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[20111226] On the continuing decline of the GPL
Pointed out by Mishka, who found this 451 group's blog posting, I'll let the image speak on itself, even if it does not target NetBSD in particular:



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[20080409] Cuneiform opensourced under BSD license
This is not strictly NetBSD-related, but still of interest as I consider licensing an important topic. Mike 'mishka' Volokhov wrote me mail to point out that the Cuneiform OCR program was recently opened under a BSD license. Mike notes that according to the Cuneiform Forum (russian language), the license for the Puma OCR core was chosen for three reasons:
  • the BSD license allows to use the same core in other commercial products of Cognitive Technologies
  • the BSD license matches research and educational purposes so as it gives "more freedom", as it was outspoken by developer company
  • other companies can use the OCR engine in their commercial projects
If you ever need to convince your PHB to use the BSD license, there's one more example for you, now. Thanks Mike!

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[20061101] Thoughts on the old GPL vs. BSD license squabbling
This one was pointed out by Olaf Seibert (thanks!): When trying to convince people that the GPL is so much better than the BSD license, one argument that you hear a lot is that GPL forces people (and companies!) to open up their code for the benefit of everyone. Nice idea - but is it true?

Harald Welte, who's done a lot for making people understand what the GPL is and is not (e.g. with his GPL Violations project) has drawn some conclusions on that benefit: ``if somebody asks me, how much the actual Free Software source code benefits from the code that was released by the vendors, my honest reply would be simple and sad: None.''

There are other benefits like public awareness, community building etc. that are also of importance to the whole Open Source community, and that a software license may or may not have an impact on, so this may be up for further discussion.

Making code available at least is not what the GPL helps about, so I guess the BSD license isn't that bad after all. Surprise! :)

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[20060117] GNU General Public License (GPL) Version 3 Draft 1
Read it and participate in the discussion of the license in a constructive way. This license WILL affect all of us, whether we like it or not. From a very rough look, it has become even longer, going from 13 to 19 clauses. (Just why do I have to think of the European Constitution right now? ;-)

Please let me add that I do think that the GPL -- while it has a few problematic terms -- is, in general, a very nicely written license, as it's very specific about what to do and what not to do. This can serve as a good introduction to the whole licensing topic to people who don't know about laws (like programmers :). Of course the size of the document rather turns people away, unfortunately.

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[20051028] More software license fun (Update #2)
I've received a few answers to my inquiries about yesterday's software license hickup:

  • From ISC (where the license comes originally from), Paul Vixie promptly acknoledged the problem, and apparently an update will be made on their license
  • Groklaw's Pamela Jones mentioned that there is an issue, but of minor importance as the original copyright holder still can point at the disclaimer he included. As Chris Hopps pointed out in private communication, the only party that may probably be hurt is the one removing the license when passing on. A different issue would also be license proliferation, leading to many "weak" licenses instead of one "strong" license - I tend to agree.
  • One reply I got from OpenBSD (which use the ISC license) was sent by Theo deRaadt, which was accusing me of not understanding the issue at hands and that I just want to play a game. And that this is why NetBSD still uses restrictive licenses (hu??) and that I should please never send him mail again. (Funny note aside: I didn't write with my NetBSD mail address, and didn't mention that with a single word in my mail).
  • Todd Miller, also from OpenBSD, wrote a much nicer mail, confirming the issue, and that they also looked at the MIT license.
  • Thorsten Glaser, driving force between MirOS, an OpenBSD-spinoff, let me know that he removed the copyright template completely from their source tree.
In summary, I found it very interesting to discover this nit, and communicate with various parties about the issues involved, even if some of them cannot be dealt with in a civilized manner. Most of them were a joy to work with! Maybe a good preparation for a second career ... :)

Update #1: It seems the MIT/X11 license, which served as an example for the ISC license also has the problem. Whom to contact @ X.org?

Update #2: MirOS has only removed the copyright template, and of course not the copyright on the individual files. Doh!

