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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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  • hmmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by macadamia_harold ( 947445 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @11:37AM (#17508638) Homepage
    At the moment, development on the Gentoo/FreeBSD is on hold and the downloads have been removed from the Gentoo mirrors.

    It's almost as if... BSD were dying, or something.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Fucking hippies.
    • Who the heck modded that as flamebait? Tired old in-joke, yes, but hardly flamebait. Sheesh.
      • Re:hmmm (Score:5, Informative)

        by First Person ( 51018 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:31PM (#17509436)
        For those who need the (admittedly weak) joke explained, try this [].
  • 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 SLi ( 132609 )
      I for one am more than happy to see that license issues are being taken seriously in projects other than Debian.
  • 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: (Score:2, Informative)

      by The_Paya ( 1048300 )
      Actually, start-stop-daemon is Public Domain, the problem lies on the 4-Clause BSD license of the whole thing, RTFA and you'll see that there are about a hundred different "mentions" to make regarding advertisement, creating a whole mess for *any* derivative work of FreeBSD, and, perhaps, even for FreeBSD itself.

      More information at: []
      And at: []
      • by joto ( 134244 )

        the problem lies on the 4-Clause BSD license of the whole thing

        No. The problem lies in the fact that law is difficult, and software developers are not lawyers. Which is why big software houses have their own departments taking care of such issues. Whenever you choose or write a license for your software (instead of just giving it away to the public domain), you are limiting some people from using it and allowing some other people to use it. This may not be exactly the same people as you intended, unless y

    • by drmerope ( 771119 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @01:05PM (#17509940)
      Just so. The anti-4 clause movement began with the FSF. Let me stake out the position that they are not entirely objective on this point. The imfamous clause 3 problem was and has always been a canard.

      What's amazing is that people cite to the FSF propoganda and conclude they've prove their point.

      Well here is the truth of the matter: Clause 3 relates particularly to advertising that discusses the features implemented by the code given in clause 3. What this means is you want to brag about softupdates and softupdates were covered by this imfamous third clause, you would have to say 'as implemented by Kirk...'

      Anyways, this only applies to advertising with sufficient specificity to implicate particular code. Basically if you can trace a feature to 100s of contributors the clause is self-invalidating. No one contribution was responsible for the feature discussed in the advertising, therefore no mention is required.

      The whole topic has been FUD for twenty years. That said, it has been such good FUD that people have actually taken extensive effort to purge the clause from the standard license. Only a few small files retain it today.

      I think DragonflyBSD which is forked from FreeBSD 4.x is 4-clause free.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by arkanes ( 521690 )
        It's not FUD - you seem to be claiming that it's a minor requirement and no big deal, which (as far as I know) nobody at the FSF has ever disputed. Not a big deal doesn't mean it's GPL compatible, though.

        But the GPL specifies *no* additional restrictions, advertising clause is an additional restriction, end of story. That's all there is to it - 4 clause BSD license is not GPL compatible.

        The PyDev extensions for Eclipse are distributed under a free license that includes the requirement that you take a de

      • by softweyr ( 2380 )
        DragonFly can't be 4-clause free unless the contacted every developer that committed code to FreeBSD before they forked it and asked for releases. I'm pretty certain this didn't happen, because I was never contacted for my tiny little contributions to libc. NetBSD is probably closer to this than anyone in the BSD world, due to the creation of the NetBSD Foundation and their copyright assignment, and the due diligence that followed the Foundation.
  • by Zaurus ( 674150 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @11:53AM (#17508880)
    Um, hello? Whoever submitted this basically took the original email that Flameeyes sent, but ignored the next one that came a few minutes later:

    On Sunday 07 January 2007 02:47, Diego 'Flameeyes' Pettenò wrote:
    > This is a very sad blog by my side, although I hope this can be cleared up
    > soon so that I don't have to be this sad anymore in the future.
    Edit: Timothy (drizzt) found us the escape route. Applying E.Impt.License.Change we can legally
    drop the clause 3 of 4-clause BSD license, and be done with it. I'm writing
    in this moment the code to do this, but it might require a new stage to come
    out. Anyway, the problem is solved, and I think I'll mail FSF for them to
    actually put that note somewhere, as it doesn't seem to be that documented
    around here.

    This *should* cover our asses about the problem, although I'm still looking if
    there are sources that are redistributed under 4-clause BSD license, and for
    which the license change is not effective (i.e.: they are not under UCB
    • by Erwos ( 553607 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:04PM (#17509056)
      Unless this software came straight from UC Berkley, that escape route doesn't seem to exist. Their Office of Technology Licensing cannot unilaterally change the license on other people's code.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by robyannetta ( 820243 ) *
        Shhh, don't let SCO hear about this as they'll probably assert some claim to the code just to have it disproven in 3 to 5 years.
      • by hey! ( 33014 )
        The clause in question:

        3. All advertising materials mentioning features or use of this software
        must display the following acknowledgement:
        This product includes software developed by the University of
        California, Berkeley and its contributors.

        So it's ironic that UCB cannot waive this requirement on the behalf of contributors.

        This clause is against the spirit of the BSD license in any case. The reason t

    • by Otter ( 3800 )
      The guy's site is flattened and Coral Caching doesn't seem to have happened yet so I can't check this, but... I had the same thought as you and then saw a note at the bottom or a comment or something that indicated that this "drizzt" strategem is only a partial solution.

      At any rate, after fighting with yet another Portage update disaster and finding that the Gentoo documentation now recommends recompiling your entire system after updating GCC, I'm thinking this license issue is far from Gentoo's biggest pro

      • I was confused by the whole recompile your system thing, but I did it anyway. Apparently this has something to do with the ABI. The explanation made sense to me. However, if you have some counter-explanation, I would appreciate seeing it.
      • Gentoo documentation now recommends recompiling your entire system after updating GCC

        Whenever GCC changes the ABI, you will eventually have to recompile everything. It's not that much of a hassle, if you are not on the ~arch bleeding edge. Just leave the computer doing the compile overnight.

        Other distros escape the problem by issuing a new release. Ever changed from SuSE 8 to 9? There was the GCC change.

        Having said that, I don't believe GCC changed ABI recently. Or are you just moving to GCC 3?

    • 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.

      • by msuzio ( 3104 )
        I think this might show the real problem -- copyright assignment. It appears the FSF requires copyright assignment: al-Matters []

        (I thought that was the case, but maybe I misinterpreted that statement)

        Is this generally the case? Having never contributed back directly to a project (my contributions have all been along the lines of "look, this is wrong, here is a test case to show what might need fixing"), I realize I have no idea what the norm is. It certainl
        • by arkanes ( 521690 )
          The FSF requires copyright assignment for all GNU projects (since the FSF are the owners and maintainers of the GNU project). Copyright assignment is relatively rare in the open source world, because it requires extensive and expensive legal infrastructure, not least of which is the organizational body that will actually hold the copy rights. It's also a pain for submitters, who need to send notarized copyright assignment documents. It's the best way to keep your house legally clean, but it requires a grea
      • If those patches are under ten lines, then the copyright goes to FreeBSD, as a copyright assignment is not needed. This covers most bug fixes.The patch itself is copyright the submitter, but applying the patch does not change the copyright of the main codebase.

        People who insist on retaining the copyright to their ten line patch are control freaks. I won't use their patch... not because I legally can't, but because I don't want the hassle of dealing with people like that in my life.
  • by Erwos ( 553607 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:00PM (#17508992)
    Looks like we can toss a new one on our stack of freedoms:
    Free as in "speech".
    Free as in "beer".
    Free as in "stolen".

    And, yes, I understand nothing's been really stolen, and I really meant it mostly in jest. But this is one of the reasons that the community needs to understand that "open source" is not just "open source". It comprises a variety of licenses, some incompatible with each other. Developers need to be educated as to the ramifications of making bad decisions regarding software licensing.
  • Scare Tactics (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Duncan3 ( 10537 )
    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 c
    • by Jerf ( 17166 )
      Can you explain to me why exactly it's an advantage for commercial software?

      Open Source software can be reused, but requires attention to licensing constraints which may be problematic. Some of it may not be usable in a commercial product, in which case it isn't a problem; it effectively doesn't exist for you.

      Closed Source software either simply can't be reused, but even if it can, requires paying somebody to receive the code that will contain licensing constraints that may be problematic, and may furthermo
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FallLine ( 12211 ) *

        Can you explain to me why exactly it's an advantage for commercial software?

        I'm not the OP, but...

        A) Because most mainstream commercial/proprietary software tends to be more innovative and better. Yes, there are some exceptions, but they are very few in number and tend to be in areas where the demand is so small that it would be difficult to sustain a business on (the Windows monopoly vs Linux, perhaps being an exception in some ways).

        B) Because its licensing terms are far more predictable and understand

        • Re:Scare Tactics (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Znork ( 31774 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @03:12PM (#17512036)
          "B) Because its licensing terms are far more predictable..."

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

          "C) Because the company that is maintaining the product is far more likely to stay in business and motivate itself to the kinds of support that you need."

          New to the industry, eh?

          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.

          "D) Because most open source projects are simply half-assed and under-staffed."

