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Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- Linus' gang: "abandon the current GPLv3 pr

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- Linus' gang: "abandon the current GPLv3 process before it becomes too late"
Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2006 10:46:07 +0200

6 Conclusions

The three key objections noted in section 5 are individually and
collectively sufficient reason for us to reject the current licence
proposal. However, we also note that the current draft with each of the
unacceptable provisions stripped out completely represents at best
marginal value over the tested and proven GPLv2. Therefore, as far as we
are concerned (and insofar as we control subsystems of the kernel) we
cannot foresee any drafts of GPLv3 coming out of the current drafting
process that would prove acceptable to us as a licence to move the
current Linux Kernel to.

Further, since the FSF is proposing to shift all of its projects to
GPLv3 and apply pressure to every other GPL licensed project to move, we
foresee the release of GPLv3 portends the Balkanisation of the entire
Open Source Universe upon which we rely. This Balkanisation, which will
be manifested by distributions being forced to fork various packages in
order to get consistent licences, has the potential to inflict massive
collateral damage upon our entire ecosystem and jeopardise the very
utility and survival of Open Source. Since we can see nothing of
sufficient value in the current drafts of the GPLv3 to justify this
terrible cost, we can only assume the FSF is unaware of the current
potential for disaster of the course on which is has embarked.
Therefore, we implore the FSF to re-examine the consequences of its
actions and to abandon the current GPLv3 process before it becomes too

And the benevolent dictator elaborates (on Groklaw):

These comments have been given to the FSF over and over again, both in
private and in public. And the FSF just ignored them.

The fact is, the people who whine over this have been totally blind to
the fact that Linux is not "Free Software". It never has been. The
original source license for Linux was never the GPLv2, it was my own
"you have to give back source code".

In other words, Linux has always been "Open Source", rather than the
crazy "Free Software" thing. People who complain about that never seem
to understand that others can agree with the GPLv2, without actually
agreeing with the idiotic philosophies of the FSF.

It's time somebody made that clear. The FSF has always had a totally
false view of the world - thinking that commercial proprietary software
is somehow "evil" and must be destroyed. That's just crazy talk.

In contrast, the Linux kernel has always been about "give your changes
back". It was so before the GPLv2 (in 1991), and it has been so all
during the 15 years that we've used the GPLv2. The fact that a lot of
people seem to be totally unable to distinguish between the GPLv2 as a
legal document, and the FSF as an entity and their extreme ideology, has
always surprised me. Especially as we've been very clear about the
difference. Why do you think it's called "Open Source"?

The fact is, the FSF has tried hard to claim that they stand for
freedom, liberty, and everything that is good. The fact that they claim
that has absolutely zero relevance. A lot of developers have realized
that the GPLv2 is much better seen as a engine of "fairness" and true
freedom of people to choose their own policies and licenses, and that
the FSF worldview where you have to agree with rms is not actually
freedom at all. It's just religion.

So get over it. Just admit that the FSF is just a small fringe group of
people who don't actually even write any code, and instead of ragging on
the people who actually do the real work and get things done and improve
the world, how about looking yourself in the mirror?

What gives you (or the FSF) the right to complain, when somebody
disagrees with you?. That's what it boils down to. I like the GPLv2, but
anybody who confuses the GPLv2 with the FSF is just being blind, stupid
and confused. There's no reason to believe that "agree with the GPLv2"
means "agree with the FSF in general". There never has been, and why do
people have such a hard time to understand that?

So just accept it. A lot of people think that the GPLv3 is a worse
license. It so happens that those people are the people who actually do
the work, and include the person who started the project and owns the
original copyrights.

If you disagree with us, you have the freedom to shut up, and just start
your own project. Look to Hurd how well it works when you have people
who put ideology in front of sanity, and ponder that.


> I ask but two questions: is the freedom to share code as has been 
> the case under the GPLv2 to date under threat from software patents 
> and other methods? And if so can the GPL be improved to reflect 
> these new assults on this method of software development?

The GPLv2 guarantees the only freedom that is relevant: all improvements
can be fed back to everybody else sharing the code. That is how the end
result can continue to grow, and improve.

Are there scare-schenarios around? Sure. But reacting to those is often
worse than the theoretical thing that they are afraid of.

For example, and this is something I want to make very clear: the GPLv3
tries to make certain uses incompatible with the license, and tries to
get rid of people considered "undesirable" to the FSF. But what the FSF
has never acknowledged is that those GPLv3 changes also turn off other

For example, if the GPLv2 had had any usage restrictions, the way the
GPLv3 does, I would never have chosen it as a license for the kernel. I
chose the GPLv2 because I believe that my code should be free to be used
any which way you want to. I just want to be able to use whatever
improvements people make to that code.

