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GNU is Not Unix Operating Systems Software BSD

GPL Hindering Two-Way Code Sharing? 456

Posted by kdawson
from the thank-you-and-goodbye dept.
An anonymous reader writes "KernelTrap has some fascinating coverage of the recent rift between the OpenBSD developers and the Linux kernel developers. Proponents of the GPL defend their license for enforcing that their code can always be shared. However in the current debate the GPL is being added to BSD-licensed code, thereby preventing it from being shared back with the original authors of the code. Thus, a share-and-share-alike license is effectively preventing two-way sharing." We discussed an instance of this one-way effect a few days back.
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GPL Hindering Two-Way Code Sharing?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 02, 2007 @02:01AM (#20438579)
    You are in a maze with twisty little passages.
    Do you tag this article:
    * noshitsherlock
    * duh
    * wateriswet
    * slownewsday
    * cowboynealsayalloftheabove

    Sigh.
    • by Yaztromo (655250)

      You are in a maze with twisty little passages.
      Do you tag this article:
      * noshitsherlock
      * duh
      * wateriswet
      * slownewsday
      * cowboynealsayalloftheabove

      Sigh.

      I keep trying to tag the story with one of those, but every time I do /. tells me that I've been killed by a grue [wikipedia.org].

      Sigh.

      Yaz.

  • by msimm (580077) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @02:06AM (#20438591) Homepage
    This is nothing new. Provide a permissive license and expecting everything to be returned to you is contradictory to the very license you've chose. Forking happens all the time, usually around licensing or management issues. So aside from the little dust storm we've seen recently regarding the wifi driver and the copyright clause I don't see how this is news.
    The GPL and BSD type licenses coexist perfectly, so long as both parties take the time to understand each other. Which is mostly the way it's happened. Kind of making this a none story.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by crayz (1056)
      Maybe the BSD license should be altered to say code can be closed-sourced but not open-sourced without retaining the original BSD license(adding an additional license to the code would probably be fine). Seems like BSD's intent is to allow code to be used anywhere(including closed-source) without the viral effect, and its understandable that taking the code, modifying it, and applying a viral license to it would anger some developers
    • Can you explain how forking from BSD to GPL works? Because the diff showed what appeared to be relicensing, and removed a clause that purported to be unremovable. So how does one take a BSD work and re-release it under GPL without violating the BSD?

      I know that it's possible, by design; I'm just getting really confused as to how it works.
    • by Chemisor (97276) * on Sunday September 02, 2007 @07:15AM (#20439907)
      The point is that we have the GPL camp and we have the BSD camp. The GPL camp takes code from the BSD camp and the BSD camp is not able to merge those changes back into BSD code. The issue here is not that this is a license violation; it is not. BSD people, like me, want other people to use our code. The complaint here is about the hypocrisy of the GPL camp, who claim that they don't want anyone to use their code without giving back the changes, but then turn around and do just that to the BSD people's code. Again, I emphasize that this action is not a problem to us; we want it and we expect it. The problem is with the GPL camp saying how they are somehow "more free".
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Synn (6288)
        The GPL camp takes code from the BSD camp and the BSD camp is not able to merge those changes back into BSD code.

        And that's the inherant problem with the BSD license, people can mod your code and not give it back to you.

        The complaint here is about the hypocrisy of the GPL camp, who claim that they don't want anyone to use their code without giving back the changes, but then turn around and do just that to the BSD people's code.

        There's no hypocrisy in that. Anyone can use the changes that where GPL'
        • Ball of confusion (Score:3, Interesting)

          by synthespian (563437)
          There's no hypocrisy in that. Anyone can use the changes that where GPL'd, but you just have to adhere to the GPL license for those changes. The hyprocisy is the BSD camp saying "be free to use our code any way you want" and when people take them up on the offer, they complain.

