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Theo de Raadt On Relicensing BSD Code 613

Posted by kdawson
from the read-the-berne-convention dept.
iBSD writes "KernelTrap has an interesting article in which Theo de Raadt discusses the legal implications of the recent relicensing of OpenBSD's BSD-licensed Atheros driver under the GPL. De Raadt says, 'it has been like pulling teeth since (most) Linux wireless guys and the SFLC do not wish to admit fault. I think that the Linux wireless guys should really think hard about this problem, how they look, and the legal risks they place upon the future of their source code bodies.' He stressed that the theory that BSD code can simply be relicensed to the GPL without making significant changes to the code is false, adding, 'in their zeal to get the code under their own license, some of these Linux wireless developers have broken copyright law repeatedly. But to even get to the point where they broke copyright law, they had to bypass a whole series of ethical considerations too.'"
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Theo de Raadt On Relicensing BSD Code

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  • A couple more links: (Score:3, Informative)

    by ak3ldama (554026) <james_akeldamaNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:05PM (#20589365) Homepage Journal

    here's the article on undeadly [undeadly.org] and and here's a synopsis from a misc post [marc.info] An excellent (and apparently sarcastic) quote:

    Reyk can take them to court over this, but he must do it before the year 2047.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:31PM (#20589877)
      The followup comment by Theo [kerneltrap.org] that you mention is in the original linked article, but it's worth posting here in full as it simplifies the issue. In it, Theo states:

      I recognize that writeup about the Atheros / Linux / SFLC story is a bit complex, so I wrote a very simple explanation to someone, and they liked it's clarity so much that they asked me to post it for everyone. Here it is (with a few more changes)
      -----
      starting premise:

      you can already use the code as it is
      steps taken:

      1. pester developer for a year to get it under another license.

      - get told no, repeatedly

      2. climb over ethical fence

      3. remove his license

      - get caught, look a bit stupid

      4. wrap his license with your own

      - get caught, look really stupid

      5. assert copyright under author's license, without original work

      - get caught, look even more stupid

      Right now the wireless linux developers -- aided by an entire team of evidently unskilled lawyers -- are at step 5, and we don't know what will happen next. We wait, to see what will happen.

      Reyk can take them to court over this, but he must do it before the year 2047.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 13, 2007 @01:37PM (#20591075)
        That's a good one; a group with no money sues another group with no money. Finally! A legal case that won't involve money!

        Your honor we motion that defendents, if found guilty, should have to apologize and donate 20,000 lines of code to BSD.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:05PM (#20589373)
    I seem to recall a recent incident where the OpenBSD team was caught doing something similar. That they're reacting like scalded cats now seems to be in slightly poor taste, to put it mildly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by teknopurge (199509)
      Your comment is useless and trollesque without a link.
      • by squiggleslash (241428) * on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:43PM (#20590085) Homepage Journal

        Here you go [undeadly.org].

        Note the difference in terms of how the Linux and OpenBSD communities handled that case.

        1. The Linux community waited until OpenBSD developers were violating copyrights before raising the issue. In this case, the OpenBSD people complained about a diff posted to a mailing list that hadn't even been accepted
        2. The Linux community raised the issue with two relevant mailing lists and a small group of other concerned parties. The OpenBSD people had the supposed BSD violation (that wasn't, because the diff hadn't been accepted at that stage) up on undeadly.org within 24 hours.
        3. The Linux community made no specific allegations, and offered help with completing the driver. The OpenBSD people have essentially insulted the Linux community throughout this discussion.
        And on the defensive side:
        1. The OpenBSD community went through hoops to claim that there never was a copyright violation because, like, the guy who put the code in the CVS repository intended, like, to change it and stuff. The Linux community has generally refrained from claiming that, if accepted, the diffs wouldn't violate any copyrights, except to point out that Theo is overreaching in that some of the files can, actually, be relicensed because they're dual licensed (an argument Theo has tried to counter by making the bizarre claim that a dual licensed file with a specific statement saying that the license of the GPL can be used instead of the BSD license must perpetually remain under the BSD license.)
        2. The OpenBSD community, and Theo in particular, accused the Linux team of being "Inhuman". The Linux developers have made no such insults against their BSD accusers, despite having more cause to.

