( 3441 ) <mertz@gnosis.cx> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @12:00PM (#10037878) Homepage
        I don't think the reporter's poor investigation has much to do with this piece. I'm not saying the "research" was any good--Bruce is probably right about the ignorance of Businessweek. But the knowledge part is kinda irrelevant.

        Instead, Businessweek, being what they are, is in the business of fantasizing about free giveaways to large companies. Sort of the Enron model of capitalism. What could Businessweek readers like more than a massive donation of free programming efforts into the private coffers of big business? Well, I suppose they like massive corporate welfare even more (the Haliburton model); but they'd certainly be happy to accept the free money of "privatized" Free Software.

        The patent issue is OF COURSE completely irrelevant here. Or maybe BSD-licensed software would be slightly more vulnerable to patent suits. But the difference is small, in any case. The main patent danger is big companies spending a lot more on lawyers than Free Software developers possibly can--and quite independent of the "merits" of patent claims, getting injunctions against Free Software.
        • by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @02:19PM (#10038574)
          The funny thing is that the GPL only comes into play if you are modifying the source code AND redistributing it to third parties. What percent of corporate america does that? Maybe 1%?. For the 99 percent of corporations the GPL does not even apply. You don't have to agree with the GPL in order to USE software.
      • Re:No protection (Score:5, Insightful)

        by aquabat ( 724032 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @12:11PM (#10037920) Journal
        I think the point the article is trying to make (although not explicitly) is that a BSD style license would allow big software companies to hide their use of open source software in their products.

        Assuming the company is distributing its open source derived software, the GPL requires public disclosure of the original open source software and any derivations, which would give patent holders evidence of infringement.

        The BSD license, however, lets the company distribute their product without acknowledging any open source content. They can keep all their code secret. This places a greater burden on the patent holder to prove that a patent is being infringed at all.

        I think this is the "protection" the article refers to.

        • Re:No protection (Score:5, Informative)

          by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @02:33PM (#10038654) Journal
          I think you are confusing BSD and MIT licenses. The BSD license specifically states that you must acknowledge the use of BSD code even if you only ship binaries (see the IE about box, for example). The MIT license only requires you to include the copyright in the source code (which you do not have to distribute).
          • by Sits ( 117492 )
            I'm a bit confused as to whether you are refering to the original [xfree86.org] (see the UCB/LBL section) or the revised [opensource.org] BSD license.

            Under the revised BSD license (which is very similar to the X11 [x.org] license and is what I am assuming [gnu.org] is what you are refering to as the "MIT license") you need only mention copyrights in documentation.

            Under the original BSD license you HAVE to mention the copyrights and contributors when the program is used or when the program is advertised.
      • by Markus Registrada ( 642224 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:02PM (#10038204)
        I'm afraid your columnist, Mr. Wildstrom (in "Big Fly", 8/13), has been taken in by some who envy the success of Linux and GNU Project software. Every success is dogged by advice to abandon the wellspring of that success. For Linux, that wellspring is the GNU General Public License. IBM could (and can) as easily adopt a BSD-based OS, just as Apple did. With the best legal advice available on the planet, IBM chose the GPL.

        The GPL has rarely been to court precisely because its implications are clear. Violators settle quickly because the alternative is to stop shipping product. Grumblings about "murky" license terms amount to nothing more than sour grapes.

        In any case, changing Linux's license is a practical impossibility. Hundreds of people and companies own bits of it, and all would have to agree to a change. Linux is condemned to retain the source of its success indefinitely.

        • Apple adopted the 'BSD-licensed' OS that they did because it merged smoothly with the NeXT OS from the company that they purchased/were-bought-by when Jobs returned. It had little to do with having 'the best legal advice on the planet.'
    • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:40AM (#10037772) Journal
      Business doesn't want to be restricted, no minimum wages, maximum working hours, safety rules, GNU style licenses.

