Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 13th Jun 2006 22:16 UTC
GNU, GPL, Open Source It's time for the Windows and Linux communities to drop the religious war and get together in a hurry to put the strengths of each operating system to best use, according to a nationally recognized authority on Windows Server. At the same time, Microsoft has been reaching out to the open-source community to try to find ways to overcome the incompatibilities between software distributed under the GNU General Public License and its own commercial software.
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by derekdb on Tue 13th Jun 2006 23:35 UTC
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Beyond the PR BS of the article, GPL really does make life difficult for a large company like MS. GPL is fundamentally about requiring derivative work to be FOSS. Derivative work includes suth things as copying algorithms. If GPL does prove to be upheld in the courts (it has not really be tested yet), there is a serious risk that all of Office (or Windows) could be forced to be open sourced simply because one intern recoded the same cool algorithm he saw in GCC. (This only applies if it cam be _proven_ that the inten did copy that algorithm.) From a management perspective that is serious business. GPL is a threat to _every_ non-FOSS software company in existance. It is just that no-one would bother to sue a smaller start-up, but Microsoft makes one meaty target.

GPL is great if you want to fight Stallman's religious wars about _everything_ being FOSS, but I'd rather see people focus on building cool software. If you want to play in todays capitalistic economy you need to accept proprietary software and move on. Like open source too? Use the BSD/Apache/etc license, and let the zealots waste their time arguing.

Reply Score: 3

by AnonaMoose on Wed 14th Jun 2006 00:05 in reply to "GPL"
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Derivative work includes suth things as copying algorithms


This isn`t exactly true, you can`t copy/paste the code but you can sure as hell use the same idea and implement it differently (which can be hard if you`ve seen the source code etc).
As for GPL being bad well that depends on how or why you use it, I`ve recently got a contract to a smallish website and I`ll be using GPL software for one part and my own proprietary code for another part.
This is all above board as nothing I make is "derived or linked" to the GPL stuff, I only "use" it for it`s original purpose and any modifications and source for the GPL stuff will be given to the client on the CD.
The only tricky part was explaining to my colleague what/how/why GPL works and changing his copyright statement (which may or maynot of been neccessary it`s easier if you make the wording VERY clear).
BSD vs GPL is an age old thing that doesn`t mean squat, BSD is like releasing your code as a town bike, GPL is like releasing your bike with a guard on the back so others can have a go.

EDIT: Note IP and Patents trump all this too but thats a whole other story and yes GPL3 is supposed to fix this loop hole and yes I think Stallman is a nutcase ;)

Edited 2006-06-14 00:12

Reply Parent Score: 4

by Wrawrat on Wed 14th Jun 2006 00:15 in reply to "GPL"
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Don't mix up implementations with algorithms. Copying code is one thing, producing similar, but completely original code based on an inspiration is another.

As for your fictious example, I don't believe Microsoft would have to open their code, just stop the distribution of the offending snippet and what was based on it. The licence might be "viral" but not that "viral".


Edited 2006-06-14 00:16

Reply Parent Score: 3

by butters on Wed 14th Jun 2006 00:57 in reply to "GPL"
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I'd like to live in a world where you're right, but unfortunately, almost every time I think I'm being too cynical, I'm proven wrong. In our society, people live and die for money, not for each other or for the good of the whole. The GPL leverages copyright to create a world where people work for each other's mutual benefit, and everything that can be demonitized, is. Society is religion, and religion is society. Please excuse Stallman for being cynical, and please excuse yourselves for not being cynical enough.

Please also excuse Theo de Raadt for not being cynical enough, because he had to make emotional pleas for big business to support the broke OpenSSH project. And when these big businesses were asked by the media to comment, their PR morons said that they didn't use OpenSSH, while in fact they were in fact using rebranded versions of this very software. Please excuse me for not wanting my software to suffer the same fate, regardless of how incredibly useful and widely deployed it becomes.

You see, the "zealots" you refer to aren't wasting their time arguing (presumably you meant "amongst themselves"). They, myself included, are spending some time trying to explain to staunch BSD supporters why their licenses cause situations where big companies make lots of money off of their software and leave them scraping for donations to pay for bandwidth. Yes, they reach a broader audience (which is a very good justification for the license), but these additional users are precisely the ones that capitalise and never give back. If this situation is fine with you, then by all means, release your software under a BSD license. You are a far more generous person than I, and I commend you for your thankless philanthropy. I'm really not being sarcastic, I'm dead serious.

I, too, like to see people build cool software, but I also like to use it. I couldn't use more than a few proprietary software titles, even if I really wanted to, because they're just too expensive. If I would stand to generate income based on the features of the software, then it would be a sound investment. But the majority of computer users use software to improve their general quality of life, not to make money. If my personal choices are beginning to impact Microsoft's (and others') revenue streams, then I know I'm doing something right. We're showing the world that software doesn't have to be expensive if people work together (which is one of the major things that computers allow us to do anyway).

