May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)
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GNU General Public License

Main page Ebook Reference Recommended papers Freedom Zero BSD License Artistic License GPL general issues
GPL and Anarchism GPL as an "incompatible license" GPL and fair use GPL's Suppressed Envy Problem GPL and government-sponsored work GPL and Corba Python License Change KDE Jihad
Forking Shareware & Giftware Framing Eben Moglen     Humor Etc

Text of the license:

Version 2, June 1991

Copyright (C) 1989, 1991 Free Software Foundation, Inc.  
59 Temple Place - Suite 330, Boston, MA  02111-1307, USA

Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies
of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.


The licenses for most software are designed to take away your freedom to share and change it. By contrast, the GNU General Public License is intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change free software--to make sure the software is free for all its users. This General Public License applies to most of the Free Software Foundation's software and to any other program whose authors commit to using it. (Some other Free Software Foundation software is covered by the GNU Library General Public License instead.) You can apply it to your programs, too.

When we speak of free software, we are referring to freedom, not price. Our General Public Licenses are designed to make sure that you have the freedom to distribute copies of free software (and charge for this service if you wish), that you receive source code or can get it if you want it, that you can change the software or use pieces of it in new free programs; and that you know you can do these things.

To protect your rights, we need to make restrictions that forbid anyone to deny you these rights or to ask you to surrender the rights. These restrictions translate to certain responsibilities for you if you distribute copies of the software, or if you modify it.

For example, if you distribute copies of such a program, whether gratis or for a fee, you must give the recipients all the rights that you have. You must make sure that they, too, receive or can get the source code. And you must show them these terms so they know their rights.

We protect your rights with two steps: (1) copyright the software, and (2) offer you this license which gives you legal permission to copy, distribute and/or modify the software.

Also, for each author's protection and ours, we want to make certain that everyone understands that there is no warranty for this free software. If the software is modified by someone else and passed on, we want its recipients to know that what they have is not the original, so that any problems introduced by others will not reflect on the original authors' reputations.

Finally, any free program is threatened constantly by software patents. We wish to avoid the danger that redistributors of a free program will individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making the program proprietary. To prevent this, we have made it clear that any patent must be licensed for everyone's free use or not licensed at all.

The precise terms and conditions for copying, distribution and modification follow.


0. This License applies to any program or other work which contains a notice placed by the copyright holder saying it may be distributed under the terms of this General Public License. The "Program", below, refers to any such program or work, and a "work based on the Program" means either the Program or any derivative work under copyright law: that is to say, a work containing the Program or a portion of it, either verbatim or with modifications and/or translated into another language. (Hereinafter, translation is included without limitation in the term "modification".) Each licensee is addressed as "you".

Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not covered by this License; they are outside its scope. The act of running the Program is not restricted, and the output from the Program is covered only if its contents constitute a work based on the Program (independent of having been made by running the Program). Whether that is true depends on what the Program does.

1. You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program's source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an appropriate copyright notice and disclaimer of warranty; keep intact all the notices that refer to this License and to the absence of any warranty; and give any other recipients of the Program a copy of this License along with the Program.

You may charge a fee for the physical act of transferring a copy, and you may at your option offer warranty protection in exchange for a fee.

2. You may modify your copy or copies of the Program or any portion of it, thus forming a work based on the Program, and copy and distribute such modifications or work under the terms of Section 1 above, provided that you also meet all of these conditions:

These requirements apply to the modified work as a whole. If identifiable sections of that work are not derived from the Program, and can be reasonably considered independent and separate works in themselves, then this License, and its terms, do not apply to those sections when you distribute them as separate works. But when you distribute the same sections as part of a whole which is a work based on the Program, the distribution of the whole must be on the terms of this License, whose permissions for other licensees extend to the entire whole, and thus to each and every part regardless of who wrote it.

Thus, it is not the intent of this section to claim rights or contest your rights to work written entirely by you; rather, the intent is to exercise the right to control the distribution of derivative or collective works based on the Program.

In addition, mere aggregation of another work not based on the Program with the Program (or with a work based on the Program) on a volume of a storage or distribution medium does not bring the other work under the scope of this License.

3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

The source code for a work means the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it. For an executable work, complete source code means all the source code for all modules it contains, plus any associated interface definition files, plus the scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable. However, as a special exception, the source code distributed need not include anything that is normally distributed (in either source or binary form) with the major components (compiler, kernel, and so on) of the operating system on which the executable runs, unless that component itself accompanies the executable.

If distribution of executable or object code is made by offering access to copy from a designated place, then offering equivalent access to copy the source code from the same place counts as distribution of the source code, even though third parties are not compelled to copy the source along with the object code.

4. You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under this License. Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License. However, parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long as such parties remain in full compliance.

5. You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License. Therefore, by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of this License to do so, and all its terms and conditions for copying, distributing or modifying the Program or works based on it.

6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein. You are not responsible for enforcing compliance by third parties to this License.

7. If, as a consequence of a court judgment or allegation of patent infringement or for any other reason (not limited to patent issues), conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not excuse you from the conditions of this License. If you cannot distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not distribute the Program at all. For example, if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program.

If any portion of this section is held invalid or unenforceable under any particular circumstance, the balance of the section is intended to apply and the section as a whole is intended to apply in other circumstances.

It is not the purpose of this section to induce you to infringe any patents or other property right claims or to contest validity of any such claims; this section has the sole purpose of protecting the integrity of the free software distribution system, which is implemented by public license practices. Many people have made generous contributions to the wide range of software distributed through that system in reliance on consistent application of that system; it is up to the author/donor to decide if he or she is willing to distribute software through any other system and a licensee cannot impose that choice.

This section is intended to make thoroughly clear what is believed to be a consequence of the rest of this License.

8. If the distribution and/or use of the Program is restricted in certain countries either by patents or by copyrighted interfaces, the original copyright holder who places the Program under this License may add an explicit geographical distribution limitation excluding those countries, so that distribution is permitted only in or among countries not thus excluded. In such case, this License incorporates the limitation as if written in the body of this License.

9. The Free Software Foundation may publish revised and/or new versions of the General Public License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns.

Each version is given a distinguishing version number. If the Program specifies a version number of this License which applies to it and "any later version", you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that version or of any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. If the Program does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published by the Free Software Foundation.

10. If you wish to incorporate parts of the Program into other free programs whose distribution conditions are different, write to the author to ask for permission. For software which is copyrighted by the Free Software Foundation, write to the Free Software Foundation; we sometimes make exceptions for this. Our decision will be guided by the two goals of preserving the free status of all derivatives of our free software and of promoting the sharing and reuse of software generally.





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Old News ;-)

The dotCommunist Manifesto by Eben Moglen

A Spectre is haunting multinational capitalism--the spectre of free information. All the powers of ``globalism'' have entered into an unholy alliance to exorcize this spectre: Microsoft and Disney, the World Trade Organization, the United States Congress and the European Commission.

Where are the advocates of freedom in the new digital society who have not been decried as pirates, anarchists, communists? Have we not seen that many of those hurling the epithets were merely thieves in power, whose talk of ``intellectual property'' was nothing more than an attempt to retain unjustifiable privileges in a society irrevocably changing? But it is acknowledged by all the Powers of Globalism that the movement for freedom is itself a Power, and it is high time that we should publish our views in the face of the whole world, to meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Free Information with a Manifesto of our own.

Freedom Zero

Linux Today - Stallman and Kuhn on the freedom to choose license

As reported by Gnuheter, a new essay published by Bradley M Kuhn och Richard M Stallman carries the title "Freedom or Power?". The authors state something that we might have suspected from essays from Kuhn and Stallman before, but now is a little more clear, if still ambiguous:

"However, one so-called freedom that we do not advocate is the "freedom to choose any license you want for software you write". We reject this because it is really a form of power, not a freedom."

The essay is interesting in the light of an earlier essay published by Eric S Raymond. Raymond states:

"In other words, Stallman and Kuhn want to be able to make decisions that affect other developers more than themselves. By the definition they themselves have proposed, they want power".

Tim O'Reilly started the debate with his weblog of July 28, 2001: My definition of freedom zero, where O'Reilly states:

"If Freedom Zero for developers is the freedom to offer software on whatever terms the developer sets and a user will accept; Freedom Zero for users is the right to choose whatever software they like, without interference from platform vendors who try to deny that choice."

The issue is not simple. Stallman and Kuhn could be attacked on liberal grounds and even more so on libertarian grounds. This notwithstanding, you probably find a point in their statement:

"We believe you should decide what to do with the software you use; however, that is not what today's law says. Current copyright law places us in the position of power over users of our code, whether we like it or not. The ethical response to this situation is to proclaim freedom for each user, just as the Bill of Rights was supposed to exercise government power by guaranteeing each citizen's freedoms. That is what the GNU GPL is for: it puts you in control of your usage of the software, while protecting you from others who would like to take control of your decisions."

I am not sure whether Raymond, Stallman or O'Reilly is right, but to paraphrase Esther Dyson: the conversation continues.

