Thursday, July 19, 2007

Linus, Linux and the GPLv3

What most people forget is that Free Software is a balance between the rights of the creator and the user. Anything that disturbs that balance needs to be dealt with. Both patents and DRM represent things that disturb the rights of the users in favor of the creators.

RMS is not trying to force his personal beliefs on people. You don't have to change to the GPLv3, no one does. Linus, on the other hand, is coming out and engaging in name calling. I've seen more and more of this from Linus over the past few years. I don't see him as any better than RMS, in fact, I see him as worse. To me he seems like the kind of person who, if you don't agree with him, he'll freely and publicly call you names. That doesn't seem to me to be the approach of an intelligent or reasonable person. It seems to be to be the approach of someone who's ego has gotten a little too big for his own good. Not one of the reasons Linus has yet given for his dislike of the GPLv3 has made a great deal of sense from my point of view. Linus seems unable or, possibly, unwilling to engage in a debate about this pertaining to the facts of the matter. Instead he would rather distract people from the real issues by calling RMS a fanatic and calling anyone that adopts the GPLv3 hypocrites.

He states that the GPLv3 will make it difficult for business' to use GPL'd software. This is, in fact, correct. The GPLv3 will make it more difficult for companies to restrict the rights of their users (people like you and me). The GPL was meant to protect against this type of thing. As the world evolved, the GPLv2 became inadequate due to the simple fact that many of the technologies and problems which exist now did not exist when it was drafted. It therefore, has legal holes it in nowadays that one could drive a truck through. The GPLv3 was meant to address the shortcomings and, in some cases, the lack of clarity of the GPLv2. It protects the users better and is clearer on what is and is not distribution.

If Linus wants to play name calling games, that's just fine. If, however, he wants to actually discuss the facts, he and the rest of his sycophantic followers should engage the FSF in a debate.. or, at least, they should have been more of a part of the drafting of the GPLv3 than they were... certainly... if you don't put your 2 cents into something, especially when you're invited to do so (GPLv3 comments were open to the public and, indeed, Eben Moglen publicly asked the Linux contributors to participate)... then, in my opinion, you have no cause to complain when the process is finish.

Linus and his ilk had their chance to say something and they remained silent. Why should they be listened to now?

The GNUstep project is moving to the GPLv3, as are Samba and many other Free Software projects. Linus has forgotten what Free Software is all about... a balance of individual rights. The GPLv3 is, quite honestly, the best way to proceed forward, since it addresses critical issues in the previous version. If Linus want's to think us all hypocrites, then so be it. I would submit, however, that he is the one engaging in hypocrisy. When someone can take Linux and add DRM code to it and then distribute it under the GPLv2 and get away with it, then that defeats the spirit of the GPL in the first place. Perhaps, then, it's not so much hypocrisy on Linus' part as it is a sheer lack of understanding. Perhaps he never understood the GPL in the first place.


Jesse Ross said...

Is GNUstep moving to GPLv3 or LGPLv3?

GregC said...


It's moving to both. Since the apps are GPL and the libraries are LGPL, it will be GPL/LGPL where appropriate.


chdig said...

Greg, philosophical question for you. When you wrote: "Free Software is a balance between the rights of the creator and the user. Anything that disturbs that balance needs to be dealt with. Both patents and DRM represent things that disturb the rights of the users in favor of the creators.", I understand the bit about patents.

What I don't get is the DRM bit. Doesn't DRM protect the creator of a work in much the same way as GPLv3 is trying to protect the creator of free software from any type of use? With no DRM, there's no balance between user and creator, just like there's no balance with GPLv2. Before, DRM wasn't necessary, but with new technology, some think it is. Likewise with GPLv3.

I'll make a quick note that I can't stand DRM, but just like if Stallman wants to protect his work (organisation protecting from users like tivo), why shouldn't DRM be viewed the exact same way (record/movie companies protecting from users that steal)?

GregC said...

When it's used to protect copyrighted content such as a movie, I'm thinking it's okay.

When it's used to tie an OS to a given set of hardware... that's another story.

It's theoretically possible to force people to run an OS (case in point Mac OS X) on a given set of hardware using DRM technology.... but then provide the code via the GPL. It defeats the purpose.

Anyway... I'll give a more full answer later, but for now i have to run to work. ;)


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