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

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

      • by MsGeek ( 162936 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @12:47PM (#10038124) Homepage Journal
        Which is precisely why Microsoft has been pushing BSD licenses instead of the "viral" GPL. This Businessweek article is basically a truckload of astroturf on MS's behalf.
      • by eviltypeguy ( 521224 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @02:06PM (#10038506)

        I write just about everything under a 3-clause BSD license. Do you know why? Because when I write something and give it away, it's really free to do whatever you want with (except of course claim it's your own).

        While some people think it's "rape", there are many of us who write code, that picked a BSD license because we want anybody to be able to use our code without restrictions other than claiming it's their own. So software can be a true gift without any "strings" attached. So it isn't "rape".

        Just the opinion of a programmer who writes BSD-licensed software...
        • So software can be a true gift without any "strings" attached

          Don't you think it's a bigger gift if you ensure that not only your work, but extensions of your work are freely available to the community too?
        • "So software can be a true gift without any "strings" attached. So it isn't "rape"."

          Well, I guess it's hard to rape an absolute slut, if we follow the metaphor.

          "there are many of us who write code, that picked a BSD license because we want anybody to be able to use our code without restrictions other than claiming it's their own"

          And there are many of us who write code, that picked the GPL because we want anybody to be able to use our code without restrictions, other than claiming it as, or treating it as
        • While some people think it's "rape", there are many of us who write code, that picked a BSD license because we want anybody to be able to use our code without restrictions other than claiming it's their own.

          Anybody can USE you code under the GPL as well.

          What the GPL limits is how you can redistribute that code. The GPL prevents some asshole corporation from taking your highly successful open source tool, making it closed, breaking interoperability, and screwing you with your own code.

          I''m not try
  • In other news.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rokzy ( 687636 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:06AM (#10037625)
    Women should give up their personal rights to make it easier on people who want to rape them.
  • by dukerobinson ( 624739 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:06AM (#10037627)
    if this were to happen, which I find highly unlikely, for one thing there would be a fork straight away. It would be just like the Xorg and Xfree split. Also, under the bsd license commercial proprietary software can integrate the open-source work, so why would anyone slave away at developing linux, only to have their work immediately integrated into commercial applications, the original developers not to see a dime. There is all kinds of bsd code in windows, for example.
    • by kanly ( 216101 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @12:55PM (#10038162)

      This whole thread seems based on the premise that you actually could, in some way, relicense Linux under the BSD license. This isn't as easy as you might think.

      Relicensing checklist:

      1. Go to Linus, and get him to release the portions of Linux that he owns under the new license.
      2. Armed with his blessing, go to each person who's ever contributed code, and get them to sign on. Last time I looked, this was at least a few tens of thousands of coders. Some are deceased, so you will have to get permission from their heirs.
      3. Ask the FSF to release glibc under the new license. Wear body armor.
      4. Go through every userspace program you want. If it is GPL'd, either get the author to relicense, write a replacement, or do without. Good luck trying to even find all the authors, let alone get them on board.

      It's widely considered that even Linus Himself could not push through a license change. No need to worry about a corporation doing it.

      If you want something under the BSD license, you might want to use BSD.

  • Leave me alone (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:07AM (#10037629)
    I have written code for Linux and I decided to put it under the GPL. Get over it. I won't change it. I feel that the GPL gives me the kind of protection I want to have. BSD license would mean that scum like SCO can abuse my code. I am sure they would love that but it won't happen. So you stupid reporters and lawyers can as well stop argueing about license switches BECAUSE IT WILL NOT HAPPEN. Go away.
    • Re:Leave me alone (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rakshasa Taisab ( 244699 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:41AM (#10037775) Homepage
      Exactly, i think most serious open source coders are well aware of what the license they choose means. I specifically choose GPL instead of LGPL for a library i'm writting because that's what i wanted.

      I'm sorry if our licenses arn't corporate friendly.
  • by bap ( 75675 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:08AM (#10037631) Homepage
    That's an article? People who want money for nothing demand a gift with no string attached? Their message to the authors of Linux: "All your software are belong to us!"
    • by Bastian ( 66383 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @12:08PM (#10037902)
      What the author is really asking for is for Linux to transition from this bizarro-world that many businesses are afraid of and can't understand to the nice simple regimented money-based world they are used to.

