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Author Topic: GPL strangles progress?  (Read 3154 times)

Offline tclfan

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GPL strangles progress?
« on: November 04, 2009, 08:28:20 AM »
Disclaimer: No doubt we are Linux fans (at least fans of one of distributions).
However, it appears a new (maybe not so new) trend is developing. E.g. I am reading an article 'Tomahawk Desktop Switches to BSD' and synopsis is:
"The makers of the Tomahawk Desktop operating system announced last week that they have switched from Linux to FreeBSD. From their explanation why:

We realised that a viable desktop operating system cannot be developed based on Linux...[as] Linux is an operating system kernel. FreeBSD is a tightly integrated operating system release.

GPL license requirement of Linux make it illegal for graphic card manufacturers, printer manufacturers, sound card manufacturers, and various other device manufacturers to develop and distribute closed source binary drivers...Further, most of the libraries in Linux are either full GPL or combinations of GPL and LGPL, thereby, making a legal mess to develop closed source applications for Linux. This is a serious issue especially for small and medium sector companies who find it difficult to afford a copyright lawyer. Development of an operating system for desktop is not in the domain of a one single company. It requires supporting drivers and applications get developed by various OEMs and third-party companies. It must be legal for them to do so. "

I have seen in some TCL posts cases where some free software could not be easily integrated as TCZ's since they are not GPL...
I am curious how serious impact has GPL in restricting progress...

Offline Jason W

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Re: GPL strangles progress?
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2009, 09:05:48 AM »
Linux seems to get kernel level drivers for new hardware faster than the BSD's.  I don't have numbers to back it up, but Linux gets things pretty quick.  And in the case things such as graphics and wireless, there is closed source firmware that runs with Linux.  

Printing is handled by cups, graphics by Xorg/Xfree, OSS produces sound drivers, and all of those run on either Linux or BSD.  Once you get above the kernel and utility level, you are using pretty much the same set of apps and libraries.  Any BSD running GTK2 is using the same GTK2 that runs on Linux, and there are closed source GTK2 apps.  Developing GTK2 apps on BSD would not make the GTK2 components any less GPL.  

But if you are creating an app, you can license it as you please as long as you don't static link to GPL components.  And there are many BSD licensed extensions here in the repo though they run on Linux.  Running Linux does not mean you have to run only GPL apps any more than running BSD does.

EDIT:  The above applies to using either Linux or BSD as a platform.  The philosophical argument of the BSD license vs the GPL in terms of the reuse of code and the definition of freedom is one that will not end.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2009, 09:29:14 AM by Jason W »

Offline tclfan

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Re: GPL strangles progress?
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2009, 09:39:20 AM »
Jason - Thank you for in-depth explanation.  Greatly appreciated.  I have not been into researching GPL and your clarification helps a lot.

Offline mikshaw

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Re: GPL strangles progress?
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2009, 05:38:40 AM »
Whether or not GPL hinders progress depends more on your concept of progress than on GPL itself.  If your idea of progress is to quickly put out a commercial close-source project, using code created by others, for which you have complete control of the code now and forever, then yes, the GPL is going to hinder that.  If your idea of progress is to allow the public to improve your project to whatever level suits them, then no, GPL is not a problem.

Quote
GPL license requirement of Linux make it illegal for graphic card manufacturers, printer manufacturers, sound card manufacturers, and various other device manufacturers to develop and distribute closed source binary drivers
This is incorrect. Nvidia has been providing closed-source Linux drivers for several years.

Offline tclfan

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Re: GPL strangles progress?
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2009, 06:53:46 AM »
Thank you for this info too.
I do not know much about licensing details, so I do not have a position yet, but what I do read on the Internet instills quite a bit of concern what is going on.
E.g. another quote:
"A look at the impact of the GPL on free software development.
If that's the case, perhaps Richard Stallman should rewrite the GPL so that it doesn't (rather effectively) hinder small, grass-roots, free software development and distribution projects. Perhaps he ought to use his influence to stop the Free Software Foundation from using the clauses already in the GPL as an excuse to bully small free software development and distribution projects with its legal heft. MEPIS wasn't the only distribution targeted: also take note of the threat of legal action looming over other projects such as Kororaa Xgl LiveCD. John Andrews of Damn Small Linux reportedly agrees with the estimation of MEPIS' founder Warren Woodford that a great many small Linux distribution projects are at significant risk, and new projects are considerably less likely to spring up in the evolving legal climate of the "free" software community."

It is somewhat concerning if there is some merit in what people report out there. I do remember the case when SCO threatened all Linux world, exploiting copyright legalese. I hope it is not the case that GPL as 'benevolent dictator' or any other body of 'free' license does restrict freedom of development. Free software world should not be forced to worry about details of 'free software license legalese' in addition to such as Microsoft and SCO...

Offline Jason W

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Re: GPL strangles progress?
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2009, 09:23:43 AM »
The good thing is that TC obeys all licenses, including the GPL.  Not only source tarballs but build scripts and patches are available on our server. Even though many extensions don't require that licensing wise, source and build instructions are always nice to have. And since we are modular, even if one extension was not in line with licensing requirements it would be a matter of one extension needing to comply or be removed, not the whole distro.

As long as a distro provides source, build instructions, and any patches used for their GPL packages all is well.


Offline tclfan

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Re: GPL strangles progress?
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2009, 10:03:01 AM »
Great point, Jason. Another strength of modular design (Other than architecture).

Offline curaga

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Re: GPL strangles progress?
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2009, 11:51:45 AM »
I disagree with the first post. No need for a copyright lawyer, I can check in less than a minute if a library is GPL or not, and so whether it can be used in a closed source app or not. LGPL - yes, GPL - no. Not difficult at all.

Also:
Quote from: tclfan
I have seen in some TCL posts cases where some free software could not be easily integrated as TCZ's since they are not GPL...
IIRC this was about whether we can legally redistribute, not about if it is GPL.
The only barriers that can stop you are the ones you create yourself.

Offline ^thehatsrule^

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Re: GPL strangles progress?
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2009, 05:45:27 PM »
Quote
GPL license requirement of Linux make it illegal for graphic card manufacturers, printer manufacturers, sound card manufacturers, and various other device manufacturers to develop and distribute closed source binary drivers
This is incorrect. Nvidia has been providing closed-source Linux drivers for several years.
Hm, actually I think this is unknown... it's been categorized as both afaik.  This is related to the usual question "linking" questions.  These will still probably remain a grey area, unless the matter is brought to some court.  The same goes for redistribution.