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To read comments to this article, go here
Linspire's AntiGPL Philosophy
Saturday, April 08 2006 @ 10:01 PM EDT

If you want to know what is wrong with Linspire, its CEO reveals all in this article on DesktopLinux, where he subtly reveals the company's antiGPL stance:
"Linspire gets a lot of flack for looking like Windows, but guess what, what most people know is Windows, and we want them to be comfortable, Carmony said....

Another part where Linspire strays from most is that it includes all the third-party proprietary libraries and programs needed to run DVDs and the like with its distribution.

"We think not including those bits and telling our users where to get them instead is nonsense. Consumer desires trump philosophy. We have to give people this, or we can kiss consumers good-bye," said Carmony.

In this snip, you see all you need to know about the role this company is trying to play. Let me explain.

To understand it, let me direct you to a fascinating discussion on LWN (sub required, but if you don't have one, you can read it in about 10 days), which I won't take a long detour to explain, but note please this paragraph by Warren Togami at Red Hat to the suggestion that Red Hat should include MP3 support in Fedora to satisfy customer demand. The issue is, MP3 is a patented format, and if Fedora included MP3 support, it would impact on the freedom to redistribute:

Fedora distributes only 100% Free and Open Source Software. FOSS requires software to be freely modifiable and freely redistributable. Paying a royalty for Fedora to distribute something like MPEG for DVD capability would make it not Free, because that removes the ability for others to redistribute the software.

So there you have it. I'm sure you don't need me to connect the dots for you or to highlight the role Linspire is playing. Say, exactly what was in that secret agreement with Microsoft, anyway?

FOSS without philosophy is nothing at all, folks. That's exactly why all the proprietary folks and their uncle want to kill off the GPL.

Now, at one time, Linspire made statements publicly that it completely supported the GPL:

Linspire has also posted a note on a special page further noting that it stands behind and supports the ideals of the GPL.

"Andrew's project highlights the spirit of open source software, and it encourages discussion, development, and so on around Linux, which is always a good thing," the statement says. "Linspire completely supports the GPL and the spirit of open source, so projects like this highlight the value and dynamic of the GPL and open source. Linspire has no problem with anyone using the open source code from our operating system -- in fact we applaud such projects."

Here's their licensing information:

The Linspire operating system comes with "Family Licensing" and "Business Licensing." Family licensing allows a family to license one copy of our operating system and run it on every computer that a family owns. By contrast, Microsoft requires families to purchase a separate copy of its operating system for every computer in the house.

Similarly, Linspire's unique Business Licensing model allows businesses the flexibility to meet their personal computing needs without spending the exorbitant licensing fees charged by companies like Microsoft. See our Business Licensing page for more information.

To view the Linspire operating system End User License Agreement, as well as other agreements and information relating to your use and distribution of programs distributed with our operating system, please click here.

If you do, you'll be directed to a Linspire Licenses page that lists all the proprietary licenses too, including one titled "Microsoft Windows Media," and if you click on the link, you end up on Microsoft's homepage. Assuming Linspire means Windows Media Player, the license [PDF] obviously is incompatible with the GPL.

For that matter, let's take a look at Linspire's EULA:

1. LICENSE.

1.1 License.

a. Family License: If You are a Family or Individual, You agree to the following terms of this Section 1.1.a: the Software is a modular operating system made up of individual software components (each individual software component and all accompanying documentation, enhancements, upgrades and extensions thereto are referred to herein as "Software Program(s)") that were created either by Licensor or various individuals and/or entities. Subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement, Licensor grants You a non-exclusive, non-transferrable license (without the right to sublicense) to use the object code form of the Software for Your personal use in accordance with the accompanying documentation. You may download and use the Software on multiple computers owned, leased or rented by You; provided, however, You and members of Your Household (a "Household" consists of those individuals that currently reside with You) are the only individuals with the right to use Your licensed copy(ies) of the Software. For example, if You have a desktop computer at home and a laptop computer with which You travel, You may download a copy of the Software on both machines for the personal use of members of Your Household and You. You agree that You are responsible for the members of Your Household's compliance with the terms of this Agreement as though they were You and had agreed to all terms and conditions herein. Subject to Section 1.2 below, You may not (and shall not allow any member of Your Household or any other third party to): (i) copy, reproduce, distribute, relicense, sublicense, rent, lease or otherwise make available the Software or any portion or element thereof except as and to the extent expressly authorized herein by Licensor; (ii) translate, adapt, enhance, create derivative works of or otherwise modify the Software or any portion or element thereof; (iii) decompile, disassemble or reverse engineer (except as and to the extent permitted by applicable local law), or extract ideas, algorithms, procedures, workflows or hierarchies from, the Software or any portion or element thereof; (iv) use the Software or any portion or element thereof to provide facility management, service bureau or similar services to third parties; or (v) remove, modify or obscure any identification or proprietary or restrictive rights markings or notices from the Software or any component thereof. You shall keep a current record of the location of each copy of the Software You make.

