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07.24.09

GPLv3 Reaches High Acceptance Rates, Novell Bans It, More Responses to Linus Appear

Posted in FSF, GNU/Linux, Google, GPL, Microsoft, Mono, Novell at 4:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GPLv3

Summary: While the FSF marks a triumph with GPLv3, Linus Torvalds shies away and people respond

ACCORDING TO this encouraging claim from Google’s Chris DiBona, adoption of the GPLv3 is very high. This was expected, but Microsoft front groups were among those attacking the GPLv3, for obvious reasons.

In July 2007, version 3 of the GNU General Public License barely accounted for 164 projects. A year later, the number had climbed past 2,000 total projects. Today, as announced by Google open-source programs office manager Chris DiBona, the number of open-source projects licensed under GPLv3 is at least 56,000.

As Kuhn puts it, “Even Chris DiBona w/ his secret data admits that GPLv3 is taking over fast (> 50%) and AGPLv3 is growing very very fast.”

We have also learned from an anonymous source that the new general policy at Novell is that all open source code developed in-house should be released as GPLv2 only (not GPLv3). This is not particularly surprising given Novell’s attitude towards the FSF, but it is nice to have it repeated by another party that says:

I just learned that Novell has a new general policy according to which all Open Source code developed by/for the company should be released as “GPLv2 ONLY”. This information is 100% good as it comes directly from the source. This policy interestingly coincides with that of Microsoft. If I learn more details I will let you know.

Linus Torvalds would not be happy about the news regarding GPLv3 adoption. In due time, it may pressure Linux as well to follow suit and evolve. Torvalds had some very harsh words for critics of Microsoft the other day, but rebuttals other than ours have already been published. Here is Jason’s:

On Linus and Free Software

[...]

I see the situation like this:

1. Oversimplifying a situation into a dilemma is a fallacy, but that won’t stop me here: If you want to picture situation in the FLOSS world as having two poles, with rms and “Freedom or Death” on one end, and Linus “Shut up and code” on the other, then that’s fine. The bottom line is Free Software is here to stay because of the GPL, so even the most pragmatic pragmatist needs to come to terms with that. The converse is true, as well, of course.

2. If you blindly and unequivocally side with Linus, you are just as much in error as if you blindly and unequivocally side with rms. Neither are gods, both are men trying to figure out the best way to do things.

In relation to the above, one reader writes to tell us: “Linus Torvalds made a provocative statement about Free Software recently. What does it mean?”

One reader says that Jason “debunks the myth that anti-mono folks are just zealots who can’t see reason.”

The same reader says that Jason “debunks the myth that anti-mono folks are just zealots who can’t see reason. Finally, he has this to address the issue of Torvalds’ remarks about “free software purists.””

Here is another new criticism of Mono (in Italian) and Jason on what would change his mind on Microsoft, Mono, and Moonlight.

The short story is that it would take a lot for Microsoft and its associated software to gain trust. Another reader contributed the following thoughts in response to the interview with Linus. We append them below with suitable formatting.

Okay, a lot has been said on this blog, and there is some that I approve of, and a great deal that concerns me, and all of it brings up a lot of thoughts about my own feelings and loyalties. People are not the same, and have opinions that are all across the spectrum. But what concerns me most right now is how one person in particular seems to be painting a lot of us with the same brush, and more importantly, how there might be a kernel of truth to it.

Let me tell you about myself. I call the operating system GNU/Linux out of pride and respect for the GNU Project. I call it “free software”, because I believe it is exactly the freedom component of this operating system that makes it special. And I have a great deal of admiration for Richard Stallman and for what he has been able to accomplish.

All the same, I think that in the free software community the lines between advocacy and zealotry are often crossed too easily. I find many of the conclusions that Roy here jumps to hasty, and this concerns me. And this only serves to support many of the things that critics has been saying, and puts me in a position where I don’t know if I dislike what they have been saying because the statements are false or because I wish they weren’t true. But first let me put up a few points of agreement.

