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Linux Creator Calls GPLv3 Authors 'Hypocrites' 920

AlexGr writes "We've heard conflicting tales regarding Linus Torvalds' acceptance of GPLv3. InformationWeek reports on comments by Mr. Torvalds that would seem to decide the issue: 'Torvalds said the authors of a new software license expected to be used by thousands of open source programmers are a bunch of hypocrites ... For Torvalds' part, it appears unlikely he'll ever adopt GPLv3 for the Linux kernel. He accused the Free Software Foundation leadership, which includes eccentric, MIT-trained computing whiz Richard Stallman, of injecting their personal morality into the laws governing open source software with the release of GPLv3. "Only religious fanatics and totalitarian states equate morality with legality," Torvalds wrote.'"
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Linux Creator Calls GPLv3 Authors 'Hypocrites'

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  • Fork? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dn15 ( 735502 ) on Friday July 13, 2007 @06:38PM (#19853993)
    If Linus doesn't like where the GPL is going, he could make his own fork...

    Really, I say this mostly for the purpose of humor, but it's true. If there's enough objection to GPLv3 maybe someone will introduce an alternate version based on GPLv2 that allows it to be updated in the future but without the conditions present in v3.
  • by chrb ( 1083577 ) on Friday July 13, 2007 @06:47PM (#19854105)

    "Only religious fanatics and totalitarian states equate 'morality' with 'legality,' "

    Every legal system enforces ideas of morality. Why is murder wrong? Why do countries restrict hate speech? Why can't you have sex with your sister? These are all moral concepts enforced through legality.

    Maybe Linus is having a bad day. And what exactly does he mean by:

    "I think it is okay to control people's hardware, I do it myself"

    Does Linus sell have a sideline selling PCs? And he uses some DRM to stop users modifying the software he supplies? What?

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Zarhan ( 415465 ) on Friday July 13, 2007 @06:53PM (#19854181)
    But the fact of the matter is, other people have spent all this time assisting him because of the morality of the license.

        In the 90's, I think most of the people worked on Linux due to the unclear legal status of BSD, not some funny "morality" issue.

        Without the legal issues, FreeBSD would probably be where Linux is now, perhaps even further, and Linux would never have taken off like that - it would have stayed as a little practice project for the Helsinki University. However, now Linux just has so much momentum with it that it's the focus of most open source efforts.
  • Re:Attention (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 13, 2007 @06:57PM (#19854223)
    That's the world we live in. If everybody would be producing for the greater good, we wouldn't need the GPL. Unfortunately there are people who climb the mountain with the help of others and then kick down when the helpers want to catch up. Let's hear your proposal for fixing that.
  • Re:duh (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Chibi Merrow ( 226057 ) <mrmerrow&monkeyinfinity,net> on Friday July 13, 2007 @07:10PM (#19854375) Homepage Journal

    Anyway, aside from GCC, there are plenty of BSD alternatives to most GNU projects.

    You know, after EGCS (and the associated bazaar development model) became the official GCC branch, I kinda figured they'd face the same problem as the kernel does of producing a GPLv3 branch--with thousands of contributers having provided their work under GPLv2, it would be impossible to track them all down and get their permission to relicense their work as GPLv3. Yet I see announcements for GPLv3 trumpeting the fact that the GCC project is "on board". Can someone explain to me what I'm missing here?

    That's moronic. If you don't like the license, don't use it.

    I have to disagree. He's making a valid point that RMS approaches the entire "Open Source/Free Software" debate as not a legal or even ethical issue, but a moral issue. The use of the word "moral" isn't an invention of Linus, that's the word RMS uses to describe it himself. That means RMS is declaring himself a religious leader, which is patently absurd. We already have enough "holy wars" in hacker culture without someone actively pursuing religious agendas.

  • Re:Fork? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OriginalArlen ( 726444 ) on Friday July 13, 2007 @07:15PM (#19854423)
    Exactly. Some people say the GPL is evil and viral. This is because they either do not understand it properly, or because they disagree with it. If you are in avour of free software, you can go the GPL route or the BSD route. You writes your code and takes your choice... the GPL is one of the most elegant hacks ever, and having been involved in some legal shenangans on the topic, I can honestly say I've never known anything else that can ruin a lawyer's day quite so effectively. It's a fucking work of art.