See? The FSF claims to stand for peoples "freedoms", and then idiots
around the web just take that for granted. But the fact is, I think the
FSF curtails too many freedoms in its search for thei own kind of

This is not that different from the discussion in the US about how the
war on terrorism curtails your rights. Where do you draw the line? Is it
ok to accept secret searches, and secret laws, in the name of "freedom"?

Now, I'm no anarchist. The BSD license is basically an anarchist
license: totally free, you can do whatever you want. I want to have some
rules, in order to protect some behaviour. I happen to believe that the
"give back" rule is fair and sufficient. I think the freedoms that the
GPLv3 takes away (in order to protect other freedoms) are worth more
than the ones the GPLv3 tries to protect.

In other words, I think the GPLv2 strikes a much better balance of
"freedoms". The "freedom" to do whatever you want with the system
(including doing stupid things) is an important freedom, and people who
talk about the GPLv3 in glowing terms seem to always ignore that

It's a balance. And the GPLv2 gets that balance right, in my opinion.

And hey, it's just an opinion. Other people share that opinion. Yet
others don't. Big deal. But the really big deal is that the original
license, and the people who do the actual work, and the people who have
worked on the kernel for the last fifteen years bought into the
GPLv2-kind of freedom. Not the new crazy GPLv3 kind.

In other words, we're not all equal. It's tough, but my opinion matters
more, because I did more work, and I own more copyrights. And I think
that is fair. I think a world where I cannot make the judgments about
the code I wrote and still maintain fifteen years later would be a
horrible world. But that's the world that the FSF seemingly would

> If GPLv2 had the right balance, Tivo couldn't happen. But it did, 
> and it needs fixing.

I call bullocks on that one. The whole "Tivo needs fixing" argument is
simply not true.

You didn't actually listen to me, did you? My argument is that by trying
to disallow Tivo, you'd be alienating a lot of people who really matter.
You'd alienate me. I don't want to work on programs that cannot be
freely used, very much including by the Tivo's of this world.

There's also the simple and true fact that Tivo didn't actually take
anything at all away from people. I still don't understand how anybody
can even claim that Tivo did somethng bad. They gave all their changes
away. The only thing they control is the hardware that they themselves
build and sell. You can buy it or not. Nothing they do is even remotely

> You feel the only freedom that matters is that you get code back. 
> That is because you are a programmer.

No. You've listened to the FSF arguments too long, and you haven't
realized that those arguments are bogus. There's no black-and-white
"right vs wrong", and their whole "freedom for users" argument is also
totally not true.

The thing is, "freedom" is not a simple thing. It's not a "either-or".
It's not a linear scale. And it's very much not something that the FSF
has exclusive ownership of.

Just because the FSF claims that the GPLv3 is "more freedom for users"
doesn't make it so. They have a PR machine, and they have gotten people
(including you) to mindlessly just repeat it. But repeating it doesn't
make it any more true.

This is not about "programmers vs users". That's a totally false
dichotomy, exactly the same way it's a totally false dichotomy to make
it about "DRM vs the good guys". That's not how "freedom" works (and,
that's not how DRM works either. It can be used for good, it can be used
for evil. It's just technology).

The thing is, "freedom" is not a thing that you can say "freedom for
some people, not for others". You have to respect the people who do the
work, and you absolutely have to respect their freedoms too. And you
cannot and must not try to make it about some group vs another.

You're way too eager to throw away the rights of people who actually
work on things. You're way too eager to say that people who worked on
something for decades should just do what you want. Here's a hint:
that's not freedom.

So whenever you say "freedom for group X", you're using a totally
invalid argument. That's like saying that slavery was "freedom for the
white people", and that I'm against freedoms, because I think your
arguments are bad. Don't you see that? You can't willy-nilly try to
limit the freedoms for one group versus another. That's not "freedom",
that's just using a word that sounds good to make your argument for you.

So don't talk to me about "programmers vs users". That's a deeply flawed
argument, and that's not how freedoms work. It's especially not how
freedoms work with the GPL, since the two aren't even distinct groups.
I'm a user too, and part of the whole point is that users now have the
option of becoming doers.

Finally, there's a distinct logical fallacy in the argument that "users"
should be protected. It's the fallacy of thinking that people who
consume are equal to people who produce. And that's not true. People who
produce are the one who get to decide how things are done, because they
are the ones doing it. It's that simple.