          You guys are confused. BSD code does make it into proprietary products, but you do not get to omit the fact that there's BSD code in it. We see it all the time: "Copyright The Regents of the University of California (etc.)..."
          So, you
    • by Bluesman (104513) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @11:27AM (#20442403) Homepage
      The way I see it, it takes nearly no effort at all to contribute the changes back to the BSD camp that provided you with the base for the code. All else being equal, that seems to be the ethical thing to do.

      It takes more effort to change the licensing in such a way that the BSD camp can't use the code. So it's kind of a slap in the face. I think that's where the animosity comes from, especially since the GPL camp proclaims to be all about freedom and sharing.
  • Why do they feel obliged to remove the BSD license from the Linux port of the driver? If they just keep it dual-licensed, there isn't a problem. Or did someone issue an edict that Linux kernel code can't be dual-licensed, at some point when I wasn't paying attention?
    • It seems to me that some Linux developers want to deny derivative works to the original authors. I guess they think that their not a part of a community, but a members-only club, and damn anyone not using the home team kernel.
    • Re:Simple solution (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EvanED (569694) <evaned@ g m ail.com> on Sunday September 02, 2007 @02:46AM (#20438767)
      Or did someone issue an edict that Linux kernel code can't be dual-licensed, at some point when I wasn't paying attention?

      I think the point of the story is the following:
      1. Developer A writes some code for OpenBSD (or whatever)
      2. Developer B says "that's cool, I wish Linux had that"
      3. Developer B ports developer A's code to Linux
      4. Developer B then starts improving on A's code

      However, developer B doesn't want to release his changes under the BSD license, so the improved version goes out GPL-only. Developer A says "hey, wait, that sucks", because now he can't incorporate those changes back into OpenBSD, which does (I assume) have a policy that all code must be BSD-licensed.

      One one hand, it's unfortunate, because OpenBSD loses out. On the other hand, the original author wrote the code knowing that someone could take it and not release changes (for instance, incorporate it into Windows or Mac OS X or SunOS or something like that), and this really isn't all that much different.
    • Re:Simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

      by deviate_this (304733) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @06:02AM (#20439547)
      Everyone seems to be completely missing the point here. As someone else pointed out, GPL supporters love to claim the moral high ground when it comes to comparing the GPL to anything proprietary and they love to say how the GPL promotes sharing and openness. So how do you claim the moral high ground when you just took someone else's project and forked it so that they can't use it the way they originally intended?

      So what if that's what if that's what the BSD license allows people to do! It's about moral hypocrisy, pure and simple. How can you claim to be free and open when you just basically told the original author that he/she needs to follow your rules in order to benefit from anything you add to it. It wasn't your project to begin with, but you're arrogant enough to fork the project and slap your own license on it, for what? Just because you don't like the BSD license?
      • Re:Simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JackHoffman (1033824) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @07:37AM (#20440089)
        The BSD developers got what they wanted. Their code is in use. The BSD license intentionally trades away protection from inclusion in differently licensed projects in return for the increased likelihood that the code can be used.

        The GPL developers got what they wanted. Their code is protected from proprietization (And ONLY their code. Anyone can take the original BSD licensed code and do what they want with it).

        There is no story here. The GPL and BSD licenses try to achieve different goals and both work as advertised. If you want an analogy: BSD is like the girl who sleeps with everybody. She gets a lot of sex and is invited to every party, but nobody respects her. GPL is like the girl who is selective about her partners. She doesn't have quite as much "fun" and has earned herself a little bit of a hard-to-get reputation, but the people who know her treat her well. Proprietary licenses usually require payment.
  • by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Sunday September 02, 2007 @02:17AM (#20438635) Homepage Journal
    Reyk Floeter (et al) [madwifi.org] put the following license on their code:

    * Alternatively, this software may be distributed under the terms of the
    * GNU General Public License ("GPL") version 2 as published by the Free
    * Software Foundation.
    If you think adding this to Linux would do anything the code's original authors did not want to happen, you don't understand what "alternatively" means.