General Issues

While the FSF promotes open source code as a means of cooperating and producing software, his "free software" philosophy might be considered as somewhat fundamentalist flavor of "software anarchism". And jangling with the words "free" and "freedom" is one of the most prominent Stallman's hobbies. See for example his critique of The Problems of the Plan 9 License  where he failed to realize the license tries to address (among other things) the "renaming game" problem present in GPL v.2. Actually there are two flavors of GNU license (GPL and LGPL):

One problem with both licenses is that they does not protect the author's contributions from "one-to-one" hijacking. In this sense this is "the law of jungles", anti-copyright license. Any as I see on the WEB the author of the derivatives that have a couple of small patches to the original (see for example TARA). Thus one of the GPL's loophole is "renaming game." All that GNU formally require is that "You must cause the modified files to carry prominent notices stating that you changed the files and the date of any change". You do not need any reason for the change. Here is the relevant quote:

2. You may modify your copy or copies of the Program or any portion of it, thus forming a work based on the Program, and copy and distribute such modifications or work under the terms of Section 1 above, provided that you also meet all of these conditions:

a) You must cause the modified files to carry prominent notices stating that you changed the files and the date of any change. b) You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this License. c) If the modified program normally reads commands interactively when run, you must cause it, when started running for such interactive use in the most ordinary way, to print or display an announcement including an appropriate copyright notice and a notice that there is no warranty (or else, saying that you provide a warranty) and that users may redistribute the program under these conditions, and telling the user how to view a copy of this License. (Exception: if the Program itself is interactive but does not normally print such an announcement, your work based on the Program is not required to print an announcement.)

For example if I want to create a "derivative" work by renaming some files in the original and the name of the product it's perfectly OK with GNU.

GPL's Suppressed Envy Problem

The essence of the section is very well explained by the following Slashdot posting:

Re:Is BSD more free than GPL (Score:0)
by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 01, @11:52AM EST (#51)

His changes are his work...not yours.

WRONG! He changed my code. That means I own his changes. Without me, he'd have nothing to change, so everything he does with my stuff is mine! I do not grant him the right to hide them from me. He must hand over his changes to my work. And he must do it for free. This gives me the maximum power over my own work. If you want to work for me for free, then thanks, but it's still you working for me, because it's my program. Not yours. Get it?

Another variant of the same phobia is the Microsoft will steal their precious code. A good counterargument is reproduced below:

Re:Foo! (Score:3, Insightful)
by Arandir (arandir-at-meer-dot-net) on Saturday January 01, @04:25PM EST (#151)
(User Info)
"...but keep in mind that by choosing BSD, you could be working for Microsoft for free."

So what? Are you so arrogant to believe that Microsoft even wants your code? The number of incidents where Microsoft used BSD code can be counted on one hand. Compare that to the myriad BSD packages out there and it's insignificant. And the number of BSD packages which withered away because some "proprietary" Microsoft version existed is exactly ZERO.

Besides which, all you Anonymous Cowards keep telling me that Free Software is not about "free beer". If it's not, then who cares if Microsoft sells your "beer" for money?

Here is one the replies that underline another side of the problem -- the side that also is present in the existence of a special version of Linux for Transmeta -- an ultrasecretive company that does not revel the actual architecture and command set of their chips.

Re:Is BSD more free than GPL (Score:0)
by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 01, @11:24AM EST (#31)
Yes, but what about those of us who would like to contribute to a GPL product that eventually has many authors?

If the original author wants to take it commercial, and I can't, I'd be pissed -- especially if I did a proportionally similar amount of work.

I seriously question the validity of this position taken in the GPL. If he can, using some of my code, I say fuck him and let him use untested and shaky license in a court case. I'd like to see something like this happen.
Re:Is BSD more free than GPL (Score:0)
by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 01, @12:07PM EST (#60)

I seriously question the validity of this position taken in the GPL. If he can, using some of my code, I say fuck him and let him use untested and shaky license in a court case. I'd like to see something like this happen.

Agreed. It's about time that a judge applied his line-item veto to cross out invalid portions of the license. And no, that doesn't break the whole thing. That's not how contracts work. Get a lawyer. The GPL is not supportable.

Re:Is BSD more free than GPL (Score:3, Interesting)
by Arandir (arandir-at-meer-dot-net) on Saturday January 01, @04:06PM EST (#145)
(User Info)
"Perhaps you should look proprietary up in the dictionary before you apply it to gcc."

Proprietary: (1) of, relating to, or characteristic of a proprietor (2) used, made, or marketed by one having the exclusive legal right.

Proprietor : one who has the legal right or exclusive title to something : OWNER

Proprietary software is owned software. The FSF owns gcc. By retaining a copyright, they have retained exclusive legal rights to gcc.

The FSF is the owner and proprietor of gcc, and thus gcc is proprietary. Perhaps you should use a real dictionary, instead of the redefinitions the FSF uses.

Forking - mozilla-license - Forking the Lizard

I remember it was thoroughly examined at the time of the original licensing of the code and that GPL (and dual licensing) was rejected not just for this reason but it was a significant one.  Its true that one could always argue that any of my scenarios are unlikely to happen but I can`t quite see me bringing a proposal to a board of directors and them being happy with that kind of risk assessment.

Its not as if this kind of attack was unknown or even ignored in literature on GPL (, such as the `renaming problem` where a body of files can be simply renamed under GPL and treated as a separate work.  This actually makes my Company X example much worse, if in releasing their product they had trusted the dual licence and heeded the Stupidity Tax argument then someone could come along and simply rename all the files created by Company X under the GPL licence and
Company X would have no recourse whatsoever and what`s more would be unable to use this renamed copy within their own proprietary software even though the only difference was in the naming of the files.

To counter the argument that the Stupidity Tax (the cost of maintaining a radically different tree) ensures my dire scenarios will not take place, I`d make two points.

Firstly, if the benefits of specifically forking into the GPL outweigh the benefits of not doing so then it will be done.  Up to now a great many GPL`d programs have been *nix based and the nature of that audience is quite well disposed to cooperation, with the XPCOM and XPFE releases an entirely different kind of audience is being sought.

Secondly, unlike a fork for the purpose of functionality, this kind of fork can be continually fed from the MPL code.  Each new release of MPL based code (and dual licensed), can feed the forked version especially when the
object that is forked isn`t part of the main code but a Contributed Work, in other words a significant application.

I think the benefits of forking any successful application based on will become so tempting as to be irresistable.

As for it not being a problem so far with existing `dual licensed` code I`d actually say that its a problem waiting to happen, betting on it not happening might mean that your quotient for belief in fellow man is higher than mine but that`s about all.  For instance, the release of 3.1 of NSS might just encourage someone to mangle GPL code into it because it suits them to have had someone else implement the RSA algorithm.  You can also say that AOL as the original contributor doesn`t care about this because from the time its forked in this way they cease to care about it.  A developer of vertical market applications with small audiences however has a different scale of problems.

I believe this `dual-licensing` is a hideous mistake it will dissuade small commercial developers from contributing significant fixes, and from publishing open source.  This might seem an irrelevant audience to, undoubtedly to AOL it is, but it was one of original aims of the MPL licence.  If this is no longer the ethos on which runs then it would be better if it came out and said so.


GPL and Corba

Can CORBA Sidestep Open-Source Licensing (Web Techniques, Apr 2001) Counterattack agaist "viral aspect" of GPL.

"This is great for businesses that would rather extend existing code than reinvent the wheel-but there's a catch.. Essentially, this means that if you improve open-source software, those improvements must also be open. In many cases, developers in this scenario are stuck"

... ... ...

As you've likely noticed, other than the reusable boilerplate code, you had to write very little code to run the TaxExpert program in a separate process: 7 lines in the taxes.idl file ( Listing 4), 13 lines in the TaxExpertimpl class ( Listing 8), and then 9 lines in the main routine that starts the CORBA server ( Listing 9). That's a total of fewer than 30 lines of code.

CORBA is a powerful library that you can use to perform many different tasks, like writing distributed software that's in different languages and runs on different machines with different operating systems. Mastering the IDL file is the key to using CORBA. Complex projects require complex IDL files, including features like different data types, arrays, structures, and IO specifications. CORBA also offers many sophisticated instance and memory-management strategies. While complete mastery of CORBA may take awhile, you can use the techniques I've shown to get immediate results.

Open-source software is among the best written and most widely used software in the world. However, as open-source software is licensed and isn't in public domain, you often can't make use of it in real-world commercial situations. Although you should consult a lawyer for a definitive legal opinion, you might be able to use a CORBA-based programming strategy to split your program into two parts: one open-source and one proprietary.

Linux Today - WebTechniques Can CORBA Sidestep Open-Source Licensing

RMS and the RIAA are on opposite sides of the freedom debate, but they do share one common enemy "Church's Thesis" A direct result of Church's Thesis is that no matter what you're trying to do, there's always a way to do it with one more level of indirection, or one more after that, or one more after that, or .... There's always a way to cheat *any* system you have in place, so unless you're willing to take draconian measures that will make a lot of legitmate uses illegal, you'll just have to accept it.

CORBA-like technologies are a case in point. CORBA, XML-RPC/SOAP, and even plane old named pipes are protocols that work by communicating results back and forth. Essentially, communication can be used to simulate any linkage. If you make communication equal to linkage, you open up a whole rat's nest of legal and enforcement implications.