    Pardon my language, it's late and I had a long week... (bloody Belgians!!... don't ask.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 13, 2007 @07:15PM (#19854427)
    I agree that the article was typical sensationalistic journalism...

    Nevertheless, the essence of it is that Linus still doesn't get it - he doesn't believe (even at the late date on which he said this, June 20th) that GPL3 promotes freedom better than GPL2.

    On this issue Linus is starting to sound like Microsoft when they talk about "Shared Source," a la, "Hey, what do you mean this pale imitation of something good isn't sufficient? We're showing you the source - isn't that good enough for you???"

    Um, no, buddy, not if you're going to encumber it in *other* ways. For Microsoft, it's an NDA, or whatever restrictions they allow you to "see" the source. For Tivo, the encumbrance is Tivoization. End of the day, though, "Shared Source" is not free. And neither is GPL2, not fully, if the code can still be shackled.

    But GPL2 is not sufficient. Its loopholes have been exploited.
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Friday July 13, 2007 @07:16PM (#19854435) Journal
    Well, the legal issues (e.g. the ATT/SysV v. BSD lawsuits) sure... but there was also the little matter of dealing with a rather large cloud of interpersonal troubles that made things ugly, with most of it centered squarely over UC Berkeley. That, and (as MSFT later proved head-on w/ their TCP/IP implementations), the classic BSD license really doesn't protect against theft and proprietary lock-down of improvements. Like most folks, if I want to contribute stuff freely, I'd really like to see any improvements to be incorporated and shared. BSD relies on only honor and a mandatory attribution for that).

    Not flaming, trolling, or otherwise... but a sense of perspective is kinda needed as to why BSD didn't catch on as fast or as big.

    (OTOH, the BSD license made it easy to incorporate a LOT of stuff from it into Linux, and the results converted to GPL licensing...)


  • Re:duh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Friday July 13, 2007 @07:27PM (#19854535) Journal

    If you don't believe that proprietary software is immoral (and Linus doesn't) then you don't follow RMS. Why use his license?

    ...because some believe that proprietary software is impractical to progress. That doesn't necessarily translate into morality, especially when seen from a purely objective standpoint.

    Also, back when Torvalds was fussing over what license to use, the options were slim... and the GPL probably fulfilled his desire to keep Linux open and to have the ability for all improvements to it to be rolled back in and shared.

    As a parallel thought, moral sets don't have to necessarily match up, else you get dogma. Not everyone goes to, say, a given church because they believe with 100% certainty that the scriptural interpretations and admonitions made by him (or the membership) can never be wrong or misused. Religion (also a morality-based organizational unit) can never work like that on a practical or even a civilized level w/o imploding or splintering off (see also "Protestants"), so why should software licensing be expected to?


  • Re:duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday July 13, 2007 @07:36PM (#19854615) Homepage Journal
    Well, there's not a lot of context in the article, but piecing things together, I'd guess that what has Linus ticked off is not injecting personal morality into the license, but forcing others to accept that license and by extension their personal morality.

    In the paraphrased quote, it would appear that Linus is conflating these issues by criticizing their injection of their morals into the license, which they have every right to do. Anybody can license their work under any provisions they wish. If you don't like it, don't use their stuff and definitely don't use their license.

    But if you separate the two issues, Linus has a very interesting point, one which occurred to me during the whole discussion about Microsoft. It would appear that FSF deliberately stuck it's thumb in Microsoft's eye, and while we all applauded the little guy getting the big guy, it's not exactly clear that this is fair. From FSF's standpoint, I suppose MS was doing something wrong and needed to be stopped, but it's not exactly fair to change the rules of the game. A lot depends on how the struggle (if any) between FSF and MS pans out.

    There's an element of caveat emptor here of course. MS is a big company that can afford lawyers to tell them they're getting into trouble with a license like GPL that has upgrade features. But just because you can change the rules on somebody doesn't mean its conscionable to do so.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 13, 2007 @07:54PM (#19854795)

    We have heard about trusted computing. It has many disguises (the beast always does) but one of them is that hardware won't run unsigned code. Very handy, in theory. You wouldn't want just any code by any stranger to run on your own hardware do you? Even if that stranger is you?