There will always be a profitable market for proprietary software, but most software doesn't have to be closed. The GPL is really a wildly successful experiment originally designed to figure out just how broadly the principles of free software can be applied in the real world. So successful that the pressures for proprietary software to interop with free software are threatening to force proprietary software vendors to open up parts of their code, too. These conflicts are not justifications for why free software has outgrown its need for the GPL or for why the GPL is becoming a barrier to the adoption of free software. On the contrary, these conflicts are the first real signs of the GPL beginning to work for the benefit of all software users, not just for the users of free software.

Finally, I'm getting tired of people bitching on the web about stuff not being as they want it to be and then standing idle while other people who are trying to do something about it are called zealots. Maybe we're dead wrong, but you can't fault us for . Thomas Jefferson was a zealot. Copernicus, Ghandi, and Jesus were, too. So was Hitler. So if you're going to call Stallman a zealot, you'd better qualify that as a good or bad thing. It's hard to be a modern-day prophet in a world where any fool can voice his/her opinions. Its easy for the greatest minds of our time to be lost amongst a sea of mindless drivel, and yet Stallman has managed to touch the lives of many millions of ordinary people. Regardless of how he and his free software movement may be judged in the history books, it is hard to argue against zealotry in general as an impetus for social progress.

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE[2]: GPL
by djohnston on Wed 14th Jun 2006 02:39 in reply to "RE: GPL"
djohnston Member since:

Extremely well said!

Reply Parent Score: 1

by Mystilleef on Wed 14th Jun 2006 01:49 in reply to "GPL"
Mystilleef Member since:

Use the BSD/Apache/etc license, and let the zealots waste their time arguing.

Sure, so that you and corporations like Microsoft can bend me over while
I squeal like a lil' bitch. May as well just feed me to the dogs, thank you.

Reply Parent Score: 2

by hal2k1 on Wed 14th Jun 2006 05:42 in reply to "GPL"
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//Derivative work includes suth things as copying algorithms.//

Err, no. That is incorrect.

The GPL relies on copyright law. Copyright law protects the expression of an idea from being copied.

Hence, if Charles Dickens' book "A Tale of Two Cities" is copyrighted, then it is perfectly OK for another author to write another book about two cities, or with a similar story line, for example, but that author may not use "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" as the opening sentence.

I think you are confusing patent law and copyright law. A patent could conceiveably apply to an algorithm, but the GPL is not about patent law. The GPL relies on copyright law.

Hence, if the GNU program 'grep' (as an example) uses a similar algorithm to the original copyrighted UNIX program of the same name, and even uses the same concept and syntax for the regular expressions it takes as arguements, then that is OK under copyright law as long as the actual lines of code used to implement the functionality are different. Similarly, Microsoft could write its own grep program, as long as Microsoft did not use the same source code lines as UNIX grep or GNU/Linux grep.

However, assuming all three programs stuck to the same rules of syntax and used equivalent algorithms, then all three programs could be used in the exact same way (either directly from a command line or from within scripts). This would NOT violate copyright.

Hence we can have interoperability, open standards, open formats etc without violating copyright.

PS: Copyright law applies to anyone ... therefore an author of a GPL program has as many rights under copyright law as does an author of a proprietary program. Don't let the fact that you can see the source fool you into thinking a GPL program is not a copyrighted work ... it very much is copyrighted. After all, one can easily see the "source" of Dicken's book "A Tale of Two Cities", can't one?

Edited 2006-06-14 05:47

Reply Parent Score: 5

by Rehdon on Wed 14th Jun 2006 09:35 in reply to "GPL"
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What you're really saying is that Microsoft should be able to rip, plunder, bastardize and make proprietary what was originally conceived as free software, and after that they also should have you pay an arm and a leg for their "improved and extended" version of the same software, at the same time trying hard to exclude the free software community from any sort of interoperability by using all sort of mean tricks (see how Samba is struggling to catch up if you don't believe me). In other words, they'd like to (ab)use GPLed software like they did with BSD.

So, do you really need to be a FLOSS zealot to see that as fundamentally wrong and unfair? I don't think so.


Reply Parent Score: 2

by SEJeff on Wed 14th Jun 2006 12:57 in reply to "GPL"
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The GPL *has* been upheld in US and German courts of law: US Based out of Germany

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: GPL
by abraxas on Wed 14th Jun 2006 15:10 in reply to "GPL"
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If GPL does prove to be upheld in the courts (it has not really be tested yet), there is a serious risk that all of Office (or Windows) could be forced to be open sourced simply because one intern recoded the same cool algorithm he saw in GCC.

There is absolutely no risk of Microsoft being forced to open all of Office. That is not how the GPL works. That is not how copyright works. Microsoft would merely have to stop distributing the offending code, as it would then be copyright infringement. Microsoft could then implement its own code, instead of stealing from open source, and all would be well again.

Reply Parent Score: 2