This is your board, so you get to set the rules, right? If people
complain that you're doing something wrong, you can tell them to make
their own board, right?

That's right. That's how the world works. And it is how the world should
work, because that's what motivates people to get off their lazy behinds
and do something.

In other words, if you're just a user, and you don't like how you're
treated, you have the choice of becoming something more. If you don't
like Tivo, you can buy a regular PC, and put MythTV on it. You'll even
get to use the Tivo code, thanks to the GPLv2 (not that you'd want to).

> I am an end user, and Tivo is restricting *my* freedom, not yours. 
> And you so far do not seem to care about that, Linus, and that is 
> why the reaction to what you and your friends have said is so very 
> negative.

PJ, you're wrong. You have a very hard time accepting that, I know, but
the fact is, you are wrong. I actually have a Tivo (two in fact, if you
want to be exact), and I've had a Tivo since pretty much the beginning.

You probabyl don't have one, do you?

The thing is, Tivo doesn't trample your rights in any way, shape, or
form. You don't have to love them. Use a Linux box and MythTV, if you
don't. Or pay Tivo for the convenience of getting it in a box that they

Your choice.

> The community is not behind you, Linus, as a whole, from what I see.

You know what, PJ? I think you're wrong on this one too.

The thing is, the "vocal community" is the one that is deeply committed
to the GPLv3, and the fact is, there are a lot of FSF zealots who are
happy to trash-talk anybody who steps out of line, so that vocal
community makes very sure that nobody really likes speaking up against
the GPLv3.

It's ugly, PJ. Take it from me. I've got the cojones and developer karma
to burn, so I can stand up and say what I want, an dsimply not care when
people trash-talk me. I've got thick enough skin after fifteen years
that if people call me names, it doesn't much matter.

But I can tell you. The rabid FSF crowd can be really really ugly, and
if you're not a member of the "yes-team" that does what the FSF wants,
you can expect some nasty words.

What I'm trying to tell you is that there's a lot of people who are not
fans of the GPLv3 at all, but they don't want to speak out, because they
know what kind of reaction they get from the crazies.

> I would like to ask you a direct question. Have you spoken directly 
> with anyone involved in the GPLv3 process to try to express your 
> concerns?

Sigh, Pj. Yes. I have emailed both rms and Eben directly. They know my
position. They don't care. If they told you otherwise, they lied. Get
over it.


> What the developers are saying is that there should be no GPLv3. 
> So where do you see a compromise for FSF in that? *they* are the 
> intransigent ones? 

No, PJ, that's not what the kernel developers are saying at all.

What the kernel developers are saying is that the GPLv3 is worse than
the GPLv2 for the kernel.

Big difference. Big, big, big difference.

The FSF has had some serious problem accepting the fact that even just
one project, and a project that they didn't start (and that they have
never ever maintained, and that htey have publicly spoken out against in
the past), disagrees with them, and has the temerity to tell then "no,
we're not interested!"


I think other projects can do whatever they want. But I'm deeply
offended by the fact that people seem to believe that the Linux kernel
people should change their license just because the FSF says so. If the
FSF wants the kernel people to change their license, they had better
write their license to be compatible with the wishes of the kernel

PJ, it really is that simple. For some wondrous and yet-to-be-explained
reason, the FSF seems to have expected that all GPLv2 projects would
just magically decide to follow their pied piper. Without at all caring
what the people actually thought, and in full knowledge that other
people didn't actually share their philosophy.

And then people are all surprised when the kernel team just stands up
and says "No, thank you, we're not in the least interested".

PJ, please tell me why you find this surprising?



> Yet you have the nerve to tell them how they have to write it or even 
> that they have no right to change it? 

Listen to yourself, PJ.

I'm saying no such thing. I'm saying that the kernel stays at GPLv2, and
I've been trying to tell you (and others) why. I also made sure to ask
the other main developers, just to see if they thought I was wrong.
You've seen the results, we've told you what they were, and some of the
developers even spent some time writing a separate white-paper about why
they felt that way.

The FSF can change their license any which way they want. The users of
the gool-old-GPLv2 just don't have to follow them. And I don't want to
hear people complaining about it.

So of course the FSF can write any GPLv3 they like. For all I care, they
can write a GPLv3 that says that you have to stand on your head and
write all your comments in sanskrit - backwards. But they seem to have
assumed that the kernel people would just lie down and take whatever
they wrote, to the point where I heard several rumblings about
re-licensing the kernel over my express wishes, apparently because the
FSF thought that most other core developers didn't agree with me.

