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Resolution of BSD-GPL Wireless Code Dispute? 215

Posted by kdawson
from the can't-we-all-just-get-along dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The highly publicized debate between Theo de Raadt and the Software Freedom Law Center seems to have come to an amicable end. SFLC has published its research on the lineage of the ath5k driver and determined who owns which changes. In the end, everyone agreed to license their modifications to the Linux driver under the BSD license, and OpenBSD developers can now reincorporate those improvements into the original code (with the exception of one historically GPL-licensed branch)." The article notes that Theo de Raadt has not responded publicly to this development but that comments on the issue in an OpenBSD Journal forum have been generally positive.
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Resolution of BSD-GPL Wireless Code Dispute?

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  • by Chas (5144) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:15PM (#20828133) Homepage Journal
    I, for one, am glad that this huge shitstorm over a minor licensing issue has been resolved amicably (or at least until Theo has his say...)
    • by raddan (519638) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:24PM (#20828283)
      There is one good thing that comes out of this: collaboration between BSD and Linux developers on wireless drivers. The licensing issue was bound to happen sooner or later on some piece of code. It's good that it happened early on in a project and with only bruised egos to show for it.

      Wireless support in OpenBSD is outstanding. You can use ifconfig to manage your wireless devices just like you can for wired interfaces. I don't know a whole lot about OpenHAL, but if it works the way wireless does in OpenBSD, common libraries are simply reused so that developers can get new drivers up and running quickly. This will be a good thing for Linux, and the additional attention will improve wireless support for both platforms.
      • Reasonable People (Score:5, Insightful)

        by allthingscode (642676) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:36PM (#20828491)
        Isn't it horrible that reasonable people came together, worked things out, and decided on the best course of action? Now, the people who will obviously continue to rant will look like all they have is an agenda.
        • by Braino420 (896819)

          Isn't it horrible that reasonable people came together, worked things out, and decided on the best course of action?
          I know, it's so stupid. I have no idea why they just didn't fork both licenses and come up with a 3rd.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by sumdumass (711423)
          It is odd that without the rants and people with agendas, this would have never been worked out. So while I admire your point, I have to inject that we are where we are today because of these rants with agendas. It isn't something that should be discouraged.
          • Odd *and* wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Per Abrahamsen (1397)
            > It is odd that without the rants and people with agendas, this would have never been worked out.

            Yes, it is odd because it is most likely wrong. Nothing wrong with people with agendas (don't we all have some agenda?). But the rants are only good for digging trenches, making it harder for both side to agree on a solution to the benefit of all.

      • by yo_tuco (795102)
        "There is one good thing that comes out of this: collaboration between BSD and Linux developers on wireless drivers."

        Let's hope. I'd like to see 802.11g in host AP mode and better performance in lossy and long range conditions in the OBSD ath(4) driver. Maybe the Linux guys can improve this and it gets back to OBSD.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR (28044)
      I am waiting for RMS to way in on how they are don't care about freedom.
    • by MikeFM (12491) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:51PM (#20828729) Homepage Journal
      This stems, mostly, from confussion over the BSD license I think. It's accepted that you CAN just take BSD code and build it into your own code without returning anything back. It seems the major issue was the lack of credit given and that the changes from the BSD version to the GPL version were really minor.

      It seems kind of petty to whine about someone stealing your code if you're releasing it under the BSD license though. By using the BSD license instead of the GPL you're choosing to let people take from you without giving back. I frequently hear the argument that BSD licensed code is really free, and the GPL isn't, over exactly this issue.
      • The copyright clause. Which is really possibly the most tangible thing the BSD license insists on (so I get that they would be unhappy) aside from open. As for the hypocrisy claim vaulted at the GPL community I am of two minds 1) sure, I personally wouldn't mind giving back 2) wtf?

