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Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- Linus, "you can make mistakes too"

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- Linus, "you can make mistakes too"
Date: Sat, 29 Jul 2006 15:30:45 +0200

"USB subsystem maintainer" is a former IBM's LTC lunatic (now works for 
Novell): <>.

DRM "Misunderstood"
Authored by: Arker on Friday, July 28 2006 @ 09:05 PM EDT
You started the project, you're well respected, and your opinion carries a lot
of weight. But it's not the only opinion that matters. YOU deliberately made
sure of that, when you decided NOT to ask for copyright assignments from
contributors, but only licensing. You only hold copyright on code you actually
wrote, by your own design, because you were smart enough to see from the
beginning that you didn't want absolute power. It's time for you to remember why
you made that decision.

And while we're all clear that you don't see why Tivo is a bad thing, I think
when you go on to say or imply that the bulk of linux contributors agree with
you you're simply and flatly wrong. I've lurked on your mailing lists long
enough to know that many major kernel contributors disagree with you on this, to
one extent or another. And remember, by your own decision, their voices are
important too. Many read the GPL v2, the license under which they've contributed
their work already, to prohibit this as is, and see v3 as simply clarifying what
is already said. I think this is a fair understanding of the opinion of your USB
subsystem maintainer, for example, though I haven't heard him address v3 he's
certainly strongly on record in the context of v2 already outlawing much of what
you see as ok. And he's NOT a minor contributor by any stretch of the
imagination, nor is he lacking in support from other contributors from what I've

Now, on the Tivo thing, I can see where you're coming from. You're focusing
(naturally enough) on your primary role, as developer. Tivo gives you personally
what you want - they give you the code. From your point of view, that's the quid
pro quo, and it's done, and fair, am I right?

What I'm going to ask you to do, however, is to think for a moment of yourself,
not as a developer, but as a user, of software. Tivo sells you a free-software
based machine, but denies you the rights that you believe you have to control
that machine that you own. You have a right to study and _alter_ the way it
operates, but the Tivo is deliberately designed to prevent you from doing that.
Surely you can understand that, and I'm guessing (from reading your words over
the years) your reply will say 'so don't buy it.' Am I right?

Now I tend to agree with that, but I think there's still one more piece of the
puzzle that needs to be understood here, and it goes back to my first comments
regarding the other kernel developers, not all of whom agree with you on this.
They didn't assign their copyright to you, remember, by your choice and for good
reason. They simply licensed it under the GPL. I think it's fair to say,
whatever the exact proportion may be, that at least a significant portion of
kernel contributors understood this license to forbid what Tivo is doing.
Because the license is quite clearly focused on *user* freedom, not on
developers quid pro quo. This is no mystery, this can be no surprise, RMS and
the FSF have been in-your-face clear on this from day one, and it's clear if all
you have to read is the license itself. It's a license designed to ensure
freedom for the _user_ of the software. So whatever a court would actually rule
on the subject (we'll never know unless it happens) it's far from unreasonable
to think that much of the kernel code was contributed under the understanding
what Tivo is doing would not be allowed. Even if you, as a developer, are happy
with the situation, that doesn't mean all developers are.

And what Tivo is doing is giving you what you want, so you'll leave them alone
to strip their customers, the actual users of the devices they sell, of their
essential rights. That may not be how you see it, but it is how some other linux
copyright holders see it, and it's how a quite substantial portion of the larger
FOSS community sees it. I think you made the decision NOT to take copyright
assignments based on exceptionally good judgement. It's not a common thing to be
so aware you realise you can make mistakes too. In the past you've revealed that
exceptional quality in yourself, however, and this may well be a good occasion
to do it again.

And, btw, thanks for all the work you've done. I think it goes without saying
that we all appreciate it very much, but it might be nice to hear it still. 


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