10.26.09

Why Adobe Does Not Like Free(dom) Software

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, GPL at 2:16 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Adobe binary

Summary: The real motives behind Adobe’s moves and its “open source” point-of-view

Heise runs the article titled “Why Adobe likes open source,” but unlike the headline, there is much disdain for open source inside Adobe. About the company’s evil side we wrote for example here, along with examples of the negative impact of Adobe on GNU/Linux adoption and on Web standards.

“Black Duck is a purely proprietary software company with proprietary data.”Regarding the article from Heise, Groklaw writes: “This should help you to understand, when you see figures on license adoption showing the GPL being less used, that it isn’t developers who are not choosing it; it’s vendors and corporate types, who have their own agendas, not necessarily including freedom for you or the code.

Another one to watch out for is Black Duck, which despite some decent work is also harming Free software; Black Duck is a purely proprietary software company with proprietary data. There are reasons to be wary of it [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7].

Also regarding the Heise article, one reader wrote to us remarking on “Adobe and the viral GPL license.” Quoting from the article: “Tamarin, the JIT compiler for the ActionScript runtime, is under the Mozilla licence simply because it went to the Mozilla foundation – which does have drawbacks; “The good thing is it’s a BSD-style licence, the bad thing is they have some things written into the licence that may not be universally applicable and our lawyers get very uncomfortable.

“What license exactly is Tamarin under,” asks our reader, “what is ‘written into the licence’ that has drawbacks?”

Also from Heise: ““If you want to make money selling open source software use GPL,” Adobe will not use it because of customer concerns about inheritance issues when GPL and LGPL licensed libraries are used in customer applications. There’s a specific exception in the GPL for Java, but it’s not specified for other languages – so Adobe adds its own exceptions to licences to ensure that inheritance doesn’t expose customers to the full force of the licence.

Our reader asks:

  • What customers specifically have concerns about the GPL?
  • What reference is there to Java in GPL 2 or GPL 3?
  • What exceptions does Adobe add to licenses, what licenses, is this legal?

Quoting further: “There are good commercial reasons for this, says McAllister; “We have been frequently contacted by customers who have asked us not to use the GPL. They are under a mandate not to allow influx of GPL. Companies don’t like it, but they’re not necessarily scared of it.” The same is true of Adobe itself, as McAllister notes, “We only allow it in under very tight scrutiny.”

Our reader asks: “What customers specifically ask Adobe not to use GPL code? What are their names?”

Lastly, from the article: “LLVM has a very open licence if you’re not using its GCC-based front end, which has let Adobe modify and distribute the compiler without sharing all its changes. McAllister is happy with that; “We did modify the LLVM code but LLVM grants a uniform exception to anybody’s code being exposed. It’s the weirdest thing I’ve seen in my life, but that’s the LLVM model.””

“I don’t understand this bit,” says our reader, “LLVM is more ‘open’ because you can distribute the compiler without sharing the changes?”

Moreover, from Heise: “the LLVM Project does distribute llvm-gcc, which is GPL. This means that anything “linked” into llvm-gcc must itself be compatible with the GPL, and must be releasable under the terms of the GPL. This implies that any code linked into llvm-gcc and distributed to others may be subject to the viral aspects of the GPL…”

“That’s not playing nice with ‘open source’,” argues our reader, “they said viral.” Microsoft’s Craig Mundie once said: “This viral aspect of the GPL poses a threat to the intellectual property of any organization making use of it.” Adobe and Microsoft may not be so different after all, but they happen to be competitors. Both pretend to be friends of “open source” while in practice what they do is a tad dubious and very much contradictory to their stated intent (PR).

On the positive side, to Adobe’s credit, they do oppose software patents.

“Let me make my position on the patentability of software clear. I believe that software per se should not be allowed patent protection. […] We take this position because it is the best policy for maintaining a healthy software industry, where innovation can prosper.” —Douglas Brotz, Adobe Systems, Inc.

“Software patents harm the industry, with no corresponding benefit” —Adobe, Douglas Brotz, JamessHuggins: Adobe Systems Statement on Software Patents

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A Single Comment

  1. David Gerard said,

    October 26, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Gravatar

    The MPL is *not* a BSD style licence. It’s a weak copyleft licence, analogous to the LGPL, but incompatible with it – which is why Mozilla relicensed under LGPL and GPL as well.

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