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Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- Linus: "Tivo is odd and eccentric"

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- Linus: "Tivo is odd and eccentric"
Date: Sat, 29 Jul 2006 16:14:04 +0200

Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 28 2006 @ 10:13 PM EDT

    Taking the Tivo, I buy a box. I have the RIGHT (as given to me by
all the people who wrote the software) to modify that software as I see

Absolutely. Nobody disagrees with that right, and in fact, I'll stand up
and fight for that right. In fact, so would hopefully Tivo itself.

But that's not the issue:

    Unfortunately, Tivo don't accept that right - they see fit to say
"if I modify the software half of the box, the hardware half will stop

the above is just not true. Tivo does accept your right to change the
software. They even tell you so in their documentation that comes with
the box. They took exactly zero rights away from you, and you get to see
their modifications, and make your own modifications to them, as per the
GPLv2. And the Tivo box doesn't stop working just because you decided to
exercise those rights either.

Now, the thing that Tivo doesn't do is let you change the hardware. The
hardware (and firmware) they created is designed to just work with the
one particular version of software that they shipped. But that in no way
means that you can't take the software, modify it to your hearts
content, and run it. You just need to run it somewhere else.

And that is fair (if potentially silly and anti-social - but hey, they
designed and manufactured it, it's their choice). You may not agree with
it, of course, in which case you shouldn't buy their hardware, but they
did allow you to change the software any way you wanted, they just said
"once you do that, we're not going to run it on the hardware we

Btw, that's not so different from what I do either. When I release a
Linux kernel, I say "hey, go wild. Make any changes you want, do
anything you want within the license". But do you notice something
missing? I'm not saying that I'll take your changes and use them myself.
And I'm emphatically not letting you write to my git tree. You get the
right to keep your copy, and the license effectively means that I can
merge back your changes if I want to, but as with Tivo, that's my
choice. I often decide that I don't want to have anything at all to do
with other peoples changes. They have the right to change their copy of
the software, but that doesn't mean that I'll let people put their
versions into my source tree.

See? It's really not so different, after all, is it? Both I and Tivo
say: "you can change the software all you want", but neither I nor Tivo
will automatically take those changes back to "our" side.

In other words, Tivo really limits only their own hardware design. It
doesn't limit the software we've all helped create, and it doesn't limit
other peoples hw design. There is no bad effect of their choice of
hardware design on the software they used.


Is it a good thing to sell limited hardware? Probably not, but it
happens all the time. I remember the TI calculators where they sold the
identical piece of hardware but with the magic FN button not accessible
on the cheaper version. The hardware could do more, but the cheaper
version just didn't make it available unless you scraped away some
plastic and put your own button there. Was that "evil", or was it just a
choice of the hardware manufacturer to segment their market and get
people to pay more for the higher-end version, without having to make
two different designs (which is probably more expensive than
manufacturing the thing in the first place)?

And hey, those kinds of hardware/firmware choices are really no
different from Tivo making the decision of making a box that is a really
bright neon green, and sounds like a air-raid siren at 3AM every night.
It's their choice in hardware design. And it's your choice whether you
want to have a neon-green box that keeps you awake each night.

In the end, "neon green and loud" is not really all that different from
"only runs one particular software version", now is it?

Would a neon-green and annoyingly loud box make Tivo "evil"? Or just odd
and excentric?

I claim the latter. Tivo is odd and eccentric, and thinks that by
limiting their hardware, they can sell them better. That's obviously
silly of them, but hey, that's an opportunity for others to do better.

But at no point did Tivo actually limit any software that wasn't theirs
to limit.


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