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Old 03-23-2010, 09:33 PM   #1
Cien
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does anybody really understand GNU general public licenses?


I have the impression that not that many people understand the scope and limitations of GNU General Public License. For sure, I don't really understand it. Moreover, after reading a few threads I'm pretty sure there is a lot of confusion.

This is somehow my basic understanding of it. If I take a program covered under the GNU license, first of all I have the right to get the source code. Second, I can modify it at will. Third, I can redistribute it as will too but the new code will necessarily will have the same GNU license.

This made me wonder how people actually can charge for software derived from Linux, for instance, Red Hat. Well, my impression is that they really make profit only out of services.

In this thread http://www.linuxquestions.org/questi...rhel-5-624311/ I think I found a lot of confusion, even from a moderator (not intended to offend). Red Hat is based on Linux and it is necessarily covered under GNU. Somebody probably bought the program from RHE and can make it available at no cost if she wants. Then, there should be no harm in asking for it. Nevertheless, the moderator decided to warn the user. In this article http://searchenterpriselinux.techtar...989787,00.html it says the following:"Our training is not designed to promote vendor lock-in. Though these courses are based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the source code for [RHEL] is available to the community via the GPL [GNU General Public License]," said Red Hat spokewoman Leigh Day.

This thread http://www.linuxquestions.org/questi...g+red+hat+free shows yet more confused people.

Is there is a glitch in this type of license that prevents programs like RHEL to be redistributed for free? Why their license page doesn't mention GNU license? Or the problem is just that people get overwhelmed by this license and are afraid to be penalized and get paralyzed?

By the way, RHEL is just the example. The key question is about the license!!

Last edited by Cien; 03-24-2010 at 01:46 AM. Reason: minor typo
 
Old 03-23-2010, 09:57 PM   #2
Quakeboy02
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IMO:

There is a lot of misunderstanding because the people here aren't lawyers - including me. I believe that the message that Red Hat gets its money from services has finally made it across to most people, but it's taken a long time. However there is still an automatic aversion to helping people with RHEL questions. Some of that is probably overkill, but let's face it, if you are going to insist on running RHEL, the least you could do is purchase their service contract. Doing otherwise just confuses the issue. If you don't want to pay for a service contract, then why are you using RHEL? Use CentOs, instead.

There's also the issue that RedHat owns the trademarks to their name, "RHEL", and any logos involved, and perhaps other things that don't come to mind. What that means in the legal world, IOW whether or not they can or will sue you for giving free support on a RHEL product, I haven't a clue. I'm not a lawyer.
 
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Old 03-24-2010, 12:39 AM   #3
lumak
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You don't charge for the program. You charge for the service and cost of distribution.

Just because you have source code doesn't mean you have the ability (software or knowledge wise) to compile said software.

Take xchat for example. Their windows binaries cost a one time fee of $20. But technically you have the source code available to you if you know how to compile it on Windows.


Binaries are completely different than source code. Additionally, source art and graphics are a separate realm as well. For example, you can make a game that is 'open source' but keep the graphics on a separate license.
 
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Old 03-24-2010, 02:03 AM   #4
Cien
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lumak View Post
Binaries are completely different than source code. Additionally, source art and graphics are a separate realm as well. For example, you can make a game that is 'open source' but keep the graphics on a separate license.
This doesn't seem to make much sense to me. I can potentially protect any software based on a GNU by introducing some art work (a logo for instance) that would have a different license. If I hide it well in the source code it's pretty hard to find. This seem like a loophole in the license. Beside, isn't any program based on GNU also GNU?

The binary versus source code discussion is not that relevant. Somebody for sure can make the binaries, or else, you get them from the original distribution together with the code.
 
Old 03-24-2010, 02:34 AM   #5
frieza
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ah yes but centos for example is a free system based on RHEL source code so at least source wise you could distribute rhel probably just not under the RHEL name
 
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Old 03-24-2010, 07:57 AM   #6
Hangdog42
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Quote:
This doesn't seem to make much sense to me. I can potentially protect any software based on a GNU by introducing some art work (a logo for instance) that would have a different license. If I hide it well in the source code it's pretty hard to find. This seem like a loophole in the license. Beside, isn't any program based on GNU also GNU?
Actually since a user would have access to the source code, it wouldn't be hard to find at all. Besides if someone were to try and legally stop distribution, they would have to say where the art work was, making it even easier to remove. And yes, if you get software that is licensed under the GPL, it must remain licensed under the GPL.
 
