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Gentoo/FreeBSD On Hold Due To Licensing Issues 200

Alan Trick writes "Flameeyes (a Gentoo/FreeBSD developer) recently came up with some serious problems among the various *BSD projects who use BSD-4 licensed code (which is all of them). Even other projects like Open Darwin may be affected.

The saga started when he discovered the license problems with libkvm and start-stop-daemon. "libkvm is a userspace interface to FreeBSD kernel, and it's licensed under the original BSD license, BSD-4 if you want, the one with the nasty advertising clause." start-stop-daemon links to libkvm, but it's licensed under the GPL which is incompatible with the advertising clause. The good new is that the University of California/Berkley has given people permission to drop the advertising clause. The bad news is that libkvm has code from many other sources and each of them needs to give their permission for the license to be changed.

At the moment, development on the Gentoo/FreeBSD is on hold and the downloads have been removed from the Gentoo mirrors."
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Gentoo/FreeBSD On Hold Due To Licensing Issues

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  • Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aadain2001 ( 684036 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @11:39AM (#17508692) Journal
    This is better than getting the lawyers involved. What a great case of the community policing itself and making sure it is following its own rules. It may take a while, but I think this issue will be resolved and the project(s) will move forward.
  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @11:46AM (#17508768)
    Similar rules exist in the commercial world as well, y'know. Only it's a lot harder to spot breaches of them when all you have available is pre-compiled code.
  • But wait a minute... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MarkusQ ( 450076 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @11:50AM (#17508836) Journal

    But wait--wasn't the decision to link to libkvm made by the authors of the start-stop-daemon? And aren't they the same ones who decided to release it under the GPL? It would seem to me that people are looking at things the wrong way 'round. Instead of getting wavers for libkvm they should be looking at the start-stop-daemon which has either effectively been dual licensed or has been misused by whoever decided to use libkvm (idf it wasn't the original author(s)).


  • Re:Good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:06PM (#17509090) Journal
    I disagree that the Debian GNU/kFreeBSD port is a waste of time. Linux is not the official kernel of the GNU project and, while I doubt anyone will actually use the FreeBSD kernel port, it is useful to improve the portability of the GNU system.

    More interesting is the Nexenta project, which is porting Ubuntu to OpenSolaris (and has usable releases out already).

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:15PM (#17509200) Journal
    I take it you didn't read the second link, or the summary. This covers code written by UCB, and is widely known about. All UCB-original code released under the 4-clause license can be used under the 3-clause license. However, FreeBSD does not use the original 4BSD libkvm; a number of people have submitted patches to it over the years. Because FreeBSD does not require copyright assignment, these changes are still owned by their authors, and some of them are under the 4-clause license.

    This means that parts of the library are 3-clause licensed, and parts 4-clause licensed.

  • Scare Tactics (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Duncan3 ( 10537 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:19PM (#17509270) Homepage
    I'm sure this will blow over as nothing soon enough, but it's EXACTLY this kind of stuff that scares the crap out of corporations and prevents Open Source(TM) from making much headway.

    The current reality is that your code is either public domain (new BSD is also allowable, GPL is _NOT_) and people will use it, or it's under one of the 7,867 Open Source(TM) licenses with 10 times that many cryptic and probably incompatible clauses that nobody really knows what to make of. The _applications_ will be used of course, but the code is dead.

    The sooner people figure that out the sooner we can all stop having to rewrite everything.

    Don't worry, we'll still all have work rewriting everything in the language flavor of the month. This year everyone is getting paid to rewrite all their code in Ruby I hear.

  • Re:Scare Tactics (Score:1, Interesting)

    by FallLine ( 12211 ) * on Monday January 08, 2007 @04:52PM (#17513638)

    As in you can't use the source. At all. For any purpose. Well, sure, it's certainly predictable.

    Which is academic for most users, even for developers like myself, when compared to the current and potential restrictions GPL-like licenses can place on you. For instance, when MySQL switched their client-library licenses from LGPL to GPL, this forced many companies that distributed or employed proprietary software with MySQL to make some very tough choices. With GPL v3 and other changes around the corner, many more companies and end-users will be negatively impacted.

    If GPL projects can switch licenses and argue that applications that make simple library calls are derivative and thus must be GPLd too, why can't GPL v10 argue that even using an open source server over a network also makes the clients' derivative/non-compliant? Why not argue that, say, anything compiled with GCC must be GPL'd or at least open source? Or that all output of GPL'd products must be public domain/GPL if distributed? I know some people may say this is absurd, but RMS and his follower's agenda is pretty extreme and I think they'll do whatever they think they can get away with.

    The problem is that you, the end-user, are not the customer for most of these GPL projects. For most GPL projects, their egos and their philosophy is their primary and often only concern. That you may benefit from their work is perhaps a secondary concern, at best. If you don't like their direction, the retort is basically "tough luck". Well, it may be their prerogative, but that does not mean I'd ever want to place myself in a situation where my livelyhood is at stake with those people. It is an unnecessary risk.

    Oh, and, btw you overstate your case. The source code for many proprietary software packages can be had, as insurance, if you're willing to pay for it and sign an agreement not to disclose it. Other companies will also do something-like source code escrow...

    New to the industry, eh?

    No, far from it.

    Even if you ignore the fact that products will be altered beyond recognition and eventually discontinued, with or without the company surviving, the fact is very few companies in the proprietary software business appear to have any particular long term staying power. If they dont go belly up, they get bought up, their products cancelled, and customers forcefully migrated.

    Name some major proprietary applications, that wasn't already highly obsolete, that was simply discontinued or where the business went belly up. There aren't too many. Sure, you'll have the rare monopolist that forces an upgrade after several years and there may be some grumbles about annoying features and what not, but they'll usually at least provide a relatively clear upgrade/conversion path (which is more than I can say for most open source projects). Sure some niche vendors have gone out of business, but these are areas where open source is a total non-entity.

    And most proprietary projects are half-assed and under-staffed. It's endemic to the entire industry.

    Some are, but there is little comparison. Most areas offer several good commercial alternatives (along with several mediocre/cheap ones) whereas there is generally no acceptable open source alternative. Even a highly successful project like MySQL (which truly depends on its hybrid model) is still half-assed for many customers when it comes to competing against the likes of MSSQL, Oracle, and others.

    Someone did a study a few years ago of the most popular projects on SourceForge and found that, of the 100 most popular projects, the median number of developers on each project was 4 and the mode was 1. This is even more devasting when you consider that most of these developers are doing this on their spare-time for sh*ts and grins.

  • by iainl ( 136759 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @05:31PM (#17514346)
    If it's against the license, distributing it is illegal. If you don't care about illegal distribution, you might as well be using pirated software.

    By all means use Linux or BSD because they suit the job better. I kinda leapt to the conclusion that Vista would do just as well if you're claiming to be an archetypal "End User" who doesn't have to do anything serious with the box, as that's what I thought the initial post was implying.

UNIX is many things to many people, but it's never been everything to anybody.