    Clue: it doesn't mean "as well as".
  • by lordlod (458156) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @02:21AM (#20438651)
    Having talked to a few BSD licence fans most of them like the licence because it allows another group to take their code and close it off.

    This is exactly what the Kernel and other guys are doing, they are taking the code and putting a GPL header in there, closing it off from the BSD developers.

    The only difference here seems to be that because the BSD developers can see the changes and improvements being made they want to include them. Whilst putting the GPL on may be against the spirit of cooperation it seems to me to be exactly the kind of closing off of the code that the BSD developers want to allow.
    • Having talked to a few BSD licence fans most of them like the licence because it allows another group to take their code and close it off.

      Yes. That's because there are situations where it makes sense that somebody should be able to do that. The argument in this case is that this isn't one of them.

      That's the problem with your reasoning. You are accusing people who've released code under the BSD of not having considered the cons of the license. In fact, you can be sure that plenty of them were well aw

  • People release code under the license they like. If you can't abide by the license then you should not use the code. It's not a complex issue, you either play by the rules or you can't use the equipment supplied by the other team. If you don't like their rules you can make your own stuff and set your own rules.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 02, 2007 @02:27AM (#20438685)
    Quote Sam Leffler, the original author of the code, in http://uwsg.indiana.edu/hypermail/linux/kernel/070 9.0/0159.html [indiana.edu] (emphasis added by me):

    I dual-licensed the code so folks could adopt and use it however they saw fit. As I've said before I don't care what people do with the work I give away so long as they don't claim it's their own.

    [...]

    I am speaking up as the author of the code that set the dual license in place. I have the definitive say and I have said that any of my code that is dual-licensed can be made gpl only.

    Sam


    So Theo and the rest of his OpenBSD-Trolls better shut up.
    • Please mod parent up. This seems to be the definitive answer to all of this. Sam has the final say and he's saying that what was done is fine. He (and Atsushi Onoe in the case of the onoe rate control algorithm) hold the copyright to the code and specifically released it dual licence to allow this sort of co-operation.

      So, yes, Theo had better shut up. He's damaging the BSD relationship with Linux developers, from whom we get a lot of useful code (think ports).
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @02:36AM (#20438723) Homepage
    Netrek 2006, for example, has a BSD/MIT style license that says "Do what thou wilt except re-license under a (L)GPL or similarly viral license". The author of that license specifically identifies GPL as reducing the freedoms of the developer, which to be fair I'm inclined to agree with.
    • by nurhussein (864532) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @02:58AM (#20438813) Homepage
      Netrek 2006, for example, has a BSD/MIT style license that says "Do what thou wilt except re-license under a (L)GPL or similarly viral license". The author of that license specifically identifies GPL as reducing the freedoms of the developer, which to be fair I'm inclined to agree with. So, what the author of the license is basically saying is, it's even okay if you re-license the BSD code under an anally-restrictive proprietary license which allows that restrict every kind of freedom for everyone (users and developers included), just as long a those dirty, dirty GNU/hippies don't share the code their way. Because... it's... restrictive sharing in a way that we snobbishly disapprove of! Yeah. Because no sharing at all is better than GPL-style sharing.
      • by CowboyBob500 (580695) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @04:06AM (#20439117) Homepage
        The problem I thnk a lot of people have with the FSF and GPL is that it's moving away from a "this will protect your code whilst allowing others to use it" licence, to a "we have a philosophy about how the software should be used" license. This is why I have removed the "and any later version" clause from my GPL v2 code, and why these restrictions are being placed in other licenses.

        It's not that people like me don't want to share the code, just that we don't want to join the Cult of the Gnu either. For it is, almost, turning into a religious issue of whether you swallow the FSF dogma, rather than a practical one of whether you just want other people to benefit from the code.

