Jim Delong on the New and Improved GPL, from CNET

by on May 3, 2007 · 12 comments

So nmuch for the ‘new and improved’ GPL, by James V. DeLong, from CNET:

In the month since the release of the third draft of the Free Software Foundation’s GPLv3, much of the open-source community has been oddly incommunicado.

Slashdot and GrokLaw, the major homes for the community’s individual members, bulge with posts. But reaction from the corporate wing of the movement–starting with its semi-official spokesman, the Linux Foundation–is silence.

Why the companies hit the mute button just when one would expect a coordinated chorus of huzzahs is a matter for speculation, but here is a hypothesis: Maybe because after two years of drafting, redrafting and re-re-redrafting, the product finally went to the corporate general counsels, and these folks promptly went ballistic over the ambiguities, uncertainties and risks.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    If GPLv3 and DRM are incompatible, then no one will be able to add DRM to a Linux system, whatever Linus Torvalds decides about putting the kernel under v3.

    Does any major DRM vendor offer a Linux client? I can’t think of one. If not, then why would this issue have any effect on Linux adoption? Linux isn’t widely deployed on the desktop, and the people who do adopt Linux on the desktop are the sorts of people who aren’t going to purchased DRMed content in any event.

    It’s particularly puzzling to invoke cell phones as an example, given that the copyright office has specifically granted a DMCA exemption for cell phones.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    If GPLv3 and DRM are incompatible, then no one will be able to add DRM to a Linux system, whatever Linus Torvalds decides about putting the kernel under v3.

    Does any major DRM vendor offer a Linux client? I can’t think of one. If not, then why would this issue have any effect on Linux adoption? Linux isn’t widely deployed on the desktop, and the people who do adopt Linux on the desktop are the sorts of people who aren’t going to purchased DRMed content in any event.

    It’s particularly puzzling to invoke cell phones as an example, given that the copyright office has specifically granted a DMCA exemption for cell phones.

  • http://metapundit.net/sections/blog metapundit

    Geez. Even granting all Delong’s assumptions about DRM and the GPL that 2nd to last paragraph is ridiculous:

    In fact, the addition of these murky provisions creates huge uncertainties about the impact of the license on content creators’ ability to incorporate DRM. Can you imagine an IT company that risks having to inform the maker of a $100 million movie that it just gave away the creator’s right to protect the work

    Let’s say he’s right and you can’t use GPL’ed software to manipulate DRM’ed content. In what way could an IT company “give away the creator’s right to protect the work?” The GPL can’t reassign the IP rights to the movie, it can only make illegal certain technological means of distribution. In theory the FSF could sue the IT company under such a scenario, but the creator’s rights to the work are completely unaffected.

    Delong has to know this. He may be right that the GPLv3 is badly written (I’m not qualified to debate this) but his closing shot is FUD par excellence…

  • http://metapundit.net/sections/blog metapundit

    Ah, ok, on further re-reading, that’s not what he’s saying. He’s saying you might ship a DRM protected file in some way (GPL’ed software on the hardware of your PMP or whatever) that causes you to lose the ability to sue people under the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA (obviously you could still sue them if they used the content in IP infringing ways).

    Hmmm. I guess I’m a little underwhelmed by that argument, given that I want to do away with the anti-circumvention provisions all together as a matter of law. The GPL is attempting by contract to do what the FSF has so far been unable to do by legislation and I’m not sure what I think about that strategy… I still think that Delong’s piece is a little on the FUD’ish side but it malicious as I thought it was on first reading.

  • http://metapundit.net/sections/blog metapundit

    Geez. Even granting all Delong’s assumptions about DRM and the GPL that 2nd to last paragraph is ridiculous:

    In fact, the addition of these murky provisions creates huge uncertainties about the impact of the license on content creators’ ability to incorporate DRM. Can you imagine an IT company that risks having to inform the maker of a $100 million movie that it just gave away the creator’s right to protect the work

    Let’s say he’s right and you can’t use GPL’ed software to manipulate DRM’ed content. In what way could an IT company “give away the creator’s right to protect the work?” The GPL can’t reassign the IP rights to the movie, it can only make illegal certain technological means of distribution. In theory the FSF could sue the IT company under such a scenario, but the creator’s rights to the work are completely unaffected.

