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Re: <nettime> Linux strikes back III
Florian Cramer on Wed, 15 Oct 2003 17:37:04 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Linux strikes back III

Am Mittwoch, 15. Oktober 2003 um 09:56:37 Uhr (+0200) schrieb Martin Hardie:

> In the light of the SCO stuff some may find this report of use ...

It's an incredible piece of FUD written by a journalist who is known as
a Free Software hater.  The text has been properly debunked in the
following Slashdot discussion:

> The Lindon, Utah, company has outraged Linux lovers by suing IBM (nyse:
> IBM - news - people ), claiming IBM stole Unix code and put it into Linux.

The opening sentence alone is not correct. SCO does not own
"Unix". "Unix" is a trademark of the Open Group (formerly: X/Open). 
An operating system can be legally called "Unix" when it passes the Open
Group Unix certification process which itself checks the compliance of
an operating system to the "Single Unix Specification" published by the
Open Group.  

The term "Unix" does not refer to specific code, or, technically
speaking, to a specific implementation of the Single Unix Specification.
What SCO does own, via a history of sales, company buy-outs and
re-brandings, is the copyrights to the (quite ancient) Unix System V
sourcecode originally developed by the AT&T Bell Labs. 

And finally, the SCO vs. IBM case is not about copyright, but about
contract law.
> For months, in secret, the Free Software Foundation, a Boston-based group
> that controls the licensing process for Linux and other "free" programs,

The FSF doesn't control the licensing "process" of the GPL, but is the
author of that license and acts, if developers wish it, as a legal
enforcement organization for GPL compliance. While the FSF and Richard
Stallman are very vocal in their Free Software evangelism, issues with
GPL non-compliance (i.e. companies that released GPLed code with 
proprietary, non-published extensions or modifications) are normally
being settled in a rather quiet, diplomatic matter.

> has been making threats to Cisco Systems (nasdaq: CSCO - news - people )
> and Broadcom (nasdaq: BRCM - news - people ) over a networking router that
> runs the Linux operating system.
> The router is made by Linksys, a company Cisco acquired in June. It lets
> you hook computers together on a wireless Wi-Fi network, employing a
> high-speed standard called 802.11g. Aimed at home users, the $129 device
> has been a smash hit, selling 400,000 units in the first quarter of this
> year alone.
> But now there's a problem. The Linux software in the router is distributed
> under the GNU General Public License (GPL), which the Free Software
> Foundation created in 1991.
> Under the license, if you distribute GPL software in a product, you must
> also distribute the software's source code. And not just the GPL code, but
> also the code for any "derivative works" you've created--even if
> publishing that code means anyone can now make a knockoff of your product.

Get that twisted logic of the writer? To get things straight:

- Cisco/Broadcom got, thanks to Linux and the GPL, the operating system
  for their wireless router not only free, but also with sourcecode and 
  the right to customize it for their own needs, without paying license fees
  for any of these rights. If they instead had to license a proprietary 
  OS for embedded devices - like QNX or Windows CE -, they wouldn't have been 
  able to sell their product at $129, making it a "smash hit, selling 
  400,000 units". Indeed, this is a perfect example of how Free Software
  helps capitalism.

- All that the GPL asks for in turn is that additions or modifications
  of the free code used must also be made free. In fact, this clause
  even helps companies using and releasing GPLed code, because it means
  that no competitor can take the code and modify or extend into a 
  proprietary product (like Microsoft did with Kerberos, which was
  released under the BSD license and therefore could be used for
  proprietary code).

> Not great news if you're Cisco, which paid $500 million for Linksys. In

If they paid the $500 million for Linksys' software expertise or
supposed "intellectual property" without researching in advance that the
Linksys simply runs Linux as its router firmware, then it's Cisco's own
stupidity to pay so much.

> For several months, officials from the Free Software Foundation have been
> quietly pushing Cisco and Broadcom for a resolution. According to Free
> Software Foundation Executive Director Bradley Kuhn, the foundation is
> demanding that Cisco and Broadcom either a) rip out all the Linux code in
> the router and use some other operating system, 

A gentle proposition given that the product was in breach with the GPL.
Alternatively, the FSF could have asked to revoke all Linksys routers
from the market and pay, say $10 compensation for each unit already
sold. (In other words: $4M which could be used, for example, to pay
Linus Torvalds the next ten or twenty years for Linux kernel

> or b) make their code
> available to the entire world.

The writer oversees that it was exactly not "their" code. So the case
is actually no different from a breaching any kind of software license.

> The dispute, which was leaked to an Internet message board, offers a rare
> peek into the dark side of the free software movement--a view that
> contrasts with the movement's usual public image of happy software proles
> linking arms and singing the "Internationale" while freely sharing the
> fruits of their code-writing labor.

No comment. (Remember this is being published in "Forbes" for a
US American business readership.)


GnuPG/PGP public key ID 3200C7BA, finger cantsin {AT} mail.zedat.fu-berlin.de

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