Old 03-24-2010, 12:22 PM   #7
H_TeXMeX_H
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These are always helpful:

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/GPL/2.0/
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/LGPL/2.1/
 
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Old 03-24-2010, 01:28 PM   #8
Cien
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hangdog42 View Post
Actually since a user would have access to the source code, it wouldn't be hard to find at all. Besides if someone were to try and legally stop distribution, they would have to say where the art work was, making it even easier to remove. And yes, if you get software that is licensed under the GPL, it must remain licensed under the GPL.
Sorry but this is still confusing. If the program is GPL then shouldn't any artwork introduced in the program obey this license too?
Otherwise, I insist, there is a loophole. People won't be able to get the program and redistribute it (which is part of the license rights) without enough ability. Also one can not wait to be sued to be able to find the code of the artwork!!

The link from H_TeXMeX_H says that all the conditions can be waived by the copyright holder. What does it mean? Any sub-product of linux depends exclusively on whether the the copyright owner (Linus Torvalds?) decides to allow any type of license? This have many possible interpretations. Potentially I can pay him to let me have, say LinuxExtreme a private software right? (LinuxExtreme is imaginary)

Is this perhaps, what's going on with Red Hat? (Their license page does not look at all like a GPL.)

This should be very relevant to people deciding on contributing to any linux derivative right?
 
Old 03-24-2010, 01:41 PM   #9
Quakeboy02
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I believe it's this very artwork issue that has caused Debian to change FireFox to IceWeasel.

It's my understanding that you can add closed source (including artwork) to an open-source project and sell the result. However, you have to make the source code available for the open-source part. And, you can't simply change the names of variables and call a bit of code yours. I believe that when people do this, they supply their own stuff as object code when the customer wants it. We also see the case where commercial vendors supply closed object modules, art, open source code, and makefiles, to create proprietary Linux drivers. Nvidia's proprietary drivers come to mind.
 
Old 03-24-2010, 02:10 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cien View Post
The link from H_TeXMeX_H says that all the conditions can be waived by the copyright holder. What does it mean? Any sub-product of linux depends exclusively on whether the the copyright owner (Linus Torvalds?) decides to allow any type of license? This have many possible interpretations. Potentially I can pay him to let me have, say LinuxExtreme a private software right? (LinuxExtreme is imaginary)

Is this perhaps, what's going on with Red Hat? (Their license page does not look at all like a GPL.)

This should be very relevant to people deciding on contributing to any linux derivative right?
Linus is the creator of the Linux kernel, so yes he does own the copyright to it, and yes he can switch licenses whenever he wishes and wave any of the conditions.

As for Red Hat, they can license the software that they develop under whatever license they want. The Linux kernel however is still under the GPL, they cannot change that.

Remember that Linux = a kernel, but the rest is completed by GNU software (licensed under GPL or compatible).
 
Old 03-24-2010, 02:52 PM   #11
Quakeboy02
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Quote:
Originally Posted by H_TeXMeX_H View Post
Linus is the creator of the Linux kernel, so yes he does own the copyright to it, and yes he can switch licenses whenever he wishes and wave any of the conditions.
Again, the caveat that I'm nut a lawyer, but I don't believe this statement is quite true. Hundreds of people have contributed original code to the kernel since Linus first put it all together. I'm not entirely certain what legal control Linus has over anything, these days. Certainly he is the driving force and people are going to do what he asks. But, there is a "social contract" with the kernel developers involved, as well. It's hard to imagine a circumstance where any one person could move the kernel, or any part of GNU for that matter, to something that radically changes the general thesis behind the GPL.
 