RMS must be pulling out his hair over the issue, since he doesn't want to become the very thing he's fighting against.

Ultimately, as RMS admits, the issue is not legal, it's moral. You can't legislate morality, but you can make laws that encourage you to do the right thing. The beauty of the GPL is that it "legislates" a set of rules that make it "okay to share without feeling taken advantage of". It's a delicate balance that's incredibly difficult to keep in the long term unless people really want it.

engineer_scotty - Subject: Linking and the GPL ( Apr 2, 2001, 03:11:13 )

The whole question of what level of "linking" to a program is required before
the linked program can be considered a "derived work" (and thus subject to the
original author's copyright restrictions, including those found in the GPL)
is, I believe, an open issue.

One can take somebody else's source and modify it. This is uncontroversially
a derived work.

One can statically link to a library in a language (such as C or C++) that
uses header files, and requires explicit inclusion of someone else's source
in your program--but making no changes. Is this a derived work? Most folks think so.

How about dynamic linking with a shared library or a DLL? A bit of disagreement
on this one.

How about languages like Java, where there are no header files, and your source
is compiled WITHOUT any of the source code of the library being included?
Does linking to a Java archive or loading a class make your work a derived

What about RPC, CORBA, XML/SOAP, the X protocol, the Linux user/kernel
interface, Java RMI, or any number of other technologies where requests are
marshalled into packet form, passed through a "thin" interface, and
demarshalled on the other side?

Remember; RMS does not get to define what constitues a "derived work" and what
does not. Copyright law does that; and the law remains unclear. RMS (or
anyone else) may EXEMPT certain classes of derived works (as Linus exempts
kernel modules from GPL requirements so long as the kernel source itself is not
touched); but authors may not extend the scope of copyright beyond what the law
provides for.


Well, that's the standard closed source is a PITA problem. That part I understand quite well. Your problem, however, caused me to think about the article in reverse: what if commercial code relied more heavily on CORBA and the like? Wouldn't that make it one heckuva lot easier to sneak in some kinds of fixes and functionality? Not compared to having the source, of course, but better than the common case.
Just a wonderin'.

GPL and government-sponsored work - News - Investor - News - Story -- Allchin's controversy. Jim Allchin was probably the first influential software company official that openly linked GPL license with Anarchism and pointed out that like some other equality-based social schemes GPL might negatively influence innovation:

 Jim Allchin, says that freely distributed software code such as rival Linux could stifle innovation and that legislators need to understand the threat.

The result will be the demise of both intellectual property rights and the incentive to spend on research and development, he said yesterday, after the company previewed its latest version of Windows. Microsoft has told U.S. lawmakers of its concern while discussing protection of intellectual property rights.

...''Open source is an intellectual-property destroyer,'' Allchin said. ''I can't imagine something that could be worse than this for the software business and the intellectual-property business.''

Microsoft clarifies exec's open-source concerns

Allchin's concerns, eWEEK was told, stem from GPL paragraph (2B), which states, "You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this License."

In other words, Microsoft representatives warned, "anyone who adds or innovates under the GPL agrees to make the resulting code, in its entirety, available for all to use ... [which] might constrain innovating stemming from taxpayer-funded software development."

Allchin, according to the company, does not have the same concerns about all open-source approaches in general. "There are other kinds of open-source licenses that encourage third-party development but without the same constraints, including the BSD license," Microsoft representatives said.

See also:

A Response to Jim Allchin's Comments by Tim O'Reilly. Rather intresting althouth he avoided the question "Is Anarchism un-American ?"; also he failed to distinguish between BSD License and GPL where BSD license IMHO more represents an academic part of the movement and GPL -- it's anarchist part). It's somewhat apologetic: O'Reilly is the major beneficially of the open source movement -- the quality of O'Reilly book about important open source products are vastly superior to the quality of the documentation written by volunteers but he ignored this fact and praise CatB that claims quite an opposite ;-). Contains a couple important observations (in one linking FSF to a cult :-) :

To be sure, Richard Stallman is evangelical in attempting to convince others that free software is a moral issue, and not just a pragmatic choice, but he is hardly alone in asserting a forceful moral position about issues for which there is no wide cultural consensus.

...The greater part of Microsoft's revenue in the late 90's came from the incorporation of internet functionality (mostly developed on an open source model) into its products. The upgrade stream came not just from innovation inside Microsoft, but in large part from innovation by the very community Allchin now seems to portray as the "worst thing that could happen to the software business."

Slashdot comments:

Re:Ah... so they're Pro-BSD (Score:1)
by davidmb on Wednesday February 21, @06:49AM EST (#361)
(User #213267 Info)
Regarding your second point, has anyone actually tested this out in court yet? It'd be interesting to know whether the GPL is a powerful legal lever or not. At the moment it seems like companies are more worried about damage to their image if they're seen to pilfer GPL code.

Python License Change

Guido van Rossum Responds to Python Licensing Issues  Open Source,Community,Software Sep 7th, 2000

In any case we don't want to use *just* the GPL for Python, because there are many proprietary software developers in the Python community who don't want to work with the GPL. Python has always had a BSD'ish license which was perfect for them. I see no reason to suddenly confront everyone in the Python world with the GPL.

For more information on the CRNI license, see here.

Linux Today - Richard Stallman Response to Dave Winer on Python Licensing

By Richard Stallman

David Winer is passionate in his disgust for me and my work; so much so that he does not limit himself to rebuking me for the things I have done. He feels entitled to imagine other things he would disapprove of, and attack me for them too.

In his column on September 8, he notes that he tells Guido van Rossum, "Don't give in to Stallman." From the context, it is clear Winer imagines that I am asking--or rather, demanding--that Python be released under the GPL and only the GPL.

As Guido can confirm, that is not the case. I have been pushing for the license of Python to be compatible with the GPL, so that it can be linked with GPL-covered programs as well as with other programs.

If the Python license is incompatible with the most popular free software license, that creates a major practical problem for the community. Given the importance of this problem, all my efforts in talking with the Python developers have been aimed at solving it, at trying to propose some solution that they will accept. This isn't easy, and I am not going to make it harder by asking them for something else in addition.

Winer's description of my goals is equally inaccurate. I am not opposed to commercial software. When companies contribute to the Free World by developing free commercial software, I say more power to them. I started a free software business myself in 1985, selling tapes of GNU Emacs; I dropped it when the FSF took over selling these tapes.

What I disapprove of is non-free software--never mind whether it is commercial or noncommercial. But even I sometimes choose a license that permits a library to be used in non-free software (see

The idea of the GNU GPL is to establish certain liberties for everyone, and defend them as much as possible from anything that might take them away. We believe in two-way cooperation, and we invite everyone to join, but we do not invite people to exploit us by putting our code into non-free programs.

One thing in Winer's article is accurate: my philosophy is NOT open source. I have been standing firm for the philosophy of the Free Software Movement since 1984. The Open Source Movement, founded in 1998, has a less firm stand. I am not going to join them; I am going to keep standing firm.

But although I do not agree with or speak for the Open Source Movement, I have seen what they say, and I know that Winer misrepresents them when he invokes their name for his opposition to copyleft.

I believe that software users are entitled to certain liberties, to share and change software. I wrote the GNU GPL to defend those liberties. But there are some kinds of liberty I do not agree with. Taking liberty with the truth is not a good thing.

Copyright 2000 Richard Stallman
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted in any medium, provided the copyright notice and this notice are preserved.

KDE Jihad

Stallman on Qt, the GPL, KDE, and GNOME

Making Qt available under the GPL makes it legal to take an existing GPL-covered program and adapt it to work with Qt. It also provides a way to resolve one of the free software community's long-standing problems, the problem of the ethical and legal status of KDE.

The design of KDE was based on a fundamental mistake: use of the Qt library, which at the time was non-free software. Despite the good intentions of the KDE developers, and despite the fact that the code of KDE itself was free software, KDE could never be part of a completely free operating system as long as it needed a non-free program to function.

But the KDE developers were not concerned about this problem, and recruited helpers who shared their views. As KDE/Qt developed, it posed a growing risk to the progress of free software. The risk was that KDE/Qt would become so established that most of the user community would treat it as indispensable--disregarding the fact that this meant using non-free software. Widespread acceptance of one crucial non-free program would encourage a general willingness to accept non-free software, meaning fewer people who might have the will to help replace KDE/Qt with something entirely free. And that job would require catching up with a large head start, just as we did in replacing Unix with GNU and GNU/Linux. To be back in that situation was a discouraging prospect.

But we were not there yet, and it was clear we should take preventive measures before we got there. In 1997 we launched two parallel projects designed to avoid that situation: the GNU desktop (GNOME), which aimed to provide a completely different alternative graphical interface, and Harmony, a free replacement for Qt. The reason for starting two projects in parallel was redundancy: any project may fail, and the risk was big enough to warrant two simultaneous approaches to preventing it.

GNOME caught on, and by 1999 it was a clear success. Then Qt was rereleased under a new license, the QPL, which made it free software. This solved the principal problem of KDE/Qt, the fact that part of it was non-free. But a secondary problem remained: the problem of license inconsistency.