    Offcourse trusted code is NOTHING MORE then code that has had someone pay for a certificate because we all know only people to be trusted can afford to do that (hint, sony's often mention rootkit could easily have PAYED to be run as a rootkit on a trusted computing platform).

    So where would Linus Torvald have gotten the money from to get a certificate to run his newly created kernel on his own computer?

    Kinda sounds like the clampdown a free internet radio. Sure, you can still broadcast anything you want, just pay us a small fortune, enough to make sure you are going to need a large enough mainstream audience to be able to pay for it and properly broadcast enough propaganda, ooops sorry, commercials to gather the fees.

    Could it be that in a future of trusted computing nobody could afford to launch a piece of software if they were not certain they could re-coup the costs of the certificate? Gosh, wouldn't that in one fell swoop eliminate all this free-software and give certain US interests total control of world-wide IT?

    Zealot has a lot of negative overtones. I prefer visionary. Richard Stallman has thought about all this and he has seen two possible futures, one with the GPL and one without. He seeems to think the one with the GPL will be a better one and I agree with him.

    Yes, going with him all the way will require sacrifices but frankly I haven't seen him be wrong yet.

    It is the whole inconvenient truth thing. No not just global warning and are you thinking about the amount of CO2 your computer is putting out wasting idle cycles while you are reading this?

    It is "so you are against the war for oil but you do drive. It is "you wanna be healthy but don't excersise and eat deep-fryed chemicals". It is "you want a democracy but don't want to vote or accept the rule of the majority".

    Richard Stallman has many a times written about how he sees the future with and without GPL software.

    Linus Torvald has done nothing off that sort, he is a project mananger. One of legendary quality to be sure and his work and effort has been of tremendous importance to OSS as a whole BUT he is that project manager who drives a car, because, well global warming surely can't be all down to him and public transport just doesn't work for a project manager.

    Linus Torvald wants to get things done, Richard Stallman wants to create a better world. In the short run the Linus way will get a you an easier to use OS, but RS way tries to make certain that you can actually USE that OS in the future.

    It is about flash. The flash player that is. Flash is closed source and therefore does NOT fit well with the GPL. Yet we want our Youtube. Linus is practical and thinks Linux (The desktop) should have Flash even if it is closed source. Great, we can watch youtube.

    Richard Stallman says we can't until flash has one way or another been made opensource, BUT that means he is telling us NOT to watch youtube as long as it uses flash. (Remember, there is absolutly no reason whatsoever that youtube couldn't just transmite regular video files which can then be played by any means the user desires.)

    The first way gives us what we want NOW but it will also result in a world with yet more flash only sites and no incentive for adobe to open up.

    The RS way denies us what we want right now BUT in the hope that in the future we either won't need it (youtube just broadcasting open video formats) or that we can get it on our own terms.

    It is not hard to see what would be a better deal, in the long term, and not right now when I got an IM on my AIM with FreeSmilies telling me about this amazing vid!

  • Re:duh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chibi Merrow ( 226057 ) <mrmerrow&monkeyinfinity,net> on Friday July 13, 2007 @08:41PM (#19855231) Homepage Journal

    I wonder if he used vi or emacs to to write that.... /me ducks

    I'm torn between being so happy that someone finally understood and so depressed that it took so many replies and crazy moderations before that happened...

    I can't claim to be an old timer and firsthand familiar with these things, but it seems to me so many young GNU adherents don't understand how much being a hacker already approaches a religion (especially in the negative aspects of organized religion) without someone PURPOSELY trying to espouse religious philosophy. We already have enough heresies, inquisitions, and crusades amongst people who are just trying to get work done or do research... When you start ordaining prophets and messiahs, you're asking for trouble.

    Then again half the people reading what I'm writing are probably equating the word "hacker" with some black hat stealing their credit card numbers and defacing websites...