      In this world, if you get something for free (as in beer), you should be able to do anything you want with it. They can't understand the idea of nonmonetary compensation. The idea of, "You can use it, but if you try to do anything else with it you have to let us use your version, too." comes across as some sort of wacky bait-and-switch. The whole thing gets broken into two parts:
      1. It's yours. Take it.
      (Of courrse, it doesn't help that MySQL AB really does try to do the above.)

      I'm sure it's frightening for lots of business folks. They don't like it when they can't pretend to understand what's going on.
      • by Coryoth ( 254751 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @12:46PM (#10038118) Homepage Journal
        In this world, if you get something for free (as in beer), you should be able to do anything you want with it.

        Interestingly the business world seems quite happy with the concept that if you pay for it you certainly can't do anything you want with it. Witness software licensing, the RIAA, and many other practices that amount to "You bought it? So what, you can only do what we tell you to do with it". It seems odd that while this is perfectly acceptable practice, if they get something for free they can't comprehend that there might still be the same sort of strings attached.

      • Of courrse, it doesn't help that MySQL AB really does try to do the above.

        This is not necessarily directed at you, but I think a lot of people don't fully understand how MySQL AB operates in regards to copyright / GPL.

        MySQL AB offers the MySQL code to all comers under the GPL. If you want to use the GPL'd code under the terms of the GPL, it's right there waiting for you.

        If you wish to use the MySQL code in a way that is incompatible with the GPL, you have the option of purchasing a non-GPL license.

        MySQL AB accomplishes this by requiring anyone who wishes to contribute code to the authoritative codebase to assign copyright to MySQL AB. (I have not read the exact verbage used by MySQL AB, but I will for a future project examining their business model.)

        This assignment allows MySQL AB to offer GPL'd code under non-GPL terms for a license fee. After all, MySQL AB is the unencumbered copyright holder, so they can offer different terms to different people.

        The community does still retain a "right to revolution" if we so chose. We could take the MySQL code and create OurSQL or whatever. The GPL gives us that right. The question becomes how many developers and end-users would be willing to abandon MySQL AB and follow that fork.

        - Neil Wehneman
    • Ahhhhem:
      1. I, for one, welcome our new BSD overlords!

      • 1. BSD license
      • 2. ???
      • 3. Profit!

      • In Soviet Russia, the user licenses you!

      And of course:

      1. BSD is dying!
  • by OneDeeTenTee ( 780300 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:10AM (#10037637)
    The issue with patents is that certain basic ways of accomplishing tasks can be restricted.

    Changing licenses won't prevent the use of litigation to suppress open source tools which do the same things as commercial products.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:11AM (#10037639)
    It's a commentary, AKA an opinion piece. Look, I can write an opinion piece, too.

    Microsoft should switch to the GPL.

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

      Not the most likely thing to happen, but still a lot more likely than Linux switching to a BSD license. Don't forget that for Linux to switch license, every single contributor must agree. One person already said he wouldn't accept it. Neither will I. The code I have contributed so far is only a few lines, but I'm sure enough people will disagree with this suggestion, that if you remove all the code we have contributed, what remains will not be a working kernel.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:12AM (#10037641)
    Are there any practical reasons they can't use FreeBSD/OpenBSD/NetBSD instead of Linux in situations where a BSD-style license is preferred over GPL?

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

    • Re:buzzwords (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Bastian ( 66383 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:46AM (#10037803)
      buzzwords. buzzwords. buzzwords.
      buzzwords. buzzwords. buzzwords.

