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Old 04-01-2012, 05:06 AM   #1
Mustafa Ismail Mustafa
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GPL and the following scenario


I just wanted to confirm my understanding of the GPL before I start becoming more serious about this idea I have.

GPL will require that any alterations I make to the Open Source application (Linux Operating System in my case) as open sourced themselves. The following questions apply:

1. Any application that I write, I can release with any licensing scheme I see fit, open source or otherwise and I can benefit financially from this, true?

2. Does alteration of the OS include custom builds? Meaning, lets say I have a Debian server based product and I trim Debian to make it more lean, does that make it an alteration?

3. As a follow up to the previous, does writing any additional scripts that affect the behavior of the Open Source OS, require that they be Open Sourced as well?

As a by the way, is there any linux server distro that is not GPL? All the major ones that I could find are one GPL license or another (CentOS, Debian being my main choices)
 
Old 04-01-2012, 10:04 AM   #2
TobiSGD
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1. Yes
2. No
3. No, a script is like any other software, if you write it you decide the license. As long as your script/software doesn't contain parts released under GPL or a similar license.

Quote:
As a by the way, is there any linux server distro that is not GPL? All the major ones that I could find are one GPL license or another (CentOS, Debian being my main choices)
Since the kernel and the GNU tools are GPL licensed it is impossible to find a non-GPL Linux distro. If you want a non-GPL Unix system you can try one of the BSDs.

Last edited by TobiSGD; 04-01-2012 at 11:09 AM. Reason: fixed a typo
 
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Old 04-01-2012, 10:31 AM   #3
jens
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0. Every software license is meant to be "black or white", law isn't.
Do contact a lawyer if it's about money.
 
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Old 04-01-2012, 11:23 AM   #4
salasi
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The usual IANAL applies.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mustafa Ismail Mustafa View Post
1. Any application that I write, I can release with any licensing scheme I see fit, open source or otherwise and I can benefit financially from this, true?
Technically, the fact that you use a GPL-licensed operating system to host your application doesn't limit your choice of license for your application, but something else might.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mustafa Ismail Mustafa View Post
2. Does alteration of the OS include custom builds? Meaning, lets say I have a Debian server based product and I trim Debian to make it more lean, does that make it an alteration?
While you'd think not, I'm not completely sure about the exact legal situation. Assuming that you believe that you have some kind of worthwhile intellectual property in 'tweaking' the system to make it work better (which might be a bit difficult to believe, but it could happen), it seems that what could happen is that you might have to disclose that.

My feeling is that the likeliest scenario is that this 'tweaking' would be relatively trivial, and that, from an ethical point of view, if nothing else, you should be prepared to give back, in recognition of how much you have got from other people who have also contributed to this great OS. If, on the other hand, you feel differently, and that you have some new scheduler that pushes back the frontiers of computer science and that you feel able to get something for that, that could be a different matter.

If you are only leaving things out, and that would be something that anyone could do by standard application of the normal install tools, I don't know quite what mechanism would be used to contribute that back.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mustafa Ismail Mustafa View Post
As a by the way, is there any linux server distro that is not GPL? All the major ones that I could find are one GPL license or another (CentOS, Debian being my main choices)
Well, Linux will only be available under the license that Linux is available under.

However, be aware that this might not be the problem. you could have some application that runs on top of the linux kernel that is either only available under something other than GPL (eg, LGPL) or is multiple licensed. In that case, you'd have to deal with the license(s) that are available.

So, as an example, if there is some server monitoring application that you want to include, you have to obey the rules for the license for that application. You don't have the choice of saying 'I don't like this license, I'll use that other one that I prefer.' or 'It would be much more convenient if the license of all of these were also GPL, I'll treat them as GPL' unless that is an option explicitly offered by the application(s).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mustafa Ismail Mustafa View Post

As a by the way, is there any linux server distro that is not GPL? All the major ones that I could find are one GPL license or another (CentOS, Debian being my main choices)
Given that the license that Linux is is available under is GPL, the Linux part must be GPL. No distro supplier can (legally) decide to change that, but some are more prepared to include non-GPL bits on top of Linux than others. Debian is particularly strict about what they are prepared to include and what licenses are acceptable and which are not. Obviously, you have to keep in mind that not all, by any means, of a Linux distribution is Linux.
 
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Old 04-02-2012, 04:53 PM   #5
sundialsvcs
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INAL either, but also bear in mind that you can certainly deploy a proprietary product that is built using GPL-licensed open source tools and that runs in an open-source licensed environment. The iPhone and the iPad, for example, are two excellent examples: both run on Darwin. They even use a database system, SQLite, that is public domain. They do all this to enable them to sell phones and music players and songs and "apps," in a market that without OSS never could have existed.

You're leveraging existing open-source technologies to your own purposes, just like Apple does, just like Oracle does, Android, de da de dah. The best analogy I've heard yet is: "everybody's driving the neighborhood using the same open-source cars, more or less doodled-up, but they're using those cars to sell their own unique pizzas." The people can sell the pizzas, but they can't sell the cars or put up tollbooths on the highway, and they operate under the legally tested and enforceable privision that nobody ever will. Without OSS, that business model never could have existed. At first blush it seems insane. But, most "genius ideas" sound like insanity at first hearing. Not a single thing you now have in your pocket, and with very few exceptions not a single web-site you now frequent, would exist today were it not for OSS.

It's the only innovative idea we've come up with yet to tackle the outrageous cost of computer software. (Notice that I am not saying FOSS, and that I never will ... there's no such thing. Computer software just might be the most expensive thing man has ever invented.)

Open-source software, collaboratively developed by tens of thousands of people world-wide, becomes the ultimate example of an "enabling technology," of a rising tide that lifts all boats. In exchange for unfettered access to it and the encouragement to contribute to it, the legally enforceable copyright license to that material has been permanently welded open.

Last edited by sundialsvcs; 04-04-2012 at 09:30 AM.
 
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Old 04-04-2012, 08:50 AM   #6
Mustafa Ismail Mustafa
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Thanks everyone, I loved the answers, and I kind of gathered that there are one or two zealots who answered

I love OSS, its brilliant. I do work on Windows because I have to, not because I want to.

that said, the whole point of this question was because I have these idea, which are emerging from pet projects I'm working on, a storage solution and a fast switching/routing solution, both aimed at the datacenter/enterprise.

I'd love to give back to the community, whether its technology or money, but I'd also like to benefit financially from my hard work.

With regards to making an OS lean, I meant if I made the most minimal of installs and didn't overwhelm (perhaps challenge is a better word since I have yet to see a Linux kernel be overwhelmed and I work with some heavy loads here) the CPU/Kernel with unnecessary modules that would never have been used, for example, in the switch scenario, there would be no need whatsoever for all the myriad FUSE out there, if even one, short of where the OS is installed. To me, it makes sense that this is not an alteration, because its akin to switching off unnecessary light bulbs in a big room (or even not wiring for them in the first place).

Whilst I'm not expecting to release my code as OSS in the near future, I expect that one day it might. This is assuming I decide to go forward with my harebrained idea, I think I'll discuss my thoughts with a Psychiatrist and a Lawyer first.
 
Old 04-04-2012, 10:05 AM   #7
sundialsvcs
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mustafa Ismail Mustafa View Post
With regards to making an OS lean, I meant if I made the most minimal of installs and didn't overwhelm (perhaps challenge is a better word since I have yet to see a Linux kernel be overwhelmed and I work with some heavy loads here) the CPU/Kernel with unnecessary modules that would never have been used, for example, in the switch scenario, there would be no need whatsoever for all the myriad FUSE out there, if even one, short of where the OS is installed. To me, it makes sense that this is not an alteration, because its akin to switching off unnecessary light bulbs in a big room (or even not wiring for them in the first place).
I once worked on a project that consisted of giving some DOS-based air conditioning control software a new lifespan. The DOS software could not be changed but I was able to make it run in a DOS-box. It needed to be as "turnkey" as before, though. So what the software does is to boot Linux which immediately boots the control software, and it all "just happens" when you turn the thing on. But the provider is now able to ssh into the box. The entire distribution is both stripped and hardened. That's not contrary to the GPL.
 
