[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: Dangerous precedent being set - possible serious violation of the GPL

While we clearly won't agree on philosophical grounds, perhaps we're not as far
apart as you might think. Your philosophical concerns are well stated here and I'd
like to respond to some of your concerns as they pertain to Corel.

> Everyone's interested in filling their own pockets.

As a publicly traded corporation and not a charity, we of course have to be
profitable, but that doesn't mean we can't support the ideals of free software.
These ideas don't have to be mutually exclusive.

> In most cases, I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that those who "buy" modern
> commercial GNU/Linux dists (which are often laced with tons of non-free
> code, usually-- as in the case of Red Hat-- completely unsegregated from
> free code, and often part of the base system) assume that (just as with
> the Microsoft OSes they were "buying" a year ago) they have no freedom to
> alter or redistribute any parts of their OS, so they don't even try. Right
> now, the end-users have significant freedoms with regard to the software
> they are running-- the various commercial GNU/Linux dists-- and I doubt
> that even more than 5% of them can even identify those freedoms.
> Furthermore, I doubt that these freedoms will last. So few people know or
> care about them that what is free today probably won't be free in a few
> years.

Or in the case of Corel Linux, the download version includes one application which
is non-free: Netscape. If Mozilla was up to speed in functionality and stability,
which it will be hopefully soon, then this last piece could be removed. We
specifically addressed this issue in our retail versions of Corel Linux. In the
retail product, we include several discs. The first disc includes a mix of free and
non-free applications like many other commercial distros. Since we're based on
Debian, the non-free components are appropriately segregated. A second disc
includes the same image as the download, is labeled "Open Circulation", and a card
in the box identifies what you can do with that disc. We did this so users had a
disc that could be easily installed on multiple machines.

> As time goes on, they are replacing bits and pieces of it
> with non-free code, (i.e. fdisk and FIPS with Partition Magic in
> Caldera's case) and/or supplementing the free stuff with non-free stuff
> (i.e. the addition of non-free word processors and Web browsers, and
> the inclusion of such programs in the base/default installation, without
> even clearly marking them as non-free.)

I think you're actually combining two issues here. Replacing free code with non
free is one issue and adding in non-free applications is another. Replacing free
code with non-free code is not something Corel has any interest in doing unless the
free code somehow prohibited us from moving a technology forward. So far this has
not happened and I don't expect it to. Adding non-free applications is a place
where we'll clearly disagree. Applications like Netscape or WP get included because
there are no comparable equivalents available in the free realm. Told you we
wouldn't agree. ;->

> By the time anyone outside the ivory tower of computer geekdom realizes
> what's going on, I'd wager that these companies will have replaced
> numerous core elements of their OSes with non-free code.

I can't speak for other distros but Corel has no interest in recreating
functionality if it is already perfectly effective. If you look at the enhancements
we've made, they are generally all focussed primarily on the user interface level
and supporting that level. We aren't spending time re-building sections of low
level code that already work well. This is one of the greatest synergistic effects
of free software development.

> At this rate, I'm
> fully expecting a vast network of licensing agreements to spring up. Some
> commercial entity will come out with a nice GCC replacement that's
> completely non-free, then every commercial Linux dist will license it...

Unless the replacement is better, there is no reason for distros to do this. Every
piece that is licensed into the box costs us money. If GCC continues to be the
technology leader it should face no threat from proprietary technology. One of the
most basic beliefs is that the free software development produces better products.

> Or, put more simply still-- the GPL acted as a deterrant only until the
> commercial world finally was pressured to enter the GNU world. Now that
> they have done so, they're finding ever more clever ways to create less-
> and less-free distributions from mostly GPLd code.

>From my earlier comments in this post and an explanation I'll be posting later
about the "minor" agreement, I don't believe Corel Linux to be less free. Replace
Navigator with Mozilla and it's all free.

> The GPL is no longer
> serving as a convenient deterrent to keep money-loving hoarders out of the
> community formerly occupied chiefly by computer-loving hackers and free
> software coders.

My understanding of the GPL was that is was designed to make code "free" as in free
speech. I'm not sure keeping money out of the equation was the prime directive.

> Now, they're invading our turf. The GPL is no longer
> stopping them.

Take advantage of the situation. Corporations like Corel are spending money writing
free code. How can that be bad?

> (ESR even -admits- on opensource.org
> that what the "Open Source Initiative" is is a marketing campaign for free
> software. He literally admits this! It's not a philosophical movement at
> all, but a marketing campaign.), on one side, and from the traditional
> post-PDP-era, pre-GNU/Linux-era proprietary software world on the other
> side.

It's a marketing campaign for a philosophy. We don't want free software to loose
the oh-so-frequently-quoted "Beta-VHS" war where a better technology looses to
better marketing. Why not put good marketing behind the better philosophy.

> Something-- SOMETHING-- must be done, or in five to ten years the Linux
> (and I do say "Linux" here, since it will no longer be "GNU/Linux")
> community will more closely resemble the Microsoft/Adobe/Lotus world than
> anything RMS would be proud of.

I've stated this a few times in a few other places. As more people get involved in
free or open software, fewer of them will be connected with the "spirit" of the
community. People and organizations may move contrary to the spirit of the
community not out of malicious intent but because the rules aren't clear. They only
thing they will see are the licenses so those licenses will become the voice of
free software to those people. Make sure the licenses are clear and accomplish
everything you believe in because the licenses are enforceable and easily
communicated, the spirit is not.

> Look at Corel's EULA and think-- is this a step forwards for free
> software? Or is this a step AWAY FROM it?

If you read my explanation which will be posted later, I hope you see that it
attempts to make the terms of all licenses, including the GPL, enforceable which
should help strengthen free software.

Erich Forler
Product Development Manager
Corel Linux

The address in the headers is not the poster's real email address.  Do not send
private mail to the poster using your mailer's "reply" feature.  CC's of mail 
to mailing lists are OK.  Problem reports to "postmaster@umail.corel.com".  
The poster's email address is "erichf@corel.ca".

Reply to: