Why Microsoft Loves GPL 3.0: Changing Strategies

Rob Enderle

Two Slashdot posts and a long meeting with Microsoft really got me to thinking about whether Microsoft really likes, or doesn't like, the new GPL version and how its strategy, with regard to open source in general, has been changing over the past few years.

 

It got me thinking about four facts: Buyers don't like change; the new IT priority is interoperability; IT likes simple homogeneity (it often seems they'd like to return to one big mainframe); and IT is not a line organization (and has no line authority). Knowing that, I immediately understood Microsoft's strategy and why, while it would never use it, it loves the 3.0 version of the GPL.

 

Interoperability

 

Going into this decade, Microsoft was still on a path of being largely closed with an overarching strategy that its tools would work best, or only, with other Microsoft tools. Microsoft ran against any concept that reduced its ability to protect the products it had developed and the ecosystem it had so painstakingly put in place.

 

However, that was not working, so its strategy had to change. IT buyers increasingly were demanding to see Microsoft's code, and Microsoft seemed to be getting less and less of the UNIX migration opportunities. New employees increasingly advocated the benefits of open source, and as a competitive response, Microsoft hired aggressively from the open source community, creating a new decision core in the company.


 

The concept of shared source was created to address the need for disclosure, and the priority to link Microsoft products was increasingly replaced by a new priority: to be the best at interoperability. Top executives, often contrary to public statements, felt strongly that if Microsoft had the best offering, then interoperability would create a bridge to Microsoft products and, if it didn't have the best products, the lack of interoperability would only slow Microsoft's decline. In effect, interoperability leadership would force the company to build more competitive offerings because non-competitive products would die off quickly.

 

More important, particularly in large shops, interoperability had become a huge problem, and if newer Microsoft products did that better, it was believed that this benefit could drive upgrades and more licenses and, once in place, the constant drive for homogeneity would cause IT to phase out the products that didn't interoperate as well.

 

Simply said, if the strategy is successful, the new Microsoft products come in because they are the best bridge between varieties of vendors, and they force out the products that, for whatever reason, don't embrace interoperability and create IT problems.

GPL 3.0, the Big IT Problem, and Freedom for Whom?

 

If you haven't read through the two Slashdot posts, the first is on why TiVo won't be able to use a GPL 3.0 offering and the second tries to respond to it. But the discussion that follows both posts points to why Microsoft likes the GPL 3.0 a great deal and why it dovetails into its strategy.

 

The GPL 3.0, which some argue was corrupted by IBM to allow its kind of TiVoization, optimizes freedom for the individual user and limits freedom for the business user. And it benefits the user that can actually code, because if you can't code, you can't use the freedoms anyway.

 

This could mean an entire class of businesses that Microsoft wants to capture now can't use anything under this new license, and apparently there is little clarity on how broad the coverage will be. Now we add that this is a license change, and the fact that IT isn't a line organization, and we understand why Microsoft is almost giddy about this thing.

 

You may recall that a few years back Microsoft changed its own license terms. It tried to make its license simpler, and the backlash from IT was near catastrophic for the company and drove home the point that IT really doesn't like change. But, more subtly was the realization that as a non-line organization, IT doesn't get a lot of legal support.

 

Now realize that most companies are not in the software business, and their legal organizations are set up and trained to deal with the problems of the industry they are in. They don't like work coming from a staff organization in the first place, and a new license, which legal views as a contract that changes the company's rights with regard to its own intellectual property, should be vastly easier to say no to than almost anything else I can think of.

 

The intellectual property of a company is not owned by the CIO, it is owned by the CEO (it's actually owned by the company owners/stockholders, but the CEO and the Board act as proxy for them). As such, it isn't even clear the CIO can legally bind the company to the 2.0 version of the GPL, let alone the 3.0 version.

 

Finally, we add to this that the latest major changes in the GPL were to prevent some of the Microsoft alliances, which improve interoperability, and you can see why the Microsoft executives appear to be much less outspoken on the GPL and suddenly seem to like it a lot. As a side note, this would be true if it had simply divided the Linux community.

 

Wrapping Up

 

So the GPL 3.0 is different and IT doesn't like different, appears to work against interoperability, may be helping to drive some of the recent Microsoft-Linux deals, helps makes Microsoft appear to be the better homogeneous choice. It likely will force IT to engage legal (or the other way around), which probably wasn't involved in approving this license in the first place (and likely won't like the 3.0 Changes).

 

In the end, and this probably should have been obvious, GPL3 focuses on only one small customer set, those that actually want to collaboratively use and modify source code. That group is likely insignificant when taken against the total potential population for Linux today and, if Microsoft plays its cards right, this new license could once again open up the general market to Microsoft's user/IT buyer/general business-targeted products.

 

What I think is particularly interesting is throughout history, Microsoft has been blessed by competitors who, after starting well, have focused on Micosoft and not their customers. The recent changes to the GPL 3.0 draft would indicate that this blessing is holding. No wonder Redmond seems to be so happy.



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Jun 12, 2007 4:13 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
If you've been in the IT business for 17 years you've likely seen many companies change a great deal. Microsoft isn't the company they were 5 years ago and I doubt yours is either. As far as whose history is real, it probably depends on your view of the company. But the fact that they have changed out key elements in the firm, even the chief architect is diffferent and OSS believers were the source for many of the changes. Not all stayed, of course, but many did. In any case if you were at TechEd you would have seen solid progress towards interop and the Novell partnership, in sharp contrast to the Sun deal, is real. In the end its all about what you see and that's your choice, I simply continue to recommend folks look and not asume things are the same, or even as they appeared to be. It is interesting how many people that surround us simply have no desire to look. Reply
Jun 12, 2007 4:31 AM Richard Steven Hack Richard Steven Hack  says:
This article is so screwed up I don't know where to begin.Which is no surprise coming from Enderle, whose sole job is to spin everything Microsoft as positive for IT and everything OSS as negative. Can you say "Microsoft shill?" I knew you could.While it's clear to me that GPLv3 is or was being driven by the fanatics at the Free Software Foundation (yes, Stallman is a fanatic), it is also clear that Microsoft is waving the patent portfolio as a threat to Linux. This portfolio is probably as nonexistent as SCO's "millions of lines of infringing code in Linux", and even if it does exist is probably no match for IBM's patent portfolio - and IBM makes billions off Linux and will not allow Microsoft to actually attempt to its portfolio to threaten that revenue.The fact that Microsoft is still threatening Linux and by extension OSS in general with patents proves that Microsoft has not "changed" in any significant way. As long as Bill Gates is in charge and Ballmer is his laptop, Microsoft will never change.As for the GPLv3 being a problem for IT companies, that is a joke. The only companies affected would be those who don't understand GPL licensing in general. In other words, companies who embed Linux and OSS in their products with the intent never to release the source code. It will have ZERO effect on any company that simply USES Linux and OSS products licensed under v3 or which understands the requirement to release source code.So Enderle has it exactly backwards - big surprise. The tiny percentage of the market for OSS products that will be affected are those whose legal departments don't comprehend the GPL. The vast bulk of OSS using companies will be unaffected by the GPL change.In addition, Microsoft "interoperability" initiatives with Linux companies have yet to bear any fruit and very likely never will, given Microsoft's history. Companies who have done business with Microsoft before in a cooperative manner have seen their IP lifted or made irrelevant once Microsoft saw what they could do to neuter it. If there is any reason to be skeptical of the Novell, Xandros and other deals, this is it - not the notion that Microsoft could then use these deals in some nebulous manner to win some hypothetical future court case on patents.The entire notion that Microsoft wants to "interoperate" with Linux and OSS is so ridiculous that one has to laugh. At best, Microsoft wants to make it LOOK like they are willing to interoperate. The reality is that Microsoft views Linux and OSS as the ultimate threat.Enderle's article boils down to trying to persuade IT companies that the new version of the GPL is a threat to them, and therefore they should eschew OSS.Read my lips. No public statement issued by anyone in Microsoft authorized to talk to the public (and probably quite a few from those who aren't) is anything but a lie. And no statement from anyone who is an authorized Microsoft shill should be taken as anything but a lie.Microsoft does not sell software. It sells lies. That is Bill Gates fundamental MO and any of the biographies of him that are around will convince you of that. Reply
Jun 12, 2007 4:44 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
Interesting thing about corporations, particulalry big ones, is not everyone aggrees, particularly those in power. There is clearly some old guard/new guard stuff going on and Microsoft remains, at the heart, a traditional technology company with IP to protect (most tech companies are that way afterall, even IBM). I've read at least some of the biographies for Bill and know him, he's kind of an engineer, and they typically don't lie well. Can be wrong though, man can they ever be wrong. If you beleive it, its not a lie. I'm not saying the guy is perfect, and clearly the company needs work.In any case this piece is on why the GPL 3.0 appears to work for Microsoft. The only thing I've said about any license, and I include Microsoft's in this recommendaiton, is have your legal department approve it before you accept it. There are evidently a lot of legal departments, including IBM's, that don't like this thing. May be a reason for that. CIOs are fully capable of making up their own minds, I just feel they should do whatever it takes to asure their decisions are well informed and not based on unfounded beliefs or poor staff work. I know, heritic right? Hey never said I was religious and software as a religion makes me ill. Good thing for me we have something called freedom of speech huh? Maybe its a good thing for you too... Reply
Jun 12, 2007 7:00 AM Andydread Andydread  says:
Hey Rob. Can you point me to any articles you wrote previously where you have been advising companies to have their legal department review each new Microsoft License as you do the GPL. I am particularly interested in your recommendations to CEOs/Companies etc on how the new Windows Vista license affects their enterprise as it is not the same as the Windows XP license. Our legal department has reviewed GPL 2, the latest GPL3 draft, and the new Microsoft VL 2.0 which would require us to setup and maintain a License Key server (basically a police server to police us) at our expense. They recommended the GPL over the new MSVL2.0. We are replacing 1500 of our 1800 desktops and are considering Ubuntu and are testing some new Dell Ubuntu PCs. We would like to hear your comments on MSVL2.0 as opposed to the GPL general purpose desktops and call center ops. Also our Dell rep agreed with our legal dept. in that the GPL would be less cumbersome for our enterprise as we are using it internally and are not re-distributing any of it. Thanks. Andy. Reply
Jun 12, 2007 7:38 AM IndiComp IndiComp  says:
As much as Rob Enderle may understand GPLv3 better than I could this post mixes up the issues. A simple point in case is his statement that IT does not like change! Man, if any department within a company needs to change quickly it is IT! Sure, legal is a place no one wants to go to... but that is a luxury you can have only if your vendor is a monopoly in it's industry. Companies better brace for the shakedown in software when the monopoly of Microsoft is shaken. (Will it be dislodged or not is another question, but the rumble in the IT jungle has started.)Linux is 'restricting use' (actually, restricting abuse) by stopping Tivo-isation. Even Google's (mis)use of Linux has come up for discussion. This aspect has nothing to do with Microsoft since MS will not be able to replace Linux in either TiVo or Google (painlessly).As for GPLv3 splitting Linux, there's so much more out there (such as Linux code forks or even the KDE/Gnome debate with Linus going frothy over Gnome and many more) all of which give the impression that the Linux community will implode... but that never happens. A pertinent example of this is the American citizen's reaction to the US government's push in the war in Iraq. So many people are going frothy on both sides, but the country is stable and taking a definite direction on Iraq (rightly or wrongly). Similarly, Linux is an open democracy where any one can make their point, but if you don't want to listen... no one's forcing you to! Linux will still keep lumbering along, stubbornly giving MS and other closed / proprietary vendors the shivers!I'm just like anybody else and I'm rooting for the underdog, Linux. Microsoft's monopoly has lasted too long, that too amazingly in this age of tremendous change. If the hardware industry can have open standards and show so much innovation (particularly in cost to performance), why is it that we can't see the same happening in the software industry? Software has been barely keeping up with hardware (example: OS and gaming)! Software companies need a kick on the backsides... and three cheers for anyone who does that. Reply
Jun 12, 2007 7:49 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
Actually I think the point in both cases is you should have your legal team review it. But the point of this piece was how The GPL 3.0 as drafted would work to Microsoft's advantage. License monitoring and review is required if you buy from any vendor who has client access aspects to their license or charges by the PC. This is actually true of most of the desktop and enterprise vendors that aren't using a form of the GPL. Because Microsoft's license typically comes as part of a contract package, I'm not aware of any legal departments being bypassed (though anything is possible). My belief is that in virtually all cases corporate legal has to, by policy, review contracts and their related licenses before Finance will approve purchase. The only folks I'm aware of regularly bypbassing this policy are GPL users because this code often comes in without needing a purchase order. I've actually run into this a lot over the last 4 or so years. I've also seen large corporations and governments negotiate the license terms with Microsoft, something else I'm not aware of happening wiht the GPL in any form (not even sure how you'd go about doing that actually). If you'll share the name of your company and put me in touch with your legal department I'd love to write up their review and how they came to their conclusion. In the past when folks have said stuff like this they were making it up so I kind of have to be careful repeating it until I've checked it out personally. I'd also like to hear their deffinition of "distritution" and see if it includes employee contractors, vendors, partners, or customers who have system access. Most legal teams seem to get this rather quickly, just curious if yours did. Not a problem is it? Reply
Jun 12, 2007 9:44 AM A Random CIO A Random CIO  says:
Rob, I want to remind you that GPL is not a license to use a program. It is a copyright license; it licenses copying, redistribution, modification, and those rights under copyright. Copyright law does not govern the use of a program any more that it covers how you might read a book, regardless of what some hare-brained EULA's may claim. It does, however, cover the right to redistribute and the right to modify. Now, some hold that the mere act of running the program constitutes making a copy; to those I just say see what the GPL itself has to say on the subject.If you hypothetical user has no need to modify the code, then they should have no fear of the GPL, V2 or V3. If they are not coding (which was your example), then they don't have to worry about redistributing modifications or derived works as required by the GPL. Simply using a GPL covered program alongside a non-GPL-covered program does not trigger the so-called 'viral' clauses in the code.And to those who say that they 'can't' use Open Source, then I ask this: if the super-secret National Security Agency can both use and CONTRIBUTE to Linux (in the form of SELinux), then pray tell who can't possibly use open source? Reply
Jun 12, 2007 10:04 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
The GPL is a license granting rights, if you violate the license you give up those rights. What if you have contractors or customers who use the code, does constitute distribution? How common is such a thing? How many companies use contractors. A better argument might be who the heck would enforce that. Running does not a copy make. That's silly. If you don't code you only have to worry about the upstream, if the GPL has been violated upstream then the product you are using may have to be discontinued. That is a very real risk. (Look at TiVo). What is the cost of migrating from a product unplanned? Try to enforce a license like the GPL against any government. Discloser rights in a license do not supersede national security. The NSA can do nearly whatever they want, last I heard even Microsoft can't do that. Reply
Jun 12, 2007 10:38 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
I don't disagree that IT should move faster, they just typically don't. Complexity comes with change and often IT isn't staffed to allow for the training required to make change practical. But, excuses asside, it is this inability to change that often turns IT into a problem and not the benefit it could be. On OSS being a democracy it isn't. GPL 3.0 approval was not a democratic process. Direction is controlled by a few, not the many, and I'm not sure IT even gets a vote except in terms of what they buy or use. That's been very clear for some time.As far as voting for the underdog, that's fun for me as well, but I like to think we vote for what's right for our employees and companies regardless. If we replace one dominance with another that is worse that's going backwards and we need to guard against that. You use Iraq as an example, look what isn't being done because of the focus on Iraq. That's opportunity cost. I agree the software industry isn't moving fast enough, I don't see GPL 3.0 as fixing that, in fact, I think it will slow OSS down significantly by driving away some small and large businesses. Creative new licenses seldom increase inovation, attorney's simply are not known for that... Reply
Jun 12, 2007 11:53 AM A Random CIO A Random CIO  says:
Ok, Rob, I'll bite.If the act of making the ephemeral copy running in RAM is not copying, then why do webcasters have to pay ephemeral copy license fees to SoundExchange for the privilege (as per the Librarian of Congress and the Copyright Arbitration Board)?(Rhetorical question, but food for thought nonetheless).Executive summary of below narrative:GPLv2 and v3 specifically state that there are no restrictions on running the covered program and specifically state, in the case of termination of an 'upstream' distributor's license rights, that the users who have received code from the violator do not lose their rights under the GPL as long as the recipients themselves comply with the GPL (both v2 and v3), as they received with their copy a direct license from the copyright holder(s) that bypasses their violating distributor .Detail follows.Quoting GPL Version 2, Section 0, paragraph 2, in its entirety:"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." Ok, only the acts of copying, distribution, and modification are covered, and the act of running is specifically allowed without restriction in any way.This means IF YOU VIOLATE THE GPL FOR THE COVERED ACTS YOU DO NOT LOSE THE RIGHT TO RUN THE PROGRAM.How much clearer does that need to be, Rob?This is not your typical EULA here.I wish EULAs had this clarity and simplicity!The GPL is not and never has been a USE license, but a copyright license, which only covers four acts:copying, distributing, modifying (legalese:preparing derivative works), and transfer of rights.Using your TiVo analogy, suppose TiVo violates GPL.This only precludes TiVo from further COPYING, DISTRIBUTING, and MODIFYING of covered code.It does not in any way cause TiVo users to lose the right to RUN the programs on their TiVo!(GPLv2 section 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.") Note particularly that last sentence.So, sure, TiVo can't sell any more units with covered code on them, nor can they distribute updates to covered programs;this still doesn't cause existing TiVo users to lose the right to use their TiVos (GPLv2 section 4 again!).This is not your typical EULA, again, Rob.No draconian 'we'll cause your program to go into limited functionality mode if we think (even if erroneously) that you have violated the finest of our fine print!' terms here!I see trust of the users in the GPL, in contrast to the explicit distrust conveyed by the typical EULA these days.Now, let's see what the GPLv3 Final Call draft says about USE of the program.I quote section 2, Basic Permissions, paragraph 1, sentences 1 and 2:"All rights granted under this License are granted for the term of copyright on the Program, and are irrevocable provided the stated conditions are met.This License explicitly affirms your unlimited permission to run the unmodified Program."Now this IS slightly different from the v2 case. Reply
Jun 12, 2007 11:53 AM A Random CIO A Random CIO  says:
There could be a question as to what 'unmodified' might mean;in this context, it means by the recipient of a copy of the program who does not modify the copy they received.This interpretation is made clear by Section 8.Termination, paragraph three:"In the event that your rights are terminated under this section, parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long as they remain in full compliance." When you distribute a copy under the GPL, the GPLv3 specifically states (section 10:"Each time you convey a covered work, the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensors, to run, modify and propagate that work, subject to this License.You are not responsible for enforcing compliance by third parties with this License.").Same as the equivalent GPLv2 section, but with the added 'run' :this right, as we saw above, is specifically 'unlimited.' So that unlimited right to run propagates downstream in a specific way rather than an implicit way.So, say, if TiVo violates the GPLv3, this only causes TiVo itself to lose the right to copy, distribute, and modify:it does not impact in any form or fashion those who own TiVo's, which have a DIRECT license with the copyright holders under section 10 of GPLv3 (and section 6 of the GPLv2).So TiVo users still have the unlimited right to run, even if TiVo violates the GPL.One real problem the end users might have is that they can't get updates from TiVo any more (since it lost the right to distribute copies).Now that brings up an interesting twist:under GPLv2, TiVo users have less rights in this regard;TiVo is allowed to prevent unsigned code from running on their boxes, meaning the users enjoy update lockin to TiVo.Under GPLv3 the users of the TiVo have more rights, in that a third party, which complies with the GPLv3, could distribute updates even if TiVo could not (whether by loss of licensed rights, or default, or bankruptcy, or product orphaning, or whatever).So I fail to see why Microsoft would like that;and I certainly cannot fail to see how users, individual and coporate alike, should be clamoring for the improved rights to them in GPLv3.Sure, if you intend to distribute or modify (with or without distribution of the modifications) you should be careful (and possibly get legal advice) with the license;but that is just basic due diligence. Reply
Jun 13, 2007 2:16 AM A Random CIO A Random CIO  says:
Ok, simple one-line answers:A.) Great Bridge PostgreSQL for one.B.) The GPL at least lets you copy and distribute as long as you play by the rules.C.) They released their source code above and beyond the requirements of the GPL; did they specifically know Oracle would do this when they did it? No; did they know it could be done? Of course. While I haven't read RHT's SEC filings, I'm sure there is disclosure of the IP licensing and such, along with the possibilities (after all, the CentOS project and others are releasing rebuilt-from-source versions of the same thing free, and Oracle UL is based directly off CentOS, not RHEL).D.) The golden rule of pointing out problems: have a possible and positive solution or at least a stab at one in the problem report. Just saying 'that won't work' with no possible 'here's a way to make it work' isn't constructive.E.) Sun supports GPLv3 and will be releasing OpenSolaris under this license.F.) You are only forced to comply with GPLv3 to the degree that the copyright holders of the programs you use adopt GPLv3. And you don't lose the right to use the program in a previous version released under GPLv2 or other previous license. It is much less coercive than the typical closed source software EULA.G.) The FSF is not asking endusers to use their license. They are making available a new version, the use of which is completely voluntary, to copyright holders, of their highly popular GPL. No one is being forced to use GPLv3 for code whose copyright holders have not licensed under GPLv3. You are of course free to gripe about their license; but they have and are using their freedom to publish their updated license. If copyright holders like it, they will use it. If they don't, they won't. If you don't like it, don't use programs covered by it.But a copyright holder does have the right to force a new license on new versions of their code. Microsoft does it all the time.I fail to see any attack vector in my comments; colleagues of mine, however, do note that I can be blunt at times. The intent of my comments here is not to attack you, but to help you and your readers further your knowledge of this very complex subject. And it is a complex subject that deserves unbiased honest communication and discussion among my CIO peers.And, quite honestly, the FSF doesn't see some of the 'problems' you see as being problems. Having said that, you shouldn't gloss over the fact that this license is being developed and written in a very open fashion, with many commenters on all sides of the argument. It remains to be seen what the final license will look like, and how many copyright holders will or will not use it. That's why overhyping the potential issues to CIO's is, in my opinion at least, crying wolf. The license is not at final copy yet; but interested parties should certainly comment on the license; that's why it is being developed openly.How many EULA's do you know of have wikis that take comments on problems?G.) The cost of any license change must obviously be figured in by those who need to worry about it. This is true whether we're talking about the GPLv3 or the latest Microsoft EULA update that came with the latest critical patch. In the idea of caution you and I agree; one needs to be cautious and careful. We disagree in how deep the impact may be, and on the uniqueness of the GPLv3 versus other more draconian EULA's that closed source companies force on users continually. Reply
Jun 13, 2007 2:17 AM A Random CIO A Random CIO  says:
Ok, simple one-line answers:A.) Great Bridge PostgreSQL for one.B.) The GPL at least lets you copy and distribute as long as you play by the rules.C.) They released their source code above and beyond the requirements of the GPL;did they specifically know Oracle would do this when they did it?No;did they know it could be done?Of course.While I haven't read RHT's SEC filings, I'm sure there is disclosure of the IP licensing and such, along with the possibilities (after all, the CentOS project and others are releasing rebuilt-from-source versions of the same thing free, and Oracle UL is based directly off CentOS, not RHEL).D.) The golden rule of pointing out problems:have a possible and positive solution or at least a stab at one in the problem report.Just saying 'that won't work' with no possible 'here's a way to make it work' isn't constructive.E.) Sun supports GPLv3 and will be releasing OpenSolaris under this license.F.) You are only forced to comply with GPLv3 to the degree that the copyright holders of the programs you use adopt GPLv3.And you don't lose the right to use the program in a previous version released under GPLv2 or other previous license.It is much less coercive than the typical closed source software EULA.G.) The FSF is not asking endusers to use their license.They are making available a new version, the use of which is completely voluntary, to copyright holders, of their highly popular GPL.No one is being forced to use GPLv3 for code whose copyright holders have not licensed under GPLv3.You are of course free to gripe about their license;but they have and are using their freedom to publish their updated license.If copyright holders like it, they will use it.If they don't, they won't.If you don't like it, don't use programs covered by it.But a copyright holder does have the right to force a new license on new versions of their code.Microsoft does it all the time.I fail to see any attack vector in my comments;colleagues of mine, however, do note that I can be blunt at times.The intent of my comments here is not to attack you, but to help you and your readers further your knowledge of this very complex subject.And it is a complex subject that deserves unbiased honest communication and discussion among my CIO peers.And, quite honestly, the FSF doesn't see some of the 'problems' you see as being problems.Having said that, you shouldn't gloss over the fact that this license is being developed and written in a very open fashion, with many commenters on all sides of the argument.It remains to be seen what the final license will look like, and how many copyright holders will or will not use it.That's why overhyping the potential issues to CIO's is, in my opinion at least, crying wolf.The license is not at final copy yet;but interested parties should certainly comment on the license;that's why it is being developed openly.How many EULA's do you know of have wikis that take comments on problems?G.) The cost of any license change must obviously be figured in by those who need to worry about it.This is true whether we're talking about the GPLv3 or the latest Microsoft EULA update that came with the latest critical patch.In the idea of caution you and I agree;one needs to be cautious and careful.We disagree in how deep the impact may be, and on the uniqueness of the GPLv3 versus other more draconian EULA's that closed source companies force on users continually. Reply
Jun 13, 2007 2:26 AM A Random CIO A Random CIO  says:
Interesting response, Rob.Overview response (a detailed response would be better suited to e-mail; feel free, Rob, to e-mail me, if you would so desire, and I'll send you a novel):A.) Since when does TiVo have to distribute a kernel update to modify TV schedules? Losing distribution rights to the kernel in no wise impairs their ability to push non-kernel updates. Ditto for any other specific component. Bluntly: Linux is not a monolith. Linux is a fantasia blend of hundreds of programs, owned by hundreds of different copyright holders, and licensed under a dozen or more different licenses, only one of which is the GPL.B.) The GPLv3 uses words other than distribute, and defines them for the context of the license. GPLv2 is indeed somewhat confusing in this area; GPLv3, if you read it, clears this up and covers the specific cases of contractors.C.) Red Hat knew Oracle was coming. And you can't steal from someone what they are giving to you free and clear.D.) When one anticipates problems, one mustn't cry wolf if one wants to be taken seriously.E.) GPLv3 was written to ensure that owners of computer hardware could not be locked out of their own property by programmers taking advantage of a loophole in the license. If I buy a TiVo, I expect to be able to make it do what I want (within legality), even if that means 'unauthorized by TiVo' modifications. It is MY hardware, not theirs.F.) Since when have disagreements, even vehement disagreements, been unhealthy? If you research the Linux Kernel mailing list, you'll find this license issue doesn't even rate in the top ten most controversial topics to be found in the midst of the kernel developer's list. A tempest in a teacup, in the whole scheme of things.G.) As a software author, why can't I bind those who want to use my hard work for their gain, freeloading off of my sweat, to some conditions on their use of my code? You want to use my kathob? Well, if you make a better kathob based on my kathob, you have to make it and its full plans with construction drawings and procedures available using the same terms I have, and you can't use a patent to skirt the free availability. Don't like those terms? Don't base you product on my kathob, although you can still use my kathob as a tool. GPLv3 adds the clause "and you can't cause your whuperdinger to have to use you kathobs exclusively; you have to allow modified kathobs, even with other people's modifications." Exactly what is wrong with a copyright holder having say over how their copyrighted work is used? But the GPLv3 doesn't say that if you use my kathob then I get rights to your retroencabulator, which has no relationship to a kathob.H.) There is no cost to the OSS community as a whole because there is no OSS community as a whole. This is the same concept as 'There is no such thing as 'The Internet.' There are only a loosly interconnected set of autonomous networks that masquerade as 'The Internet''. There are multitudinous OSS communities: there is a kernel community, and PostgreSQL community, an Apache community, a Red Hat community, a Ubuntu community, a ReactOS community, etc. There is no 'OSS community' as it's far too loose a confederation to consider a whole. Now, will there be costs to the individual communities who adopt GPLv3? Time will tell, but I think not.I.) Linux got started with no funding; it can continue with less than it has now if need be. Reply