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

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

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

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

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

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

      (** note: The author realizes that there are indeed practical reasons to make many of the decisions mentioned above. In fact, he has jumped on a couple of the bandwagons mentioned above, both for practical reasons and because of buzzword bandwagoning. The problem is systemic, has been around for thousands of years, and can only be solved by the GPL.)
  • Not going to happen. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BJH ( 11355 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:13AM (#10037642)
    Even if this were a good idea (which it's not - it's roughly on a par with somebody who is being attacked by rabid hyenas deciding that they'd be safer if they distracted the hyenas by attaching large chunks of fresh meat all over their body), it would require that either:
    a) Anybody with significant (as in more than 20-30 lines or so) contributions to the kernel give their approval for the switch, and it ain't gonna happen because even if Linus went for it, Alan Cox is very much pro-GPL and has large chunks of code all over the kernel

    b) Somebody strip out or rewrite all parts of the kernel copyrighted by people who objected to the license change, which in the end would probably amount to an effective rewrite of the whole thing.
  • No can do! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara@hudson.barbara-hudson@com> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:13AM (#10037643) Journal
    If it's GPL'd, then everything up to the license chance would still be GPL'd, and it would immediately fork into GPL'd and non-GPL'd.

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

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

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

  • Logistics (Score:4, Insightful)

    by keiferb ( 267153 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:13AM (#10037646) Homepage
    The logistics of a license switch are staggering, especially when you consider a project the size of the Linux kernel. IANAL, but wouldn't every contributor to a given project, no matter how far back as long as their code's still there, have to sign off and approve of the license change?

    Sounds like a headache and a half to me.
  • idiot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sPaKr ( 116314 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:13AM (#10037648)
    This guy knows nothing of what he speaks. The open group owns the Unix trademark. SCO claims to own the source and rights, but thats disputed by Novell the previous owner.
  • License Change (Score:5, Informative)

    by EinarH ( 583836 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:18AM (#10037668) Journal
    Groklaw had an article [groklaw.net] about this some days ago, there are tons of discussion there why a license change;
    1. Would be stupid.
    2. Won't happen.
  • by gsfprez ( 27403 ) * on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:22AM (#10037678)
    in light of IBM's use of the GPL to shutdown a major copyright infringer, SCO...

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

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

    this article is lame...

    Dear Mr. Wildstrom.

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

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

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

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

    As my history teacher was fond of saying to the kids that wrote their papers the night before as they watched The A-Team - "please grasp the concept, then rewrite your paper".
  • by raistphrk ( 203742 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:28AM (#10037712)
    Relicensing to the BSD license would pretty much defeat the point of GNU/Linux. I definitely think Linus needs to do more to make sure the code he commits isn't proprietary, but switching licenses?

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

    Of course, somebody else could just fork Linux under the GPL again.
  • by mslinux ( 570958 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:32AM (#10037724)
    I don't understand how switching to another license (BSD, Mozilla, etc.) would protect the kernel from patent infringement suits.

    I do see how it would make it more "commercial" friendly, but IMO, that's all it would do. If it were licensed under BSD, then companies such as MS, Apple, etc. could take the kernel, use it, change it or whatever w/o showing the changes... just like Apple has done with much of the FreeBSD code.
  • by irexe ( 567524 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:38AM (#10037758)

    From the article:

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

    Shouldn't that be:

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

  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:40AM (#10037769) Homepage
    Oh, if those OSS people would just use a different license, then you'd get the backing of the business community. Ooooweeee.

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

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

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

    Invest in sanity, invest in OSS.

  • by originalhack ( 142366 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:41AM (#10037778)
    Well, as long as the people that don't hold the copyrights are suggesting that those who do change their licenses, I think Slashdot should suggest that Microsoft switch the license for Office to (GPL or) BSD.
  • by I_redwolf ( 51890 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:49AM (#10037823) Homepage Journal
    Mr. Wildstrom argues that patents are being violated and that OSRM has found 283 patent violations. A non biased person might then ask the question "How many other operating systems or patent violations are going on in closed source code? Can one even find out?" The answer to that question is that no one knows. Inevitably, your legal risk is the same if not greater. It's highly likely that a large majority of closed source vendors are also violating patents. Which would lead a non-biased person to believe that the problem is patents not Linux or Open-Source. Considering this OSRM and "insurance" is useless. If OSRM wasn't just a money grab and actually wanted to benefit Open Source considering there is the same risk involved they'd rename themselves Patent Risk Management.

