Archive for the ‘GPL’ Category


April 8, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing:

Well, this is fascinating. ASUS hasn’t even released its Eee Pad Transformer yet, but it’s already put up for download the source code to the Linux kernel used in the Android Honeycomb operating system the machine runs.

The Linux kernel is under the GPL, which is a copyleft license. Asus is shipping Honeycomb which includes Linux. They have to “release” the Linux source code; as does every other vendor selling Honeycomb-based devices. I know licensing can get complicated at times, but this is pretty straightforward.


Google has “no plans” to ban copyleft

February 20, 2011

Both Apple and Microsoft have blocked the distribution of copylefted Free Software through their App Store and Windows Phone Marketplace respectively. Though there’s no indication or reason to believe this might happen with Google’s Android Market, I wrote their Open Source Programs Manager, Chris DiBona, asking him about the possibility. He replied:

No, we have no plans to restrict copyleft based programs. When we were creating our application market for android, we wanted to make sure that developers could offer programs that contained open source and free software. (email: 2/20/11)

Google’s inclusive approach to licensing will only help make their market more appealing to developers and users alike.

he sure told me

January 9, 2011

If you’re unfortunate enough to be a Facecrack user, you can check out more at the VLC Media Player’s page.

To be fair, though he stereotypes all VLC users as “Open Source” users, he’s got an historically accurate point. The Open Source movement was started as a break from the Free software movement. A break that differentiated itself by placing an emphasis on software development models rather than end-user freedom. Some Open Source supporters don’t know this though, and were actually drawn to the ethical and socially optimal reasons that many Open Source adherents agree with despite the movement’s foundational, ethics-free rhetoric.

The fact remains however, that abiding by copyleft would not restrict Apple in any meaningful way. They have chosen not to respect the obligations set forth in the license. User anger should be directed toward Apple, not licensors who wish to uphold the terms of the license. It is good reason to boycott Apple or at the very least, Apple’s App Store. All Apple needs to do is change their policy so as not to discriminate against some licenses. Upholding the intent of copyleft does not make one an asshole and Apple doesn’t deserve sympathy or deflected criticism.

does Microsoft support “viral” CC licenses?

November 27, 2010

I’ve supported Creative Commons several years now and continue (happily) to do so. I’m also glad to see continued support from Microsoft, a company the Free and Open Source software world often criticizes. It’s interesting to note however, that prominent Free software advocates historically refused to support CC until the license offerings met a meaningful standard. Microsoft too, has harshly criticized free licensing. But their target has been the GPL – to the extent that they’ve insulted the license as “viral”, a “threat” and “cancerous”. It’s well known (at least, to Microsoft surely) that CC implements the Share-alike obligation as a choice for their licenses – the copyleft equivalent for works other than software.

So is it that Microsoft has no desire to take a “principled” stand against copyleft, or do they simply support CC to portray themselves as a socially responsible corporation? If their animosity toward copyleft was based on old, ignorant, 2001 remarks and their feelings have changed, it’d be nice for them to state so. Or perhaps they’d like to offer an argument as to why copyleft isn’t economically viable in the world of software while for other works it deserves their respect.

And no, fixing a situation after getting caught with your pants down doesn’t count as a change of heart.

Obligations vs. Restrictions: The GPL, VLC, and Apple

November 4, 2010

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has followed up on the news that VLC may be pulled from Apple’s App Store. The title of his article is misleading and should be noted. It says:

GPLv2 blocks VLC from Apple’s App Store

but it should read something like:

Apple blocks VLC from their App Store

The blame here could be misconstrued by readers and thus, misplaced. There is nothing in the GPL that restricts software from being distributed through Apple’s (or anyone’s) app store. If Apple doesn’t want to accept the obligations of the GPL, then they’re the one’s responsible. Apple isn’t just blocking VLC, they’re blocking copyleft altogether.

Free software and externalities

January 14, 2010

I’ve been thinking of externalities and by far the hardest form of an externality example to come up with has to be a “positive production externality”. That is, where the production of a good or service has a beneficial spillover effect for the rest of society’s producers. I came across an older post by Jason Welker where he speaks of the difficulty in providing examples. In that post he quotes economics professor Dr. Tim Haab who had this to say about PPEs:

The problems usually come in defining a positive production externality. A benefit to someone that is not fully captured by the producers–usually difficult because producers are usually pretty funny about finding ways to recover the full benefits of their production.

