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

From: Daniel Hazelton
Date: Thu Jun 14 2007 - 04:29:31 EST

On Thursday 14 June 2007 03:11:45 Alexandre Oliva wrote:
> 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?

If that happened I'd be lost. I've tried the various BSD's and found they had
problems with hardware support and getting a new version of the BSD kernel to
compile and boot is something of a black art.

The point is moot, though. It can never happen.

> 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.

Hrm... Perhaps.

> > 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
> me.

As much as the US "Declaration of Independence" and other sources want people
to believe otherwise there is no such thing as "inalienable rights"
or "inalienable freedoms". In this case I have been unable to find
this "inalienable freedom" to run custom versions of software "on the same
machine" that you received the original copy on anywhere before the GPLv3 -
and even then it isn't explicitly clear. There is no restriction on your
right to modify, copy, distribute or run the software as provided by versions
of the GPL prior to version 3. If this "run modified copies on the same
hardware you received the original on" *IS* the "spirit" of the license, then
why isn't it stated anywhere before GPLv3? (After all, the FSF has have 20+
years to mention it)

> > 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.

I'll grant you that. But, at this point, where can I find a copy of the GPLv1
without having to dig around the net ?

> 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.

And because its a device that connects to their network - and TiVO isn't a
telecommunications company - they have the right to upgrade and configure the
software inside however they want. (In the US at least)

> > 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.

I can see this, but will a company see this?

> > "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.

Point. But once again - would a company pay attention to that fact?

> 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
> you.

True. But that doesn't save them from lawsuits trying to force them to obey
the terms of the new revision even though they received the software under an
earlier version.

> > (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

I was trying to be sarcastic and inject a little humor here. Guess I should
have used the old <sarcasm> tag :)

> >> > 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.

And his interpretation is no less valid than that of anyone else. In fact,
after a recent conversation with a couple of lawyers that I know, I can state
that his interpretation isn't that far off from theirs.

> >> > 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
> GNU+Linux.

Then you're lucky. I've had a lot of people say something similar to the
following: "Oh, I've heard about that. So which version of the GNU-Linux
kernel are you running?"

> > 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.

Yes, it does. While pronouncing the '/' or '+' sounds a bit odd it does get
the point across that it's the GNU userspace running on top of the Linux
kernel. (as 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.

As I've stated before - I can find nothing in the history of the GPL or the
FSF that makes the "on the same hardware" requirement clear and part of
the "spirit" of "Free Software". The closest anything comes is the "printer
driver" that was the (in)famous "last straw" for RMS and caused him to create
the FSF and the GNU Project.

> > *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.

Shouldn't matter. As I've repeated quite a bit I cannot find a single mention
that "on the same hardware" has been a goal of the FSF or part of
the "spirit" of the GPL at any point before the drafting of GPLv3.

> > 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.
> Good.
> > 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.

Legal requirements in some countries that require manufacturers to provide
support for their product for a period of time after it has been purchased.

> 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?

See above.

> 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?

*thinks* Okay - looks like I had a thinko there. Arguments on this subject
(ie: the theoretical hardware) are withdrawn and the point is conceded.


Dialup is like pissing through a pipette. Slow and excruciatingly painful.
To unsubscribe from this list: send the line "unsubscribe linux-kernel" in
the body of a message to majordomo@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
More majordomo info at
Please read the FAQ at