          And most proprietary projects are half-assed and under-staffed. It's endemic to the entire industry. At least with opensource you can discover it was half-assed before paying through the nose for a disconnected support number.

          "they cannot afford the time and technical resources in practice to maintain said software themselves."

          But if necessary they have the option. And while one company might not have the resources needed, several customers working together may very well have the resources (after all, the combined customers were the ones actually paying for the resources originally, so unless the initial producer was deliberately sinking money into the development without intending to profit, the resources still exist).
        • Re:Scare Tactics (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @06:29PM (#17515456) Journal
          So, if you compare the ideal case for commercial software against the worst case for open source software, commercial software wins.

          Big surprise there.

          Neither your caricature of commercial software, nor your caricature of open source software, has much to do with reality. Bad open source basically doesn't exist for a commercial company, because they most likely won't even encounter it, and it certainly won't last long in their selection system unless it's completely broken. And I've been involved in buying many closed-source libraries, and your happy-happy portrayal of closed-source software doesn't really remind me of any of those experiences. By far I have more trouble with the closed-source stuff just being unsupported, and sometimes it's the big vendors (as in Microsoft, Oracle, etc.) who are the worst!
          • by FallLine ( 12211 ) *

            So, if you compare the ideal case for commercial software against the worst case for open source software, commercial software wins.

            Big surprise there.

            Neither your caricature of commercial software, nor your caricature of open source software, has much to do with reality.

            No. I'm talking about 10+ years of real world experience where the decision making authority and the responsibility for its outcome, for better or worse, ultimately rested with me (CIO/Director for a mid-size private->public company a

        • Having the source is a huge deal when you're dealing with difficult bugs that the author may not have discovered yet, when the API's are not well published, and when you wish to extend or improve the software. I can't count the number of times I've extended commercial products for internal use, but been prohibited from distributing the extensions by the commercial licenses and by the refusal of the software to provide a usable method of reporting the fix or extension.

          I've worked for several companies who fo
      • Your argument, in general, is correct. Closed source licenses are overall more strict in their allowances than open source. However, another important advantage that closed source licenses have is that they usually have one entity that is in control of the copyright. This allows one point of contact for re-negotiating the license, and possibly paying the owner for personal or business license. If there are many copyright owners for a software project, this is unfeasible.

        Some open source software tries t
    • 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.

      Really? It just sounds like an open-source developer being dilligent. Nobody has sued anybody yet (and there's no huge damages to be made from doing so).

      Using commercial software (especially in a corporate environment using volume licenses and developer tools) is no protection against getting sued by a patent or copyright

    • I agree with you to an extent, but I think that there are some cases where the effect is the opposite. Would IBM pour as many engineering resources into the Linux kernel if it was not GPL? Or do they want the assurance that their work benefits only the commons, and cannot be used against them by proprietary competitors?
      • by hritcu ( 871613 )
        Would IBM pour as many engineering resources into the Linux kernel if it was not GPL?
        Yes []
    • it's EXACTLY this kind of stuff that scares the crap out of corporations and prevents Open Source(TM) from making much headway.

      Nonsense. Corporations have to deal with legal and licensing issues all of the time. You think that licensing and ownership issues are new just because open source came along? Besides, all this really demonstrates is that free-software and open source developers take "intellectual property" issues very seriously and are proactive about resolving licensing issues before they becom

    • 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.

      Heh. *snicker*

      This is grossly OT, but your comment just reminded me of it...

      Japan-based Enterbrain, Inc. produces a series of build-your-own-SNES-style-RPG IDE/VM-bundles, the RPG Maker series. The latest incarnation, the RPG Maker XP, supports Ruby Scripting. In fact, the whole thing is built around RGSS, the Ruby Game Scripting S
  • by oudzeeman ( 684485 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:33PM (#17509478)
    OS X for Intel shipped with /dev/kmem disabled by default, which breaks libkvm (they kept the libkvm header and object files around though, and /dev/kmem can be re-enabled through a kernel boot argument). It is expected future versions will drop the support completely. It also appears that OS X on PPC based on Darwin 8.8.1 or newer also has /dev/kmem disabled by default.

    I just had to remove all dependencies on libkvm for a project I work on, since we recently had our first users try to use it on OS X x86. It is software used on HPC clusters and SMPs, so there hadn't been much interest in OS X x86 until the Xeon XServes. I had been trying to get a hold of an x86 system to test on for months, and then this problem hit us.

    Obviously this could affect OS X/Darwin until they completely phase this out and remove libkvm objects and headers from the software distribution.