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Old 04-04-2012, 03:08 PM   #8
hydraMax
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I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding here. The whole "Linux operating system" is not a GPL'd work. A Gnu/Linux distribution, on the whole, is an "aggregate" work, that is, a collection of software under various licenses. Much of the software in that collection is covered under GPL licenses, and for those works you must be sure to be following the licenses requirements. But the text of the GPL itself specifically states that using a GPL'd work within an aggregate collection does not make the entire collection a GPL'd work. From the GPL-3:

Quote:
A compilation of a covered work with other separate and independent
works, which are not by their nature extensions of the covered work,
and which are not combined with it such as to form a larger program,
in or on a volume of a storage or distribution medium, is called an
"aggregate" if the compilation and its resulting copyright are not
used to limit the access or legal rights of the compilation's users
beyond what the individual works permit. Inclusion of a covered work
in an aggregate does not cause this License to apply to the other
parts of the aggregate.
So, practically speaking, you could take a Gnu/Linux distribution, insert a bunch of your own proprietary software, and then distribute the whole collection. I'll hate your guts for doing it, but you could. You just have to make sure that you meet the terms of all the open source licenses of the software included with it. So especially if, in creating your distribution, you modify any GPL'd software, you must provide the source code, changes, etc. to everyone who receives your distro.

But your proprietary stuff that you include in the distro - you could put that under terms that do not allow people to freely redistribute it. Consequently, people would not be able to freely redistribute your distro, but they would still be able to redistribute all components that under the GPL, the BSD license, and such like.

Actually, nearly every Gnu/Linux distribution released includes proprietary software: The "default" Linux kernel includes hundreds of proprietary firmware blobs, which are binary files that may be redistributed, but may not be legally modified and redistributed in that way that you can with BSD licensed or GPL licensed software. This is one of the reasons that Richard Stallman hates Linus Torvalds, because he allowed companies to put all this proprietary c**p inside the Linux kernel package, even though the source code of the Linux kernel itself is under the GPL-2.

So anyway, if you do decide to create a Linux distribution with a bunch of proprietary scripts or other garbage in it, please remember to put a big warning label next to the download link, so I know to avoid it at all costs.
 
Old 04-05-2012, 03:48 AM   #9
Mustafa Ismail Mustafa
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@hydraMax Wow, I can see that you're pretty well rooted in the FOSS camp But I do see what you mean. I wasn't looking at creating a new distro per se, just respinning a slimmed down version, something akin to Orange-JEOS or Ubuntu JeOS and then induct my proprietary software/scripts for my nefarious capitalistic intent.

Would that sell though? I mean from a legal sense.

FWIW, I'm wholly for OSS but I would like some remuneration for my efforts, especially if either of my pet projects come to bear fruit.
 
Old 04-06-2012, 12:39 AM   #10
hydraMax
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mustafa Ismail Mustafa View Post
@hydraMax Wow, I can see that you're pretty well rooted in the FOSS camp But I do see what you mean. I wasn't looking at creating a new distro per se, just respinning a slimmed down version, something akin to Orange-JEOS or Ubuntu JeOS and then induct my proprietary software/scripts for my nefarious capitalistic intent.

Would that sell though? I mean from a legal sense.

FWIW, I'm wholly for OSS but I would like some remuneration for my efforts, especially if either of my pet projects come to bear fruit.
Capitalism is not evil. Robbing people of their freedom through the proliferation of proprietary software - that's evil.

Having said that, I'll leave off the subject because I'm dragging the thread off topic, and because my Web site is littered with articles and videos links on the subject of software freedom, if you're interested.

I don't know anything about Orange-JEOS, though according to their site "all Orange JeOS install images and build tools are open source software distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License."

But as far as introducing proprietary software and scripts into a distro: I'm no lawyer, but what I said in the previous post still stands. It's an aggregate work, so as long as you keep your proprietary stuff distinct from the free stuff, and you make sure to observe all the requirements of the free software licenses, and you make sure that the /way/ that you include the proprietary software doesn't restrict the ability of people to work freely with the free stuff, then you should be okay.

Now, keep in mind that, according to the Free Software Foundation at least, linking your proprietary software to (non-system) GPL'd libraries is illegal, so that's something that you'll have to watch out for. (The whole "derivatives" and "dynamic linking" debate is a thread unto itself.) And they (their lawyers) will come after you. So pick your libraries with care.

If you are looking for a parallel in the Gnu/Linux community, I think that Mandriva does something similar with Mandriva powerpack:

https://blog.mandriva.com/en/2011/11...-2011-is-here/

It is basically the free version of Mandriva, plus a bunch of proprietary commercial applications, codecs, etc.

Last edited by hydraMax; 04-06-2012 at 12:40 AM. Reason: typo
 
  


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