  • Re:Fork? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by WED Fan ( 911325 ) <> on Friday July 13, 2007 @08:44PM (#19855249) Homepage Journal

    What you're missing is the copyright on the GPL itself.

    Oh, the ever loving irony of this crowd.

    Tell you what, I'm release an app soon, it free, its open source. But, it is truly free, not just "lip service" free. The user will be able to use it on a closed system if they choose, they are free to incorporate into an open or closed system. They can develop it further into an open or closed system.

    Of, crap, I forgot, the one they the license says is they cannot turn it into a GPL3 product.

    God, is Copyright evil or not?

    Is the license open or not?

    Is the user free or not to do with the software what they want?

    Or, is it just lip service?

  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Friday July 13, 2007 @09:27PM (#19855531) Homepage Journal
    I agree with the anti-tivoization provisions because I understand Free Software. So long as you keep saying "well, customers can just choose not to buy that" then you're missing the entire point of the GPL. The restrictions in the GPL are there to ensure that all the users of the software have freedom. If you're happy with "vote with your feet" then the BSD is all you need. After all, people can just choose not to buy proprietary software as much as they can just choose not to buy locked down hardware. The restrictions on tivoization of hardware are exactly the same as the restrictions on making proprietary software. It's consistent and it makes sense.

  • Re:Fork? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nazlfrag ( 1035012 ) on Friday July 13, 2007 @11:29PM (#19856165) Journal
    Yeah, and I call mine MS/Linux because my copy would be useless without the fat32 drivers. Sure, MS didn't make the drivers, but they do own their name. Sorta like how the FSF didn't make the tools, but they own the label. Well, ok, that was highly contrived, but in essence I find something wrong with 'free, open' meaning 'you are a hypocrite if you don't put our label before yours'.
  • Re:Fork? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DaveAtFraud ( 460127 ) on Friday July 13, 2007 @11:38PM (#19856189) Homepage Journal
    There are some folks who take that position but they are generally *NOT* GPL proponents. Copyright is what gives the GPL teeth. GPLed code is freely available but it can only be modified and redistributed under the terms of the GPL. Why? Because it's copyrighted. Only agreeing to the terms of the GPL gives someone the right to modify and redistribute the code. Remove copyrights and anyone (Microsoft, SCO, TiVo, etc.) can do whatever they like with Linux.

    That's where the whole TiVo thing comes in. Can someone create hardware that restricts the modifications an end user can make to GPLed code? The TiVo source code is freely available as per the GPL. A TiVo user can download it, modify it and re-distribute it but there's one small glitch: the modified code won't run on a TiVo machine. The machine enforces some sort of checksum to make sure that only unmodofoed code can run.

    Abolish copyrights and my guess is all the big software publishers will just adopt a TiVo-like solution that ensures only legitimate copies of their product will run. That is, you can only buy a Microsoft computer that will only run Microsoft products (kind of the way game consoles work now). Worse, the same companies can cherry pick any open source code they want since there is no copyright protection. Finally, chances are that most open source developers won't like suporting the Microsofts of the world and will go do something else. Sounds like a *REALLY BAD IDEA* to me.

  • Re:And this is news? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rutulian ( 171771 ) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @12:17AM (#19856393)
    What limit on hardware manufacturer's? There is no limit on hardware manufacturer's. The only requirement is that if your hardware will only run signed code, the means to reproduce that signed code must be distributed with the software (which is distributed with the hardware). You can do whatever you want with your hardware, but if you use and distribute (i.e: make money selling) my software with your hardware, you can't prevent me from modifying (ex: with an newer version that adds extra features) said software and running it on your hardware (or rather, the hardware can prevent it, but you have to provide me with the means to make my software conform to what the hardware will run). It seems like a fair trade to me, and is not entirely unreasonable. The only people who see it as unreasonable are the hardware manufacturer's who want to use free code and not give anything back to the original developers.
  • by bit01 ( 644603 ) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @12:45AM (#19856597)

    Version 3, on the other hand, makes statements about how software is used.

    Just like the TiVo hardware makes statements about how the GPL'ed software can be used. GPLv3 is merely fighting fire with fire.

    I fail to understand why hardware vendors should be allowed to do anything they like while not allowing software writers the same privileges.