So now people are surprised and shocked when the kernel developers say
"no, we don't think the GPLv3 is any good". And they (and you) call us
the divisive ones? Why?


> But why are you not satisfied to just make your decision and move 
> one? Why must you try to destroy GPLv3? What is the point? Do what 
> you like.

But PJ, We're not destroying the GPLv3.

I made a poll to make sure that the other kernel developers actually
agreed with me. I did that, because while I'm certainly an opinionated
bastard, and am very happy to go my own ways, I do actually care deeply
about the preferences of the people I work with.

We further made sure that people are aware of the results of the poll,
just so that people can understand, and plan for the future. I know for
a fact that a lot of people have been discussing what happens when GPLv3
comes out, and wondering what will happen to the kernel. I want people
to know, and know that this is not just a personal quirk of mine, but a
widely held belief by basically all the major kernel developers.

Does that "destroy" the GPLv3? No. It sets the record straight. Even
people like Eben and rms were apparently not sure what the position of
the kernel was, and whether it was just me personally being ornery, or
what. Now people know.

And yes, knowing is important. Eben and rms have so far apparently
refused to state if a glibc running on top of a non-GPLv3 system is even
legally viable. Now they know - it had better be.

So now we can leave this behind us, because now peoples expectations
hopefully match reality again. Because some people definitely were
holding out hope that I was just a lonely kook. Now people know better.
I'm a kook with a posse!


> So what is your own long term plan then for licensing? Laws change, 
> legal precedents change, interpretations change, the technical 
> environment changes; the GPLv2 won't last forever without upgrades 
> and maintenance. If laws and legal systems never changed we wouldn't 
> need legislatures. I haven't heard that the FSF was planning on 
> back-porting legal patches to the GPLv2.

People like to think about wild "what if" schenarios more than they like
to think about reality. Bruce Schneier has a lot of great articles about
security, and shows some of how ridiculously bad people are at worrying
about real threats. He calls them "Movie-plot Threats".

He has a great quote about how people fear sharks, but that every year,
more people are actually killed by pigs than by sharks. Pigs! Those
things you go to a county-fair to pet at (or go "Ewww!" at, depending on
what your sensibilities are). Things we give no respect at all, in other

This whole "future license" (and DRM) threat is one such "Movie-plot
Threat". It's something that sounds good. It makes for great
discussions, because it's not actually something we face every day, and
so we can blow it out of all proportion, because it's unknown and scary,
and it makes for great theatrics. Add in nebulous words like "freedom"
and "But think of the children!", and you're all set.

The fact is, there's no reason to believe that the GPLv2 is going out of
fashion any time soon. The whole "fairness" thing and "do unto others as
they do unto you" isn't exactly a new thing invented by the FSF in the
last few years. Nope, it's been around for a whole lot longer than
computers have been, and I'd be willing to bet that the people who
communicated with grunts (and the occasional mammoth-bone to the head)
understood the concept of "being fair" and "giving back in equal
measure" perfectly well.

In other words, the likelihood that people would suddenly stop
understanding "we give you source code, you give us your changes back"
is simply not a credible threat. It may sound interesting in a "What
if?" kind of schenario, but it's just not very realistic.

So yes, laws change. Language changes. But the GPLv2 is as valid today
as it was fifteen years ago, exactly because the actual message of the
GPLv2 hasn't changed at all, and that message (unlike the GPLv3) has
nothing to do with any technology of the day, and would have been
intelligible to an uneducated gutter rat in medieval Europe - even
though laws have certainly changed since then.

So stop the fear-mongering already. It's pointless. Much more important
than a hypothetical "What if?" scenario is the fact that the GPLv2
doesn't raise the hackles of people like the GPLv3 does, and you're much
more likely to be able to explain the gist of the GPLv2 in just a few
words of English, and the recipient of that gist will actually be able
to understand and agree with you.

What is important in an source license is not the theoretical threats,
but the fact that you find people who agree with it, and are willing to
work with it, and that don't need to spend their time worrying about
disagreements about what it means, and for who it is, and what the end
result can be used for.

In other words: with the GPLv2, I can honestly and simply tell any and
all people I work with: "You can work together on this project, and you
can do whatever you want with the end result, but the rule is that
everybody gives the source code back under the same license."

That's what the GPLv2 boils down to. Sure, there's all the legalese, but
in the end, that's what really matters. That's what makes people willing
to contribute, regardless of what they actually intend to do with the
end result: because they know they are treated fairly, and they give
back exactly what they received. Not more, not less, and without
judgement on what kind of people they are.