The QPL is incompatible with the GPL, which means that Qt and GPL-covered modules cannot legally be combined, unless the developers of one module or the other grant an exception to permit it. The KDE developers certainly intend their GPL-covered code to be used with Qt, and one can argue that by telling you to link it with Qt they have implicitly given you permission to do that. But they did not formally state this exception in the KDE source code itself, and it is not comfortable to rely on implicit permission for something like this.

In addition, in some cases code was copied into KDE from existing GPL-covered modules whose copyright holders had not given special permission. (Only the copyright holders can give extra permission to do things that the GPL does not permit.) That is a real violation of the GPL. Because of this, and the overall lack of an explicit exception, the legal status of KDE remained clouded.

Qt 2.2 provides the basis to solve this secondary problem, but a certain amount of cleaning up will be needed to fix it thoroughly. Misusing a GPL-covered program permanently forfeits the right to distribute the code at all. Such situations have occurred in KDE, and now they ought to be cleaned up.

It would be a good idea for all of the authors of code in KDE (more precisely, all of the copyright holders) to make a clear statement that linking their code with Qt in the past was done with their permission, thus assuring existing KDE users that they have not forfeited distribution rights to that KDE code.

Also, where code was copied from other GPL-covered programs, their copyright holders need to be asked for forgiveness. To lead the way, the FSF hereby grants this forgiveness for all code that is copyright FSF. More precisely, those who as of September 4, 2000 have used some FSF code in violation of the GPL solely by linking it with Qt, and thus have forfeited the right to use that code under the GPL, will once again have full GPL permissions to use that code upon switching to a GPL-covered version of Qt. I appeal to all the other copyright holders of affected code to grant similar forgiveness and thus help resolve the situation quickly.

Soon KDE should be properly based on a GPL-covered version of Qt, and the Free Software Movement will be able to think of KDE/Qt as a contribution and not as a problem. Meanwhile, I think there is no reason to work on another package which is equivalent to Qt. If you want something like Qt, use Qt.

But GNOME is here, and is not going to disappear. GNOME and KDE will remain two rival desktops, unless some day they can be merged in some way. Until then, the GNU Project is going to support its own team vigorously. Go get 'em, gnomes!

GPL as an incompatible license

Royalty-Free CIFS Technical Reference License Agreement -- funny this is the first license that explicitly mentions GPL as IPR impairing license and discriminates against it in a way similar to GPL's discrimination of BSD works (you cannot use GPL code in BSD project without changing the license to GPL).  It looks that GPL was caught in the same way. Paragraph 1.4 is a Microsoft variant of "viral property":-). It might be also interesting to read FSF reaction  They do not feel the tragicomic elements in this shafu, if they discriminate against others, other has full rights discriminate against them.

... ... ...

1.4 "IPR Impairing License" shall mean the GNU General Public License, the GNU Lesser/Library General Public License, and any license that requires in any instance that other software distributed with software subject to such license (a) be disclosed and distributed in source code form; (b) be licensed for purposes of making derivative works; or (c) be redistributable at no charge.

1.5 "Non-Microsoft Platforms" shall mean any platform other than any version of a Microsoft client, embedded and server operating system product, including without limitation, Windows XP, Windows CE, Windows 2000 and Windows 95 operating system products, or successors of those products.

1.6 "Necessary Claims" shall mean those claims of a patent or patent application, including without limitation, United States Patents Nos. 5,265,261 and 5,437,013, which (a) are owned, controlled or sublicenseable by Microsoft without payment of a fee to an unaffiliated third party; and (b) are necessarily infringed by implementing the CIFS communication protocol as set forth in the Technical Reference, wherein a claim is necessarily infringed only when there are no technically reasonable alternatives to such infringement.

1.7 "Technical Reference" shall mean the Microsoft copyright document titled Common Internet File System (CIFS) File Access Protocol version 1.0 found at MSDN Downloads.

1.8 "Term" shall have the meaning assigned to it in Section 6.1.

2. Enhancements and Updates

2.1 Enhancements. Any Microsoft file system protocol enhancements beyond the Technical Reference are not licensed.

2.2 Updates. Updates to the Technical Reference are not licensed. In the event Microsoft elects to provide updates of the Technical Reference to Company, such updates will only be licensed by Microsoft under a separate written agreement or a written amendment to this Agreement. weekly edition

Meanwhile, "royalty-free" (RF) licenses are generally considered to be good for free software. But what is one to make of Microsoft's "Royalty-Free CIFS Technical Reference License Agreement," which prohibits the distribution of a CIFS implementation under an "IPR impairing" license - specifically the GPL? It's only "royalty-free" if Microsoft likes your license. These terms appear to be an effort to undermine Samba, which is licensed under the GPL. Whether this attempt will see any success is, of course, another question: the Samba developers have not signed this agreement. It does hint, however, at the possibility of real attacks against Samba - using patents, perhaps - in the future.

Microsoft's language also highlights a common misconception about the GPL that Microsoft, seemingly, wants to encourage. One often sees claims that use of GPL-licensed software can force the release of a company's proprietary source code. In fact, the GPL lacks any such power. A company which distributes software derived from GPL-licensed code is required to make source available and follow the other GPL terms. Should a company fail to comply with those terms, however, there is only one thing that happens: the company loses its right to use the original GPL-licensed code. From the GPL text:

You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License.

The loss of the right to use GPL-licensed code can be devastating to a business, but it is not the same as having that business's intellectual property pried away from it.

Open source subject to fiery debate Stallman's "demands for freedom" with microscope ;-)

The panel was stocked with an economist, a researcher, a professor, and a representative from Microsoft -- all invited to participate by hosts the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Brookings Institution, two organizations that analyze the impact of government regulation on the economy.

But audience member Richard Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation, nearly stole the panel's thunder as he grabbed a microphone during the question and answer period and attempted to commandeer the conference to address what he described as mischaracterizations the panel made about the free software movement. Stallman had not been invited as a panelist.

There are actually three software licensing models in use today, explained panelist Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Stanford University. There is proprietary software, which shields a program's source code from the licensee; open source software that lets the user view the source code and make changes to it; and general public license (GPL) software that adds a restriction to the open source license saying any modifications made to the source code must then also be made freely available. The GPL model was developed by Stallman.

While Lessig argued that each licensing model has validity, he said that some commercial software vendors take issue with GPL's condition that would force them to make their modifications to the code -- as well as the original software -- available for free, since that would jeopardize the companies' ability to sell software with their additions. For example, if a piece of software that emerged from government research was made available to the industry under a GPL license, many software vendors would not be able to base their own programs on it because that would expose their source code to the general public.

"When software is distributed under GPL, it's impossible for a private company to commercialize or incorporate any of that work" into their own products, said panelist Brad Smith, senior vice president and deputy general counsel with Microsoft, since the company would have to charge for its software while others would be allowed to distribute it for free. "Our point is if you're going to license software under GPL, it's important to appreciate the ramifications on the diversity of the software ecosystem."

Another panelist said that open source software such as the Apache Web server has found success because it contains enhancements and modifications from all sorts of different developers. "Even though it's not GPL, people don't want to take (Apache) private, they want to contribute back," said Jim Bessen, director of Research on Innovation, a nonprofit group that promotes research on technological innovation. "There are a lot of economic reasons not to take it private," such as reaping the benefits of others' input, he said.

In some countries, governments are jumping into the debate on the side of open source software, said panel moderator Bob Hahn, director of the AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies. In Singapore, for example, the government is subsidizing open source software's production and use, he said. The U.S. government ought to pick the best product for the job, be it open source or proprietary, said David Evans, senior vice president with National Economic Research Associates, an economic consulting firm. There isn't a "market failure" in the software industry that the government needs to fix by supporting open source software, he said, and the top firms in the industry are changing all the time.

"The industry over (the past) 20 to 25 years doesn't seem to be screaming out for government meddling," Evans said. "Politicians just aren't very good at picking technology, markets are."

Using this market failure test to determine whether or not the government should commit to open source software is one of the topics that Free Software Foundation's Stallman took issue with. "These questions regarding market failure, I don't think it matters. Injustice, that's what matters, " Stallman told the panel and the audience. Debating over whether "the market is working or not misses the whole point of freedom," he said.

Stallman also disputed Bessen's earlier comments criticizing the press for characterizing free software advocates as free love idealists of the 1960s. Stallman said that, in fact, the groups have similarities. "We're demanding freedom," he said.

GPL and Fair use

Computer News Fair Use and the Fallacy of GNU -- an interesting stance on GPL and fair use doctrine.

Section Five of the GNU GPL says, "You are not required to accept this License ... However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works." Well, not quite, Rich.

The copyright laws include the doctrine of "fair use," which overcomes the exclusivity rights and other restrictions placed on copyrighted material and gives people the right to use copyrighted works without permission, even when permission is explicitly denied. See Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 114 S.Ct. 1164 (1994).

Fair use may not seem fair to the author whose work is taken, but it is fair to society as a whole.

