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FSF's Brett Smith Has Your GPLv3 Questions
Friday, April 06 2007 @ 12:40 PM EDT

It's Friday, and that means the time is up for adding questions about the GPLv3 draft 3 for FSF's Brett Smith to answer, at least as far as the original article is concerned. He's collecting them now. He told me that your questions were fantastic, incredibly so, better than some he's gotten from the committees. Normally I'd collect the questions for him, but I asked him to do it, since I'm a bit buried in SCO manure at the moment and extra busy.

So if he misses your question, or an aspect of it, you can repost it on the future article that will present his answers. The conversation isn't over by a long shot, and for that reason, I'm asking you to place any new questions or comments here, not on the original article, so we can keep them all straight. The idea is to answer all your questions, so you can provide meaningful input, but there is some overlap in so many questions -- 729 currently -- so if we miss something important, just sing out. That is what all the eyeballs are for.


FSF's Brett Smith Has Your GPLv3 Questions | 258 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Authored by: ankylosaurus on Friday, April 06 2007 @ 12:55 PM EDT
If there are any...

The Dinosaur with a Club at the End of its Tail

[ Reply to This | # ]

Of topic here
Authored by: ThrPilgrim on Friday, April 06 2007 @ 12:56 PM EDT
Pleas make links clicky

[ Reply to This | # ]

All Hat...
Authored by: seanlynch on Friday, April 06 2007 @ 01:06 PM EDT
If Darl and the rest of the SCO gang are "All hat and no cattle.",
where is all the manure coming from?

Wait, on second thought, I don't want to know!

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Amebic Dysentery - Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, April 06 2007 @ 01:36 PM EDT
Are deleted questions also transferred to FSF?
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, April 06 2007 @ 01:07 PM EDT
Whatever the reason was to delete the questions, does the FSF get a separate
file from the Groklaw archive of deleted postings? Or is Groklaw functioning as
a gate keeper for what is deemed appropriate as a question towards the FSF?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: stites on Friday, April 06 2007 @ 01:21 PM EDT

I have read the latest GPL3 draft several times and participated in the debate here on Groklaw. I agree with the entire proposed GPL3 except with the portions dealing with TiVoization, DRM, and DMCA. I don't disagree with those sections of GPL3. I just do not understand them. So I would like to explain my views on the DMCA provisions and perhaps Brett Smith could check if the proposed draft actually addresses my concerns.

DMCA is only partially a technology problem. DCMA also includes legally mandated monopolies. The creators of materials copyrighted under the DMCA are also given a legal monopoly over copying machines for their copyrighted material. In order to build a copying machine for DMCA protected materials you have to have to have a contract with the company which owns the copyright.

This creates problems when somebody tries to mix Open Source code into code being used in a DCMA protected machine. It is very easy for the terms of a DCMA contract to conflict with the terms of the GPL, indeed the conflict may be inherent. One solution is to have well defined modularity whereby code subject to DCMA restrictions is not mixed with code released under the GPL. But we also need the legal solutions whereby the DCMA restrictions cannot be applied to GPL code.

The legal solutions do not necessarily have to be in GPL3. They could come on a case by case basis in arguments with companies which release products which contain conflicts between a DCMA contract and the GPL. So if we cannot agree on appropriate DCMA clauses in GPL3 then the DCMA/GPL conflict will probably be solved in a series of disputes over individual products.

I suggest that GPL3 could meet this requirement by a major rewrite of section 3. The new logic would be based on the premise that you would have to meet your DCMA contractual obligations in a separate module which is presumably not released under the GPL.

Steve Stites

[ Reply to This | # ]

FSF's Brett Smith Has Your GPLv3 Questions
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, April 06 2007 @ 01:35 PM EDT
Can Brett Smith address the points raised at

[ Reply to This | # ]

PJ! Language!
Authored by: myNym on Friday, April 06 2007 @ 02:37 PM EDT
Yesterday there was "horse puckey", today "SCO manure"?

:-p 8-) 8-)

Just to be clear: joke joke.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Mix of GPLv2 and GPLV3
Authored by: blang on Friday, April 06 2007 @ 04:51 PM EDT
I don't know if these have been asked or answered anywhere, but could someone
elaborate on this topic?

A likely scenario is that for some large software projects, not all copyright
holders will modify their license and upgrade to GPLv3. What is the status of a
project where you get a mix?