        The BSD is a permissive license and getting bent out of shape over the "Linux" community adhering to it but relicensing their own work under a more restrictive license makes it clear that there is just as much misunderstanding i
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MikeFM (12491)
          From a legal standpoint, as well as fairness, I think it's always important to give proper credit. I think, as part of that, that you can't actually relicense someone elses BSD code but you can use it, make changes, and you don't have to share your own changes. Other than that I don't see that there was anything to make a fuss about. You can include BSD code in a GPL program without any legal issue. That's why they took off the advertising clause.

          I think the need to multi-license code is one of the stickies
        • by dfghjk (711126)
          Claiming, rightfully, that GPL champions are hypocritical for doing to the BSD community what they insist must not be allowed (and the GPL forbids) is not "missing the boat". It was not central to the discussion, either.

          Apparently, GPL true-believers don't believe in treating others as they demand to be treated.
          • The difference is in the license used, not in beliefs. If you want to ensure you get all the changes to your code back, don't use BSD licenses. It's that simple.
      • by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @05:21PM (#20830163) Homepage

        It seems kind of petty to whine about someone stealing your code if you're releasing it under the BSD license though. By using the BSD license instead of the GPL you're choosing to let people take from you without giving back.

        If I release my code under a BSD-style license, the fact that I allow you to use my code in nearly any way you want doesn't mean that I allow you to steal the credit for my work. This is really what this issue boils down to, which people repeatedly seem to miss.

        The OpenBSD side's legal allegations are that first that their code was taken without attribution (stripping the original author's copyright notices), that somebody who doesn't own their code acted as if they did (by changing the license notice to GPL only), and then that even when the original notices were more or less restored, there was a claim to owning part of the work in question (by adding additional copyright and license notices), when there were (by their allegation) no original contributions, and thus, no part of the released work that was owned by anybody other than the BSD folk.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Yes, but Theo did ignore the dual license code being able to be licensed exclusively under GPL since the dual license says you can do this ("Alternatively, ..."). And that ignorance caused many of the problems here. No one said you can re-license BSD code under GPL without author permission. The single coder who made that mistake immediately repudiated his changes when his mistake was pointed out to him by the community. So BSD code stays BSD. It is the dual license stuff where Theo and a lot of his s
      • by einhverfr (238914)
        First, I am glad that this came to a reasonable resolution that benefits all parties. Nothing is really to be gained by splitting effort in the way things were going.

        However, I think that this does go to show that there are real questions whether the BSD license actually does follow the copyrights of the code in question, and if it does, then it would seem to limit what one could do to included pieces under the GPL v3, section 7, paragraph 2 (removal of additional permissions). This might make the BSDL in
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by MikeFM (12491)
          The main problem is that code under the BSD license can be taken by major companies, embraced and extended, and leave the actual authors of the code as second-rate citizens of their own project. If this happens there is no legal protection. It's open to the dirty tricks companies like Microsoft like to pull. Even being under the LGPL instead of the BSD license, KHTML was plundered this way by Apple for quite some time before they started playing nicer. BSD code has been built into OS X and Windows with no l
          • that.

            There are two basic things:

            1) No company wants to compete with a Free product. Even one which is merely gratis is problematic (look where Netscape went). Since a proprietary product can only charge for their value adds, they don't get anything by taking the code continuously while never giving back. Note that in the last siven years, I have watched most prioprietary spinnoffs of PostgreSQL die. These include Mammoth PostgreSQL, Pervasive PostgreSQL, and Fujitsu PostgreSQL.

            2) Refusing to contribute has serious financial risks in BSDL project. Basicaly, if someone else makes inferior but similar modifications, you end up bearing the burden of managing an increasingly complex changeset across versions. This is extremely draining.