Old 03-24-2010, 03:27 PM   #12
Hangdog42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cien
If the program is GPL then shouldn't any artwork introduced in the program obey this license too?
Don't confuse license with copyright, they aren't the same thing. The way Red Hat does it, the artwork is covered by their copyright and you can't use that without their permission. The artwork is NOT covered by the GPL. However the code is covered by the GPL, so you don't need their permission to use it. And while I'm a biologist, not a lawyer, it makes sense to me that different things like license and copyright can exist in the same file. Remember, CentOS removes the artwork and distributes the code, and Red Hat doesn't have a problem with that. Well, maybe they do, but they don't have a legal claim against CentOS.

Now that said, I believe that in the past there has been some chicanery about this sort of thing. SugarCRM once had a license that claimed to be open source, but you couldn't distribute any changes without also including the SugarCRM trademarks. However, they would never give permission for anyone to use their trademarks so the end result was that their code wasn't really open source.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quakeboy02
I believe it's this very artwork issue that has caused Debian to change FireFox to IceWeasel.
Yeah, this was very similar. Debian made changes to the Firefox code base but kept distributing it as Firefox. Mozilla objected to them using the Firefox name because it was no longer purely the Mozilla code base and they didn't want confusion as to which was the "real" Firefox.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quakeboy02
Again, the caveat that I'm nut a lawyer, but I don't believe this statement is quite true.
If I remember right one of the biggest reasons that the kernel stuck with GPLv2 is that they couldn't get all the copyright holders to agree to move to GPLv3. In fact I don't think they even managed to find all of the kernel copyright holders. My understanding is that if you write code for the kernel, you retain the copyright.
 
Old 03-24-2010, 03:32 PM   #13
Quakeboy02
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hangdog42 View Post
My understanding is that if you write code for the kernel, you retain the copyright.
Heh, to date I've contributed 1 trivial line to a device driver. My name isn't on the list, and I didn't want it to be.
 
Old 03-24-2010, 03:49 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quakeboy02 View Post
Again, the caveat that I'm nut a lawyer, but I don't believe this statement is quite true. Hundreds of people have contributed original code to the kernel since Linus first put it all together. I'm not entirely certain what legal control Linus has over anything, these days. Certainly he is the driving force and people are going to do what he asks. But, there is a "social contract" with the kernel developers involved, as well. It's hard to imagine a circumstance where any one person could move the kernel, or any part of GNU for that matter, to something that radically changes the general thesis behind the GPL.
Yeah, I think we would need a lawyer to decide that. It's true that there are other major contributors to the kernel, and theoretically they also have a stake in the copyright ... I'm guessing.
 
Old 03-24-2010, 05:52 PM   #15
Cien
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For clarification, Firefox uses a different license and not the GLP.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hangdog42 View Post
...Remember, CentOS removes the artwork and distributes the code, and Red Hat doesn't have a problem with that...
This is then a problem! The Kernel already has millions of lines of code! It must not be that easy to figure out where any proprietary work is hiding in a distribution (which much more code). I refuse to believe that there are that many skilled people to consider this step so irrelevant.

By the way, I talked to a Red Hat representative and her claim is that any previous version of RH is available online. Also that they don't really charge for the software but just for the services they provide. Also they claim that the license of their software is indeed GNU GPL.
I still don't know what does this mean though. To my understanding, this indeed means I can, if I want and already have their code, distribute it freely.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hangdog42 View Post
...And while I'm a biologist, not a lawyer, it makes sense to me that different things like license and copyright can exist in the same file.
I think the copyright is the author right to license or do whatever she pleases to. Now If you license your product as a GNU GPL you are imposing a restriction on any sub-product of it. Any party modifying the sub-product must obey this license or else they can not use the original program. If you are right, by introducing a copyrighted material in the code the new "offspring" program will no longer have the same GNU GPL (the copyrighted material will be protected!) . This is not possible by definition of the GPL.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quakeboy02 View Post
...Hundreds of people have contributed original code to the kernel since Linus first put it all together...
Well, if he wrote the first code he could potentially claim property to his first contribution and change the licensing. Since it the base for all linux code then it can affect licensing in all linux branches. I'm not talking about intentions but about possibilities.
 
  


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