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Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- Brownawell: "GPLv3, DFSG, Tivo, and GPLv3

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- Brownawell: "GPLv3, DFSG, Tivo, and GPLv3 (a different part of it)"
Date: Sat, 16 Jun 2007 15:18:51 +0200

GPLv3, DFSG, Tivo, and GPLv3 (a different part of it)

Timothy Brownawell Fri, 15 Jun 2007 19:32:37 PDT  Open Source Software 

The current draft of the GNU GPL v3 includes several paragraphs intended
to prevent "Tivoization", or the use of GPL software in
non-user-modifiable devices. This seems to be at odds with the paragraph
on compilations, and also with the "Fields of Endeavor" section (s.6) of
the DFSG. (It is also very clearly against the spirit of the "no
contamination" section (s.9), although that section is worded to only
cover contamination of software.)


  A compilation of a covered work with other separate and independent
  works, which are not by their nature extensions of the covered work, 
  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.

COTS hardware has an odd tendency to not be designed around specific
pieces of software, and devices assembled from such hardware would tend
to have a similar lack of dependence. So I kinda suspect that the
hardware is independent of the software. I would also say that the
software must be independent of the hardware, or where woult Tivo have
gotten it from in the first place, when nobody *had* the hardware yet?

So, I would argue that if the Tivo were purely software, it should be
covered as an "aggregate". And this does not seem to be disputed, as I
haven't noticed calls for the Tivo hardware to be GPL'd if they want to
continue distributing it.

An example: say I have a closed-source IDE, and ship it with GCC as the
compiler. Let's further say that this IDE only accepts a compiler binary
which has been signed by the IDE distributors, and that the version GCC
it ships with has been modified to accept a different command-line
argument syntax that this IDE uses. Is this aggregation? GCC clearly
isn't dependent on the IDE, and if the IDE was dependent on GCC then why
did GCC have to be modified? It could just as easily work with any other
compiler that took the same special syntax, GCC was just used because it
provided a convenient starting point.

What makes hardware special?

"Fields of Endeavor"

There are some devices which legally cannot be fully user-modifiable,
such as software radios. I would rather suspect that this would count as
a "Field of Endeavor", and so make the proposed GPLv3 DFSG-incompatible.

There is also the possibility of devices which cannot work (or cannot
legally work) without approval by some third party (such as, perhaps,
video players and various movie industry groups like the MPAA or AACS
LA). It seems just as reasonable to also consider making this kind of
device as a "Field of Endeavor", which again would be forbidden by GPLv3
if the controlling party chose to forbid user-modifiable devices. Making
the proposed GPLv3 again DFSG-incompatible.

"No Contamination"

  The license must not place restrictions on other software that is
  distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the 
  license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the 
  same medium must be free software.

I think it odd that this is limited to software, and can't seem to find
any discussion of this. If the limitation is regarded as an oversight,
as seems reasonable, then the Tivo section in the new GPL is entirely
contrary to this section.

The OSI Open Source Definition

The OSI Open Source Definition is very very similar to the DFSG, and the
current proposed GPLv3 has all of the same problems and likely problems
with it that it does with the DFSG.

This is a bad idea.

Do we really want a license which is of many minds regarding
compilations? And do we really want large numbers of basic utilities to
move to a license that excludes them from probably the most
freedom-concerned distribution there is? That should cause some major
forks and incredible hard times as it fragments the community.

For a relevant flamewar from LKML to warm your coffe with, see
A debian-legal thread about GPLv3 can be found at

"So now they're going to try the hard work of cracking 'Freedom'. Free,
well that means stuff you don't pay for"

    -- Eben Moglen ("Moglen: How we'll kill the Microsoft Novell deal")

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