            So I think you are mistaken as to whom the second class citizens really are in such a project. Note again, in the PostgreSQL world, those companies that do use the code in their proprietary products successfully give back everything they possibly can (meaning everything the community expresses an interest in making part of the core project). The community as a whole doesn't really want the proprietary bits in BizgressMPP, nor do they want the Oracle compat bits of EnterpriseDB. So everyone is just as happy to let them sell their products.
            • I do not entirely agree with you. While I do agree that competing with a free product can be a challenge, I think that the BSD license makes it easier. If the new product has enough value added and enough branding it can win. OS X is a good example of this. It absorbed a lot of free code and has stolen a good part of the commercial value of those free projects. Part of this is the failure of the BSD+Linux community to make a decent desktop offering but Apple has used the free code it absorbed to make a gian
              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                Apple does not do what you have described. What Apple has done is taking some BSD-licensed code then put their own proprietary shit (things that are not open in the first place) on top of it. When Apple makes changes to any BSD codes, they usually return the changes upstream. Just look at Webkit for an example.

                Do you really think Apple will release codes that are closed-sourced in the first place? Apple has almost always released their changes back to the developers.
              • How can they steal that which is freely given away?
            • So your argument boils down to "Well......we don't want your changes anyway! so there!"

              Yea, that works perfectly.
            • To counter your PostreSQL example:

              ArgoUML vs. Gentleware Poseidon UML

              Poseidon has prospered by building on the ArgoUML code and increase its feature set. While ArgoUML has languished and has gone from an "award winning" application in 2003 to a basically a dead project now.

              I attribute ArgoUML's lack of activity to the fact that few prospective contributers would want their work going to Poseidon's UML editor without Poseidon being obligated to return any contributions back.

              I am convinced that if ArgoUML

            • No company wants to compete with a Free product. Even one which is merely gratis is problematic (look where Netscape went). Since a proprietary product can only charge for their value adds, they don't get anything by taking the code continuously while never giving back.

              You're right if you consider taking a large software application/package, adding some minor features and distributing as commercial software - most people would be very happy with the free offering and not bother with the commercial one.

              Ima

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by markov_chain (202465)
            I don't think you understand the point of the BSD license. It's designed intentionally to let the commercial entities use code this way. The idea is that some big government sponsored project, such as the thing at Berkeley, will produce useful code that can then be transferred to the industry and still help any companies that form. The taxpayers get everything no strings attached. I guess this was a nice idea when the US was the only country with Internet, but now virtually everyone has access so it doe
            • by MikeFM (12491)
              For code developed by the government at the taxpayers' expense I can see that the BSD license might be a good choice although then I wonder why not just release it as PD. For open source projects though I can't see it as very good because it's not protecting the original author or the community. Even if the code is developed by the government I can see the benfit of forcing code changes to be returned to the community at large while I can't see any benefit to the community for these changes not to be return
              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                Releasing codes to public domain is harder with more paperwork. For example, just because I release my code to public domain in USA, it does not mean the codes will be public domain across the world. Need more paperworks to ensures that will happen. With BSD, copyright laws can be used to essentially made codes almost public domain.
      • It seems kind of petty to whine about someone stealing your code if you're releasing it under the BSD license though. By using the BSD license instead of the GPL you're choosing to let people take from you without giving back. I frequently hear the argument that BSD licensed code is really free, and the GPL isn't, over exactly this issue.

        You completely misunderstand the issue. The issue is not complying with the letter of the BSD license, the issue is ethical behavior and the spirit of FOSS. At the core
        • by Tweekster (949766)
          There is no spirit inherent in the license. People have built that around the projects.
          The licenses are quite explicit on what is expected. If more is expected, it should be a part of the license.

          Saying "you can do x, y and z" then getting mad when someone does precisely that becuaes they didnt do "a" is absolutely idiotic.
          • by Cylix (55374)
            You are one of those people who only wears the required amount of flare!

            (I saw that and had to make some flare joke... forgive me ;) )

            However, it does make the point well doesn't it.
          • There is no spirit inherent in the license. People have built that around the projects. The licenses are quite explicit on what is expected. If more is expected, it should be a part of the license. Saying "you can do x, y and z" then getting mad when someone does precisely that becuaes they didnt do "a" is absolutely idiotic.