[Bell, 1998] Bell, T. W. "Fair Use Vs. Fared Use: The Impact of Automated Rights Management on Copyright's Fair Use Doctrine," 76 NC L. Rev., (1998), pp 557-619. URL:

Scholars have explained fair use in at least three ways: (1) as a proxy for a copyright owner's implied consent;[112] (2) as part of a bargain between authors and the public, struck on their behalf first by courts and then by Congress;[113] and (3) as a response to a market failure in private attempts to protect authors' expressions from undue copying.[114] The first of these three explanations has fallen into [p. 581/p. 582] disfavor because it does not explain why fair use protects parody and other uses of copyrighted material that owners find disagreeable.[115] The second explanation receives due consideration below.[116] The present subsection addresses the third explanation of fair use and argues that, as a response to market failure, the fair use doctrine can and should give way in the face of the effective enforcement of authors' rights through automated rights management.

Lawmakers enacted the Copyright Act to cure an alleged case of market failure: creating a work can cost authors a good deal, whereas copying a work costs free riders very little.[117] Absent special protection from such copying, the argument goes, authors will underproduce and the public will suffer. Copyright, as Justice Holmes explained, therefore "restrains the spontaneity of men where but for it there would be nothing of any kind to hinder their doing as they saw fit;"[118] namely, copying others' expressions at will. Perhaps [p. 582/p. 583] in the digital intermedia automated rights management will cure this market failure by protecting authors' works through technological and contractual means.[119] ARM's other curative effects interest us here, though.

Markets, like squeezed balloons, bulge outward where unconstrained. In its attempt to protect authors from the discouraging effects of unfettered copying, copyright law has thus created market failure elsewhere. The costs of avoiding infringement by obtaining permission to use a copyrighted work, and thus avoiding infringement claims, often exceed the benefits of the desired use. Such transaction costs threaten to prevent many socially beneficial uses of copyrighted works from taking place. The doctrine of fair use attempts to cure this particular market failure by excusing as non-infringing a limited (though poorly defined) class of uses of copyrighted works.[120] As Professor Gordon describes it, "courts and Congress have employed fair use to permit uncompensated transfers that are socially desirable but not capable of effectuation through the market."[121]

Understanding fair use as a response to market failure does much to explain the vagaries of its development in the case law.[122] More to the point, it lends support to the holding in American Geophysical. Consistent with the market failure theory of fair use, the court reasoned that "a particular unauthorized use should be considered 'more fair' when there is no ready market or means to pay for the use, while such an unauthorized use should be considered 'less fair' when there is a ready market or means to pay for the use."[123] In other words, the scope of the fair use defense rises and falls with the transaction costs of licensing access to copyrighted works.

GPL and Linux Kernel

Linux-Kernel Archive Linux-2.4.0-test8

The only one of any note that I'd like to point out directly is the clarification in the COPYING file, making it clear that it's only _that_ particular version of the GPL that is valid for the kernel. This should  not come as any surprise, as that's the same license that has been there since 0.12 or so, but I thought I'd make that explicit.

Why? There's been some discussions of a GPL v3 which would limit licensing to certain "well-behaved" parties, and I'm not sure I'd agree with such restrictions - and the GPL itself allows for "any version" so I wanted to make this part unambigious as far as my personal code is concerned.

The reason I wanted to mention that particular issue here explicitly (rather than as just a one-liner in the changelog) is that code written by others is obviously under _their_ discretion, and not limited by my  personal foibles, fears and misgivings.

If anybody wants to explicitly state that their code will be valid under any version of the GPL (current or future - whatever they may look like), please send patches to say so for the code in question. If you've used the FSF boiler-place copyright notice, you already have this in place (it says "v2 or later" - the FSF itself doesn't recommend v1 any more).

(Me, I'm taking the careful "wait and see" approach. I don't know if a GPL v3 is imminent, and I don't know if the issues discussed will even _become_ real issues, so you might as well consider me a paranoid, if careful, bastard).

GPL and Business Opportunities

Contrary to Open Source Initiative claims it's proven historically that GPL does not prevents business opportunities per se. It might just prevent a creation of a sustainable scalable business model. Also GPL gives enormous advantage those who first enter the market or grow fast due to external financial infusion made for political reasons (Red Hat can serve as a very nice example here). And GPL proved to be a very hype-friendly and extremly IPO friendly license (i.e. the market capitalization surrounding "Linux" companies IPOs was almost completely based on hype ;-) Here is one opinion from Slashdot:

Re:GPV destroys business opportunities (Score:2)
by dennisp ( on Sunday January 02, @05:59AM EST (#254)
(User Info)
Yes, but the real question is if this is a sustainable business model. If forced to provide all changes to your product, competition will flourish and this sector of the market as a whole will reach a point of diminishing returns -- from which some will leave market and others will join -- producing a cycle that is not very good in the eyes of the shareholder.

However, the hype surrounding linux has also brought proprietary software built around that free software. This model is possibly sustainable if handled properly due to at least temporary product differentiation. If you offer product differentiation that fulfills a market need that free software does not, then you can likely become profitable.

Unfortunately, this model is not similar to the proprietary model that Microsoft runs. Therefore, the market capitalization surrounding these companies is almost completely based on hype. Why? Because this new model relies on support, service, and partially proprietary extensions -- and these industries do not have large profit margins.

Companies such as VA Linux offer very little product or service differentiation in their own specialization. If they can move more towards producing real solutions, they can become a solid player. This sector of the industry is growing at an exponential pace, and there seems to be room for many. They will, however, have to compete with the likes of IBM who have used their past reputation and power of brand name to partially reinvent themselves in this changing market.

SGI, at a glance, seems to be the victim of a few very large long term strategic planning mistakes. In my opinion, if they can provide sufficient product differentiation and added value to forego the recently commodified pc market, or cater specifically to the high end and niche markets, they have a very good future.

Again, those last three giants aren't even specifically in the free software market. They are only leveraging its hype due to the me-too effect. It's kind of like price wars in other industries that come out of nowhere.

Getting away from the market giants, there are a number of viable models that can and will work. Ones that I can currently think of are:

a) companies that are essentially in another industry that is not directly tied to software can collaborate with other companies in the same or other industries to produce open software that will benefit everyone.

example: I prototype a particular java library that is part of a bigger picture in my company. The resources involved in creating this library would be a large drain on project budget. I come up with the idea to make this a community project and talk with friends in other companies (or a less organized community at large). We decide that we can split costs by collaborating on producing all the parts of this library (as well as qa). We GPL this product because it is not part of our bigger software or solution model.

I would also note that I get flak because our traditional model is to monopolize anything and everything our employees produce. I eventually convince management that this is a positive symbiotic relationship.

b) one company comes up with an idea for a standardized format or protocol, but needs industry support for it to be successful

example: Livepicture Inc conceives the flashpix format. It works with Microsoft corp, HP, and Eastman/Kodak to produce this image format. It then donates this format to the DIG.

c) traditional service/support model based around open source software

example: i produce a high level language to help produce ISAPI or NSAPI modules. I completely open source this software but rely on support and maintenance for revenue. I also collect bug reports and fixes from the community because they have access to the code.

d) completely open software except a couple of restrictions

example: PHP. It's completely open except for the zend engine -- which is limited in that you can not use it in *other* proprietary products. You can, however use PHP wherever you want as long as it is still PHP

e) open source software that is limited in that changes must come back to the company of creation. They own all changes.

example: SCSL. Many companies wish only to use a language, application, or protocol. They do not wish to commercially gain from it. Now that they have the source, they can work it to their own ends.

f) temporarily proprietary software

example: Mysql. They have a delayed release model. They release their software under the GPL (if I'm not mistaken) when there is a sufficiently better proprietary product available. This way they can retain their advantage, but still release usable code to the public.

g) for fun or coding in free time

example: half the stuff on freshmeat? :) A lot of projects would not be possible without community input and work. We can all produce a product that *we* want without having to worry about commercial viability. We're directly fulfilling a need, usually without the exchange of money. This is very efficient.

h) academia, research sectors, or R&d at large companies

example: framework, pre commercial, standards based, or commercially unviable software

I'd like to hear any other examples if anyone has any ;).

Restrictively Unrestrictive: The GPL License in Software Development "This articles shows that the GPL is more concerned with political extremism rather promoting free software".

Daemon News 199906 The GPL vs. Capitalism

The GPL license offers a very beautiful dream, free, unrestricted access to software for the people of the world. No doubt this would be great, free technology for people in the third world countries (including me) and no more gigantic monopolistic companies telling you where to go today. I also believed in that dream, however I tried FreeBSD because I wanted to see how the traditional UNIX was. I could have tried NetBSD but I simply had a contact with FreeBSD first. FreeBSD has only one distribution and, of course, includes many GPL'd programs, something that shows without doubt that BSD hackers don't "hate" the GPL as a general rule, in fact, there is a sense of respect towards of the code written by the FSF and any comment against the GPL starts a never ending flame war in the lists.

Linux for the rest of us.

Shawn Gordon is founder and president of, producer of a variety of open source and other software for Linux and other platforms.

Since I started theKompany in August of '99, we've had a growing presense and influence on a variety of things Linux. Being the first real company that was focused on KDE brought with it joys and frustrations and now over 2 years later, iIve experienced a large amount of both.