    An eye for an eye. The GPLv3 provisions only activate when a hardware vendor has deliberately tried to do an end run around the GPL.


    DRM'ed content breaks the copyright bargain, the first sale doctrine and fair use provisions. It should not be possible to copyright DRM'ed content.

  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Saturday July 14, 2007 @01:03AM (#19856699) Homepage Journal

    GPL version 2 had no restrictions on what hardware was required upon which to run the software. The license merely required that all modifications to the software were contributed back to the original work. It did not care how you used the software, merely how you contributed back to the project.
    Uhh, no. And this is what happens when you get your concepts of the GPL from Linus instead of actually reading it.

    The GPL says absolutely nothing like that. Linus did, but that's Linus' opinion.

    What the GPL says is that that you must respect the 4 freedoms, and one of the requirements to do that is to make the source code available to the users of the software. To sum it up: it's about the users.

  • by Ohreally_factor ( 593551 ) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @02:46AM (#19857161) Journal

    PS: sorry, but Linus is being a wanker on this issue.
    No, not really. You should actually try to read the thread in question on LKML. Given the context of ceaseless hounding by a FSFer in the thread, Linus eventually became rather short with him. He'd suffered the foolishness long enough.

    9-15 June []
    16-20 June []

    That's the meat of it, although the thread continues until it's just one FSFer talking to himself [] on 1 July.

    I used to believe in the reputation that Linus was short tempered (and maybe he is), but you really need to read the whole thread to see what sort of dumbasses he has to put up with.
  • Linus Shrugs (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 14, 2007 @04:13AM (#19857547)
    What this is actually revealing, is that true freedom issues from the author's right (which is the moral base of copyright). To wit: under the *current* copyright regime, anyone who doesn't like the terms of GPL can simply define their own licensing terms. It is the author's right, as recognized by the legal structure of copyright, that makes that possible and gives it legal force; copyright is a "copy right", not a copy DUTY, and it can be waived by the author.

    Take away author's right -- as you do, as Stallman and his ilk would, given the chance, and as GPLv3 does more than ever -- and that option is gone. That's the nasty truth which socialists have been dodging since 1793 -- liberty is an attribute and a social condition of the individual, and consists in his freedom to set his own terms, and to freely accept or reject the terms of others.

    No author's right, no copyright, and no GPL. No software at all, for the most part, for while your sort posture loudly about how glorious things would be without copyright, most authors would simply stop writing software, for there would be no point -- and those who do write it, probably won't bother to share it.
  • Re:Fork? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DaveAtFraud ( 460127 ) on Saturday July 14, 2007 @11:26AM (#19859571) Homepage Journal
    Nothing stops you from running the TiVo software on alternative hardware now. The gotcha is that the TiVo services aren't available to you. For that matter, there are open source DVR projects like MythTV that already provide an open alternative. What people would like to be able to do is use TiVo services for scheduling what gets recorded but then do whatever they want with the recorded data. This violates the DRM agreements TiVo had to agree to in order to not get sued by the TV networks for providing a mechanism for unauthorized recording.

    TiVo's business model is to provide people with a DVR at more or less cost and then make money by charging subscribers for using the device to schedule the shows they want to record. They actually have a pretty slick system that allows subscribers to schedule recordings when away from their system. This only works with the DRM baggage with a closed system.

    Look into how open game consoles are. The answer is that they aren't. Without hacking the hardware you can't do anything but play the games offered by the console manufacturer. It wouldn't be hard at all to include copy protection mechanisms (e.g., the console validates that whatever has been inserted is a valid copy). Now extrapolate that to computers. You buy a console computer from whoever offers one and you are tied to their closed system. The GPL and copyright is what provides an open alternative to this. Take away copyright that protects GPLed code from being used in ways the authors don't agree with and you probably lose a viable open source development community.

    I don't have a problem with copyrights or patents. I don't agree with software patents but that's a side issue. Any company that invests a huge amount of money into developing some product wants to know that they will get a reasonable return on that investment. Ditto for people who create copyrightable material (books, programs, etc.). For GPL developers that return is knowing they have contributed to an "open" software world.


To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire