No to GPLv3

I wrote a couple months ago about why I was reluctant to support GPLv3. Now that the final draft is out, I’m more firmly against it.

OBJECTION 1: The “anti-Tivoization” clauses deal with hardware issues, not software issues. Tivo has released back code changes per the requirements of GPLv2. They haven’t done anything to violate the spirit or letter of GPLv2. All they’ve done is set signatures in their players that allow their software to run. This is no different from what other hardware vendors — including Apple — do. The new restrictions in GPLv3 would prevent other Linux vendors from releasing anything with digital signatures. There are beneficial uses of digital signatures. Instead of fighting for more freedoms, the FSF is fighting against both freedom and against security.

OBJECTION 2: GPLv3’s attack on DRM is completely wrong. DRM’s goal is to protect data, not to prevent users from having access to the software code. Rather than find ways to work with groups like RIAA to protect copyrighted material, FSF has set itself up as the arbiter of what is and isn’t worthy of copyright protection. In a perfect world, people would respect copyrights rather than find new ways to violate them.

A digital audio tune is data, not software. So is a movie that’s been converted from DVD. The copyright protections afforded the contents of the tune or the movie don’t change because someone has digitized them.

The focus of FSF is no longer software, they’re taking on hardware and data. That’s a shame. All they have to do is make a public case for hardware vendors to release specs so open source drivers can be written so everyone has access to new hardware. And instead of taking on manufacturers of video cards, they’re taking shots at Tivo — a user and big supporter of open source. Just goes to show that what’s successful gets attacked by certain quarters.

Also a shame is the fact that many software projects have chosen language like “GPLv2 or greater” in their licenses and have locked themselves in to GPLv3 whether it suits their software and their politics. At least the Linux kernel is GPLv2, period. I don’t know how many people would have to give Linus permission, but I know he’s not inclined to change licenses himself.

My philosophical preference has always been the BSD license. BSD licensing allows full freedom for the developer and the user. It respects that some people may want to lock up certain code for certain reasons (this has benefited Linux and nearly every other OS that has functional TCP/IP, including NT). It doesn’t make demands of the user (e.g., submitting changes back, as Tivo has done to the satisfaction of Linus and even the FSF). It doesn’t make demands of hardware manufacturers. It doesn’t make demands of people who have copyrights on software, books, music, or movies. It just respects that everyone is different and entitled to rights to use, change, etc., code as they see fit rather than as FSF sees fit.

New category: FSF sucks.


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