Jun 13, 2007 10:47 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
A. So what you are saying is some mystery third party would step in and provide code updates while TiVo would continue to provide programming updates on a platform they no longer controlled. Interesting would like to see one example where that has happened with a shipping product. Sounds like a bad fairy tale to me.B. Im not so sure, licenses are up for interpretation and even if it covers contractors what about franchisees, partners, and partially owned subsidiaries. We live in a complex world after-all. C. Funny Red Hat didnt act like they knew Oracle was coming, and I didnt see anyone at Red Hat predicting it before it happened. Do you have evidence of that or are you just guessing? Under disclosure rules if they believed it would happen they had to have disclosed the related risk.D. Ah, cry wolf, I guess Torvalds and IBM were crying wolf. Nice to know Interesting how folks that point out problems are often painted with that brush. E. Ive work with a number of computer hardware manufacturers, not a single one supports the GPL 3.0. Can you point me to one of the PC companies that is outspoken on wanting to use it? IBM doesnt seem to like it. F. Disagreements arent unhealthy, what can be unhealthy is the one group forces an agenda on the entire population. GPL 3.0 is a forced march by a minority of outspoken zealots. It is far from a democratic process. G. As a software author you can do almost anything you want in the agreement that surrounds the work you own. I can choose to use your offering or not. You shouldnt be able to force me to use your agreement if I dont use your code, you shouldnt be able to compromise my work or wishes, and I should be free to question a document I dont like without fear of personal, or other, attack. Finally, if you are asking me to use a new license you should have to disclose the problems with it not just gloss over them. H. Ah there is no OSS community, it is a myth. And there is no Internet, not a surprise given Al Gore didnt really invent it. But there is a cost for a new license type in terms of adoption and acceptance to anything that is impacted by that license type. Costs are often covered up by those that advocate a certain plan of action. But cover ups arent open and it continues to amaze me just how un-open Open Source really is. So I respectfully disagree, there are a community of people who support OSS, they are a loose federation of often disagreeing groups but they exist, they write, and they have an agenda and leaders who werent democratically elected. You can probably name them. But hiding behind the lack of cohesive structure to cover up costs, while creative, doesnt eliminate those costs. Reply
Jun 13, 2007 12:40 PM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
Big help, I can continue to run a product the provider may no longer be able to legally support and, they will rush a replacement out that simply removes the offending code forcing me into a compliance/compatibility cycle with no real benefit. Some magical third party can come in and support me, but how much do they know about the product, my business, and what keeps them from charging me a small fortune to save my butt?Remember RIM? When faced with a similar challenge they threatened to simply turn off the service, granted they eventually came around, but not after scaring the hell out of their installed base. TiVo is worthless without services, if it cant be updated how do I get new programming information into the box? What, it now becomes a VCR that wont even flash 12, hell sign me up, Ill buy 5 Show me one third party that is even willing to step in here, granted Apple, Cisco and even Microsoft will sell me a new box and service but I kind of like my TiVo. So, from a user perspective, I suddenly dont like GPL 3.O if it puts my TiVo at risk and you already know TiVo doesnt like this. Im not aware of a major product, or minor for that matter, that doesnt need to be patched if only to address new security exposures or changes in the environment where it operates. If I lose those patches, particularly security patches, the product may quickly become unusable. I have the right to drive a car without brakes, it wouldnt be the smart thing to do either. So, in this example, the GPL does impact use, it basically renders the TiVo useless (I can still use it, but without updates, it simply doesnt work). What does distribute mean transfer to a third party right? What if that party is a contractor, partner, customer (think licensed dealership, jointly owned subsidiary, franchise etc.) and the code goes to them, isnt that distribution. How many shops do you know dont use contractors or outsource some of their work? Now what if I want to use the GPL in a hostile fashion, not that any company would ever (Oracle) do this. Hmm Wonder how Id do that. Steal the code outright and take your customers too, simply find a way to compromise the code (disgruntled employee are rare I know) or simply claim it is compromised take it, and let you prove otherwise as you try to get it back. Seriously how many people actually have thought through what Oracle did? Even suggesting there might be other ploys like this would brand a person a FUD master, yet if you use the GPL you should at least try to anticipate problems and assess risk. This always scares the hell out of me, inside or outside a company, the tendency to brand anyone who tries to anticipate a problem as a problem themselves. That's largely how Iraq happened, it could have been prevented, the folks that spoke up early got fired (or had their wives outed). The reason Microsoft likes GPL 3.0 is it wasnt written to address the needs of the end user, the buyer, or the vendor. It had one primary goal and that goal had very little to do with the folks who fund OSS. Some of the biggest and most powerful Linux supporters dont like it and the disagreement is very visible. (You can even see the supporters channel George Bush suggesting those that disagree are helping Microsoft). Just the fact that the thing is really strange and grants IP rights should scare the crap out of most legal departments ( who, as you probably know avoid any risk like the plague). As Microsoft, all I have to do is make it visible, the system will likely do the rest. Finally, has anyone estimated the cost of this license? I dont mean to the user, buyer, or vendor, I mean to OSS in general. Boy, if this were a company that would be the first question Id ask Reply
Jun 13, 2007 12:41 PM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
Big help, I can continue to run a product the provider may no longer be able to legally support and, they will rush a replacement out that simply removes the offending code forcing me into a compliance/compatibility cycle with no real benefit.Some magical third party can come in and support me, but how much do they know about the product, my business, and what keeps them from charging me a small fortune to save my butt?Remember RIM?When faced with a similar challenge they threatened to simply turn off the service, granted they eventually came around, but not after scaring the hell out of their installed base.TiVo is worthless without services, if it cant be updated how do I get new programming information into the box?What, it now becomes a VCR that wont even flash 12, hell sign me up, Ill buy 5 Show me one third party that is even willing to step in here, granted Apple, Cisco and even Microsoft will sell me a new box and service but I kind of like my TiVo.So, from a user perspective, I suddenly dont like GPL 3.O if it puts my TiVo at risk and you already know TiVo doesnt like this.Im not aware of a major product, or minor for that matter, that doesnt need to be patched if only to address new security exposures or changes in the environment where it operates.If I lose those patches, particularly security patches, the product may quickly become unusable.I have the right to drive a car without brakes, it wouldnt be the smart thing to do either.So, in this example, the GPL does impact use, it basically renders the TiVo useless (I can still use it, but without updates, it simply doesnt work).What does distribute mean transfer to a third party right?What if that party is a contractor, partner, customer (think licensed dealership, jointly owned subsidiary, franchise etc.) and the code goes to them, isnt that distribution.How many shops do you know dont use contractors or outsource some of their work?Now what if I want to use the GPL in a hostile fashion, not that any company would ever (Oracle) do this.Hmm Wonder how Id do that.Steal the code outright and take your customers too, simply find a way to compromise the code (disgruntled employee are rare I know) or simply claim it is compromised take it, and let you prove otherwise as you try to get it back.Seriously how many people actually have thought through what Oracle did?Even suggesting there might be other ploys like this would brand a person a FUD master, yet if you use the GPL you should at least try to anticipate problems and assess risk.This always scares the hell out of me, inside or outside a company, the tendency to brand anyone who tries to anticipate a problem as a problem themselves.That's largely how Iraq happened, it could have been prevented, the folks that spoke up early got fired (or had their wives outed).The reason Microsoft likes GPL 3.0 is it wasnt written to address the needs of the end user, the buyer, or the vendor.It had one primary goal and that goal had very little to do with the folks who fund OSS.Some of the biggest and most powerful Linux supporters dont like it and the disagreement is very visible.(You can even see the supporters channel George Bush suggesting those that disagree are helping Microsoft).Just the fact that the thing is really strange and grants IP rights should scare the crap out of most legal departments ( who, as you probably know avoid any risk like the plague).As Microsoft, all I have to do is make it visible, the system will likely do the rest. Reply
Jun 13, 2007 12:41 PM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
Finally, has anyone estimated the cost of this license?I dont mean to the user, buyer, or vendor, I mean to OSS in general.Boy, if this were a company that would be the first question Id ask Reply
Jun 14, 2007 5:21 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
To Random CIO:A: Ill take your word for that, not quite the same thing as TiVo though is it? B: And its the rules that may be the problem. C: Fact is they had no idea Oracle would actually do this and were caught flatfooted. Investors didnt see this coming either, if they knew they didnt meet disclosure rules.D: Kind of like what FOSS did with the Microsoft/Novell deal? You dont have to use the license; Im just suggesting people make their own decisions and that all of the risks and costs are not being disclosed. There is very little discussion on the fact this is a .0 agreement which has unique risks in and of itself. E. Sun is a hardware company and getting killed by Linux, its only using this for a product they basically give away for free, and recall they also funded SCO so they arent an example Id typically use for something like this. F. Yes but if you are a large company you can negotiate the EULA and it doesnt impact your own IP (though it may force arbitration on conflicts depending on which one we are talking about). Better is always relative. G. No they are saying that we may not have a choice, there have been some pointed remarks with regard to Torvalds objections. Im concerned about that lack of choice. Im also concerned that people may not take the time to understand the impact. You havent attacked me but read up, this license thing is something a lot of folks who dont have skills in the area of legal documents feel passionate about and if you disagree they feel they can attack you personally. Theyve even attacked Torvalds personally. I think that is reason enough by itself to avoid something because appears to promote behavior that is unacceptable. This is one thing EULAs dont seem to bring with them. It continues to bother me that the GPL should be expressly against corporate asset control and discloser policies. This pushes IP ownership issues down into the organization when they currently reside at C level or higher and Ive never seen a CIO with the ability to give away IP without a second executive signature. You could blanket approve this but I havent seen it done, and on paper, such a policy should likely be part of the investor disclosure statement. Of course the FSF doesnt see the problems many of us see; their primary function appears to be to hurt Microsoft. They are promoting the license. How many vendors do you see disclosing all of the problems with their stuff? But OSS is supposed to collaborative not dictatorial. As far as pointing out problems, as you know IT works slowly and few have the time to look at or comment on something like a license. Ill bet less than 1% has even asked their legal department to look at this at the draft and comment. But, once again the point of this piece was to simply point out that GPL 3.0 works for Microsoft, not against them. Im fascinated by the history of Microsoft competitors (Netscape, IBM, Sun, etc.) who did more damage to themselves competing with the company than they did to Microsoft.H) (This is your second G). If Im correct the cost Im talking about is the loss of OSS users, yet another License to manage, and even in draft it appears to have helped speed up Microsofts effective licensing efforts. We are before adoption, a CIO couldnt use this if they wanted to, Im suggesting the folks who are promoting this thing should have done a cost benefit themselves. From perspective this thing is counter strategic and will actually move the ball in the opposite direction they intend. OK with me, but think that is an issue, if true, that should concern someone and in a company, vetting something like this (though that often doesnt happen) is by policy. So we really arent even talking about the same cost or organization. Reply
Jun 14, 2007 5:22 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
To Random CIO:A:Ill take your word for that, not quite the same thing as TiVo though is it?B:And its the rules that may be the problem.C:Fact is they had no idea Oracle would actually do this and were caught flatfooted.Investors didnt see this coming either, if they knew they didnt meet disclosure rules.D:Kind of like what FOSS did with the Microsoft/Novell deal?You dont have to use the license;Im just suggesting people make their own decisions and that all of the risks and costs are not being disclosed.There is very little discussion on the fact this is a .0 agreement which has unique risks in and of itself.E.Sun is a hardware company and getting killed by Linux, its only using this for a product they basically give away for free, and recall they also funded SCO so they arent an example Id typically use for something like this.F.Yes but if you are a large company you can negotiate the EULA and it doesnt impact your own IP (though it may force arbitration on conflicts depending on which one we are talking about).Better is always relative.G.No they are saying that we may not have a choice, there have been some pointed remarks with regard to Torvalds objections.Im concerned about that lack of choice.Im also concerned that people may not take the time to understand the impact.You havent attacked me but read up, this license thing is something a lot of folks who dont have skills in the area of legal documents feel passionate about and if you disagree they feel they can attack you personally.Theyve even attacked Torvalds personally.I think that is reason enough by itself to avoid something because appears to promote behavior that is unacceptable.This is one thing EULAs dont seem to bring with them.It continues to bother me that the GPL should be expressly against corporate asset control and discloser policies.This pushes IP ownership issues down into the organization when they currently reside at C level or higher and Ive never seen a CIO with the ability to give away IP without a second executive signature.You could blanket approve this but I havent seen it done, and on paper, such a policy should likely be part of the investor disclosure statement.Of course the FSF doesnt see the problems many of us see;their primary function appears to be to hurt Microsoft.They are promoting the license.How many vendors do you see disclosing all of the problems with their stuff?But OSS is supposed to collaborative not dictatorial.As far as pointing out problems, as you know IT works slowly and few have the time to look at or comment on something like a license.Ill bet less than 1% has even asked their legal department to look at this at the draft and comment.But, once again the point of this piece was to simply point out that GPL 3.0 works for Microsoft, not against them.Im fascinated by the history of Microsoft competitors (Netscape, IBM, Sun, etc.) who did more damage to themselves competing with the company than they did to Microsoft.H) (This is your second G).If Im correct the cost Im talking about is the loss of OSS users, yet another License to manage, and even in draft it appears to have helped speed up Microsofts effective licensing efforts.We are before adoption, a CIO couldnt use this if they wanted to, Im suggesting the folks who are promoting this thing should have done a cost benefit themselves.From perspective this thing is counter strategic and will actually move the ball in the opposite direction they intend.OK with me, but think that is an issue, if true, that should concern someone and in a company, vetting something like this (though that often doesnt happen) is by policy. Reply
Jun 14, 2007 5:22 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
So we really arent even talking about the same cost or organization. Reply
Jun 14, 2007 5:26 AM Ajfel82 Ajfel82  says:
Dear Rob,I wanted to point out that AFAIK TiVo will have the right to use and update the software that was licensed under GPL v.2 even after the copyright holders of that program will publish a new version under GPL v.3. However they will not be able to use the new updates. They would have to maintain the orphaned GPL v.2 branch of the software themselves, but there is nothing than can prevent them from doing it. The whole "my great TiVo will become useless" argument is thus totally missed. They will be able to maintain their product and provide you with updates, however that would cost them money. They would only have problems creating new products. I would expect some more thorough understanding of the GPL from people writing about it. Reply
Jun 14, 2007 5:33 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
So the company that may be one of the largest distributors of GPL code, (were this a company we would call that a big customer), will incure extra costs and may have to stop using the GPL entirely thanks to 3.0. The folks that left TiVo to form Digital Deck went with Microsoft and not Linux to create a similar offering. I think it is too late for them to start over with BSD so think this same result is likely from TiVo given the earlier move. My point is that the GPL 3.0 works for Microsoft. Didn't you just prove my point? (And they may not have the resources to maintain the product as you outline, if that is the case, I'm still screwed). Reply
Jun 14, 2007 7:39 AM Matthew Davidson Matthew Davidson  says:
GPL3 is not "different".GPL3 does not represent the slightest change in the objectives of the license since GPL2.1, rather it reflects changes in the environment in which the license operates.In 1991 it was not possible to use software idea patents or DRM/DMCA to restrict the freedom of computer users. In 2007 it is possible to do so in many parts of the world, so it is necessary to close these loopholes for the license to continue to work as it always has. Additionally, GPL3 has some extra provisions which make it more compatible with other free software licenses.If you're currently using GPL2 because you support the objectives of the license, not because you've found a loophole to circumvent them, then migrating to GPL3 is the way to guarantee that other parties can't turn your work into their proprietary product. If you want people to be able to do that, you should be using a non-copyleft license anyway.It is stunningly disingenuous to claim that "if you cant code, you cant use the freedoms [of the GPL] anyway". I'm not a mechanic, but I'm very glad that I don't have to return my car to Toyota every time it needs a service. I'm glad that adding a CD player to it won't require Toyota's permission. I would no more hand the keys to my data to Microsoft or TiVo than I would hand the keys to my car to Toyota.Of course this metaphor breaks down very quickly (not unlike my car, boom-boom) because I can't make a limitless number of perfect copies of my car at near zero cost, something you can do with software, even if you're not a programmer, provided of course the software's license allows it, and it is not additionally encumbered with patents or some tivoization mechanism.That fact that companies that produce (effectively) proprietary software won't be able to use GPL3 code in their products is simply not a cause for concern for anybody except these companies. Saying that Microsoft will gain some short term advantage over other proprietary software companies due to GPL3 is gloriously irrelevant. As long as GPL3 does the job it is intended to do, the long term prospects for proprietary software vendors are not good; even Microsoft understand this (Gates is retiring, Ballmer is fishing for a government posting, and they've just kicked off their terminal SCO-esque stock-pumping kamikaze IP FUD strategy, which may last for years, but not decades). The fact that you are trying to obscure here is that in the 21st century there is no rational argument for preferring proprietary software. Reply
Jun 14, 2007 8:59 AM diamondgoal diamondgoal  says:
"what can be unhealthy is the one group forces an agenda on the entire population"Like Redmond has been doing for years, you mean? Reply

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