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V3 is for Vendetta

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Sep. 26th, 2006 | 10:47 pm

Far be it from me to disagree with Linus's second or third hand knowledge of FSF's motives regarding GPLv3. But I believe that his lack of first hand knowledge, due to his deliberate choice not to take part in any aspect of the GPLv3 process, occasionally leads him to take his own biased opinions for granted, ignoring that they are based on indirect evidence in the best case, and on hearsay in the worst. While the drama on Groklaw is going on, there is this little interview Linus gave in the last days, that contains a very bogus claim about the motives for FSF's efforts regarding compatibility with the Apache license. Linus apparently says that


"one of the stated goals of the FSF with the GPLv3 was to expressly design the new license to be compatible with the Apache license. That sounds like a great thing, doesn't it? It sounds nice. 'Compatible' is such a nice word. Let's just all sing songs about it around the camp-fire.

But if you actually look behind all the nice words, it's just a polite way of saying, 'We want to hijack the code of those projects that use the Apache license, too, and turn that code into GPLv3. Because the definition of 'compatible with the GPLv3' is strictly one-way compatibility. You can convert Apache-licensed projects into the GPLv3, but not the other way. Doesn't sound quite as much as a "Kumbaya" moment any more when you put it that way, now, does it?"


Now, I have the advantage over Linus to actually have some first hand knowledge about those issues. I have been talking to members of the FSF, and FSF's projects, as well as the ASF some time ago, to help figuring out what the actual compatibility issues between their respective licenses were, so that they could be amicably resolved in a future version. While I admire Linus courageously standing up for Open Source against the evil, strumming Free Software hijackers of BSD-ish code bases, I'd like to point out that GPL-compatibility has been a concern for the ASF since Apache license 1.1, at least, and in the past it was largely communication issues that prevented that from happening.

The Apache foundation has no beef with anyone using their code. They are happy to let others use their code in free as well as non-free software, as long the relatively simple requirements of the Apache license are followed, no matter what agenda those users have. With GPLv2, there were plausible scenarios where the requirements in the patent retaliation clause of Apache License 2.0 could be seen as conflicting with the absolute prohibition on additional restrictions in GPLv2.

That's now being fixed, thanks to the involvement of the Apache foundation in the GPLv3 process. There is a nice interview with Apache's (great) VP of legal affairs, Cliff Schmidt, about the process, license compatibility, and all that - a first hand account that beats Linus' funny, though unfortunately ill-informed rants.

In addition, I highly appreciate the twist of logic required to claim that the GPLv3 facilitates 'hijacking' of Apache code, while Linus' kernel under GPLv2 contains a good deal (200+ files according to Linus' count in January) of 'hijacked' BSD licensed code.

I, therefore, welcome Linus contribution to the most hilarious flame war of the month. The competition this month is very tough, with Hannum vs. NetBSD, Schilling vs. Debian, Schilling vs. Wodim, Debian vs. AJ, and Debian vs. Dunc-Tank.

But it seems that Linus is determined to outkook everyone in the coming days. :)

Update: Futility! I declare this Debian Bug Tracking System thread the winner for today. Sorry Linus, you'll have to try much harder to top that.

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