I came from the HP 3000 a couple years ago after 16 years, and I came to Linux because I was excited about everything going on and the possibilities, not to mention my dislike of Microsoft going back many, many years. My philosphy on the HP 3000 was to sell useful software at a reasonable price, and I wanted to bring this same philosphy with me to Linux. I didn't really care so much, or pay attention to all the licensing stuff; we were just planning to take care of our customers, and then give back various projects to the community so that we could be part of everything going on. The thought was to contribute infrastructure items, which we did, and build applications on top of them, which we've done.

So what has happened in that time? Well, we've come out with a lot of software, and sold a lot of units. We've got supporters so ardent they would take a bullet for us, and detractors so vocal that it makes me want to give it up at times. The main source of frustration for me has typically centered on the GPL license and the common misunderstanding of it by the general masses in the Open Source world. Sure, the basic premise is clear, but it becomes a bit murkier the more detail you have to spend on it. áLet me give you some examples:

We sell one product that is GPL. On at least a weekly basis we get someone telling us that we have to give them the source code because it is GPL. Some of them become verbally violent and abusive when I point out that the GPL provides for us to charge for the source code, we just have to make it available, and this we have done. Some of these people even tried to hack our system to get the code because they thought it was their God-given right to have it. These are also typically the people who contribute nothing to the community.

I had RMS come to me on this product to make sure we weren't violating the GPL, and he admitted that we were not, but in the course of the conversation he proceeded to project onto the KDE project aspects of theKompany in a totally inappropriate fashion and was very negative about KDE in this regard. Now, to my mind there is far more corporate involvement and control over GNOME than KDE, but RMS chose to see things the way he wanted to see them in this instance and say that it was too bad the KDE didn't stand for freedom. Again, this had nothing to do with KDE, this had to do with just one of our banner products and the way we chose to implement and license it.

What is the net result of this? We won't use the GPL for anything anymore. It is far too frustrating to deal with; it is ambigiously worded in places that make it just too risky for a company like us. I've heard the arguments about selling services, but for what we are doing it just really doesn't work. Look at it this way. I can send 1,000 copies to a distributor who will put it on store shelves around the world. People will walk in, pick it up and buy it. Now let's say that the software was free (as in cost) and I just sell services. Well, now I can't put it on a store shelf and for every customer; I have to go and hunt them down somehow and persuade them to use our free software and then pay us for support -- but they should only really need support if our software is hard to use or poorly designed, which isn't the case or our objective.

Now the argument can be made for things like distributions and databases, but these are infrastructure pieces -- what about something like Erwin or Visio? The cost of dollar acquisition is tremendous and probably far outweighs what can be made in the short term.

Like it or not, Linux is headed on the fast track to the main stream. That means that more and more corporations are going to want to build software on top of it. This will be closed, open, mixed, variant, whatever, but it's going to be there. What is to be gained by alienating companies like us or someone like IBM with license jihads? We've got a fella on the KDE developer list that likes to lash out at me and some other KDE and Qt oriented companies on a regular basis, with no more logic than "we are companies that are trying to make money, so therefore we are bad". I find his rants tiring and unproductive; it's like pro-life and a pro-choice proponents trying to bring each other to their point of view -- it's just not going to happen any time soon, if ever. What I find exceptionally frustrating in these debates over "choice" and "freedom" is that they go one way only. As long as I choose the choice and freedom afforded by the GPL, then I'm ok, but if I choose a different style of choice and freedom (exercising my right to choose) then I now become evil.

I really like Linux, and almost without exception we have terrific customers and employees. á think far too many people spend far too much time and mental energy tied up in license discussions when their creativity and focus could be spent building something fantastic for themselves or maybe the community, and I hope they start to think about tolerance, choice and freedom as flowing both directions, not just in their direction.


GPL and Anarchism

Daemon News 199906 The GPL vs. Capitalism reader notes about the paper Restrictively Unrestrictive: The GPL License in Software Development

...Nowadays I personally think that Richard Stallman is a good person but he is confused (I hope he thinks the same of me when he finishes reading this article :), and I am not going to analyze the answers RMS gave because that is not the objective of this article. I arrived, however, to two important conclusions:

  1. the GNU Public License will not save the world,
  2. there shouldn't be a universal license; different situations require different licenses.

The GPL is a long license; sometimes I think it was made so that people would get tired of reading it; something like those big contract with small letters on it. Until here I had no real problem with the GPL, and since Microsoft was evidently afraid of the rebirth of UNIX (of course Microsoft considers everything a threat), I even considered it a good thing: like most things that are evil, the GPL seems beautiful on the surface. Of course I saw the truth later on...when I saw it and it was clear to me what people that adopted the GPL were doing to the other people. I was aghast. It was not communism or socialism, this was simply and plainly anticapitalism, a game of trying to break the system with it's own logical rules!

Of course no one cares that big software companies that exploit their developers and their customers die, but big companies will have better chances to survive against free software: small companies will simply die. Let's say that you are an independent software developer, such as a compiler writer, and you spend hours, or many years, developing your product; you will find it's very difficult, probably impossible, to compete against a free software product, as egcs, that has many more man-hours than your product.

In capitalist countries people live for money. Careers are expensive, technical people have to live off what they know. Who makes money out of free software? At first glance no one, that's why it's free. Some redistributors and support people make money out of it, but they surely make less than the vendors of commercial products. Free software vendors can offer better prices because they don't have to hire developers, not because they are particularly efficient redistributing software. Most importantly, authors won't receive anything or will receive a misery if they beg for it.

If you don't want money from your code, that's OK, but by releasing software under the GPL you are forcing other software writers to use the same poverty license even if they add significant features to your code. They must also take care in using different algorithms; no one wants to be sued for changing variable names and indentation from GPL'd software.

One of the most ridiculous reasons for adopting the GPL is..."oh but if Microsoft takes my code...", well, what makes you think they will? I understand they bought and paid their own TCP/IP stack, even when the free BSD version was available; they simply didn't want to give credit to anyone. If they take your code and do significant improvements everyone wins, if they don't do any significant improvements the resulting product will probably not sell well, and people can still get your sources; no one will "take away" free software from you.

Boy, I dislike Bill Gates and his practices, but admittedly he learned his dirty tricks in the same economical system, and he gives jobs to the people. If he could offer a good OS with full added value I would buy it, and I wouldn't have any problem with him, or any other developer, becoming rich from his work, in the meantime, Hotmail should have a "Powered by FreeBSD" logo.

It's also ridiculous to choose. Roundtables

small point on Open Source vs. Free Software
06/28/01 03:44AM

I have been following this discussion in my free time the past couple days, and I have noticed a disturbing tendency for the panelists to confuse the issue.

We are talking about the GPL: the GNU General Public License. This is not an Open Source license; it is a Free Software license. The purpose of it is to eliminate proprietary software.

Craig Mundie is correct when he says that the GPL is a viral license, but that word is rather negative and simply has the effect of clouding the matter at hand. It is designed to spread itself.

The panelists have been discussing the GPL as if it were an Open Source license, and I find this humorous, because it's obvious that not many of them actually know what the purpose of the GNU project is. The GPL was created in an effort to stop the spread of proprietary software that restricts the rights of its users. A program released under the GPL grants its users several important freedoms.

These freedoms are necessary from an ethical standpoint. A developer who does not bestow these freedoms upon its users is doing them, and all of humanity, a disservice. If you let money be the judge of moral issues, you are going to make some bad decisions.

However, Free Software is a viable business plan, but it's not immediately obvious why. Companies will have to think harder about ways to make money, and this should lead to a better quality of service.

Keep in mind that a large part of this discussion has been about whether or not the GNU GPL attempts to destroy proprietary software, and that's an easy question to answer: It does. Before any of you post another comment on the GPL, please visit the Free Software Foundation website at, and make sure you understand the motivation behind the creation of the GPL.

Thank you.

 Critique of Other Aspects of GPL License

GPL is obsolete arguments: component/remote execution related issues

Re:Foo! (Score:1)
by harlows_monkeys on Saturday January 01, @02:04PM EST (#120)
(User Info)
The GPL does NOT prevent corporate interests from exploiting your work with no remuneration to you. For example, if I can arrange my money-making scheme so that all your GPL'ed code is running on my server somewhere, and the clients are just accessing it over the web, guess what? I'm making money from your code, and I don't have to give it to anyone.

Clint/server approaches can take a lot of the bite out of GPL. Look at TiVo. They are certainly benefiting greatly from Linux, but the guts of their stuff runs as an application, and so does not have to be GPL'ed. They take the regular Linux kernel, make a few mods (which they GPL), and then use it to run their proprietary application.

And then there is component-based computing: COM on the Windows side, and CORBA everywhere else. GPL, which is fundamentally based on a dying model of how computer programs work, provides basically no protection then.

Ethic-related critique of GPL:

Try this: GPL and reason behind copyright (Score:0)
by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 01, @02:05PM EST (#121)
First: GPL is proving itself an effect means to an (RMS's) end, namely, GNU (GPL-licensed OS+apps). Those who don't care about ethics, philosophy, etc., won't need to burden their minds further. Many of us find the discussion entertaining or important to influencing how we or others license the code to which we or other may want to add more code (ie, derivatives).

