Re: Dual-Licensing Linux Kernel with GPL V2 and GPL V3

From: Alexandre Oliva
Date: Thu Jun 14 2007 - 03:12:22 EST

On Jun 14, 2007, Daniel Hazelton <dhazelton@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> On Thursday 14 June 2007 01:51:13 Alexandre Oliva wrote:
>> On Jun 14, 2007, Daniel Hazelton <dhazelton@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
>> > On Wednesday 13 June 2007 22:38:05 Alexandre Oliva wrote:
>> >> In 95% of the desktop computers, you can't make changes to the OS that
>> >> runs on it. Whom is this good for?

>> > Faulty logic. I have yet to find a computer that I couldn't change the OS
>> > on.

>> I was not talking about installing another OS, I was talking about
>> making changes to the OS. As in, improving one particular driver,
>> avoiding a blue screen, stuff like that.

> Ah, well... In the case of "Windos" and other proprietary OS's I try to
> educate people and get them to switch.

Good. So I presume you'd tell them to switch away from a
turned-proprietary GNU/Linux operating system as well, right?

So, again, what do we gain if companies abuse the GPL and disrespect
users' rights that we meant them to respect?

>> > Or do you mean "transferring the recorded copies off the TiVO
>> > and on to a different medium"?

>> Sure. Such that I can watch shows while wasting time in public
>> transportation, in an airplane, whatever.

> Under the US Copyright law I'm not sure that making a "second copy"
> like that is legal. IIRC, "Fair Use" only allows for one copy.

Even if you delete the "first copy"?

Actually, I thought fair use in US entitled you to make a backup copy.
So the copy in your TiVO would be your original, and the external copy
would be your fair-use backup.

> As has been noted in their TOS and the licenses for the hardware from the
> start.

If it is used to disrespect the inalienable freedoms associated with
the GPL software in the device, it seems like a license violation to

> The FSF itself explicitly reserves the right to change the GPL at any
> time - which is no different.

Actually, it's completely different.

If the FSF revises the GPL, the old version remains available for
anyone to use for any new software, and all software released under
the old version remains available under that old version.

In contrast, your TiVO may get a software upgrade without your
permission that will take your rights away from that point on, and
there's very little you can do about it, other than unplugging it from
the network to avoid the upgrade if it's not too late already.

> A lot of them would probably have private modifications that would
> never be distributed - and under the GPLv2 it is clear that you can
> keep modifications private as long as you don't distribute them.

Likewise with GPLv3.

> "Pushing them away" means that they'd not do that because they would
> be concerned that the license will change under them in such a way
> that even those private modifications need to be released to the
> public.

This would not only change the spirit of the license, but turn it into
a non-Free Software license.

And then, again, the license can't possibly be changed from under
them. A new revision of the GPL would only affect software licensed
under that new revision. If you already got it under an earlier
revision, you know what you got, and nobody can take that away from

> (and don't try to argue that even though those modifications are
> truly private (to the company) they should be released anyway to
> comply with the "spirit" of the license. It is made clear that it
> isn't by the text of the license itself)

How could you possibly come to the conclusion that forcing anyone to
release private modifications would be in compliance with the spirit
of the license? can != must

>> > Why should I repeat Linus' explanation of the ways that GPLv3 violates
>> > the spirit of GPLv2?

>> Don't worry about parrotting here, he hasn't provided that explanation
>> yet ;-) Please give it a try.

> But he has. Whether you have accepted that his explanations are
> valid or not doesn't change the fact.

His explanation is based on a reading of the license that doesn't
match what its authors meant. I guess the authors know better what
they meant the spirit of the license to be than someone else who
studied it a lot but that until very recently couldn't even tell the
spirit from the legal terms.

>> > Just like people have started using "GNU/Linux" or "GNU+Linux" to
>> > refer to Linux

>> No, no, you got it wrong. Linux is the kernel. GNU was the
>> nearly-complete operating system it fit in. GNU+Linux is a complete
>> operating system.

> *AND* you cut out the bit where I said "I have no problems with it"

Referring to Linux as GNU/Linux would be wrong, because Linux is the
kernel, and that's unrelated with the GNU operating system. It's the
combination of them that forms GNU+Linux. And it's referring to this
combination as Linux that is wrong.

I'm sorry that I got the impression that you meant the combination
when you wrote "refer to Linux" above. It looked like you meant the
combination, since I've never seen anyone call the kernel GNU/Linux or

> Never claimed otherwise. The problem is that using a composite name like that
> *does* confuse a hell of a lot of people.

Pronouncing the '+' or '/' helps a lot. GNU plus Linux makes a lot of
sense, and so does GNU on Linux.

>> > A "TiVO" is not, and has never been, a "General Purpose
>> > Computational Device".

>> Err... Last I looked it was a bunch of general-purpose components,
>> packaged in a way that made it not look like a general-purpose
>> computer. Who gets to decide? And with what motivations?

> And so is every game console. But until the original XBox was released nobody
> tried using one as a "General Purpose" machine. The TiVO wasn't designed as a
> general purpose machine - it was designed for a specific purpose. That the
> *easiest* design to produce uses a bunch of general purpose components is an
> economic choice, nothing else.

So, if I put together a general-purpose computer, a general-purpose
operating system, adding a label "not a general-purpose computer" is
enough to make it so, just so that I can escape the obligations to
respect users' freedoms?

> I will not, however, argue about this anymore.

Fair enough.

> Let me quote Linus here:

> But I think the whole thing is totally misguided, because the fact is, the
> GPLv2 doesn't talk about "in place" or "on the same hardware".

> In other words, GPLv3 is breaking with its predecessor - it's adding a
> requirement that doesn't exist in previous versions.

No dispute about this. The requirements are being added to the legal
terms, precisely such that they better reflect the spirit, under the
light of the new threats that appeared since GPLv2 was published.

But the new requirements do abide by the same spirit, and that was a
promise the FSF made WRT revisions of the GPL.

> *AND* it's dictating terms for *HARDWARE* when it isn't a hardware
> license.

Only in as much as you try to use the hardware as means to disrespect
the spirit of the license and escape from the obligation to respect
users' freedoms.

> If I release software under the GPL and somebody modifies it to run
> on a different hardware platform I'll be happy, even if they don't
> send me a patchset for the new version.

Yup. See the bit about GPL not being tit-for-tat.

> If I create a piece of hardware and run Linux on it, but have it
> locked to a specific version or versions from a specific source (ie:
> me) and release it to the public, I *WILL* release the version of
> Linux I'm running on it.


> What I won't do is release whatever tools and such that are needed to
> make the hardware run a different version of the kernel. Why? Because: the
> hardware was designed so that a specific version of the kernel runs without
> problems, there is hardware that is very picky and running a customized
> kernel could cause that hardware to fail, etc...

Why do you care? It's no longer your hardware, it's theirs.

Why would you refrain from providing information to others such that
they *could* make the software do what *they* want in their hardware
that they got from you?

If you let them change it and they break it, they get to keep all the
pieces. Your job is done. Why get out of your way to stop them from
making the best out of *their* hardware?

Alexandre Oliva
FSF Latin America Board Member
Red Hat Compiler Engineer aoliva@{,}
Free Software Evangelist oliva@{,}
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