        Further, to make things even more ridiculous, many on the BSD side claimed at the time of the bcw violation that this was somehow evidence that the BSD license was "superior" because it wasn't viral, and BSD code could be incorporated into Linux without violating any licenses. They're now arguing the exact opposite, some even claiming the BSD license is viral.

        This is pretty straightforward. There are no infringing Linux kernels out there.

        At the same time, the level of hysteria raised by the OpenBSD community, and the distortion of truth and double standards exhibited by its leadership, not to mention the insults and constant attempts to alienate similar groups, really raise serious questions as to OpenBSD's long term viability. Cooler heads need to prevail, and make a commitment to fork the project should its current leadership continue to spiral out of control.

        OpenBSD is a respected operating system that is relied upon by communities and businesses across the world. It deserves, and demands, a stable leadership committed to creating the best operating system they can. The current OpenBSD leadership isn't that. This must change.

        • by thsths (31372) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:57PM (#20590363)
          > really raise serious questions as to OpenBSD's long term viability. Cooler heads need to prevail, and make a commitment to fork the project should its current leadership continue to spiral out of control.

          You can't be serious. Another fork of BSD? I mean there are only 4 widely recognised free forks out there, plus lots more that may not be open, not recognizable as BSD, or not significant...

          Actually I have the feeling that you are a secret Linux agent, trying to splinter the forces of BSD. Yes, that would make sense.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by squiggleslash (241428) *

            I don't want OpenBSD forked, I want the possibility out there, and the possibility means ensuring there's an organized group willing to take the reins should it be necessary. I believe that the threat of forking should be enough to prevent it from happening - at least, prevent it if the current leadership remain viable project leaders.

            And if it forks specifically because OpenBSD's leadership are unable to behave responsibly, well, that's better than the project collapsing altogether, which is the inevita

          • by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @01:12PM (#20590621)

            You can't be serious. Another fork of BSD? I mean there are only 4 widely recognised free forks out there, plus lots more that may not be open, not recognizable as BSD, or not significant... Actually I have the feeling that you are a secret Linux agent, trying to splinter the forces of BSD. Yes, that would make sense.

            Perheaps the BSD crowd should do some soul-searching and ponder why there are four forks, each maintained by a crew which appears to be violently hostile to all the others (not to mention all "outsiders" and "interlopers", such as those building other Unix-like operating systems, say, Linux).

            As an aid in your investigation, pay attention to these unseemly feral cries of "Mine! Mine! Mine!" emanating from the land of the supposedly "most free" (to use by anyone for anything, even closed source projects!) license, brought on by this very incident.

            All proving to be rather amusing (and quite educational) experience.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Agreed. The only thing I'd add is to say this:

          I think Theo has wayyyy overreacted. The only thing anybody did was strip a BSD copyright notice from a wireless driver that was partially dual-licensed and submit it to LKML as a patch. Whether this is immoral or not is not in question, at least in my mind. Whether this is illegal or not is for the lawyers to duke it out, if that's ever going to happen. What is known is that since the patch has not as of yet been included in an official Linux kernel, the 'Li
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by synthespian (563437)
          Oh, nice rhetorical technique...Next you'll say there isn't a problem at all.

          I think Theo has been very clear. In particular, when he points to Copyright law and to the fact that, in the EU, Eben Moglen needs a tourist guide.

          The linuxers just can't take it that they have to respect a different license. And one very different than their moralisitic, religious choice.
        • OpenBSD is a respected operating system that is relied upon by communities and businesses across the world. It deserves, and demands, a stable leadership committed to creating the best operating system they can.
          Crap. OpenBSD became the respected and secure operating system it is, because it has an unstable leadership composed of borderline lunatics without any sense of perspective, committed to creating the best operating system they can.
    • by l4m3z0r (799504)
      And the OpenBSD team admitted fault and corrected the situation. Or what are you implying that because they did something wrong first copyright law no longer applies to them. Two wrongs make a right?
  • by Recovering Hater (833107) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:07PM (#20589409)
    I have a feeling that the Linux community will hesitate to admit any wrong doing here. Not that I am anti-linux or trolling on purpose. I just know that Theo has a bit of a reputation and Linux zealots being what they are... ah well. Nothing like OSS license holy wars.
  • Still confused (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kelson (129150) * on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:08PM (#20589421) Homepage Journal
    For the last decade+, people have been claiming that the BSD licenses are more free than the GPL, because they effectively place no restrictions on what you can do with the code. Now we're being told that there are restrictions on what you can do with the code.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian (840721)
      It's still a license. The only way to make code truly unencumbered is to release it into the public domain. Then anyone can do anything they damn well please with it.
    • Re:Still confused (Score:4, Informative)

      by teknopurge (199509) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:23PM (#20589707) Homepage
      The BSD licnese header and author's comments must remain in place. That's all. The only reason to remove it is to pass it off as your own.
    • by gnuman99 (746007)
      You may do whatever you want, with the exception that you CANNOT change the license at will. You may add conditions, as adding GPL, but not simply replace BSD. This is from the license,

      1. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright
      notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.

      Therefore, the source code is copyright by Theo and that CANNOT be removed. It is a copyright violation. Furthermore, the new "license" MUST contain the disclaimer at the end of t
    • For the last decade+, people have been claiming that the BSD licenses are more free than the GPL, because they effectively place no restrictions on what you can do with the code. Now we're being told that there are restrictions on what you can do with the code.

      Actually, you can do anything you want with the compiled code, such as produce a closed-source program and you don't have to distribute the source code to anybody. That's the freedom of the BSD license. However, if you choose to distribute the source code you're required to do so under the BSD license as the license requires you to reproduce the author's copyright notice and the list of conditions.

      The Linux guys could have used the source code and released binaries only, and there would be no problems do

  • by b1ufox (987621) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:08PM (#20589423) Homepage Journal
    Another trolling article submitted to /. and sadly chosen too.
    Yesterday RMS, today Theo, tomorrow Jeff Jones...

    Too much trolls on /. these days. /. is turning into osnews in terms of trolling stories.

    Nice going, keep it up troll feeders.
    • Sure after Open Source has gotton public reconision now it is time to put our resources in the details. For every group there is a sub group. After the larger group becomes large enough the subgroups start fighting with each other.

      Examples, Religion (I will just follow down one branch).
      Monotheistic vs. Polithiestic. It didn't matter if you were Jewish, Christain, or Muslam just as long as we get those Pagan Devils.
      Then came.
      Christains vs Muslams vs Jewish
      Then
      Prodistant vs. Catholic
      Then
      Evangelical vs. Prog
  • Not again! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xophos (517934) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:10PM (#20589451)
    Could you please cut out these stories? He didn't say anything new. The Point was allready made. The mistake has long since been corrected and so on...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:11PM (#20589455)
    Its been done for over 10 years (GPL grabs of BSD style code).

    i once saw with utter shock that someone took code from Darin Adler nearly 10 years ago

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darin_Adler [wikipedia.org]

    I noticed that I saw his stuff slapped with GPL viral license and then I compared to earlier nearly IDENTICAL source code files where he specifically went out of the way to put the GPL on it.

    Darin wanted his code on this one utility module to be 100% free.

    I guess the Linux camp has been doing this for over 10 years now. So immorality is nothing new.

    Wasn't all the hard work of SCSI in BSD lifted ages and ages ago too?

    So sad. I used to respect the GPl until I saw how the zealots will grab anything and call it their own and even claim copyright OWNERSHIP over code not alterred materially other than swapping out the legal license.

    • by Rakishi (759894)
      If you don't want you code to be able to be essentially relicensed then don't use the BSD.

      YOU chose what license you to use. don't blame others for abiding by the license YOU chose. If you give people 100% freedom that INCLUDES being able to relicense it, I'm not even sure if copyright law allows 100% freedom Of course the BSD only gives you 99% freedom and that 1% requires that the original copyright statement be left in place.
    • by TerranFury (726743) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @01:32PM (#20590949)

      Darin wanted his code on this one utility module to be 100% free.

      And it is!

      The fact that somebody licensed a derivative work under the GPL in no way changes the license on Darin's code. Darin's code is still BSD and always will be, and from now into perpetuity, anybody can use Darin's code however they want, just like he'd intended.

      What people can't do is use the derivative work however they want -- like, in a proprietary piece of software. But that's another issue! Some guy started with Darin's code and made something else out of it; let's call that guy "Bob." It's really just Bob's changes to Darin's code that are GPLed.

      You see? Nothing the GPL people can do or have done will change the fact that anybody can get Darin's code under the BSD license.

      The problem is this damn word "relicensing" we keep using. It implies that the license is somehow changed. It isn't!

  • Confused (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shaitand (626655) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:11PM (#20589471) Journal
    I have to admit I am a little confused. You can take BSD code and close it completely under a commercial license, why couldn't you use the GPL instead of a closed commercial license? Why is it unethical to use the GPL but not to use a totalitarian closed license?

    Maybe some technical violation occurred in the credits or some such but this just sounds to me like sour grapes because they can't have the changes. They can't have the changes when the source is used in a closed commercial environment, the BSD guys maintain that as ethical so they really don't have any ground to stand on here. Nobody has violated the spirit of the BSD license which is essentially "Here it is, take it and do what you want with it, even if that means incorporating it into a product that makes you millions of dollars and completely closing the software without sharing any modifications back."

    • by Llywelyn (531070)
      Well, to be technical, you can't "close it completely." The original code is still BSD licensed--and people must abide by the terms of that license--but you can close any changes you make to it.

    • Re:Confused (Score:5, Informative)

      by l4m3z0r (799504) <kevin.uberstyle@net> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:30PM (#20589839)

      You can take BSD code and close it completely under a commercial license, why couldn't you use the GPL instead of a closed commercial license? Why is it unethical to use the GPL but not to use a totalitarian closed license?

      Actually they cannot change the source code license. They are required by law to not alter the license. They just arent forced to re-release the source code. Should they decide to release the source code the code as taken from the BSD people is still BSD licensed and can be used under those terms.

      Nobody has violated the spirit of the BSD license which is essentially "Here it is, take it and do what you want with it, even if that means incorporating it into a product that makes you millions of dollars and completely closing the software without sharing any modifications back.

      He isnt saying they violated the spirit of the license, he is saying they violated the letter of the law by altering the copyright on code without permission or authorization and without making any changes substantial enough to count as derivative work. It doesnt matter if they are GPL people or a corporation that action is illegal and Theo is calling them out on it.

      • by pegr (46683)
        They are required by law to not alter the license.
         
        Nitpick: They are required by license, not law. Do not make the mistake of making license terms equal to law, they are not. Any license term may be declared unconscionable and therefore meaningless. (Not to say that applies in this case...)
      • Re:Confused (Score:5, Insightful)

        by phliar (87116) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @01:30PM (#20590897) Homepage

        Actually they cannot change the source code license.

        The code in question is dual licensed: you can use it either under the BSD license or the GPL. It's your choice. In this case the person chose the GPL (and not BSD).

        As good a hacker Theo is, he's not a copyright lawyer. (His digs at Eben Moglen are in extremely poor taste.)

        Perhaps now the "BSD is the only free license!!!" zealots will admit that they too want to restrict what others can do with their code. (There is no "100% freedom".)

        The lesson from all this is: do NOT pick a license based on politics, religion, and fashion. Read the license (or talk to a copyright lawyer) and pick the license that works the way you want it to -- not because RMS or Theo or Joe Blow says it is the only true and FREE!!! license. (You'd think hackers would be able to deal with the law better than this -- with both software and the law, what is written down is the only thing that matters. Your intentions, what you really meant, have nothing to do with anything once it's written down.)

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by l4m3z0r (799504)

          The code in question is dual licensed: you can use it either under the BSD license or the GPL. It's your choice. In this case the person chose the GPL (and not BSD).

          SIGH... You are right you can USE it under either license. But you must distribute the source as dual license unless all the authors allow you to relicense the code.

          This is why Theo is harping so much on this because many people fail to understand this very basic concept in copyright law...

          • Re:Confused (Score:4, Informative)

            by phliar (87116) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @02:07PM (#20591585) Homepage

            SIGH... You are right you can USE it under either license. But you must distribute the source as dual license unless all the authors allow you to relicense the code.

            You're being disingenuous. In the context of this discussion we're talking about modification and redistribution. Neither the GPL or the BSD license say anything about mere use of a program.

            On what basis do you do you say that

            But you must distribute the source as dual license unless all the authors allow you to relicense the code.

            Remember that this is the law, and "but that's not what I meant!" counts for nothing; only what's written down matters. In this case, if I see "This code is dual-licensed A or B, your choice" then that's exactly what it means: on my derivative work I get to decide if I want to use A or B (or retain a dual license). If you mean "all derivative works must also be dual licensed" then say that.

            Theo is not a copyright lawyer and it's clear that neither are you. (But then again, neither am I.)

        • The code in question is dual licensed

          Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to be mistaken about the facts.

          • The open-source HAL, the work of Reyk Floeter, was *never* dual licensed; he has only released it under the ISC license.
          • There *are* some dual-licensed files in the driver, but that is not what the OpenBSD people have a problem with.
          • The code *has* been published with the GPL fully replacing the ISC license; for example, see the madwifi repository [madwifi.org]. It was also published elsewhere, but since removed. Fo
    • This has previously been discussed on LWN [lwn.net] and I concur with the analysis there. The Linux folks had a legal right to use the GPL in one of two ways:
      1.) In making any additions to the overall work that they wished, which would put the combined work under the GPL and
      2.) Even if they didn't have #1, the work was dual-licensed with the GPL by a previous author before the BSD folks worked on it.
      That said, was it the right thing to do? Maybe not. Having taken that work from BSD, the spirit of cooperation might ha
  • by crush (19364) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:14PM (#20589531)
    Making blanket statements about "the Linux guys" or "Linux" is so fucking inaccurate and stupid. The patch was carried in NO MAJOR GNU/LINUX DISTRO. Got that?! I'll put in bold and emphasis for you below so that your brain has a chance to absorb the point:
    NO GNU/LINUX DISTROS CARRIED THE PATCH No GNU/Linux distros carried the patch.
    Now, please, shut the fuck up.

    Sincerely,
    A happy OpenBSD user.
  • by Theovon (109752) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:16PM (#20589569)
    I'm going to give you an "If I were them, I would have...", but in this case, it's not hollow. I've actually done this before, to positive effect. If you're going to use someone else's code under terms slightly different from what they clearly intended, I see an obvious course of action: ASK PERMISSION.

    They say that it's often easier to get forgiveness than permission. This is absolutely not the case in the FOSS community. Yes, Theo is a hot-head, and he's clearly over-reacting. But at the same time, some Linux contributor didn't think very hard about the wishes of the original author of the code they borrowed. They just took it. In the FOSS community, we're not about copyright. We're about ethical sharing of ideas and the rights of both software developers and software users.

    How long could it have taken to ask? "May I use your code?" "May I alter the license on your code?" "If not, is there some compromise we can reach?"

    Learn some manners!
    • by dbc (135354) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:45PM (#20590115)
      While I can't disagree with anything that you say, still it seems to me that the right place for an author to make his wishes known is in the license. How hard is that? Anything less is simply intellectually lazy.

      And here is some raw data for you from actual Real World (TM) experience. At one Fortune 500 former employer of mine, code got released under a variety of licenses, including proprietary, BSD, and GPL, as fit the need of the situation. BSD was the license of choice for "fire and forget" situations, where the company wanted the code out there (working example code in an application note, for instance) but didn't want to be a long-term maintainer. One company lawyer said, and I'm quoting precisely: "Don't worry, a free version will always be available. Somebody somewhere will slap a GPL on it within 7 seconds of release." So you see, some people chose the BSD when they actively *want* the code to be forked under the GPL.
  • From de Raadt's mail:

    Some have suggested that the SFLC was formed to avoid smearing the FSF with dirt whenever the SFLC does something risky.

