Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 15th Jun 2007 22:17 UTC, submitted by prymitive
GNU, GPL, Open Source A lengthy debate that began with a suggestion to dual license the Linux kernel under the GPLv2 and the GPLv3 continues on the Linux Kernel Mailing List. Throughout the ongoing thread Linux creator Linus Torvalds has spoken out on the GPLv2, the upcoming GPLv3, the BSD license, Tivo, the Free Software Foundation, and much more. During the discussion, he was asked we he chose the GPLv2 over the BSD license when he's obviously not a big fan of the FSF.
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RE[3]: Wow
by zztaz on Sat 16th Jun 2007 05:55 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Wow"
zztaz
Member since:
2006-09-16

TiVo has agreed to, and obeys, the terms of the GPL for all of the software they distribute using that license. It is not right to apply those terms to the other software, under different licenses, which they also distribute in the same box. Copyright law distinguishes aggregation from derived works.

TiVo distributes the Linux kernel under the GPL. Because the GPL applies to the kernel, they also license the drivers that they wrote under the GPL. The drivers are linked, making them derived works of the kernel.

Other software is included in the box. That software is not licensed under the GPL. I would like it to be, but there is no legal obligation for TiVo to license separate programs under the GPL because they happen to run under Linux. Those programs are merely aggregated with the kernel, which does not make them derived works.

It would be counter-productive to require all software on a computer running Linux to use the GPL. No current Linux distribution would qualify. My Debian systems may run only freely-licensed software, but the GPL is not the only free license. Such a requirement would also fail in court. Copyright law understands derivation, not contagion.

The ends do not justify the means. Coercion is bad when Sony does it, and when the FSF does it. Version 2 of the GPL does not coerce, because it applies only to the software that the license is attached to. Accept or decline the license, and it only affects the program itself, not system it runs on. Sony's copyright on some music does not give them the right to dictate the operation of the device I play the music on. The FSF's copyright on gcc does not give them the right dictate how I manage keys on my hardware. The copyright on the music applies ONLY to the music, and not the player. The copyright on a program applies ONLY to the program, and not the hardware it runs on.

I agree with the goals of the FSF, but think that they've made a tactical blunder with the DRM portion of GPLv3. The other changes are worthwhile improvements.

Using a license to promote the freedom of the licensed object is great. Using a license to promote freedom of other things which come in contact with the licensed object steps over the line. Version 2 of the GPL stays firmly on the right side of the line, and recognizes that while world peace and ending hunger are worthwhile goals, restricting the USE of software in fact reduces freedom. It covers only distribution, not use. There are better ways to end hunger, and better ways to promote open hardware.

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