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

On Thu, 2 Dec 1999, Caspian wrote:

> about the GPL. This is about the general trend of companies walking all
> over the spirit of free software. No one is interested in "freedom talk",
> as RMS puts it. Everyone's interested in filling their own pockets.

That's right.  It's unfortunate, but I don't think it's critical.  The
thing is, the GPL isn't designed to prevent this.  In fact it encourages
it.  And the evidence is that it doesn't really have any effect on the
quality of the software or the distributions.  So, to be blunt, I don't
care. :}

> Crap like Corel's "adults-only" clause is only the tip of the iceberg.

Corel claims they are merely following the law.  The problem is the
inconsistency in their application of it.  It needs to be clarified.  But
it doesn't appear to be an attempt by Corel to get around the constraints
of the GPL.

> Scratch a little deeper and you will discover a whole world of people who
> have bought Red Hat, Caldera OpenLinux, etc. in the stores and either <A>
> don't realize that most of it is redistributable,

Do these people really exist?  This is not a rhetorical question.  I'm
just wondering how you have gotten this impression.  I haven't, from what
I've seen of the redhat list (which, I admit, I haven't followed recently,
but I did follow it last year, and never saw any of this sort of

> or <B> use a Red Hat variant (either made by RHAT or by someone else)
> that's so deeply mixed with non-free software that they'd be unable to
> determine what they can and cannot touch, even if they -wanted- to.

Red Hat is pretty good about separating their free from their non-free
software.  Software that is free (not necessarily DFSG-free, but at least
freely redistributable) is generally downloadable, and software that's not
only comes on the CD.  As of now, it is possible for anyone who wants to
to mirror the entire RedHat FTP site and not violate any licensing.

I don't see any evidence that Red Hat is trying to change that or even
wants to.  Their own utilities are all GPL, and they put money into GNOME
because they found the licensing of KDE too restrictive.

As far as modifying software, I think it's the responsibility of anyone
that wants to do so to either contact the copyright owner or at least read
the license themselves.  Yes, it would be nice if the entire distribution
were GPL from top to bottom, but I don't feel that it's necessary.

> 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

There is no part of Red Hat that is both non-free and required for the
system to work.  Caldera may be different, but Caldera has always been
very commercial-software centric and in any case, they don't attempt to
mislead the user into thinking the whole thing is proprietary.  In any
case, Caldera's target market doesn't really care.

They probably should, but they don't.  It's not Caldera's fault.  Should
Caldera shoot themself in the foot by refusing to provide software that
their customers want, simply because it wasn't developed under the same
premises as some other software that their customers want?

> 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.

I disagree on that point.  There are a lot of developers and users who
care a very great deal.  Are they in the minority?  Perhaps, but it's a
very significant minority.

> (i.e. the addition of non-free word processors and Web browsers, and

Nobody can seem to make a free word processor or Web browser that anybody
wants, so I can hardly fault the distributors for including non-free ones.
RedHat would use a free one in preference to a non-free one (they have a
strong preference for free software), but they are concerned with quality
first and freedom second.

> don't give their friends copies, and I'd wager that the majorty, when
> asked for a copy of their GNU/Linux dist, would say "Well, if you want
> a copy, you have to go to CompUSA and pay $59.95 for it like everyone
> else, you "pirate.""

Again, it is not the responsibility of RedHat or the other distributors to
educate their customers.  RedHat specifically told me at one point that
they absolutely do not mind people using their distribution for free.
They are in the unique position of having a product that is a loss leader
for itself.

> These effects are certainly not made any smaller by the proliferation
> of the term "open source", rather than "free software". I can't tell
> you how many times I've had to explain to people that NO, I am NOT an
> "open source" advocate.

ESR has written very good essays on how Open Source is really a marketing
program for free software.  We want free software to reach as many people
as possible and Open Source helps that happen.  I use Open Source, the
term, frequently myself simply because of the negative (free beer)
connotations that the term "free software" has.  When the person I'm
dealing with is of suitable interest and intelligence, I'll usually
explain the difference.  Once again, most people don't care.  All you can
do is try :}

> 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. At this rate, I'm

If there is an advantage to the OS itself that can't be found with free
code, someone will make a clone of the OS with the non-free (in this case,
free beer) versions replaced with free (probably free speech) ones.
That's the beauty of free software.  Once it's out there, it'a free

> fully expecting a vast network of licensing agreements to spring up. Some
> commercial entity will come out with a nice GCC replacement that's

Commercial entities have been trying to make compilers as high quality as
GCC for 20 years.  No luck yet.

I think you don't have enough faith in what makes free software so useful.
Most people who use free software (myself included) don't use it
necessarily because it's free (though that helps) - we use it because it
works the best.

My guess is that if any company comes out with a compiler that's better
than GCC, that GCC will quickly adopt whatever features make it better.
Closed source software has a hard enough time keeping up even when it's
already entrenched.  I don't think a closed product has ever displaced a
free one when the free one had the market advantage.  I don't even think
it's possible, unless patents (the greatest evil of our time) get in the

> way in which companies have been handling their move to Linux has
> demonstrated that they're in the "free software" world only because
> they feel that it might make them money. Their true preference is for
> software to be non-free, their sole interest is money, and antics like
> Corel's make both of these facts abundantly clear.

Companies' sole interest is money.  That's true.  Only software
development companies prefer software to be non-free (and not all of them,
witness Cygnus for example).  Nobody else, including distributors, cares.

> and less-free distributions from mostly GPLd code. 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

The GPL was not intended to do this.  The fact that it occurred at all was
because of the traditional cautiousness of corporate legal departments.
The GPL protects the software, not the "community."  An us vs. them
mentality does not help the spread of free software.

> stopping them. They're ignoring it in some cases and avoiding it in

There is not yet any evidence of anyone ignoring the GPL.  My guess is
that as soon as anyone finds some, my guess is that a lot of companies
(including some you won't expect, like Red Hat) will pool resources with
the traditional defenders (like the FSF and the EFF) and will make a very
powerful stand.  There's enough of an interest in the GPL doing its job
that a lot of companies (especially the enlightened ones) will feel it
necessary to the bottom line to keep it working correctly.

> software in the interest of money (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

Yes.  He has distinguished between free software as a philosophical
movement and free software as something that benefits everybody if more
people use it.  Frankly, I don't really care *why* people use free
software, but the more people use it, the less interference there will be
and the better off everyone is.

> entities like Corel on the left, and traitors to their causes like Eric
> Raymond on the right.

Free software cannot make progress if the free software advocates demand
that only computer geeks with a proper understanding of the traditions can
use it.  The software is at stake here, not the culture.

> 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 don't think this can happen.  It violates the GPL. :}

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

It's a colossal foulup caused by lawyers who don't understand what they're
dealing with.  

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