    Secondly, the author argues in favor for the BSD or the MPL licenses as it would clear up ambiguities and be less restrictive. Obviously, he doesn't say how. If he did then the statement would make no sense. Again a non-biased person would question how exactly they would benefit from switching their software to those licenses. The truth of the matter that the author neglects to mention is that it doesn't. It does benefit business that would like to use the code for free. The aspect/goal being to not submit any changes to the benefit of the community that provided said company with the code in the first place. Seeing as this is Business Week I concede to that view point.

    The article in and of itself is a horrible piece of advice for business especially the nimble startups. I love Linux and Open-Source but I love money more. This article advice would do nothing to further your business or protect you at all. Even after all of this I'm not biased. If Microsoft could provide what open-source did even at a small fee I would pay. This isn't the case and for small to medium companies it just doesn't make sense. Also, if I was a software shop and could use some open-source to further my business for more money I would.

    I could play into that whole "I'll sue you because you're violating my patent" but then I would of probably paid SCO a $699 license fee and or bought Microsoft software. Still, my risk is the same. So if this is about Business; then Business Week and the author of the article have done a poor job in telling me how exactly to save or make money. There are too many cases of people/companies profiting off of free software than not. Simply, someone who is non-biased and comes across this article has been disserviced.

    If someone starts a magazine company that provided useful Business information with NO bias I'll subscribe.
  • Flawed assumption (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Our Man In Redmond ( 63094 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @12:08PM (#10037906)
    This article stems from a flawed assumption, namely, that the Linux development team really cares whether businesses switch to Linux or not. Linux was written by people who wanted "software that doesn't suck," not people who thought "Hey, let's write a bunch of neat-o code and put it out there and maybe a bunch of businesses will be interested."

    In fact the article has it 100% backwards. Rather than Linux switching licenses to appeal more to the business crowd (which of course ain't gonna happen), business should start thinking of software in terms of software as a service -- not a web service, but a service like electricity or plumbing. Once that happens and businesscritters start realizing that you can use Linux in your enterprise without scaring off your employees or having to release all your internal software into the public domain, the arguments over lower TCO will start to take hold.
  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @12:17PM (#10037938)
    Sorry about the yelling in the title, but anyone who suggests relicensing the Linux kernel is forgetting that the kernel is not written by one person. It's written by thousands of people, each of whom would have to relicense their code under BSD. Some of those people are dead. Some of them are unknown. Some of them would refuse to relicense. Some of them release under licenses which are not GPL but which state that they can be relicensed under GPL. The Linux kernel code may be technically a unified whole (to some extent or other), but LEGALLY, it is a collection of numerous pieces which all must be considered separately.

    I think the BSD license if just fine. That isn't the issue. The issue is that in order to relicense the kernel under BSD, so much code which could not be relicensed would have to be ripped out that you would not have a kernel left.

    So, while I can't say whether or not, generally speaking, the suggestion to switch licenses is an unwise one, I can definately say that it's a totally ignorant suggestion. Saying "relicense linux" is like saying "delete linux".

    • As another poster has stated, how would this work with the following clause of the GPL?

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

      If another later version of the GPL was published and used, which was more in-line with the BSD license, would the desired effect not be possible?

  • My favorite line (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sean.peters ( 568334 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:20PM (#10038291) Homepage
    Unfortunately, the GPL is hardly a model of clarity

    Hardly a model of clarity? It's one of the few license agreements that IANAL can understand without legal help!

    Here's another precious quote:

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

    Where "some people" == "Darl McBride", apparently.


  • by polyp2000 ( 444682 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:44PM (#10038405) Homepage Journal
    "Businessweek, the leading authority on linux and open source recommends a licensce switch to BSD."
    (Speak in the voice of James Earl Jones form maximim effect)

    Take heed developers... Businessweek know their shit when it comes to Linux and FOSS...

    Nick ..
  • by mav[LAG] ( 31387 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @02:26PM (#10038608)
    Comments and clarifications welcome:

    Linux is burdened with too much intellectual-property uncertainty for
    many companies to embrace and develop it further

    This entire column is complete bollocks as I will now explain. (FLOSS = Free Libre and Open Source Software - remember folks, brush and FLOSS

    The open-source movement has had a remarkable run of success that has seen software such as the Linux operating system and the Apache Web server emerge as major challenges to Microsoft (MSFT ). However, the movement is now facing a crisis. At its heart is a question that has been around from the very beginning: How does software owned by
    everyone and by no one survive in a world where copyrights and patents shape the legal landscape?

    The same way it's always done - by being more reliable, more agile, better maintained and better supported. I'm also not sure how the author thinks that open source is not copyrighted - all of it is by definition.

    then owned by AT&T. Intellectual-property questions about Linux came to the forefront after the SCO Group (SCOX ), which acquired the Unix
    trademarks, launched a series of lawsuits against alleged infringers of its rights.

    Incorrect - SCO does NOT own the trademarks to Unix.

    POTENTIAL INFRINGEMENTS. The central case, a 2003 suit against IBM (IBM ), an important corporate promoter of Linux, has degenerated into
    a messy contract dispute with no intellectual-property issues left on the table. SCO's threats to sue companies that use Linux have almost entirely evaporated.

    Because they were and are lies. But the author is mistaken. There are "intellectual property" issues aplenty left on the table. IP - which is a lazy and meaningless term that conglomerates at least three kinds of entirely different sets of laws on intangible rights - is going to bite SCO severely because IBM is now suing it for distributing Linux without a license.

    But now another problem has surfaced. Open Source Risk Management, a new outfit that indemnifies its customers against infringement claims, found in a review of Linux code that the operating system potentially infringes on 283 patents. Although IBM declared it would make no
    effort to enforce its 60 patents involved, some are held by Linux foes, including 27 by Microsoft.

    Patents granted in its infinite stupidity by the US patent office. Maths should not be patented.

    The potential patent infringements pose no immediate threat to Linux. Such disputes typically take years to resolve, and courts rarely issue
    injunctions against alleged infringers. But the uncertainty is taking a toll. In the most significant response to date, the city government
    in Munich, Germany, has suspended a massive transition of desktop computers from Microsoft Windows to Linux, pending clarification of
    the patent situation (see BW Online, 8/9/04, "Will Legal Fears Freeze the Penguin?").

    Munich is going ahead.

    But open-source proponents also have to get their own intellectual-property house in order.

    Again - what is meant by intellectual property here? Does he mean copyrights? All FLOSS is copyrighted. Does he mean trademarked? The
    brands that matter are trademarked. Does he mean patented? Sorry but the vast majority of FLOSS developers don't really care whether the US
    allows the patenting of maths or not. If he's talking about "ownership" then he's wrong. As the SCO episode demonstrated, every single line of Linux can be accounted for - unlike many closed-source vendors.

    The development of open-source software is increasingly dominated by corporate interests that, one way or another, want to use Linux,
    Apache, and other open-source products to make money.

    No - it's the other way around. Businesses have to decide why and how they are going to use open source software to survive. Plenty already have decided to use it to make money and give b
  • What has always struck me about the widsom of the BSD license was that it was a way for Regents of the University of California to make available work that was presumably owned by the State of California for the benefit of all commercial entities -- the lion's share of which are/were? in Silicon Valley.

    But the work of tens of thousands of individuals across the world, unaffiliated except by a mutual common interest, would not be protected by such a BSD license. The GPL is better suited for that, as several other posters have noted.

  • by AnomalousTurd ( 571488 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @04:33PM (#10039246)
    Like so much journalism these days, this was written merely to cause a reaction. If this article had been a /. post, it would have been modded a troll.
  • by samantha ( 68231 ) * on Sunday August 22, 2004 @04:42PM (#10039287) Homepage
    The problem is the very existence of software patents. The solution is to eliminate them. Anything less is endless catering to and reinforcement of insanity.