And the important thing is, you don't have to buy into any religion of
philosophy. You don't need to care about any big words. You need to
understand a simple concept that even a three-year-old kid understands
extremely well:


No deep thoughts needed. No moral discussions, no silly "But think of
the children!" theatrics, and no questions about motives. We give code
out, we expect code back. No more.

And simple is good.

I don't think people realize how great a license the GPLv2 is. They see
me bashing the GPLv3, but they don't seem to realize that it's not
because v3 is a spawn of the devil, it's simply because v2 is just so
infinitely superior to v3.

Maybe you have to be a (good) programmer to appreciate the beauty of
simplicity. Maybe people end up looking at all the legal words, and
forget that there's a goodness in just doing one thing, and doing that
one thing really well. And that's exactly what the GPLv2 does. It says
something so fundamental and important, that the GPLv3 just looks
horribly bad by comparison.

So here's to the GPLv2. It's a work of art. Not perhaps beautiful in its
language, but in it's basic and very simple core message: Tit-for-tat.

Perhaps "tit-for-tat" doesn't sound as high-falutin' as "freedom", but
Godnabbit, it's a lot more fundamental. And if you forget simple
fairness, suddenly even "freedom" doesn't actually sound that great.


> GPLv2 is not compatible with the Apache license. It doesn't cover 
> Bitstream. It is ambiguous about web downloads. It allows Tivo to 
> forbid modification. It has no patent protection clause. It isn't 
> internationally useful everywhere, due to not matching the terms 
> of art used elsewhere. It has no DMCA workaround or solution. It 
> is silent about DRM. 


That's why the GPLv2 is so great. Exactly because it doesn't bother or
talk about anything else than the very generic issue of "tit-for-tat".

You see it as a failure. I see it as a huge advantage. The GPLv2 cover
the only thing that really matters, and the only thing that everybody
can agree on ("tit-for-tat" is really something everybody understands,
and sees the same way - it's totally independent of any moral judgement
and any philosophical, cultural or economic background).

The thing is, exactly because the GPLv2 is not talking about the
details, but instead talks entirely about just a very simple issue,
people can get together around it. You don't have to believe in the FSF
or the tooth fairy to see the point of the GPLv2. It doesn't matter if
you're black or white, commercial or non-commercial, man or woman, an
individual or a corporation - you understand tit-or-tat.

And that's also why legal details don't matter. Changes in law won't
change the notion of "same for same". A change of language doesn't
change "Quid pro quo". We can still say "quid pro quo" two thousand
years later, in a language that has been dead for centuries, and the
saying is still known by any half-educated person in the world.

And that's exactly because the concept is so universal, and so
fundamental, and so basic.

And that is why the GPLv2 is a great license.

I can't stress that enough. Sure, other licenses can say the same thing,
but what the GPLv2 did was to be the first open-source license that made
that "tit-for-tat" a legal license that was widely deployed. That's
something that the FSF and rms should be proud of, rather than trying to
ruin by adding all these totally unnecessary things that are ephemeral,
and depend on some random worry of the day.

That's also why I ended up changing the kernel license to the GPLv2. The
original Linux source license said basically: "Give all source back, and
never charge any money". It took me a few months, but I realized that
the "never charge any money" part was just asinine. It wasn't the point.
The point was always "give back in kind".

Btw, on a personal note, I can even tell you where that "never charge
any money" requirement came from. It came from my own frustrations with
Minix as a poor student, where the cost of getting the system ($169 USD
back then) was just absolutely prohibitive. I really disliked having to
spend a huge amount of money (to me) for something that I just needed to
make my machine useful.

In other words, my original license very much had a "fear and loathing"
component to it. It was exactly that "never charge any money" part. But
I realized that in the end, it was never really about the money, and
that what I really looked for in a license was the "fairness" thing.

And that's what the GPLv2 is. It's "fair". It asks everybody -
regardless of circumstance - for the same thing. It asks for the effort
that was put into improving the software to be given back to the common
good. You can use the end result any way you want (and if you want to
use it for "bad" things, be my guest), but we ask the same exact thing
of everybody - give your modifications back.

That's true grace. Realizing that the petty concerns don't matter,
whether they are money or DRM, or patents, or anything else.

And that's why I chose the GPLv2. I did it back when the $169 I paid for
Minix still stung me, because I just decided that that wasn't what it
was all about.

And I look at the additions to the GPLv3, and I still say: "That's now
what it's all about".

My original license was petty and into details. I don't need to go back
to those days. I found a better license. And it's the GPLv2.



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