For example, If one modifies a file released under GPLv2, written by someone
else, I can modify it, and license just my changes under GPLv3?

How about the opposite? Can I modify a file released under GPLv3, and release my
changes under GPLv2?

As a practical matter, are you afraid that large projects might branch off in a
GPL2 branch and a GPL3 branch? How was this dealt with in previous versions? Was
GPLv1 so the code would automatically also be licensed under later versions
while GPLv2 license only was valid fro that explicit version? So, is GPLv2 to
GPLv3 migration a new scenario in this regard?

Also, are there some practical things a copyright owner should do in order that
the intent of his code lives on in case he dies? Is it best to donate the code
to an organisation or person in trust, if not now, maybe in a will?

Especially with really old GPL code I imagine this can be an issue. How would
you practically deal with the copyrights of deceased persons, especially if you
need their consent to for example migrate from one license to another? The heirs
might not even know about these copyrights and how to deal with them, while
folks interested in the code might not even know who the code now belongs to.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, April 06 2007 @ 05:29 PM EDT
I've heard that Microsoft has approached several users of opensource software
and have entered into patent agreements with them but have kept the deals

It doesn't violate the license, because they are users, but is that how they're
going to do it? Saturate the users with patent deals so it becomes the norm to
'pay' for OSS?

What are the implications of this? What else can happen or should be expected?
Does it matter?

What if MS's approach is to selectively approach users of the software, not
distributers, so as not to disrupt the flow of OSS software, but building an
unstopable precedent of IP royalties on OSS by constantly pursuing users (the
'customer base') who don't care about the ideals of FOSS and simply will pay the
IP license fee from MS because it's a cost of doing business?

MS just has to make sure they don't charge more than how much it costs to
litigate vs the cost of how much money will be lost if the give into MS IP
extortion and they'll make money for nothing. Just patent everything and
anything and sooner or later, lots of patents will stick.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: nb on Friday, April 06 2007 @ 06:59 PM EDT
PJ wrote:
The idea is to answer all your questions, so you can provide meaningful input, but there is some overlap in so many questions -- 729 currently -- so if we miss something important, just sing out. That is what all the eyeballs are for.
I'm very impressed by this wonderful effort of collecting questions and trying to get them all addressed. Many, many thanks to everyone involved! This is going to result in an incredibly valuable resource.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Yet More Linux ELF code available from SCO
Authored by: sk43 on Friday, April 06 2007 @ 10:06 PM EDT
Tsk Tsk, it is binary code only. The timestamp is July 24, 1996, meaning
that the code was distributed by Santa Cruz, who, like The SCO Group, seemed
not to know that their intellectual property has been illegally incorporated
into Linux.

The library is

[ Reply to This | # ]

How does dual-licensing work?
Authored by: Anthem on Friday, April 06 2007 @ 10:40 PM EDT
Sun is (supposedly) looking at dual-licensing Solaris under both the CDDL and
the GPL3. If he wanted to, Linus could license the Linux kernel under GPL3 and
GPL2. But how does code swapping work?

If I write some GPL3 code, could it be incorporated into Solaris? As in, could
my GPL3 code be used in a CDDL project? Or if I write GPL3 code, could it be
used in the Linux kernel, and thus used in a GPL2 project?

Second question: Could GPL2/GPL3 code from the Linux kernel be used in the
GPL3/CDDL Solaris kernel?

[ Reply to This | # ]

GPLv3 quandries
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, April 07 2007 @ 12:18 AM EDT
DMCA or DCMA is a huge issue, it trumps all the patent hassles.

Here's another - dual-licensing has been brought up, but what if one license is
GPLv3 and the other is commercial with a patent? GPLv3 can't help here.

What if two companies have a cross-licensing agreement, company A has a
"submarine patent" and company B unknowingly writes and releases code
with GPLv3 ? company B has abided by the conditions, didn't know about the
patent, yet everything they produce is subject to the cross-license agreement.

What happens in countries that ignore patent and/or copyright laws? ie: brazil,

Is it really serious if I use a GPL library for my code development, my code is
no "infected" by GPL? that's nuts.

GPL code shouldn't taint regular code unless under certain conditions.

You do realize, don't you, that the Linux kernel can never be GPLv3, right? I
mean, you've figured that out already, right?