        Bob
    • I can understand the temptation to license code like that, but it seems to me to be self-defeating, as well as probably unenforceable. After all, if you can do whatever you want except relicense under the GPL, you could relicense it under the traditional BSD license, then relicense that version under the GPL. Unless, of course, the license says that any derivative code, if the source is released, must not be licensed or licensable under the GPL, and must contain this clause. In that case, the license is
    • by bersl2 (689221)

      The author of that license specifically identifies GPL as reducing the freedoms of the developer, which to be fair I'm inclined to agree with.
      The author of that license would be correct; however, what is not mentioned is that some freedom for the developer is traded off for the guarantee of freedom of the user.
    • by cortana (588495)
      It's always sad to see formerly free works adopting non-free licenses. :(
  • by drolli (522659) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @03:02AM (#20438833) Journal
    I summrize my view -developer develops code and is kind enough to say that people may use this code in GPL way or in BSD way. -Linux developer derives work fron this code, take away BSD licensing terms, and by that the rights of the people who wanted to use the code and derived works under BSD license. If I, as a developer, for whatever reason, license code under my copyright to somebody, I demand that he agrees with the terms of the licence which I put, because after all I am still the copyright holder. Since GPL and BSD mainly collide in the handling of derivative works in respect to dristributing final products, it would seem to me that only the distributor in the end may chose not to distribute the source code of the device. And since the linux developer cut this right when he removed the license from the file, he is definetly violating the spirit of the dual licensed approach. The dual licensed apporach in nothing else but a "keeping both doors open" policy. While I wont comment on the legal terms i find this behaviour rude. When developing cond in our lab i several times encountered a similar spirit. People who do not honour the idea under which I gave them code which they modified (sometime actually causing work for me). If i give code to anybody it is not an invitation to missionate me into any license
  • Err, no (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
    ``Proponents of the GPL defend their license for enforcing that their code can always be shared. However in the current debate the GPL is being added to BSD-licensed code, thereby preventing it from being shared back with the original authors of the code. Thus, a share-and-share-alike license is effectively preventing two-way sharing.''

    Err, no. What is preventing the two-way sharing is (1) people using the GPL with (portions of) the code in a originally BSD-licensed project, and (2) the people in the origin
  • by drabgah (1150633) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @03:16AM (#20438897)
    Q: What happened?
    A: A contributor of a patch to the linux kernel didn't notice that it contained both dual-licensed and BSD-only code, and posted a diff that GPL'ed the whole thing.

    Q: What happened then?
    A: Several things. 1) The mistaken (and clearly incorrect) change of license on BSD-only code was rectified. 2) Theo de Raadt leaped upon this golden opportunity to accuse the linux kernel developers of stealing code and eating babies 3) Separate issues of the legal and ethical obligations related to license changes, dual-licensing, proprietary software, and the price of peanuts in Perth were immediately injected in the discussion and a classic internet blizzard of bullshit blanketed the land of free software.

    Q: Latest news?
    A: Several developers involved have attempted to help the situation by saying they want collaboration and harmony and dual-licensing their code, but these positive efforts have gone mostly unnoticed as everyone on all sides proceeds to get angry and confused. Apparently high intensity behind the scenes consultations with Eben Moglen have resulted in a daring mission to dual license an OS/2 + Novell Netware application stack under GPL 3 as translated into Babylonian Cuneiform, thus simplifying the situation for everyone.

    Q: What's the moral of the story?
    A: Sometimes, cooperation is harder to achieve than competition, or "the greedy fox gets stuck debugging the rotten oysters".
  • Yes, but! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @03:18AM (#20438907) Homepage Journal
    In one sense, the GPL does hinder two-way code sharing. You can't distribute, modify, etc. a project as a whole under the terms of the BSD license if some code in the project is under the GPL. So adding GPL-ed code to a BSD-licensed project does hinder two-way sharing.

    However, the fact to the matter is that it is the _BSD_ license that allows you to do this. The BSD license simply does not require you to share your changes.

    So, if you are asking yourself why changes aren't being shared back, the answer really is that the original authors (who put their code under the BSD license) said it was OK to use their code without sharing back.