            You seem to have misunderstood my post. Compliance with a license and living within the spirit of FOSS are two different things. Giving back to those whose shoulders you stand upon
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MikeFM (12491)
          *shrugs* If you want something to happen with regards to how your code is used then put it in your license. Never count on fellow humans doing the right thing because truth be told most of us are scum.

          I certainly agree that the ethical thing to do, and the smart long-term thing to do, is to open all source code, protocols, specifications, etc. In reality that isn't how things work though. Just wishing for it to be that way won't make it that way. Intelligent people know that a basic principal of life is tha
          • If you want something to happen with regards to how your code is used then put it in your license.

            I don't think you quite understood my post. I am not saying that everyone should be required to give back. What I am claiming is that those who claim to be ethical members of the FOSS community should behave in that spirit, not merely the letter of the license. It is not so much the actions, but the hypocrisy that reveals the true character.

            ... Unfortunately most of us can't see past our immediate self an
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mok000 (668612)
      Does anyone else think that this whole affair is Theo de Raadt's payback for the Broadcom Driver dispute earlier this year? Then, de Raadt vehemently accused the Linux developers of "ganging up" on one guy from his OpenBSD team, who had copied code GPL'ed from the Broadcom Driver project and removed the GPL clause.

      See here: http://lxer.com/module/newswire/view/85224/index.html [lxer.com]
    • by Fordiman (689627)
      I wouldn't be surprised if this happened *minutes* after Theo 'left the room', as it were.

      I don't say this for personal dislike of the guy; it's just that, when we're talking civil negotiation, De Raadt almost always, gets the "You're not helping" award.
  • by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:27PM (#20828333) Homepage

    Ok, they are indeed announcing that supposed changes by the Linux Wireless folks involved in this dispute will be released under a dual GPL or ISC license. But the last time I heard about this dispute, Reyk and Theo's most pressing claim was that the Linux Wireless developers in question illegally put their own copyright and license notices on work that they did not own; i.e., their position is that the Linux Wireless folks, in more than one instance, hadn't done enough original work for their release to qualify as a derived work of Reyk's code.

    I don't see anything in TFA that directly addresses this. There is a link to a new document about originality requirements under the law [softwarefreedom.org] (which I haven't read yet, I'll admit), but I would hope that this issue was addressed explicitly.

  • by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:34PM (#20828453) Homepage

    I mention in an earlier post an SFLC document about originality requirements [softwarefreedom.org]. They've also put together a set of guidelines for using permissively-licensed software in a GPL project [softwarefreedom.org].

    These are both in TFA, but it seems that most people here will find them more interesting than what the writeup actually says. Of course, important caveats: if this is really important to you, consult an unbiased lawyer.

    • by einhverfr (238914)
      On the latter paper, the SFLC didn;t answer a key question on GPL v3/BSDL compatibility. The basic question surrounds whether and how the permissions granted by the GPL v3, section 7, paragraph 2 could be meaingfully applied to BSDL software.

      This paragraph requires that GPL v3 compatible licenses be written in such a way that they can be reduced to the GPL v3 by anyone who merely distributes the softwre, adding no copyrights of his/her own Since the GPL v3 applies to the Corresponding Source as well, this
  • I for one am quite pleased, and I rather surprised that the matter was able to be resolved successfully in a manner that didn't completely screw over the BSD folks.

    Heretofore I had held the opinion that one random unaccepted patch inappropriately removing a license notice wasn't worth the resulting furor. But by conflating that general non-issue with the root cause of the GPL borg consuming BSD code, the events here did reveal to a lot of folks whom hadn't previously paid much attention the cause of a lot o
    • Neither the GPL nor the BSD licenses are perfect. The BSD license doesn't have a way to prevent GPL 'lockout', and the GPL doesn't play nice with others.

      That's a very strange way of putting it.