Now, on to my seldom-seen point. Copyright law exists mainly to encourage people to create and publish works. (The law recognizes that complete loss of copyrights after about a hundred years will has little effect on that encouragement, for example.)

GPL-licensor's use of copyright law, specifically the viral aspect (you can't use my code if you don't GPL your additions), has little or nothing to do with encouraging new work. Few people would not develop software if they couldn't use the GPL. In fact, it discourages new work because it many developers will refuse to make derivatives of GPLed software because they refuse to be told how to license their own work.

BSD type licenses (and some parts of the GPL) do encourage new work by protecting reputation (attribution clauses, etc.) and protecting against liability (warranty clauses, etc.). But the nasty no-share clause of the GPL has nothing to do with the reason for copyright law and the GPL thus abuses the law. That is the business of (even) ethical lawyers, but it shouldn't be the business of ethical software developers. It's inherently selfish and should receive the same admonishment as other forms of selfishness outside the commercial world.


Re:Stallman of Borg (Score:1)
by Ateran ( on Sunday January 02, @12:31AM EST (#212)
(User Info)
Okay, so the GPL is basically the same concept as communism. On paper, communism can work, but in a real world situation it eventually leads to corruption in government. This does not mean that it can not work for software.
Ignore the cults! (Score:0)
by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 01, @11:27AM EST (#35)
The GPV is a licence to steal. It's a licence to force other people to work for free. It's a licence to infect traditional software models with a neutron bomb to kill the bottom line. It's a licence that pretends to be noble, but in fact, is completely insidious and misleading. It's a licence that twists words out of their normal meanings for the purposes of the cult.
LNUX and RHAT sponges (Score:1, Funny)
by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 01, @11:40AM EST (#44)
So you prefer to work for the millionaires at RedHat/VA Linux for free?

It really pisses me off that the only people who are able to make money off of GPV'd software are people like RHAT and LNUX. Why isn't the author making anything? Because of this collectivist mentality. The party favourites get their dachas, and the rest of us stand in line for bread.


GPL and Kerberos

News Is the GPL really 'user hostile'

The BSD fans of the group were (perhaps naturally) the more upset, but what surprised me was the utter contempt with which some hold the GPL. Terms like 'poison pill' and 'author-hostile' were used in characterizing the GPL as something deviously designed to infiltrate businesses. The common wisdom here was that if Kerberos had been GPL'd it would be languishing in obscurity because nobody would be using it. The claim was that commercial implementors simply stay away from GPL'd code because they don't want to give up the right to make proprietary extensions -- and besides, most of them send back their extensions to the freeware pool anyway.

There's some validity to those claims. I've certainly come across genuine corporate fear of the GPL -- execs at one Unix company I knew that was looking at free software referred to the copyleft as a virus. Certainly, this is exactly what the Free Software Foundation would like -- a company's bringing in some free software that would later "infect" other products and cause them to be opened up as well. This politically-driven prospect naturally scares the daylights out of the free-enterprisers in the BSD camp.

Point is, both approaches have their merits -- neither the GPL nor the more wide-open BSD license is the best -- or the worst -- in every situation.

Simply put, if your goal is to get your code into the most possible installations, no matter what these installations do to your code later, you use BSD. If, on the other hand, you don't want your code extended in a proprietary manner, even if the result is less widespread use, you use the GPL. And if you want something partway in the middle, have a look at licensing approaches such as IBM's or what Netscape did for Mozilla. As Matthew Dillon, who weighed in with one of the more sane replies to my column, suggested to me, these two approaches eliminate some of the more objectionable (to some) elements of the GPL. Yet they're both consistent with the commonly accepted open source definition, and it appears to me that they still keep most of the GPL's principles in tact.

Freedom -- of choice
Last week I suggested that the GPL might be a better idea for one specific kind of software: reference code for interoperability standards. I still believe that, despite the vitriol. But this is a far cry from saying the GPL is universally superior to BSD, and I don't believe that at all. Neither is universally better, and neither is innately friendlier or more hostile to authors than the other. It all depends on what the author wants, and the best part of it is that the author has the choice. If you think a license is hostile, just don't use it, OK?

What was more disturbing than the specifics of the GPL-versus-BSD flames that I'd clearly been unable to avoid, were the sweeping insults and uncompromising dislike each side had for the other's approach. Rather than cheer the software author's choices, the diversity of licensing models, and the realization that there might be more than one way to get there from here, some folks out there exhibit an intolerance that's downright chilling. And the BSD camp certainly has no monopoly on self-righteousness. More next week on the fight for free software's moral high ground. If you have the time, do a little prep work and read this essay before then.

Slashdot Michael Chaney asks Microsoft to Open Kerberos

Re:Why don't we just get it over with? (Score:1)
by MarkCC on Tuesday May 16, @08:00AM (#1068659)
(User #40181 Info)
>What at this point is stopping us from just reverse engineering the stupid M$ extension and removing their last
>possible thing to say about this issue? Is anybody working on this already?

The problem is that Microsoft has made that nearly impossible. To publically release a reverse engineered version of Microsoft's Kerberos extensions, the authors would need to be able to prove that they had no access to Microsoft's trade secrets. The "public release" of that information, and its posting to slashdot has made it effectively impossible for anyone to prove that they did a true "clean room" reverse engineering based reimplementation.

The GPL trick also won't work. GPL is a copyright license; without an author who owns the copyright,
the copyright is meaningless. An owner of the copyright must be established in order to make the
copyright enforceable.

Second, even if you could GPL it, that still wouldn't make any difference. A piece of software
which was implemented by violating a trade secret will not be protected in any meaningful sense by copyright; any company who used it would still be subject to a lawsuit from Microsoft, GPL or no GPL.
A matter of fact? (Score:5)
by NaughtyEddie on Tuesday May 16, @08:12AM (#1068664)
(User #140998 Info)

Contrary to popular opinion within Microsoft, they have nothing to lose from making their products compatible with existing standards. As a matter of fact, strict compatibility actually raises the value of all products, including those from Microsoft. Given that fact, it makes no sense for Microsoft to create an incompatible version of Kerberos.

Quite clearly Microsoft do not think this is the case, and it's not a clear "matter of fact" to me either. Microsoft have done extremely well with their current philosophy; it goes to the core of their anti-competitive nature, which has made Bill Gates a multi-billionaire and the richest man in the world.

Why do Slashdot readers insist they understand the industry better than the single main player in it? Yes, strict compatibility "raises the value of all products", but Microsoft do not want to raise the value of all products, only theirs. They are unique in that this actually poses an advantage to them - no other software company makes a full complement of interoperating software, so these companies are forced to interoperate with each other's stuff properly. Not so Microsoft; they have a vested interest in only interoperating with their own software. You can buy a complete enterprise software setup and never pay a dime to anyone but Microsoft. And that's exactly what their non-interoperability encourages you to do.

The rest of the article seems a little naive given the real matters of fact.

get a life (Score:1)
by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 16, @08:17AM (#1068667)
Kerberos as a standard is open. Extensions to that standard doesn't have to be open. It's nowhere stated they should. Therefor every company who makes extensions to the Kerberos protocol for whatever reason may keep these extensions closed and is then not doing ANYTHING illegal whatsoever.

So, what's the fuzz? it's not MS' implementation not working with Unix' implementations of kerberos, but about Samba that wants to replace win2k servers and wants to act like a win2k server.

Does this have anything to do with kerberos at all? no. A company which is totally entitled to keep things closed or release their extensions in a way THEY LIKE, is flamed and slaughtered to death here... by whom? well I'll tell you: by the unknowing..

Get a life, your actions don't help anybody, not Linux users nor potentional linux users or enthousiasts. But hey... it would be a total shock to the world if the majority of the /. community suddenly acted like an adult with brains in a Microsoft-related thread ....

Um, learn a little more Slashdotters... (Score:1)
by EvilMerlin on Tuesday May 16, @09:17AM (#1068700)
(User #32498 Info |
OK I am borrowing this from a fellow poster over at Ars Technica. Read and get a fucking clue:

"Ok, just to set the record straight, since many people
(even right here on this board) seem to be clueless (or purposely covering their eyes) about the whole Kerberos and Win2K thing.
Facts: (all of which I have documentation for, including direct quotes from Jeremy from the Samba team, and Paul from the MIT Athena project/Kerberos team)

- Win2K's implementation of krb5 v1 (Kerberos 5) is fully compliant with MIT's spec. This is fully documented and acknowledged by MIT and people like the Samba team.

- Where the confusion lies is Microsoft's usage of a special vendor-specific proprietary data field that Microsoft uses proprietarily.

Microsoft knew that the Kerberos spec didn't provide everything that they needed, so they contacted MIT and explained their position. MIT, eager to help MS and improve the standard graciously met with MS and worked out a solution. The solution was to create a field for vendors (like MS) to put their miscellaneous proprietary data.

This field would be used by Microsoft Windows boxes, but ignored by non-Windows machines without any harm or loss in basic functionality.

What MS does is store group membership and group policy information in that field. This data would be worthless to, say, a BSD KDC or other server anyhow, so there's no loss.

The only thing that MS didn't do is provide people who COULD use the data (namely the samba team) with the format of the data in that field. While that isn't very nice, it certainly is not a breach of the standard.