The case of proprietary software provides evidence for this claim. When proprietary software is published, it uses trade secret, patent and copyright laws to keep other producers from benefiting fully from the spillover. For example, trade secrecy keeps useful source code hidden from 3rd parties. Patent laws can keep 3rd parties from implementing similar ideas in their programs. As well, non-disclosure agreements are used within companies in an attempt to stop any benefit from “leaking” to other producers. Proprietary software production is an allocatively inefficient deployment of resources (historically justified under the fallacy that quality software won’t be written otherwise) and represents a market failure.

In the case of Free software production, the PPE isn’t negated by NDAs and patent thickets. With Free software, all producers are affected by the benefit. Non-copylefted Free software brings the marginal private cost (MPC) curve closer to the marginal social cost (MSC) curve while copylefted Free software aligns the two even closer as producers are unable to prevent others from acquiring the same benefits they received. Therefore, it makes the most sense for government policies to support businesses and other institutions in a way that encourages even more development of Free software.

On a related but unfortunate note, countries like Germany are trying to correct a negative consumption externality of proprietary software. Specifically, the burden of malware. Promoting Free software also tackles this problem as Free software offers users the best defense against malicious code.

get sort of addicted to sharing

September 25, 2009

Richard Stallman was recently asked his thoughts on hardware manufacturers’ violations of Free software licensing, in particular the GPL. While he voiced some concern he spoke candidly of his long-term plan:

Someday they will though, and as long as they’re going to horde it, we want them to horde ours. They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to share sometime in the next decade.

OK, OK. RMS never said that. I jest on years past.

the GPL and “development” versus “distribution”

April 2, 2009

The following paraphrased argument is extremely common:

I’m not against Open Source, I’m against the GPL. I’m against the GPL because it doesn’t give the developer the freedom that the MIT or BSD licenses offer. Copyleft restricts the right of developers.

To develop software means to make changes to your software and expect those changes to run as expected. The GPL, MIT, and BSD license all allow this to happen. All Free Software and Open Source licenses allow this to happen. What the proponents of the above view want to make-believe is that to be a “developer” can simply mean to re-license and distribute code – a task any semi-determined dimwit can accomplish. The mistake (whether through ignorance or an effort to confuse others) made is to make synonymous the act of licensing/distributing with developing.

So when a developer complains that his “freedom” (they like to use this word in an attempt to manufacture a copyleft “hypocrisy”) is obstructed by the GPL, point out to him that it is not his freedom to develop that is obstructed but rather, his privilege to distribute in a way that restricts others. A subtle but enormous difference.

What does one call a tivo-ized Linux kernel?

January 22, 2009

Bad GNUs.

Revolution OS

February 19, 2008

Recently, my Technology in a Global Society class watched Revolution OS as we began exploring Free Software and Open Source. It’s a film I’ve used to introduce this unit several times over the past few years. Though it claims to be targeted toward “the techno-illiterate” crowd, I find doing a little research in advance beneficial. Here are the links we skimmed over before viewing the film:

Linux kernel Eric Raymond Microsoft Corporation Microsoft Windows Free Software movement GNU Project Open Source Software Bruce Perens Richard Stallman Proprietary Software Free Software Foundation Linus Torvalds Bill Gates An Open Letter to Hobbyists The Cathedral and the Bazaar non-disclosure agreement Unix BSD compiler source code debugger text editor Michael Tiemann Cygnus Solutions Emacs Larry Augustin Sun Microsystems Free Software definition public domain copyleft GPL Apache Brian Behlendorf GNU Hurd Netscape Mozilla FreeBSD Red Hat Internet Explorer Jim Barksdale Open Source definition Debian GNU/Linux Steve Ballmer GNU/Linux User Groups Microsoft anti-trust lawsuits end-user license agreement IPO (Initial Public Offering)

Other great things about this DVD is that it’s Region Free, CSS-Encryption Free, comes with a 2nd DVD containing extra interview footage, and an easter egg allowing you to watch Moore’s civil war film “Shooting Creek” (my son found this by chance when playing with the remote control as a 2-year-old). About the only thing keeping it from perfection is a CC license. I’ve bought and worn out several copies over the years and highly recommend seeing it. I believe it’s available on torrent sites if you’re unable to offer the authors any monetary appreciation.