[linux-elitists] GPL Violations [was Re: Mobile Phone Choices]
Wed Jul 26 05:17:32 PDT 2006
Hi Mr. Corbet! (and all.)
I really like Linux Weekly News. I am subscribed but tend to get a large
backlog. But your newswire and RSS feed is very good too.
See below for my comments.
On Wednesday 26 July 2006 01:31, Jonathan Corbet wrote:
> Dave <email@example.com> wrote:
> > I've seen a few press releases that say 'this phone runs Linux', like
> > http://www.imcosys.com/ and
> > http://mobile.haier.com/English/Product/GSM/N60/N60.htm but both
> > companies said that the phones software is not licensed under the GPL
> > or other Free Software license.
> > Are there any phones which are, or will be?
> The best bet in this area, I think, is the Motorola a780; Harald Welte
> has figured out how to update the software and has been busily working
> on a port of the 2.6 kernel. http://openezx.org/ for more information.
> If the phone itself were just a little smaller, I might have one by now.
> Incidentally, Harald has just posted that he has a big GPL hearing
GPL hearing... yuck. %-)
There's a certain BSD developer I know, who is a mega-troll and tends to be
an "idiot" in a sense (despite being very intelligent), but I am sometimes
reaching some interesting insights from him[Fool]. In any case, he claims
that sites like gpl-violations.org are the "anti-thesis of hacking", in which
hackers instead of hacking on software, become lawyers and prosecuters who
attempt to prosecute, defame and harass people who "violate" their
open-source software. He said he's still waiting for the bsd-violations.org
I generally don't hold the view that the GPL is an evil licence or is not free
enough. It is possible that some problem domains necessisitate GPLed or
LGPLed code. However, one of the reasons that I've been using the Public
Domain for my work, and am using the MIT X11 licence now, is because of the
least-worrying principle: the more I allow people to "abuse" my code, the
less I am worried about it being abused. In fact the COPYING file of my
software, back when I still used the PD, used to read:
Relax, this is not GPL software, but rather it is distributed under the
public domain. It means it can be linked against anything, converted to
any different license, freely used and distributed, and anything else
without any restrictions whatsoever. No Strings Attached!<tm>
Several people told me what would I feel if someone took the code,
incorporated it into a commercial product or even modified and extended it
without releasing back contributions. What I said in this case is something
along the lines of "all the power to them." I'd rather have such proprietary
forks, which could prove to be a good inspiration (and I have garnered some
useful ideas from commercial equivalents to my software, and heard that other
people too), than make sure my licence does not allow such forks, which in
case it happens, there's little I can do rather than feel disgruntled about
the world and people at large.
One thing the FSF got right and the gpl-violations.org got wrong is that
dealing with GPL violations should be done discretely, with respect to the
violator, without much publicity (at least not until the case is resolved)
and with as few negotiators as possible. (much less lawyers involved). This
is because GPL violations are often done innocently because of ignorance or
lack of knowledge due to the inherent complexity of the GPL.[GPL Complexity]
A company values its good reputation a lot, and even if it violated the GPL,
we should not deprive it of it.
According to ESR (IIRC, I cannot find it anymore on Google) the FOSS hackers'
ethics can be summarised as "Do and let do". Nevertheless, as expected
there's a lot of people who are trying to prevent people from doing what they
want to do. Such actions can be legal or ethical[Ethical], but they're
certainly immoral and undesirable. And a restrictive licence is certainly
very not "Do and let do"-ish.
The "How to become a hacker" document (
http://catb.org/esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html ) says that "No problem should
ever have to be solved twice.":
One can philosophise whether the GPL helps this or not, due to the fact it
discourages proprietary code, that often (but not always) have to be
re-implemented as free software. However, one thing we cannot deny is that
one has to think about whether making his software GPLed or LGPLed is in fact
a good idea in accordance to it.
Well, enough blubbering for now - I've got work and lots of other stuff to do.
I probably dropped a really large bomb here. I will try to stay and watch the
fireworks. (I.e: read the responses). But I probably won't reply to each and
every message, because as I've learned in trial by fire, is a very bad idea.
That and continuing with my "Duke of Email" theme (see
I'll probably create a feature out of this email in my homesite, after I and
others edit it a bit.
[Fool] - As people say "A wiseman can learn from a fool, much more than a fool
can learn from a wiseman."
[GPL Complexity] - See the GPL FAQ:
I'm not aware of any such FAQ for the BSD license, except for a few
(relatively short) wikipedia pages. It took me several years to fully
understand the GPL, while keeping discovering new things, and I'm still not
sure I fully did. (IANAL). I know many people often make completely wrong
claims about the GPL (such as "Microsoft cannot supply GPLed updates to
Windows GPLed software as part of its Microsoft Update feature, because that
will require them to make their software GPLed too").
I also once took the time to read the GPL (in English) from top to bottom, and
did not understand it. I'm not saying that this complexity is naturally a
problem. The GPL as a licence is certainly less complex than some FOSS and
most non-FOSS licences. It's just that sometimes people read on the
software's page that it's "open source" and think "Great! I can use it in my
[Ethical] - an unethical action is an immoral action that is viewed as harmful
to other people, and generally undesirable. On the other hand, an immoral
action, while being undesirable, can in fact still be allowed and ethical.
Smoking is an example for an immoral (= harmful to self) action that is still
ethical. (As smoking in private does not influence others).
Shlomi Fish firstname.lastname@example.org
Chuck Norris wrote a complete Perl 6 implementation in a day but then
destroyed all evidence with his bare hands, so no one will know his secrets.
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