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The ethics of the BSD license...
littleman




msg:915250
 10:03 am on Jan 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

Below is a copy of the BSD license:
Copyright (c) <YEAR>, <OWNER>
All rights reserved.

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

* Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
* Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.
* Neither the name of the <ORGANIZATION> nor the names of its contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without specific prior written permission.

THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS "AS IS" AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE COPYRIGHT OWNER OR CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

The lack of restriction of use of code released under the BSD license opens up a huge opportunity for proprietary software to reuse code without releasing the derivatives code. As you all know this is a huge opportunity for companies to piggyback off of the hard work of volunteer developers without having to contribute to open software in any way.

Examples:
1)OS X, it is based on BSD but Apple modified the code and is selling it with all the restrictions it chooses.
2)According to daemonnews.org [daemonnews.org] MS uses BSD code in FTP.EXE, and in the IP stack.

And who knows what else they are using...
The thing is that they are not violating any laws in using BSD code in a closed source product.

In contrast the GNU GPL license:
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.)

Seems to me that the BSD license is self defeating.

 

gethan




msg:915251
 11:05 am on Jan 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

> Seems to me that the BSD license is self defeating.

Agreed ... why has BSD gone for this approach? [linuxdevices.com...]

Shows that we're not alone in this view.

The BSD philosophy seems to hold that creating and giving away code, then seeing it used by others, is victory and reward enough. But most of the GPL supporters disapproved of allowing "others" to close off source code and hide enhancements.

Which is what MS, Apple and others are doing.

I wonder how many of these big companies are treating GPL code the same way? (illegally) - the problem would be proving it.

It does happen - I worked with a guy who worked on the Samba project in his spare time. A (small) company had actually been selling part of it, (can't remember which) passing it off as their own. They hadn't even removed the GPL licence! (included still in the headers I think). The GPL lawyers sent letters and that was that. A company such as MS could probably do a much better job of covering thier tracks.

bird




msg:915252
 7:06 pm on Jan 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

>> Seems to me that the BSD license is self defeating.

>Agreed ... why has BSD gone for this approach?

Simply put, the BSD license places the benefit of the users in front of the ideological position of the original author. Why does it surprise you to see people giving a present to their fellow humans without attaching any strings to it?

windsor




msg:915253
 7:36 pm on Jan 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

You folks need to remember where the BSD license came from.

BSD is a TLA (Three Letter Acronym) for "Berkeley Software Distribution", meaning University of California at Berkeley ("UCB"). As with most educational institutions and projects they produce, their code is to be given out for public consumption. UC doesn't care if the code is used commercially, in fact, they encourage it -- guess where most money comes from to fund such projects? Their only stipulation is (well, "was") that you *must* include credit for "Regents of the University of California" for being the copyright holder of some of the code. UC released an announcement several years ago that you didn't have to include specifically "Regents of ..." in your code any more, but most folks still do it to show where it came from. Get in touch with a copyright attorney if you plan to exercise this. :)

The mindset is completely different from the GPL/GNU folks. They completely understand that the code can be used elsewhere, *but* in most cases, the copyright notice must remain intact. Therefore the authors are still getting credit for the work they put into it.

It is ironic that GPL fans whine about the BSD license allowing the copyright owner to lose control of their work. If you think about it, once your code is under GPL, you will never again control distribution of it. Your code is now "public domain" with the stipulation that it always remain in the public domain. You can only bundle it and sell it for real money if you also give away the "crown jewels" (source code) with it. Of course, as with Linus Torvalds, this is the *intent*, but some folks like to get paid directly for their hard work.

The BSD vs. GPL issue is a very common religious war, btw. It rates up there with the "emacs vs. vi" war. Instead of ragging on one, you need to accept that they have a different purpose and collide in the "open source" world.

Regarding BSD code in Microsoft products -- yes, it's well-known in the BSD world that the Microsoft command-line "ftp.exe" basically ported the BSD ftp.c over to DOS. Nobody in the BSD camp has issue with it, really.

Regarding OS X and BSD code -- If you think about it, the parts that were free for Apple to use are *still* free. You can still grab NetBSD and FreeBSD and have your way with it. Apple is controlling their final product, which entails significant modifications to the *BSD code. The kernel is effectively FreeBSD, which required significant work on Apple's part to get it to run on PPC processors. The GUI itself is mostly proprietary (NeXT) code.

Those that abuse the GPL need to be strung up for it as should anyone who voilates any software copyrights. ADC (my former employer) used linux (Redhat/PPC, specifically) in one of their ATM products. To talk to their custom hardware, they wrote their own LKMs. From my interpretation of the GPL license, those LKMs should be also GPLd since they are based on the GPLd kernel.

Anyway, that's that, I hope this has been somewhat helpful.

Rob++

john316




msg:915254
 7:48 pm on Jan 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

I'm pretty sure that whatever apple did with BSD can be downloaded free in the form of Darwin. It looks like they kept the whole thing open, including source.