DEGREES OF SEXISM

Apparently, a lot of this controversy started due to a poorly performed joke that RMS made at a conference to GNOME and KDE developers. I think the details of this joke, and why it has been found offensive, have been nit-picked to death, so I won’t get into it here. But calling RMS sexist, or even continuing to insinuate that the man is sexist, I think really requires some perspective. In fact, lets begin a list starting from the most sexist thing you can do to least, and see where RMS’s joke belongs on this ladder.

1. Rape and physical abuse of women.
2. Instituting laws and rules that take away the rights of women.
3. Discrimination as an employer or leader of an organization.
4. Misogyny.
5. Emotional abuse or tormenting of women.
6. Acting on sexist stereotypes.
7. Treating women as physical objects (e.g., of lust).
8. Mean-spirited jokes directed at women.
9. A poorly worded joke said at a conference that makes women feel uncomfortable.
10. Using the words “he” and “his” as a gender neutral pronoun.

So, where does RMS fall in this list? By a lot of the comments I’ve been hearing, I would get the impression that RMS has made an offense somewhere near the top of this list. But actually, I’d put RMS at level 9 of sexism.

Now, contrary to what Roy and others have said, I actually don’t scorn critics at all for speaking up about this. If they believe this was a serious lapse of etiquette, then it is their right to speak up about their feelings on the matter. And if women are offended by this because they are women, then I think they should also speak up. That’s fine, but so long as you see it as a violation of etiquette rather than something worse. Again, you need perspective.

At best, I would consider the event embarrassing for the free software community. But there are other messages out there that are saying that he free software community needs to move on, or that we should abandon free software principles and endorse the apathy of Linus Torvalds. Well, I disagree. But if I’m embarrassed by the event, why would I still admire this man?

DEGREES OF SUPPORTING THE CAUSE

To understand, let’s look at another list, this time in the reverse direction. We all support the free software movement, don’t we? If you don’t, then none of this should matter to you. But here are ways of supporting the free software community in order to least effective to most effective.

10. Chatting about “Linux” on IRC, twitter, blogs, and web forums.
9. Installing GNU/Linux on your own computer, and telling others about it.
8. Helping other people install GNU/Linux.
7. Writing fixing bugs and contributing documentation to the community.
6. Helping new users install and run free software on their computes.
5. Working on a minor free software application and contributing it to the pool.
4. Working on a major free software application and contributing it to the pool.
3. Working on a high priority application and contributing it to the pool.
2. Starting and leading a major free software desktop project for the purpose preventing the free software community depending on a proprietary toolkit being used by a competing project.
1. Quitting your job, starting the GNU Project, begin working on the basic free software needed for the development of an operating system, establish the legal foundation for free software by writing the licensing, start the Free Software Foundation to give the community a legal backbone, stay true to your principles, never compromise, never give in, and take abuse from members of the community for doing exactly what it takes to win.

Okay, so I’m biased. Number 1 is obviously RMS, but for the sake of the cause that *I* support, there is no one more deserving of that slot. But notice who Number 2 is? Come on, does anyone remember their history? That’s right, the leader of the dreaded Mono project was also the instigator of the GNOME project. In fact, even before GNOME, Miguel de Izaca was a GNU developer and contributed GNU software like the Midnight Commander. Then, while developing GNOME, he started a company developing and supporting free software. Now why would he have gone to all this hassle if Miguel didn’t care about free software principles? Come on, people! when a contradiction is staring at you square in the face, admit to it! Reason with it! Learn from it!

I don’t know de Izaca personally, but in all probability he likely *still* believes in free software principles. But, you ask, how is this possible when Mono is this huge threat to the free software community? First, remind yourself that Mono software is all distributed under free software licenses. Even now, working for Novel, Miguel is writing free software. Could it be, just maybe, that Miguel disagrees with the patent situation?

WHERE WE STAND

And that’s the thing, people have the *right* to disagree. But even more importantly, *consult your lawyers!* This is, fundamentally, a legal question, and one that people uneducated in law should stay out of. I trust the opinion of the SFLC and the FSF, they have been the legal backbone of the free software community from the beginning. And, I know that Canonical has consulted their lawyers, and Red Hat has consulted their lawyers, and so on and so forth. That’s what everyone should be doing.