    Of course, you can still call into question the behavior of people who take something willingly shared with them and then put up obstacles for sharing back with the original authors.
    • Re:Yes, but! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @04:00AM (#20439089) Homepage
      Here's an analogy for you: Say that I have a magic jellybean, and that magic jellybean can make as many red jellybeans as you like, but only five black ones each day. So I take my magic jellybean to the market, where I see Theo DeRaadt, and try to exchange my magic jellybean for a cow. It has a bit of a limp, but it makes chocolate milk on Thursdays. That's pretty nifty, so I offer him fifty black jellybeans. Then he says he'd also like a date with my sister, and I say, "I have two, and you'd better not mean the married one," and he fires back with, "Hey, you promised this analogy would be relevant to this discussion."

      No, Theo, I promised no such thing. Just like nobody promises to share their changes with the BSD team when they take advantage of BSDL'ed code. The BSD'ers say people ought to be able to do what they like with their code. Well, what the GPL'ers would like to do is protect their modifications from being appropriated by people who won't share the code. If they automatically hand their changes back to the BSD folks to distribute as BSD code, then they lose the protections they wanted from the GPL in the first place.

      Theo is basically saying, "The Linux people are hypocrites because they say they believe in software freedom but they don't believe in my definition of software freedom." Which is pretty lame.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NekoXP (67564)
      I'd disagree with that assessment.

      If dual-BSD/GPL-licensed code is used, then changes can be distributed under the GPL or BSD by the author of derivative works. However that applies to the derivative work; the COPYING file in any source code tarball dictates how you handle the entire derivative work. The original code would still be BSD licensed.

      The problem here is not that BSD licensed code has no legal obligation to contribute back, or that the GPL has a legal obligation to report changes, but that GPL li
  • by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @03:25AM (#20438933) Homepage

    The Linux code is being patched to fix the license problem, says TFA. Here's the content of the patch [marc.info].

    Note what the patch is doing, very carefully. The patch is changing the copyright notices on top of the modified files to say that these files are licensed under the GPL, but are also based upon an earlier work licensed under the BSD, and then reproduce the copyright and license statements as required by the original BSD licenses. This makes completely transparent the following things:

    1. The new work is released under the GPL license only. Anybody who uses, modifies or distributes this new work must abide by that license. They don't have any other license to that work.
    2. The new work is based on older work whose authors released under the BSD license, and the authors of the new work received the original under that license. In order for the authors of the new work to comply with the license that allows them to release a derivative of the original work, they reproduce the copyright and license notices of the original. These license notices only apply to the portions of the new work that are taken from the original one.
  • It's really this simple: there is no clause in the BSD license to enforce code-sharing. In fact, this is perhaps the major difference between the BSD license and the GPL, and has been often touted as an ethical advantage by many BSD license proponents. Now apparently some of them have decided that they would like to enforce code-sharing after all, but through moaning and name-calling instead of making their demands explicit in the license.

    Well, cry me a river. A license is a legal document and if you a

    • by dysprosia (661648)
      I don't think the BSD camp is interested in enforcing code sharing, my interpretation of things is that the BSD camp would like some contributions back on an ethical basis. I don't know how that's going to be achieved, whether some Linux people dual-license or whatever, or release some things as BSD targeted for the BSD people to use.
      • by ElMiguel (117685)

        I don't think the BSD camp is interested in enforcing code sharing, my interpretation of things is that the BSD camp would like some contributions back on an ethical basis.

        So apparently they think it's wrong to demand legally what they believe it's right ethically. Furthermore, they demand other things legally, just not what they actually want. And when it turns out that people outside the BSD camp don't follow that twisted logic, it's time to call them names.

        Well, their apparent position makes absol

  • by Alsee (515537) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @03:38AM (#20438993) Homepage
    In related news a debate that the BSD is being added to public domain code, thereby preventing it from being shared back with the original authors of the code.

    -
  • I'm a big fan of the BSD and BSD-style licenses. I have written a lot of code under the BSD-style license and been happy about it. It has let me apply that code in places where corporate policies are too anal to allow GPL code. The extensions that ARE made are so application-specific that nobody else would want them anyway. However, my code would never have been used at all in these circumstances if it were GPL licenced.

    "No, I'm sorry, you can't integrate my small component into your giant proprietary a
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DaleGlass (1068434)

      Does the BSD license allow people to make extensions and GPL the base code plus those extensions? Absolutely. Do BSD-style developers, then, have a right to be miffed if this is what happens? It's a hard question.

      I would say that on the basis of what I've seen lately, the answer should be "no".

      The GPL claim is: We don't want people to be able to close our code
      The BSD answer to that was: But source can't be closed, our version of it will always remain open

      Now that was all fine and good, if you don't mind you

  • by Crass Spektakel (4597) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @03:51AM (#20439053) Homepage
    Thats exactly whats BSD made for. Get everything you like and then throw back into the developers face everything you hate. No need to say thanks. Apple did it, Linux did it, dozends of others do it all day.

    Seriously, bragging about this is a sign of total ignorance about the BSD philosophy: Giving away everything without asking for anything. They should feel honored that they are getting ripped like they wanted always to be.
  • by pschmied (5648) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @04:29AM (#20439203) Homepage
    If you think about the BSD license in terms of an academic citation, it makes more sense.

    In the original patch, it appeared that some Linux folk took some code, stripped the BSD copyright notice and put it under a GPL license. Viewed through an academic mindset, it sounds less like "building on existing research" and more like plagiarism. Were they legally entitled to do what they did? I suspect probably so. Still, it seems like bad form not to cite your sources.

    -Peter
    • In the diff that I saw, there was a BSD license notice, and a trailing paragraph saying that the code could also be distributed under GPLv2. The Linux developer apparently took this as meaning that the code could also be distributed under GPLv2 (what gall!), and so changed the file to include a GPLv2 license notice.

      There are apparently some questions about exactly what code was covered by the offer of alternate license terms, but they will likely never be resolved because, as soon as it came to his attent

  • I'd love to just copy and paste the best comments from the previous time we've had this question thrashed to death on slashdot, but unfortunately those comments aren't BSD licensed, so I can't use them here.

    You EVIL slashdot commenters, how can you be so INHUMAN!

  • So I release all my code under the BSD license, specifically because I don't expect or demand patches sent back to me. I don't release it, and then get pissy if people don't send stuff back. I just write it and hope it helps.

    If I wanted a license where people couldn't "steal my code", I'd have chosen GPL. That your code may be "stolen" is not a bug, it's a feature of BSD. Theo et al shouldn't be annoyed that someone is actually taking the license at its word.
  • ...placing restrictions on reuse and redistribution of software is not really *open*?
  • BSD Alternative (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WPIDalamar (122110) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @06:45AM (#20439737) Homepage
    Is there an alternative to an MIT or BSD license that does the same thing, but doesn't allow GPL people to use it? I release just about everything I do under the MIT license, but I'd consider a license that prohibits GPL people from using it after see some of the BSD hate in these comments and over at kernel trap.
  • by DaMattster (977781) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @09:04AM (#20440779)
    The GPL has hindered code sharing. Do you remember the Broadcom wireless driver debacle wherein Theo recieved a nasty gram for porting the code to BSD? No, well here goes. Theo recieved a warning from the Linux project maintainers of a Broadcom wireless driver. This was really in poor code-sharing taste and ultimately caused the cancellation of the porting efforts. In the end, both Linux and BSD users lost out. Was OpenBSD really going to profit from it or commercialize it, no! It is simply in the spirit of hardware support. Now, let us look at OpenSSH, a fine product from OpenBSD. Linux and GPL people use it all of the time. I am hard pressed to find a more significant contribution to Linux. After all, OpenSSH is the foundation of secure remote administration, logins, tunnelling, and more. Now, someone tell me what Linux has contributed to BSD of similar significance as I cannot think of any.

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