      There are those in the coding community that are happy to see their code distributed far and wide as long as it stays "open", and those that don't care if it stays open or not. The latter use the BSD license, the former the GPL.

      The BSD people got upset for a variety of reasons, but one of them is what you're ap

  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:00PM (#20828907) Homepage

    Here is a juicy flamebait for you all...

    A large number of Slashdotters reject any right of music- and movie-creators to tell us, what we can do with the music. The licensing of the entertainment media files are rejected by both the vocal minority and the moderating majority. In addition to the juvenile (and Communist) "rob the robbers" (il)logic (applied to the **AA members, who are "large corporations" [slashdot.org] or "rich and powerful" [slashdot.org]), all sorts of other arguments are put forward, including how copyrights are a fairly recent [slashdot.org] (only a few centuries old) fenomenon, and how creators should be encouraged by fame [slashdot.org], etc. instead of by keeping full control of their creations.

    Why should not the same logic apply to software? Why are we even looking into the intricacies of GPL vs. BSD licenses, instead of denouncing them altogether like we (or most of us, anyway) do with entertainment licenses?

    If, as is the prevailing view on Slashdot, any curbs on entertainment are wrong, why are we supporting curbs on software use — by, for example, cheering the GPL-enforcement litigation [slashdot.org]?

    • by kebes (861706) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:28PM (#20829385) Journal

      Here is a juicy flamebait for you all...
      Sorry, but your flaimbait is hardly novel. This gets mentioned on just about every story that deals with copyright in some way. The counter-arguments have been exhaustively delineated in previous slashdot discussions. Briefly:

      1. There is not a single "Slashdot mind." Despite the groupthink that moderation may encourage, varied and even dissenting views frequently arise. Thus the preponderance of highly-moderated "current copyright law is bad" posts and the preponderance of "pro-GPL" posts are not necessarily posted by the same people. Also note that moderators should (and probably frequently do) mod-up things they don't agree with. So even if the average opinion were that the GPL was bad, it's possible to see highly-modded "pro-GPL" posts.

      2. It is not inconsistent to say "status quo copyright is bad" and "the GPL is good." It may be that the person's consistent viewpoint is that a scaled-back version of copyright would be best. Such a scaled-back version of copyright could be consistent with both the GPL and broad fair-use (e.g. non-commercial private copying of music).

      3. Many posters may agree with the spirit of the GPL, and even the spirit of copyright law, but believe it is immoral to use great force in enforcement. Put otherwise, they do not see anything wrong with copyright per se, but they decry the abusive measures utilized by entrenched monopolies such as the RIAA and MPAA represent. Thus it is the tactics they are unhappy with. This stance is not hypocritical because, at present, the tactics used in GPL enforcement are rather more reasonable as compared to the tactics used in the widescale "fight against piracy."

      4. Many slashdotters actually don't agree with the GPL. You'll notice many highly-moderated posts that describe why the BSD license is better (even "more free") since it imposes effectively no burdens on other's use of the code. Such a stance is entirely consistent with a similar stance with respect to music: that everyone should be able to freely use/modify/redistribute intellectual works.

      5. People can have nuanced views or see a continuum of options. For instance, a person may believe that status-quo copyright is terrible, that a no-copyright world would be better (but not ideal), and that a medium-copyright world (with protection arising only in cases where source material is released: i.e. copyright applies to BSD, GPL, Creative Commons, but not to closed-source works) is best. If a person holds such a view, it is not inconsistent to say "the GPL is good and should be honored" but to also say "status-quo all-rights-reserved copyright is bad and should be ignored."

      And so on... I'm not necessarily defending any of these particular viewpoints, by the way. I'm merely pointing out that it doesn't require much imagination to come up with a consistent viewpoint that matches the highly-modded rhetoric seen on Slashdot.