[opensource.apple.com...]

gethan




msg:915255
 8:47 pm on Jan 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

Windsor - thanks for the info - really explains a few things.

I don't want to turn this into a GPL vs. BSD debate ... I've only ever really approached this from idlely wondering before.

john: I'm glad Apple are using the code responsibly. I'm sure this is the way it was originally intended.

Bird: > Why does it surprise you to see people giving a present to their fellow humans without attaching any strings to it?

Because if I give a gift - I want it to be used responsibly for the good of all, not as a tool to ruin things I believe in, or as something that can be exploited by the mega-corporations to further increase their mega profits. Which I think is the root difference between GPL/BSD - optimism vs. realism (a little on the pesimistic side maybe).

Old arguments I'm sure - I don't hang out in Linux/BSD forums enough.

bird




msg:915256
 9:46 pm on Jan 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

Which I think is the root difference between GPL/BSD - optimism vs. realism (a little on the pesimistic side maybe).

You don't explicitly say which side you consider to be realistic, but it sounds like you you mean the GPL. I'm afraid I can't follow you there.

I try to make a living from writing and selling software, but I estimate that I am giving away between 20 and 30% of all sofware I have ever written (not counting rough hacks) for free, most of it in source. I normally use a pythonic license (very similar to the BSD one) when I publish something that way.

Why? Because that's the realistic thing to do. If your cited evil mega-corporation wants to use my stuff in their mega-profitable closed source application, then they'll do that in any case, and I will never have a recourse against it that I can afford. On the other hand, I use a ton of free software in my own closed source products, and my one-man-business wouldn't exist if I couldn't do so. A community has given that possibility to me, and I want to give that community something back. I do this because I think this is the right thing to do, and not because I want to push some idealistic concepts about saving the world through a software license mechanism. If you download a program I wrote that I am distributing for free, then all I care about is that you'll be happy with it. Yes, I know I'm a weirdo. ;)

littleman




msg:915257
 10:02 pm on Jan 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

John, I really don't think Apple has given much back at all. As Rob stated the main enhancements is the GUI, which has not been released -- but that is a side issue I guess.

Thanks for your input Rob. It is always good reading. There is room for both licenses, and I guess it is a good thing that developers have choice. Still I am amazed at the scope of projects that out there that are developed under the GPL -- the license seems to dominate the open source landscape.

Take a look at:
[freshmeat.net...]

BTW, my favorite WM [fluxbox.sourceforge.net] is released under the MIT license (which looks about the same as the BSD) but it is based on code taken form a GPL WM [blackbox.alug.org]. I didn't even know that could happen. :)

MaliciousDan




msg:915258
 10:19 pm on Jan 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

Just because software is released under one license doesn't mean it can't also be released under a different license.

It's not entirely uncommon to have multiple licensing options available for the same code, for many of the SEO's I'm sure most of you have seen at least one program where you could buy a single user license or a server license. The GPL basically restricts some commercial use of their code, it doesn't mean they have given up the option to release the code under another license (it just restricts you from doing that).

Some of the common software licenses out there are the ones Sun uses for Java, it's basically royalty free use except for terrorists and building nuclear devices (well, I'd have to double check but it was something along those lines). Then you have the GPL license used by linux, the intent is to keep that software free while allowing others to use it, to create other free software (GPL doesn't mean the author can't release the same software under a different license, such as one suitable for commercial use), and then you have some of the MySQL licenses (which may have changed since their move to being more open source) where you could use their software free until you wanted to distribute their software with yours or use it commercially. Each of these serves a purpose that makes perfect sense in their own situations, but obviously one license won't fit all. I appreciate peoples efforts to release commercially reusable code, just like I appreciate many of the free services available on the net... true I might not be paying someone for the use of that code/software, but that doesn't mean they aren't getting something out of it either (possibly a little job experience for their resume or some other kind of promotion).

mikie




msg:915259
 10:37 pm on Jan 31, 2002 (gmt 0)

The license agreement from BSD makes sense if you understand the basics of USC Title 17 law(patent law, which copyrights falls under). If someone publishes software without a license agreement, they will retain all rights provided under USC Title 17 law. The license agreement allows the copyright owner to modify these rights either way. The BSD changes the default rights to allow others to distribute the software free of charge, but they must post a notice that BSD owns the software. "Free" software helps promote an organization or products that they hold.

littleman




msg:915260
 2:28 am on Feb 12, 2002 (gmt 0)

I just found a good read on the subject [linuxgazette.com].

windsor




msg:915261
 10:25 pm on Feb 12, 2002 (gmt 0)

eh, It's rather obvious that this guy is a GPL fan trying to sound like he's not a GPL fan. (with one exception, his complaint of the use of "Free/freedom" in the GPL community)

He really doesn't do the BSD license any justice in that article.

Rob++

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