And of course, the question of medical devices keeps coming up, except I say
it's not just medical. It's military, it's other uses as well, like physics, you
wouldn't want people messing with a particle accelerators code, fusion reactor
code, or like things. I don't think this can be categorized, because it keeps
spreading, from medical, to public safety, to environmental, to morality, to
frivolous, and onward. it'll eventually leech into everything.

even music, where altering parameters too severely could cause an ultrasonic
release resulting in injury or death. Playing with LED's could cause blindness
or injury.

fiddling with lighting equipment could cause severe burns, or even start a

reprogramming your gas barbecue could cause an explosion.

military equipment, you could wipe out a city... the wrong city...

Yes, I'm exaggerating to extremes, but it's to prove a point.

what about truly unique new ideas and new technologies?
What if someone comes up with something so new, unique, and earth-shattering, it
could change the very nature of the world? Do we just say that software patents
shouldn't be allowed, just because? and so that person loses all value to their
invention? Oh because software is just math? so it has no value.

that's just not right, in certain cases. the point is, the exception list is
huge, perhaps even infinite. and one little document ain't gonna do it...

[ Reply to This | # ]

ACT - somewhat SCO-like
Authored by: Alan(UK) on Saturday, April 07 2007 @ 07:29 AM EDT
More signs of Microsoft desperation in News Picks - "ACT warns of legal
risk with latest GPL draft".

ACT - Association for Competitive Technology - aka Microsoft, Oracle, e-bay,
Verisign - "ACT is the only organization focused on the needs of small
business innovators from around the world".

All I can say to ACT is:

"If you do not like the GPLv3, you and your members are free to have
nothing to do with it. If you and your members are so innovative, you all can
write your own software."

Microsoft is nailing up its own coffin from the inside.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Just posted this on's article on th ACT's pseudo-complaints
Authored by: jo_dan_zukiger on Saturday, April 07 2007 @ 09:47 AM EDT
Review the relevant law:

I publish something. Say it happens to be the source code of a program.
Publishing it does extend to the readers certain fair use rights, but those
rights do not include either the right to re-publish (ergo, distribute) any
substantial part.

And fair use does _not_ include the right to claim dibs on it, make back room
deals concerning it, or even patent some technological invention embodied
by (parts of) the program the source describes.

If you want to patent something in it, you'd better be able to prove you had
invented it before I published it, and probably before the earliest date my
source code control system and/or notes show I invented it. Once it's
published, it's prior art to anything not (provably) invented before.

And what if it turns out you have a patent on something in my source code?
Well, you can tell me so, and then I don't even have the right to use my
source code any more, and I maybe the court tells me I have to tell everyone
so. Maybe you can even take me to court, prove bad faith on my part and get
damages. But if I am barred from using my source code, so are you. Your
invention is still yours, and my program is still mine, barring some explicit
agreement to the contrary.

What changes if I declare it licensed under the GPL? Not much. Still no back
room deals, no claiming dibs, no patenting after-the-fact. The only additional
privileges or rights are (1) your rights to use the program without publishing
it are made explicit, and (2) you now have the right to publish it yourself,
provided you don't try to claim it as your own or otherwise interfere with
anyone else's rights under the same license.

But what if I publish it under the GPL and you have a patent on something in
it? I have to go tell everybody the GPL license was not valid. And nobody at all

has any right to use it, not even you, not even me. You can still use your
patent, but you cannot use my source code under the GPL.

Unless, of course, you decide to let _everyone_ use your patent with my
source code under the GPL. You don't have to extend any broader right to use
your patent, but if you allow everyone the right to use it with my source code,

then everyone can use my source code after that.

Or I could perhaps tell you that you and you alone can use my source code,
but why would I do that?

Oh, and there is one more possibility, and that is, if I remove the code that
implements your patented technology, you have no more claim, and everyone
can use my program sans your patented stuff.

GPL v. 2 (the one currently in common use) has a clause that prevents you
from even _indirectly_ attempting to refuse to let other people pass it in
under the GPL. Essentially, there is a gentlemen's agreement between those
who use my program not to attempt to steal it, even indirectly. Except that
the gentlemen's agreement is a contract in this case.

This is where Novell screwed up.

Sure, Microsoft can _unilaterally_ declare that any user of SuSE has some
protection from suits relative to their patents, but only as long as they don't

use my source code _at_ _all_. None. Never. Well, okay, they might still be
allowed fair use, but I might even be able to get an injunction. Because, by
promising only a subset of users such protection, they are barring themselves
from meeting the conditions of the GPL.