  • by wobblie ( 191824 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @04:59PM (#10039378)
    that the real issue is that the patent system, the laws and governing bodies are the actual problem. Yeah, don't even question that. Thanks.
  • by digital photo ( 635872 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @05:02PM (#10039392) Homepage Journal

    All of the examples cited by businessweek are problems which come up because Linux represents a new way of doing things where the abuse of the copyrights and patents system is the problemn. Linux remains a growing and evolving product because it IS under the GPL license and not the BSD/Mozilla/etc licenses.

    Companies want to think in terms of: "If we know something the competitors don't, we have an advantage. Let's screw our competitors and make all the money ourselves." That kind of thinking goes against the idea of OpenSource and the GPL due to the requirement to make source available in the event that the original source is modified.

    Linksys tried to pull that stunt when they first started and faced a backlash. Companies see this backlash, this reversal of the command chain where the customers are telling them what they can and cannot be doing to be a threat and a risk.

    The GPL code is what keeps Linux open and free for all to enjoy. If the licensed changed, then you will begin to see variants of the Linux Kernel which only one company supported because it was modified to work in a certain way. No review of that kernel is possible anymore because the code is locked and the customer is now, once again, at the mercy of the company for patches, security updates, and fixes.

    I'm sure that businessweek and the respective folk who think it is the way to go think that way in all honesty believing it will make Linux better... but this is only because this makes it better for them and them alone.

    The GPL license under which Linux is licensed is the solution to the current problem with Copyrights and Patents abuse by large companies in not honouring the spirit of the Copyright and Patents agreements: The eventual release of the rights to the public domain.

    Linux is available to both businesses and the public, but is maintained and controlled by the Open Source community AND the Business community. Perhaps _some_ businesses don't like that kind of shared control...

  • Businesses who want to use the code and not give anything back is the only ones who are having problems with the GPL. I for one cant imagine a better way to ensure that no company or person can pillage and burn the remains and walk away with the tresure. Invalidating the GPL would only put the rights back to their respective owners so that wouldnt help one bit. For a company like Microsoft or any other predatory its hard to nail a couple of million coders working for free. The GPL is what holds them together.

    Many would surely like the GPL to be lifted so they could steal all the code and then make the authors pay for their own (then incompatible) code!

    The reason i dont like the BSD license is that i would have a hard time coughing up dough to buy a product i had a part in and that the one who took the code made incompatible with my original code, deliberatly! I dont like its "please rimjob me twice" kind of message.

  • GPL protects (Score:3, Informative)

    by theendlessnow ( 516149 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:02PM (#10039944)
    People forget that the GPL ensures that we do not lose intellectual "property". The big problem with corporations is that they would rather see good ideas die rather than see them live on in the hands of others. But the fact is... people are not owned by corporations (or are they?). GPL gives software the freedom to live on... something that even supposedly more open license like BSD, really do not do.

    I have been working with software companies or writing software directly for over 20 years. I cannot tell you the number of great software products that have been lost because somebody thought they were "protecting" it by putting non-freedom licensing on it.

    So if software ideas are important... if YOUR software idea is important (even if you don't think it's all that important), you'd be foolish to not put it under the GPL. It's a good way to keep good software from being lost forever.

  • by mojoNYC ( 595906 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:41PM (#10040547) Homepage
    RMS knew exactly what he was doing--the GPL is about something greater than profit motive, and the GPL has protected the contributions of thousands of programmers around the world, something that could not have been accomplished in any other way...bravo!

    witness the SCOasaur go through its death spasms, choking on the GPL's dust!

    Businesses, as always, you face a choice--innovate, or die!

  • Quoting RMS... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lodragandraoidh ( 639696 ) on Monday August 23, 2004 @11:18AM (#10045048) Journal
    ...good to see Stallman being quoted and linked to in a publication Like BusinessWeek.

    They will only quote him when it serves to illustrate their point - in this case that these 'looney' 'commie' GNU / OSS folks are out of their minds when it comes to solid business practice.

    I would say - wait for the IBM/SCO GPL ruling before jumping to any conclusions.

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.