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[20051027] Software licenses are fun
In my next life, I'm gonna be a lawyer. The other day, I came across the following license:
  * Copyright (c) CCYY YOUR NAME HERE 
  *
  * Permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute this software for any
  * purpose with or without fee is hereby granted, provided that the above
  * copyright notice and this permission notice appear in all copies.
  *
  * THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS" AND THE AUTHOR DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES
  * WITH REGARD TO THIS SOFTWARE INCLUDING ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF
  * MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHOR BE LIABLE FOR
  * ANY SPECIAL, DIRECT, INDIRECT, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES OR ANY DAMAGES
  * WHATSOEVER RESULTING FROM LOSS OF USE, DATA OR PROFITS, WHETHER IN AN
  * ACTION OF CONTRACT, NEGLIGENCE OR OTHER TORTIOUS ACTION, ARISING OUT OF
  * OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE USE OR PERFORMANCE OF THIS SOFTWARE.
  */ 
Spot the problem?

Read the second paragraph closely: when passing this on, the first ("the above copyright notice") and second ("this permission") paragraph needs to be preserved, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE THIRD ONE? Shall I really be able to pass on the software but leave out passing on the "no warranty"-clause? I don't think so, too.

The mistake was already confirmed by the copyright holder of the original license, and the good deed of the day was to notify another project that chose the same license.

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[20050629] Buzzword bingo: BSD, TCG, TC, TPM and DRM
After Linux got drivers for the "TPM" digital rights management chip (see tpmdd, trousers, german language report on Heise Newsticker) , the question about interest and support in in BSD was asked on the German-language BSD forum BSDforen.de. A questionnaire was sent to single developers of the various BSD projects (one of them being me, after Christos and Alan said everything there really is to say: nothing at all :-). Here are some answers, all little surprising, by DragonflyBSD's Matt Dillon, FreeBSD's Scott Long as well as myself for NetBSD.

Best entry in the thread is probably Daniel Seuffert's summary, commenting on Linux jumping after every M$ feature: ``You shouldn't complain about fleas tomorrow if you go to sleep with the dogs tonight''. I think he's right, and I don't want any DRM near me. No, thanks. Never.

(Lars, who posted that questionnaire, also sent me a number of interesting links for learning more about the whole issue at hands: The AgainstTCPA website, Ross Anderson's TCPA-FAQ, Bruce Schneier's CryptoGram on TCPA etc. and Chaosradio #78 )

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[20050609] More BSD code: IBM's Slimline Open Firmware (Updated)
The software may not be to thrilling: IBM has released a bootloader for PowerPCs based on the IEEE-1275 (Open Firmware) standard. While they've lost their biggest customer, it may help others ;). The more interesting thing here is that the code is released under a "liberal Open Source Software (OSS) license", which looks remarkably like a 3-clause BSD license. This is the 2nd big company who has discovered the BSD license recently, after AOL.

Of course a bootloader is no enduser software, and companies like Brocade may well customize the software without being forced to open up changes, so this is definitely a favour to such companies, and an example how Open Source can be made business-fiendly. But with IBM aiming for Linux and GPL-based software so far, do we see a chance in thinking here?

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[20050608] Eric S. Raymond on GPL and the BSD License
Eric S. Raymond, long time advocat of Linux and the GPL, expressed an interesting insight into the future of Open Source, related licenses and the future users of Open Source at an event recently: ``Basically, we don't need GPL. It's based on the belief that open source software is weak and needs to be protected. With it, we continue injuring ourselves, cutting ourselves from the economic benefits of BSD license.''

I wonder what this means for the future - Linux moving to a different license, people favouring BSD systems more, or a Great New License that will make everyone (well, at least current GPL people :) more happy. At least the number of growing number of licenses arising recently seems to hint at the latter approach.

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[20050603] Flash: Better GPL than proprietary (Updated)
Maybe someone wants to help out at the GPLFlash project, to get us a flash player that's available in source. Sounds like something for Google's SummerOfCode...

Update: Eric Anholt wrote me to have a look at swfdec which is way farther along - they project has taken some major steps towards flash 5/6/7 scripting support. pkgsrc, anyone? :)

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