But in certain respects, patent problems isn’t anything new to the free software community. They are a huge problem because the patent process rewards the person who first patented the idea at the expense of your average free software developer who doesn’t care about getting an intellectual monopoly over a particular technique. So the .NET framework isn’t anything new in that respect. If all else was equal, this would be just another case of crossing the bridge when we get there.

I’m as worried about Microsoft as the next GNU/Linux user. But *hatred* of them is simply foolish at this point. There is nothing personal about Microsoft. They are a company in search of profit, and they are using everything they can to achieve that goal. This makes companies remarkably predictable in this respect.

But there are a few things we know about Microsoft. We know that free software is a direct competitor to Microsoft software. We know that free software has already cost Microsoft an untold amount of money. We know that the GNU/Linux system commoditizes the products that Microsoft is trying to profit by. We know that the free software community is on their crosshairs.

It’s one thing to be paranoid, it’s quite another to *know* they are out to get you. But we shouldn’t be fanatical. We shouldn’t be afraid. We should just…*breathe*. We don’t have to fight Microsoft. All we need to do is to continue working with the GNU project, the Free Software Foundation, the GNOME and KDE projects, and all the other wonderful free software projects out there to create a more perfect system. Build a solid foundation and no one can break you.

KNOW WHO THE ENEMIES ARE

But what we don’t need here is this *false antagonism* that is being spread around, from blog to blog, dividing the community, creating animosity between people writing software under the same set of licenses. *We’re all on the same side here.* Aren’t we? The Mono team isn’t the enemy here. If Mono turns out being patent encumbered, then we will learn we just can’t use their software. The free software community has dealt with worse before. I’m not going to encourage the use of Mono myself, but if other people have different legal opinions, and believe they are safe from Microsoft, then I hope they’re right! But know who our enemies really are: Microsoft and proprietary software. *Not* free software developers! Even if you think their lawyers aren’t as smart as your lawyers :)

I know a while back there was this meme on Planet GNOME that said “I’m not afraid of people writing code” and because that meme spread widely that is pretty sad, really. It’s a consequence of this false antagonism that I’m talking about. Be honest. Be sincere. Be true about your feelings, and you won’t have any opinions worth spreading a meme about:

I’m afraid of software patents and Microsoft.

Any more thoughts would be welcome.

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17 Comments

  1. David Gerard said,

    July 24, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Gravatar

    Well, I thought RMS’s joke was tastelessly sexist.

    But that has nothing to do with whether he should be listened to on free software, a subject on which he has a track record of being annoyingly correct and perceptive as to what’s going to happen in future.

    RMS knows the score on free software, and that’s the bottom line.

  2. DiamondWakizashi said,

    July 24, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Gravatar

    Novell’s refusal to use GPL3 should be considered an endorsement of the high quality and effectiveness of the license.

    Supporters of the GPL3 should say: “The GPL3 is so good that Microsoft and it’s little bitch Novell won’t use it !!!”

    A Quick Guide to GPLv3 – http://www.gnu.org/licenses/quick-guide-gplv3.html

    zatoichi Reply:

    Explain to me about the “high quality” and “effectiveness” of the license. I’m particularly interested in your assessment of the license as it applies to mobile devices, like cell phones.

    Given that Roy has apparently never even read (or at least certainly never understood) the GPLv2, I’m not too willing to take estimates of the license’s value or efficacy here without a grain of salt.

  3. NotZed said,

    July 24, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Gravatar

    IIRC, even late in Ximian’s life we’d shifted to GPL-2 only for projects. A bit after all this ‘pragmatist’ free-is-scary-to-business scare mongering came about and the Linux project did the same.

  4. zatoichi said,

    July 24, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Gravatar

    Actually very few major organizations, as opposed to individual developers, have adopted the GPL v3. It’s not remotely well-understand, as the GPL v2 is, and the risks attendant with signing onto a license that no one can apparently adequately explain (and I’ve again gotten two contradictory and mutually exclusive answers to a single question from two different SFLC legal people).

    Under those circumstances, and until the general understanding improves, it’s unlikely that you’re going to see many major organizations–not just Novell–approving use of GPL v3.

    I believe it’s an unusable license for mobile devices, since it potentially creates a lot of problems around things like device certification and government regulation of cell phone operations.