b. Business License: If You are a Business, You agree to the following terms of this Section 1.1.b: the Software is a modular operating system made up of individual software components (each individual software component and all accompanying documentation, enhancements, upgrades and extensions thereto are referred to herein as "Software Program(s)") that were created either by Licensor or various individuals and/or entities. Subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement, Licensor grants You a non-exclusive, non-transferrable license (without the right to sublicense) to use the object code form of the Software for Your internal business purposes on Business owned, rented or leased computers in accordance with the accompanying documentation for: (1) solely up to the number of Simultaneous Users purchased by You in accordance with the terms and conditions set forth at www.linspire.com/businesslicense, regardless of the number of Business owned, rented or leased computers that You install the Software on or (2) solely up to the number of Seats purchased by You in accordance with the terms and conditions set forth at www.linspire.com/businesslicense. "Simultaneous Users" refers to authorized users that may use the Software at the same time. A "Seat" is a single computer processing unit or "CPU" (including computers with redundant processing systems), whether the Software is installed directly on that CPU or is served from a centralized server. Subject to Section 1.2 below, You may not (and shall not allow any member of Your Business or any other third party to): (i) copy, reproduce, distribute, relicense, sublicense, rent, lease or otherwise make available the Software or any portion or element thereof except as and to the extent expressly authorized herein by Licensor; (ii) translate, adapt, enhance, create derivative works of or otherwise modify the Software or any portion or element thereof; (iii) decompile, disassemble or reverse engineer (except as and to the extent permitted by applicable local law), or extract ideas, algorithms, procedures, workflows or hierarchies from, the Software or any portion or element thereof; (iv) use the Software or any portion or element thereof to provide facility management, service bureau or similar services to third parties; or (v) remove, modify or obscure any identification or proprietary or restrictive rights markings or notices from the Software or any component thereof. You shall keep a current record of the location of each copy of the Software You make.

1.2 Third Party Agreements. Many of the Software Programs included in the Software are distributed under the terms of agreements with third parties ("Third Party Agreements") which may expand or limit Your rights to use certain Software Programs as set forth in Section 1.1. Certain Software Programs may be licensed (or sublicensed) to You under the GNU General Public License or the GNU Lesser General Public License (copies of which are attached hereto) or other similar open source license agreements ("OSLAs") which, among other rights, permit You to copy, modify and redistribute certain Software Programs, or portions thereof, and have access to the source code of certain Software Programs, or portions thereof. In addition, certain Software Programs, or portions thereof, may be licensed (or sublicensed) to You under terms stricter than those set forth in Section 1.1. The Third Party Agreements, related online documentation, source code, and other information about such Software Programs are available at the website www.linspire.com/licenses or its successor website(s). You may also request a CD with the applicable open source source code by emailing your name and address to sourcecode@linspireinc.com. As a condition to sending the CD, Licensor may charge you Licensor's cost of providing you with the CD. You acknowledge that you have read, understood and agreed to the terms and conditions of each such Third Party Agreement. To the extent any Third Party Agreements require that Licensor provide rights to use, copy or modify a Software Program that are broader than the rights granted in Section 1.1, then such rights shall take precedence over the rights and restrictions granted in this Agreement solely for such Software Programs.

1.3 Violation of Licensing Terms. Any violation by You of the applicable license terms set forth in Section 1.1 or Section 1.2, as appropriate, shall immediately terminate Your license to use the Software. If You do not agree to comply with and be bound by the terms and conditions of this Agreement or the Third Party Agreements, do not install or otherwise use the Software.

See what happens when consumer demand trumps philosophy? They take away your freedoms. So Linspire has built a business predominantly on GPL software, and then they try to tell us that the GPL doesn't apply. If you watch them move the pea around real fast on the table, when they lift up the walnut, the freedom to modify is gone. Woosh. And no more right to redistribute.

Of course, that's utter nonsense. The GPL means you can always do those things. But they would like you to lose those freedoms so they can make some money, honey.

I thought this comment was well taken:

Fedora and MP3 (Posted Apr 6, 2006 4:02 UTC (Thu) by subscriber dang) (Post reply) I'm a bit baffled here. From the perspective of promoting open source, I think redhat's decision is as correct. If mp3 licensing is restrictive, and if there are ( better ) open source alternatives like ogg, then bite the bullet. In many ways, the problem here isn't with ogg, it is that you can't play oggs on your ipod, or you can't buy oggs from your favorite vendor. This bullet biting strategy is consistent with linux kernel's bulet biting stragegy with respect to binary drivers in general ( esp with respect to graphics cards and wireless cards ). There are compatibility issues, they suck, but the right answer is push back on vendors. On the other hand, for the perspective of the end user, if you really need to access media that fedora doesn't support, it takes one quick google search to find out which repos you need to add to your yum repository list. Simpler than the steps that you'd need to go through if you wanted a binary driver for your graphics card, etc. So I don't really have a problem with distros both doing the right thing, doing it as a matter of policy, and not weasling about it. For users that are interested in free beer, there are trivial answers. And this isn't news. Redhat hasn't shipped mp3 support in a long while.


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