    • Obviously this could affect OS X/Darwin until they completely phase this out and remove libkvm objects and headers from the software distribution.

      Not really. Darwin is based on OPENSTEP, which is based on Mach and the old UCB BSD releases. The version of libkvm that OS X users was almost certainly from UCB (and therefore retroactively 3-clause licensed) with changes made by NeXT and Apple employees.

      There is also no reason why libkvm support requires /dev/kmem; it's a fairly clean interface which could quite happily be implemented over a Mach port.

      • "clean interface"??? (Score:3, Informative)

        by r00t ( 33219 )
        Dude, you're dumpster diving in KERNEL MEMORY without any locking whatsoever. The data structures are changing as you examine them. A location holding a pointer to a process structure can suddenly change to hold a pointer to the read port of a hardware device FIFO, with any read you do being destructive by stealing the data. Even a page of memory can get remapped at any moment.

        Also, this ties you to a specific version of the kernel. It ties you to a specific patch level. If ever Apple changes the layout of
  • FUD (Score:5, Informative)

    by brass1 ( 30288 ) <`ten.tahw' `ta' `MF1qrLpQKwrlS'> on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:40PM (#17509554) Homepage
    FUD, plain and simple.

    1. The clause that's being referred to is clause three which states:

    3. All advertising materials mentioning features or use of this software must display the following acknowledgement:
    The operative phrase being, "mentioning features or use of this software." Somehow I doubt there's so much with mentioning the features or use of libkvm no matter what the actual meaning of the word advertising is.

    2. I've gone through all 15 of the .c files in my FreeBSD tree, exactly 2 of them have what *may* be a non-waived clause three: kvm_arm.c, and kvm_powerpc.c. The rest of the files are either copyright the Regents, don't have clause three, or use the CMU license.

    The two files are copyright Wolfgang Solfrank and TooLs GmbH. I would submit that there is probably a clause three waiver from these folks; it's just that we haven't found it yet. Also, removing the two effected files would have no effect on functionality. Neither the ARM or PPC ports are functional.

    The FUD here may not have been intentional, but it is FUD none the less.
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

    Think about how goofy this is. Berkeley originally wants ads to include a mention of them. Joe Schmoe contributes code with the understanding that his code is licensed this way (ad must mention Berkeley), and later Berkeley decides they don't care about the ads anymore.

    Now there's concern Joe Schmoe might sue if an ad doesn't mention Berkeley?!?

    (Could something like that be thrown out for lack of "standing"?)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The problem is that many developers change the reference to Berkley to themselves or their company, which results in the need for many permutations of the sentence. And the more serious problem is that that licensing restriction conflicts linking with code under the GPL.
  • If I had my druthers, I'd have an OS where all the code had one copyright and one license.

    Failing that ... one license.

    And I'd rather that be BSD than GPL personally. Which is why I'm trying to come up with a way to replace the whole userland on my system with one that's BSD licensed, but in Linuxland (I don't really feel like replacing my whole system right now as I have too much invested in it! Next machine though, I'll prolly put NetBSD on) it's easier said than done.

    I'd like to see a BSD userland with
  • And the answer is... (Score:3, Informative)

    by ByTor-2112 ( 313205 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @01:52PM (#17510790) nuary/073415.html []

    All this painful discussion over what is probably a non-issue? Don't you just love this brave new world of 30 blogs linking to each other creating an artificial buzz/panic? Is this a case of premature eblogulation?
  • FreeBSD already corrected the license:

    imp 2007-01-08 17:35:36 UTC

    FreeBSD src repository

    Modified files:
    lib/libkvm kvm.3 kvm.c kvm.h kvm_amd64.c kvm_file.c kvm_geterr.3 kvm_getfiles.3 kvm_getloadavg.3 kvm_getloadavg.c kvm_getprocs.3 kvm_i386.c kvm_nlist.3 kvm_open.3 kvm_private.h kvm_proc.c kvm_read.3 kvm_sparc.c kvm_sparc64.c

    Remove the advertising clause. UCB did this some time ago, but these files were never updated to reflect that.

    MFC After: 2 days

    Revision Changes Path
    1.15 +

  • Even assuming that the worst-case interpretation of the original BSDL holds (and, remember, it only requires acknowledgment when you mention features of the product... you do NOT have to include every copyright notice in every document), it's the GPL that deliberately restricts what clauses other licenses can include, and in this case it's a fruitless attempt... trademark law can be used to impose the same requirements on a package.

    For example, Linux is trademarked and requires attribution.
  • Personally im sick and tired of this 'IP' garbage.

    The next person that threatens a suit should be shot on sight.

Kill Ugly Processor Architectures - Karl Lehenbauer