    I’d put RMS’ joke at a 6, his overall interactions with women at a 4 (if you want to go there), and the degree of “community support” shown by regulars on this site at around 8.

    I think that second list needs an item for “advocating” at 11 or higher.

  5. zatoichi said,

    July 24, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Gravatar

    …that has nothing to do with whether he should be listened to on free software…

    If he’d limited himself to the subject of free software in Gran Canaria, we wouldn’t be arguing about him now.

  6. JohnD said,

    July 25, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Gravatar

    Gonna start slamming Linus now?
    http://www.linux-mag.com/cache/7439/1.html

    In particular:
    “I may make jokes about Microsoft at times, but at the same time, I think the Microsoft hatred is a disease. I believe in open development, and that very much involves not just making the source open, but also not shutting other
    people and companies out.”
    Some posters on this site may want to ponder the quote above.

    Yggdrasil 2084 Reply:

    Check the IRC logs for July 24th. The statement by Linus was brought up, but Roy spun the remark as being intended for Microsoft, not anyone in the Linux community. A few other times he insisted this website was about “defense” not “hatred”. I guess he thinks he has everyone fooled, eh?

    JohnD Reply:

    I don’t “do” IRC so I’ll take your word for it.
    Mostly I post so that any casual readers will know that there are some dissenting opinions about what Roy posts here.
    I’d love to know how he can rationalize in his own mind that this quote is aimed at M$
    “There are ‘extremists’ in the free software world, but that’s one major reason why I don’t call what I do ‘free software’ any more. I don’t want to be associated with the people for whom it’s about exclusion and hatred.”

  7. JohnD said,

    July 25, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Gravatar

    And this one:
    “I may make jokes about Microsoft at times, but at the same time, I think the Microsoft hatred is a disease. I believe in open development, and that very much involves not just making the source open, but also not shutting other
    people and companies out.”

    JohnD Reply:

    Oops I meant this one:
    “There are ‘extremists’ in the free software world, but that’s one major reason why I don’t call what I do ‘free software’ any more. I don’t want to be associated with the people for whom it’s about exclusion and hatred.”

  8. aeshna23 said,

    July 25, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Gravatar

    I’m strong believer in free speech and I do think Roy is too intolerant at times. However, I’m getting sick of reading over and over again the quotes of Linus Torvald being clueless.
    There comes a point when “free speech” becomes an unwelcome telemarketer. At the very least, it needs to be somewhat times costly for someone to repeat themselves in uninteresting ways. Please Roy make JohnD at least have to take the time to register a new account. Even better, if a comment has already been posted five times make it impossible to post it a sixth time–if there is open source program with such a feature. Maybe I should code it?

    JohnD Reply:

    Why should I have to register more than one account? Wouldn’t that be “gaming” the system? Wouldn’t that make me a “troll or shill”?
    As I posted above, I don’t do IRC nor do I read every thread of every post on this site. If I have posted a quote that has been referenced in other threads, too bad.
    I don’t post anywhere as much as you or the other frequent posters on this site.

    eet Reply:

    …oh, or Roy’s ever-mysterious ‘anonymous sources’, of which we don’t know whether they exist or not.

    roadelland Reply:

    Of course they don’t exist, where have you been?

    eet Reply:

    aeshna, it makes you look pretty poor when you ask for censoring of quotes from Linus Torvaldts that you don’t want to hear anymore. Linus said that, the quote fits the topic of the discussion; deal with it.

    At least Linus’ is a legitimate quote, not that ‘spin-doctoring’ that Roy does to bend unrelated stuff to make up some ‘news’.

  9. zatoichi said,

    July 26, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Gravatar

    Roy, this 50% figure is not meaningful. The question to ask is, out of a standard Linux distributions, what proportion of the code is licensed GPLv3; that percentage is exceedingly small. The only major project I’m aware of that’s gone GPLv3 is Samba.

    Most of these project which Chris mentions are standalone, one-off, efforts, most of which will never achieve any wide use. Can you list the components that goes into a given copy of, say, Ubuntu or Debian or Red Hat which are licensed GPLv3…?

    Or do you want me to?

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