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Red Hat Developer Demands Competitor's Source Code 394

sfcrazy writes "A very serious argument erupted on the Linux kernel mailing list when Andy Grover, a Red Hat SCSI target engineer, requested that Nicholas A. Bellinger, the Linux SCSI target maintainer, provide proof of non-infringement of the GPL. Nick is developer at Rising Tide Systems, a Red Hat competitor, and a maker of advanced SCSI storage systems. Nick's company recently produced a groundbreaking technology involving advanced SCSI commands which will give Rising Tide Systems a lead in producing SCSI storage systems. Now, RTS is blocking Red Hat from getting access to that code as it's proprietary. What's uncertain is whether RTS' code is covered by GPL or not — if it is then Red Hat has all the rights to get access to it and it's a serious GPL violation."
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Red Hat Developer Demands Competitor's Source Code

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  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @08:52PM (#41987005) Journal

    It's the most interesting part of this whole affair by far, since they are, essentially, arguing that linking with GPL'd code does not make your own code GPL'd, even if you redistribute the result as a single work. If this can, indeed, be successfully argued in court, this would significantly change the nature of GPL - in effect, making it more like LGPL if not weaker (if static linking is fine also).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @09:21PM (#41987249)

    I think the more interesting concern isn't so much RH v. RTS, it's what happened to SCST not long ago. Vladislav Bolkhovitin has a nice, solid option in SCST ( that was skipped over in the upstream kernel in favor of the LIO stuff from Rising Tide Systems. We moved away from SCST to LIO at work even though we didn't think it was quite as good simply because being embraced by the community usually means that you win long term. Andy basically makes this point:

    "But let's forget licenses and talk community. Looking back, can anyone say that your push to get LIO accepted into mainline as the kernel target was in good faith? Back before LIO was merged, James chose LIO over SCST saying to the SCST devs:

    'Look, let me try to make it simple: It's not about the community you bring to the table, it's about the community you have to join when you
    become part of the linux kernel.'

    RTS behaved long enough to get LIO merged, and then forget community. James is right, community is more important than code, and licenses enforce community expectations. RTS has appeared just community-focused enough to prevent someone else's code from being adopted, so it can extract the benefits and still maintain its proprietary advantage."

  • by garyebickford ( 222422 ) <> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @10:47PM (#41987905)

    Actually the Perq workstation used paging back in 1978. Brian Rosen, the original designer, had a falling out with the folks at Xerox PARQ over paging vs. . And VM was originally used in mainframes in the 1960s. The same is true of preemptive multitasking, and a lot of other stuff - the real guts of OS. If software had been patentable back then, a lot of important stuff would have been kept proprietary for two decades and we'd still be using an abacus to do arithmetic. Which is why software patents, whether pragmatic or not, are ultimately unfair - stuff I did back in the late 1970s and early 1980s were a lot more interesting and difficult than one-click ordering and rounded corners. So for that reason alone, the change in 1986 to allow software patents was a violation of all that's good, right and holy. Imagine if Tim Berners-Lee had patented the World Wide Web? (which was inspired in large part by the NeXT computer's user environment and NeXTMail - much of which could also have been patented under present rules.)

    The present situation is akin to the inventor of the internal combustion engine not being granted patents, but painting the side of the car blue being patentable. But I know, I rant off-topic.

  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @10:48PM (#41987919)

    I and an employer put a ton of code out under GPL. We had an arrangement, like TrollTech and MySQL, that contributors could only get their contributions into our trunk if they gave us copyright. (Otherwise, the licencing terms clearly stated, they could strip off our licensing terms, fork, and put out a derivative strictly under GPL that we wouldn't touch.) This was plainly stated, contributors agreed to it, and most certainly, all of our code and that of our contributors has always been made available under GPL in addition to our ownership of the original copyright. It was even clearly stated on our wiki and in our source files how this works and that we might license the code commercially. One day, some dude comes along and contributes like a single line of code. Unless he was blind, he read the licensing and contribution terms. Then years later he "discovers" that that very same employer put out a commercial product based on this code that we had original copyright for. As if a company that developed a bunch of IP wasn't going to use it in their products? But he claims they're violating the GPL, makes a big stink about it, and then he brings up again a few more years later, and someone on one of the tech news sites picks it up, and it gets worse from there.

    I'm a huge fan of the GPL, but I'm sick of these dipwads who can't distinguish between a version licensed under GPL and the original work that's derived from. Meanwhile, they brainwash a bunch of other losers into thinking we're doing something wrong, while the whole time, we've worked carefully to ensure that we've been 100% precise and explicit and open about our intentions and careful attention to the terms of the GPL. (And BTW, I'm married to a lawyer, so I have extra help being ultra-precise about the GPL and copyright law.) To those people, the GPL is a religion, and anything not under GPL is evil. Moreover, anything related to a GPL'd work MUST be a derivative of the GPL'd work (not the other way around), because no commercial company is ever capable of producing anything that good, and when they release works under GPL, they must have hidden motives.

    In our case, the only reason we bothered to retain original copyright was because we were making open source HARDWARE and hoped to be able to fund development by commercially licensing our IP, which we did, which was the main reason we were able to build real hardware in the first place, which everyone knew we were going to have to do, which is why we added those licensing terms in the first place. Hardware is expensive to manufacture. Because of this (and plenty of other contributors and some donations), we were successful at producing 100% open source hardware.

    Sometimes, I feel like some of these people actually know they're being idiots. They're trolling, and they're doing it in an intentional attempt to derail an open source project. Like they're bribed by Microsoft, there to stir up trouble for FOSS projects by making political waves. But someone will come along and point out that if you have to choose between malice and stupidity, stupidity is the more probable option.

    Personally, my motivation is to make things that work and contribute to the global mindshare. It's not so much source code that I want to share. Source code is only one form of expression. It's KNOWLEDGE that I want to share. And I enjoy creating new knowledge. Now, we always have to consider the ethical consequences of what we do in science. We do science to improve the world, so if there's some way we might harm it instead, we have to find alternatives. But I'm tired of these jerks whose sole purpose in life seems to be to confuse people and make life all-around more difficult for everyone. This is just as bad as people who try to legislate creationism into the science class. (But you know what, they do this because they're jobless losers with too much time on their hands; the rest of us actually have useful work to do.)

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @12:14AM (#41988439) Homepage

    Emphasis mine. It doesn't say just customers. It doesn't say just people who have the binaries. It says "any third party". That means any third party, no further restrictions or conditions.

    I think your interpretation is wrong. If company A makes a special binary for company B along with an offer for source code, then random company C can't come and demand the source code for company B's version. The FSF FAQ says:

    (...) When users non-commercially redistribute the binaries they received from you, they must pass along a copy of this written offer. (...) The reason we require the offer to be valid for any third party is so that people who receive the binaries indirectly in that way can order the source code from you.

    That is to say, if you have an offer they must honor it no matter who you are. If you don't have an offer, you get nothing. It's like a cashier's check, whoever holds it can cash it. But no check, no money.

No extensible language will be universal. -- T. Cheatham