    Cool, the FSF has a 'black-ops' section. I wonder what kind of training they get.

    On a more serious note, IIRC the BSD-style licenses have a section that says that copyright notices have to be kept in tact. The GPL states that the receiver of the code should have the freedom to modify it, however they wish. This sounds contradictory to me, could someone with more experience please clarify this.

  • by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:20PM (#20589645) Homepage
    1) The BSD licensed guys are pissed because someone took some code and locked them out of it, despite being rabidly pro the freedom to do exactly this.

    2) The Linux guys are technically in the right but still taking dual licensed GPL/BSD code and locking it up is a pretty shitty thing to do.

    3) Hot heads on both sides have managed to turn what should have been a quiet chat about a moderate, considered approach and with the magic described most eloquently as the PA Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory ensured that relations remain as hostile as possible.

    The only conclusion can be that the idiots on both sides (Theo included) actually work for Microsoft and are puppets dancing to the compelling dark tunes of their evil and cunning masters.

    The end.
    • Right.

      Except my understanding is that
      1. they took some bsd/gpl dual licensed code and went GPL only with the blessings of the original author
      2. Took other code BSD Licensed only and made it GPL against the wishes of the author.

      The first case seems to be ok. Not the nicest thing to do, but perfectly legally legit. The second case I think is wrong. The license says you can't remove it, and they did. Plus the author is unwilling to additionally license it to them under GPL.

    • 1) The BSD licensed guys are pissed because someone took some code and locked them out of it, despite being rabidly pro the freedom to do exactly this.

      WRONG!

      THE BSD LICENSE CANNOT BE REMOVED!!!!

      You can do what you want with the source code, PROVIDED you leave the BSD license in place.
      The issue is when someone wraps the code, with the BSD license, in a GPL or other incompatible license.

      Also, IMO, but my understanding is that copyright law trumps all. The BSD license does not dissolve the copyright.

  • Not quite right. (Score:5, Informative)

    by dwheeler (321049) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:23PM (#20589701) Homepage Journal
    The article is misleading. You can take a BSD-licensed program, modify it even slightly, and re-release the COMBINED material (original BSD + the additional modifications) under the GPL, as long your combined work obeys BOTH licenses. The legal issue is that the modified text can be under a different copyright license, and the combined work has to obey BOTH licenses. Since the GPL adds more conditions than the BSD license does (generally), in a combined work it's the GPL conditions that end up dominating the set of conditions. The only issue is whether or not the "small change" could be copyrighted; the U.S., at least, has a very low bar of what is copyrightable, so even small changes are likely to be copyrightable.

    Certainly it is NOT okay to remove the copyright notices from BSD material, as long as there's something left in the file that's covered by the BSD license. So, don't do that. But you CAN take a BSD work, combine it with other works, and have the final result as essentially GPL'ed or proprietary. My FLOSS license slide [dwheeler.com] even helps you figure out when you can do that, and when you can't.

    But that only covers the legal issues. If there's an existing project that releases something under an OSS license, it's usually better to continue to use their license than to fork off another project under a new license, especially if you're not making many changes. For a lot of reasons.

    LWN's article "Relicensing: what's legal and what's right" [lwn.net] is worth a look.

  • So it is okay for Microsoft Windows to make use of BSD code, but it is not okay GNU/Linux because GNU/Linux 'locks the code away'?
    • by w3woody (44457) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:45PM (#20590129) Homepage
      It sounded to me that part of the problem was that the BSD copyright notices were stripped out of the code, which is not just obnoxious or just locking away the code, but is illegal and immoral: it removes the notice of who was the original author of the code.