Recently, they released this data, but under a restrictive license. I haven't read the license yet, but from what I've heard, the license, at this point, prevents the samba team from using it in their products.

So, if you would be so kind as to not spout inaccuracies or falsehoods in the future, and give less-informed people the impression that MS broke the standard.

Most of the documentation of this and MS' use of the GSS-API can be found in several posts from Jeremy from the SAMBA team and Paul Hill from the MIT team on NT BugTraq in the Fed-Mar area of the archives.

Also, there is extensive documentation of how MS used Kerberos on their site, and it's actually factual reference material."
Sorry, it does make business sense (Score:4)
by LinuxParanoid on Tuesday May 16, @10:02AM (#1068727)
(User #64467 Info |
As a matter of fact, strict compatibility actually raises the value of all products, including those from Microsoft. Given that fact, it makes no sense for Microsoft to create an incompatible version of Kerberos.

Your first sentence is correct, your second is not. All products do benefit when they are compatibile and interoperable with one another. But Microsoft doesn't want to raise the value of all products. It only wants its own to benefit.

It makes perfect business sense for Microsoft to try to lower the value of competing products by preventing interoperability with its own. It's called lock-in, and it increases switching costs for users and barriers to entry for competitors. It's a strategy that makes perfect sense if you have a dominant (especially monopoly) position, and little or no sense if you don't have such a position. Harness network effects to exclusively benefit your product, what could be simpler?

The only time this doesn't pay off is if it sufficiently alienates customers or developers. So far, Microsoft has managed to hew a fine line where such alienation has not outweighed the benefits of its platform. It's up to knowledgeable people to point out the oft-hidden costs and risks of adopting Microsoft's technology approach.

Remember, in reality, most of Microsoft's succesful innovations have been *legal* innovations, beginning with their DOS contract and extending through various exclusive OEM agreements and their chiseling away at the Java contract and DOJ Consent Decree. Their trade-secret licensing of Kerberos and their attempt to license software on a renewal basis (first at universities) are just the latest examples of this. Just what you'd expect from a firm founded by the bright son of a lawyer.

--LinuxParanoid, paranoid for Linux's sake

MS extended Kerberos Properly (Score:2)
by Jaborandy on Tuesday May 16, @12:58PM (#1068773)
(User #96182 Info)
I totally agree, although the insulting title is unnecessary.

The data field used by MS Kerberos is being used within the spirit and letter of the spec, if you believe the original designers of Kerberos. Non-MS implementations don't look for a value in that field, and work as before. The only "incompatibility" involved is that non-MS software can't take advantage of the data in the field, and MS clients don't work without it. Don't buy Windows 2000 if you want to use a non-MS KDC. Furthermore, if MS had not used Kerberos, Linux machines would be totally unable to use MS servers for authentication. This use of standards benefits the Linux community, by allowing companies to use Linux on some of their desktops.

We all know that Linux does not have a standard for distributed group memberships. This is just one of the benefits of using Microsoft systems as servers. If some of your services don't need this functionality, then you are free to use MS Kerberos for authentication and use local authorization. For the rest of us, we take advantage of the features MS provides.

Why would you expect MS to give away its products and intellectual property for free? They produced software that allows easier management of larger distributed systems, that is better than what is available for Linux. Allowing their servers to take the place of other servers over Linux networks is in their interest. Allowing their workstations to access resources on Linux servers is in their interest, but their biggest profit comes from the whole package. We should not expect them to make it possible for someone using a Linux infrastructure to get the benefits MS is trying to make money off of. Their interest is best served by making people buy it from them if they want the MS features.

Bottom line: If you want distributed Authentication, any Kerberos implementation will do, including that from MS, for either servers or workstations. If you want the additional benefit of distributed authorization, everyone involved needs to speak that extended data field. Since that field is for third party use, MS made use of it. If you want the benefits that come from that MS field, use MS products all around. If you don't think it's worth it, don't buy from them. If you want, you can define your own schema for that field, and try to sell that. MS did nothing wrong here.



GPL and Reseach

Slashdot Gates Say No to GPL, Yes to the Microsoft Ecosystem

Re:Is it me... (Score:5, Insightful)
by Zeinfeld on Friday April 19, @08:30PM (#3376954)
(User #263942 Info |
All the taxes will be paid by those guys or something -- I don't know. And the farmers will go home at night and work on the source code.

I think you guys are reading way too much into this. The issue is not Open Source or proprietary, or even Free as in Beer. The issue is what should happen when the government pays money for software reasearch.

Under the old model the government would spend a few million supporting a research team who would then start a company to exploit the copyright. The University might get a share or might not.

The GPL is something of an improvement on this situation, but it is designed to prevent proprietary versions being created. That can be a good thing, but unless you are a religious nut on the subject there are often times when it is bad. For example, if the original code would require a lot of effort to turn it into something that was merchantable quality or if the code is of no use unless it is built into something bigger. For those cases BSD is a much better choice.

There is a reason why we released the Web into the public domain and did not make it GPL. GPL would have closed the door on commercial versions which was absolutely the opposite of our objective. We were changing the flow of information, not engaging in an RMS power play.

BTW RMS has said things to me in person that are way wierder than anything in the article, anything Gates has said to me personaly and for that matter stupider than anything said or attributed to Dan Quayle or GWB. Like the time he suggested building particle accelerators in space because there is lots of free vacum there...

If governments are looking at ways to get the maximum out of their research programs it would be a good idea for them to consider the restrictions they intend to place on the distribution of their code at the same time that they apply for the grant. The 'we will keep it private and sell it' approach should be least favoured, 'free for non commercial use' should be next favoured and 'free for any purpose' should be most favoured. I would consider GPL and LGPL to be equivalent to free for non commercial use since in practice a lot of 'open source' code under GPL is often reclaimed by the original owners and commercialised.

As for the utility of source, I think it is overated. I would much prefer an API that is written well enough that I do not need to see the source to work out what is going on.

Re:Quit trying to pollute our ecosystem (Score:4, Insightful)
by Nugget ( on Friday April 19, @10:34PM (#3377496)
(User #7382 Info |
The GPL does not prevent you from using software that you get

Only for really, really tiny values of "using" that don't include incorporating the code into a non-GPL-licensed codebase. It's entirely unrealistic for you to say that simply dumping those theoretical "swoopty file compression routines" into another product as an external binary is a viable use of that code.

Microsoft, or any other non-GPL developer, would be blocked from taking that code and linking to it. They'd be blocked from adding it to their code in order to efficiently use it. Depending on how literal a view you take of the GPL, they're probably blocked from even looking at it to see how it works so they can better design their own compression routines.

This is a signifigant liability which hinders the utility of the code to the point where the developer would be encouraged to develop their own compression routine.

In your example, Microsoft would find themselves unable to benefit from the good GPL'd code. They'd develop their own "ActiveSwoop" compression which is guaranteed to be incompatible with the GPL'd code. Their huge userbase and marketshare gives "ActiveSwoop" considerable market viability even if it's not as good as the GPL code.

End result is the same. Microsoft's code is incomaptible which damages the viability of your GPL code. You've protected nothing by blocking Microsoft from using the GPL'd code. If anything, you've resulted in the quadzillions of Windows users being subjected to worse compression (assuming your GPL code is better than what Microsoft wrote).

Re:Quit trying to pollute our ecosystem (Score:5, Insightful)
by Nugget ( on Friday April 19, @10:20PM (#3377440)
(User #7382 Info |
My point is that we all pay for taxpayer-funded development. It's unfair that the resulting code might be unusable to some of us.

GPL'ing that code makes it unusable by Microsoft, yes. But it also makes the code unusable by FreeBSD, the Apache Group, the Perl developers. Basically it makes it inaccessable to anyone who uses any license other than the GPL.

In any event, I'm not sure why you think that Microsoft shouldn't have access to the code. If it was taxpayer funded then Microsoft paid for it as much as you did.
An idea I had the other night... (Score:2, Insightful)
by TellarHK ( on Friday April 19, @08:54PM (#3377076)
(User #159748 Info)
Okay, I know this is going to sound a little weird and off-beat, but as I was letting my mind wind down from the sleep-deprived state of quasi-clarity it finds itself in at 3AM the other night, I wondered something to myself.

What is the legal status of source code used in publications where nothing is stated as a license, such as tutorials or instructional snippets?

I would assume the answer to this to largely depend on the medium. Is it copyrighted as part of the book or website it's published on, and is it something that can be incorporated directly into other code? I humbly (and lamely) propose a simple little trick.

Perhaps this might be a case for a new form of GPL, one designed to indicate that code is completely free for use even without keeping a license note in it. I kept thinking of calling it the EGPL for Educational GPL.

The main thing that made me think about this is the unwieldiness of including the full GPL with software if you're only looking at a 1-2K program on a webpage or a page of a book. Perhaps a statement such as...

##This code is released under the EGPL (Insert short URL to license here)

...pointed to a site where the full text (probably less than a paragraph stating that you can do whatever the hell you want, and not even need to redistribute what you do, or include the above statement) is available for perusal. This way you save the distribution hassles of a license that's a formality at any rate.

But of course, it could just be a pointless idea. Like I said, I was tired. :)


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