      Basically it is a fallacy to believe that Slashdot is a single mind that you can argue with. If you are attempting to point out some hypocrisy, then find a particular user who you think is espousing contradictory viewpoints in different posts. Beyond that, any cry of hypocrisy is actually a failure on your part to understand the inherent variability among the Slashdot readership, and the subtlety in the opinions being expressed.
    • by swillden (191260) *

      Why should not the same logic apply to software? Why are we even looking into the intricacies of GPL vs. BSD licenses, instead of denouncing them altogether like we (or most of us, anyway) do with entertainment licenses?

      For personal, non-commercial use, it should.

      For large-scale, commercial work -- like the Linux kernel -- it should not.

    • by jc42 (318812)
      If, as is the prevailing view on Slashdot, any curbs on entertainment are wrong, why are we supporting curbs on software use -- by, for example, cheering the GPL-enforcement litigation?

      Well, one possibility is that a lot of people here would prefer weaker copyright laws for both entertainment and software. The problem, which a lot of us understand, is that under the current laws in the US and most other countries, it doesn't work to just release your software as public domain. There is a history of compan
  • GPL no more. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I'm beginning to dislike the GPL more and more. I don't think it's the right way to go about things. While I'd prefer all software to be Free Software, I don't think of proprietary software as evil. If people don't want to use proprietary software, they don't have to. They have the freedom to say no. The FSF seems to think that nobody should have the right to say yes to proprietary software. Not as users nor as developers. I don't agree with that.

    What I think is more important is freely available doc
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by renehollan (138013)
      Nobody can make your ISC/BSD/MIT/whatever-non-GPL licensed code non-free. They can make their modifications to your work non-free, but so what?

      Yes, but they can't redistribute the combined work of "your" code and "their" modifications, in binary form, without redistributing the source to their modifications. That's very significant if their goal is to profit from the combination via redistribution.

      The argument goes like this: "Why should you freely benefit from my hard work when I can't benefit from you

      • by einhverfr (238914)

        Yes, but they can't redistribute the combined work of "your" code and "their" modifications, in binary form, without redistributing the source to their modifications. That's very significant if their goal is to profit from the combination via redistribution.

        The argument goes like this: "Why should you freely benefit from my hard work when I can't benefit from yours?" the BSD camp doesn't care (as far as commercial lockup is concerned) where the GPL camp does.

        I am not sure that is a valid concern for a viable project wiht a reasonable pace of development (such as Apache or PostgreSQL. In such a project, it doesn't really matter what commercial versions are developed and what closed source licenses they are under. They can't compete with Free, and witholding contributions, especially when the community wants them, is a good way to drive up one's own costs.

        If the community doesn't want PostgreSQL to behave like Oracle in some ways why shouldn't they let Enterpr

  • Aw, come on guys!

    Where's the multi-million dollar law suit? The lawyers versus the lawyers? The court room drama?

    How can you have any commercial credibility if you resolve things like rational human beings. Where's your greed, your lust for power, your ruthlessness?

    That's why Linux and BSD are not ready for business - no socially destructive tendencies. No underhandedness.

    Not even a little dagger in the back. Come on guys!
    • by jc42 (318812)
      Not even a little dagger in the back. Come on guys!

      Well, some of the folks here seem to have taken care of that oversight. ;-)

  • What? (Score:3, Funny)

    by jc42 (318812) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @08:46PM (#20832147) Homepage Journal
    A legal dispute was settled amicably? Who'd of thunk such a thing was possible? Where were the lawyers when this was going on? Did someone take them off and get them drunk or something?

  • by yAm (15181)
    This comes about as GPL zealots decided that freedom isn't free enough. BSD freedom consists of Freedom: retain this license and this copyright. Follow those rules and you can do what ever you want.

    Whatever. You. Want. Baby mulching machines included. http://www.openbsd.org/cgi-bin/cvsweb/src/sbin/ipf/Attic/ipf.c [openbsd.org]

    The GPL is not free. Free+conditions is not free++, but free-- or, more accurately, (symbol: less than) free.

    I appreciate the work done, but I don't care for the zealotry. You can't dictate

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