      It also sounds obnoxious to take someone's code but to resubmit the changes and bug fixes under a more restrictive license--just as it would be obnoxious for a private company to submit bug fixes but to say "in order to distribute our changes you will have to license the code from us for a grand a year." But to my mind it's just that: obnoxious.
  • In one of the previous discussions a helpful poster quoted Theo saying that he thought the relicensing was a moral issue - ie that Linux devs had taken code and made it 'less free''. This is a view I can appreciate, as FLOSS developers should be pooling efforts as much as possible. but the spirit I understand. I think it was more of a "Hey guys, you're meant to be on our side! We can't use this code anymore!". Of course, I find it hard to reconcile with the BSD license saying 'do what you want, just credit

  • by MenTaLguY (5483) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:53PM (#20590291) Homepage
    I think Theo is essentially correct. To the best of my knowledge, the ground rules are:

    1. Don't touch the license header unless you make substantive changes

    2. If you make substantive changes, you may amend the license header to add your copyright (but not remove existing copyrights) under the same license

    3. If you make substantive changes and insist on licensing those changes under a different (but compatible!) license to the original, you may add a new license header above the existing one with your copyright (without modifying the existing header)

    The initial problem was that the original license header was replaced entirely, even though no substantial changes had been made. The original license header has now been restored, but there is still an issue with a new copyright declaration having been added in the absence of substantive changes.
  • by steveha (103154) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @01:32PM (#20590937) Homepage
    Here is one reason why BSD guys would rather see BSD code taken completely proprietary than see it go GPL: when the code goes completely proprietary there is still a chance that patches will be contributed back to the original BSD project.

    Consider the "stupid tax". This is the "tax" you must pay if you take BSD code, change it, and keep the changes to yourself: every time the BSD project releases a new update, you will need to sync up your custom changes to the official project. The time and effort this requires is the "stupid tax" you are paying for being "stupid" (i.e. not contributing your changes back to the project).

    The hope is that after a while, companies that have been paying the stupid tax will say "this is stupid" and contribute their changes to the main project. But with a GPL fork this just won't happen.

    Any time the BSD project releases an update, someone will merge the changes in to the GPL fork. And if you contribute changes to the GPL fork, of course they are in every release and you don't need to do anything. So there is no real pressure on features added to the GPL project.

    With no GPL fork, you must choose between sharing with the BSD project, or "paying the stupid tax". With a GPL fork, you have a way to avoid the stupid tax and share with others, yet deny the changes to the BSD project. (If you are doing proprietary things with the BSD project, you will not of course have this option.)

    And of course, it must be maddening for the BSD project guys to see the patches going in to the GPL project and know that they can't use them. If the GPL project gets a new feature that's a good idea, they must re-code the feature, just because of an incompatible license. (That's why I licensed my lf [sourceforge.net] utility under BSD; I'm hoping it will become a standard part of the userland in all *NIX someday, and the thought of the BSD guys having to re-do all my work just made me sad.)

    steveha
  • by redelm (54142) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @02:20PM (#20591879) Homepage
    I think I know what Theo is saying (always a question with him): the changes to the Altheros wireless drivers from OpenBSD to Linux are not substantial enough to meet the criterion of creating a derivative work.


    OK, fine. That's one opinion, particularly valid from the PoV of a code-writer. But the PoV of a code-reader/user is very different: either the code crashes or it does not. Any change, even trivial in terms of creative effort, has enormous impact on the value of the work.


    Or put another way, deRaad doesn't think debugging has enough value to be granted the rights of creating a derivative work.


    I might agree adding a comma or changing a word on page XX in a novel does NOT create a derivative work. However, code is very fussy and utilitairian. Unless the code will run _exactly_ as-is, any mod is a derivative work.

  • by mritunjai (518932) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @03:28PM (#20593075) Homepage
    I'm not eligible to comment on the legal ramifications, but I certainly think there are moral issues in there.

    If you're supporting GPL and hence software freedom, you must respect other's freedom too. There is nothing like my way of freedom is bigger than your freedom.

    It *might* be ok for a corporation to lock their modifications under lock-n-key, but it's certainly NOT ok for software freedom torch bearers to do the same AND thump their chest about supporting freedom of software. Respect given is respect got! There are no two ways about it.

    What was done might not be illegal (I don't know!), but it was definitely abusive and obnoxious. You can't claim the moral high ground after doing the same thing as the people you denounce. Hell even everybody's favorite enemy Microsoft didn't change the copyright on BSD derived software they use... ftp.exe still contains the BSD license.

    Think again!

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