    Delong has to know this. He may be right that the GPLv3 is badly written (I’m not qualified to debate this) but his closing shot is FUD par excellence…

  • http://booksdofurnisharoom.blogspot.com X. Trapnel

    You’d think a piece whose entire framing device is “the corporate counsels must hate it” might actually, you know, include some helpful quotes from various corporate counsel to substantiate the author’s boilerplate FUD. The fact that DeLong either couldn’t get such quotes or was too lazy to bother speaks volumes.

    Snark aside, yawn.

  • http://metapundit.net/sections/blog metapundit

    Ah, ok, on further re-reading, that’s not what he’s saying. He’s saying you might ship a DRM protected file in some way (GPL’ed software on the hardware of your PMP or whatever) that causes you to lose the ability to sue people under the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA (obviously you could still sue them if they used the content in IP infringing ways).

    Hmmm. I guess I’m a little underwhelmed by that argument, given that I want to do away with the anti-circumvention provisions all together as a matter of law. The GPL is attempting by contract to do what the FSF has so far been unable to do by legislation and I’m not sure what I think about that strategy… I still think that Delong’s piece is a little on the FUD’ish side but it malicious as I thought it was on first reading.

  • http://booksdofurnisharoom.blogspot.com X. Trapnel

    You’d think a piece whose entire framing device is “the corporate counsels must hate it” might actually, you know, include some helpful quotes from various corporate counsel to substantiate the author’s boilerplate FUD. The fact that DeLong either couldn’t get such quotes or was too lazy to bother speaks volumes.

    Snark aside, yawn.

  • http://linuxworld.com/community/ Don Marti

    So what about the corporate lawyers who have been involved in the discussion committes for the GPLv3 process, representing companies including Apple, Cisco, EMC, Google, HP, IBM, Intel, Motorola, Sony, Sun, NEC, and Yahoo? Many of these companies have DRM businesses, and all, of course, hold patents.

    Were these committee particpants (1) not paying attention or (2) finding problems that were potential deal-breakers and just not reporting them to headquarters?

  • http://linuxworld.com/community/ Don Marti

    So what about the corporate lawyers who have been involved in the discussion committes for the GPLv3 process, representing companies including Apple, Cisco, EMC, Google, HP, IBM, Intel, Motorola, Sony, Sun, NEC, and Yahoo? Many of these companies have DRM businesses, and all, of course, hold patents.

    Were these committee particpants (1) not paying attention or (2) finding problems that were potential deal-breakers and just not reporting them to headquarters?

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel

    Don, any corporate counsel who publicly comments on GPL3 must be very confident in what is said, or very idiotic. Of course, the license is not even finalized yet, but you can surmise corporate counsel opinion on a process where Stallman holds the GPL pen.

    Sorry, but I see coroporations as all the same (yawn:)- they look for profit/growth, guard their back (ahem, bank), and they speak when it helps them. Interpret the silence over GPL3 along these lines.

    Also, Don, you post a pretty good list of corporations that deploy FOSS. Yes, these firms also hold patents- lending to the obvious conclusion that firms can support FOSS and patents at the same time (I always thought so). So what could possibly curb further proliferation of FOSS? Your answer- Stallman.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel

    Don, any corporate counsel who publicly comments on GPL3 must be very confident in what is said, or very idiotic. Of course, the license is not even finalized yet, but you can surmise corporate counsel opinion on a process where Stallman holds the GPL pen.

    Sorry, but I see coroporations as all the same (yawn:)- they look for profit/growth, guard their back (ahem, bank), and they speak when it helps them. Interpret the silence over GPL3 along these lines.

    Also, Don, you post a pretty good list of corporations that deploy FOSS. Yes, these firms also hold patents- lending to the obvious conclusion that firms can support FOSS and patents at the same time (I always thought so). So what could possibly curb further proliferation of FOSS? Your answer- Stallman.

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