The only thing Microsoft can legally do is disclose their patent claims and
then everybody is prevented from using the patented technology parts until
the technology is written out of the programs. Anything else is quite probably
tortious interference on their part.

And if Novell makes any claim about such a unilateral assurance other than
disclaimer, they lose their rights to use or publish (distribute) under the GPL,

because the GPL v. 2 precludes indirect methods of trying such things.

I don't like GPL v. 3 because I am aware than anytime someone tries to close
loopholes, more holes tend to open up. Also, because the indirection clause
is there, it seems unnecessary to me to try to close it be rewriting the
contract. Just take Novell to court. And maybe Microsoft, for trying to alter,
indirectly, a contract they have made themselves a non-party to.

Speaking of which, if I see my code in Novell's distributions, I _will_ take
to court. I'm thinking of going after them for attempting spoliation of the
GPL, anyway.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Change to GPLv3 and give Microsoft your rights?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, April 07 2007 @ 11:13 AM EDT
Re: The comments by ACT attorney Richard Wilder as to the possible
antitrust and interference violations committed by those who wish to now release
their copyrighted software under GPLv3.

If a CONTRACT between those who released code under GPLv2 and Novell exists
then there must be value received on both sides. Part of the value the licensor
receives is that the code is unencumbered except for the licensing agreement.
The INTENT OF THE CONTRACT is for ALL LICENSEES to have the same right. A
distributor understands that the software is supposed to be freely
redistributable, and that other distributors may make use of the same software
under the same conditions. This redistribution clause for all is imposed by the
copyright holder.

Microsoft and Novell try to create a loophole in the license, so Microsoft
can make a claim on the code rights of others, while pointing to the deal with
Novell as the proper way to license supposed Microsoft patents.
(Maybe all GPL copyright holders can get a $200M payment from Microsoft for
entering such a deal?)

Anyway the INTENT of the original copyright holders under GPLv2 is to allow
the code to be redistributable by anyone who complies with the GPL. For Novell
and Microsoft to enter into their agreement is a violation of the WELL
UNDERSTOOD principle under which Novell received its distribution rights. Novell
should lose those rights.

The GPLv3 clearly defines the original prohibition and gives the copyright
holder the ability to say no to such a misuse of their code in the future.
In a process to deal with Novell and avoid the courts, Novell is allowed to
redistribute the older code, but as code improvements and newer versions are
released under GPLv3 Novell will not be able to use the newer versions under the
same agreement with Microsoft.

Any attempt to bring legal action against those who choose to license under
GPLv3 for the contractual reasons given by Mr. Wilder would most likely result
in a counter suit against Novell for violating the clear "intent of the
contract" when they licensed under GPLv2. i.e.: The right of ALL to freely
distribute. In such a case Novell could very well lose distribution rights under
GPLv2. Collusion to violate the contract terms under which Novell received
distribution rights may make Microsoft liable for damages as well.

The Contract sword which Mr. Wilder waves in the air will cut both ways.
The edge which Mr. Wilder threatens to wield against the Gplv3 is very dull
compared to the edge which would slice through the claims and improper
activities of Novell and Microsoft..

[ Reply to This | # ]

GPL and derivative works
Authored by: init on Sunday, April 08 2007 @ 10:40 AM EDT
I have a question regarding GPL and derivative works, which stems from the
recent copying of GPL:ed bc43xx code into OpenBSD:

Many proponents of OpenBSD argue that the GPL code was only there temporarily,
and that the GPL-covered sections would get rewritten over time until no such
code would exist. Is such a process compliant with the GPL?

I'd say, although IANAL, that it's not. First you have the original GPL-covered
code. In next revision you have rewritten one section/function with your own
code. This new work would in my interpretation be a derivative work, and thus be
covered by the GPL as a whole.

If you repeat this process until all the original code is gone, wouldn't the
project still be covered by the GPL? I'd say it would, but what do I know?

[ Reply to This | # ]

FSF's Brett Smith Has Your GPLv3 Questions
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, April 09 2007 @ 02:00 AM EDT
Here is the California bill itself: HERE

Here is where all of you Californians such as myself can find your District Leader: HERE

I urge you all to E-mail your district leaders and ask them to support AB 1668 2007 and add Section 11541.1 to the Government Code.

[ Reply to This | # ]

full microsoft leter
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, April 09 2007 @ 07:11 AM EDT

[ Reply to This | # ]

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