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Linksys and freedom

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  • Arik Baratz
    Hello all I ve just read http://www.forbes.com/2003/10/14/cz_dl_1014linksys.html and I felt so strongly about it that I have submitted the following response
    Message 1 of 5 , Oct 14, 2003
      Hello all

      I've just read http://www.forbes.com/2003/10/14/cz_dl_1014linksys.html and I felt so strongly about it that I have submitted the following response to their comment system:

      Free

      The word Free has two meanings. "Free as in free beer" (which means you get something without paying for it) and "Free as in free speach" (which means that you enjoy some kind of freedom).

      GPL

      The GNU Public License is a software license. Like other licenses, the copyright holder can decide that the conditions to distribute the copyrighted material (source code) will be compliance with the license.

      Unlike a commercial license, the conditions in the GPL are meant to preserve the freedom (Free in the latter form) of the source code.

      One of the conditions set in the GPL is that if you create derivative work of the source code, you have to release your derivative work under the same license.

      Another clause determines that the code protected under the GPL must be available in source code format, for free (not for money free), if it is available in binary form (such as inside a Cisco router).

      These conditions were put there in order to preserve the freedom of the source code.

      What right?

      It is the right of the copyright owner to set conditions for use of their copyrighted material, and failure to comply with those conditions is a license violation. In this case, the various authors of the Linux OS have chosen the GPL as the set of rules, and as a licensee, Cisco has to abide by the license. Not abiding by the license is a violation of the said license.

      The FSF then, as the copyright holder, has a right to use whatever means the law provides in order to make the said violator to comply with the license.

      Linksys (before it was Cisco)

      When the Linksys engineers have opted to use Linux as their operationg system, they did not do it because Linux had a monopoly in the embedded OS market, nor was their hand twisted in any way.

      They chose Linux because it is available, and it is free. They got an OS, which was developed by a collective effort equal to thousands of man-hours, and they got it for free. Yay. More power to them.

      And now those Linksys engineers built a device which includes this OS, and they had to change parts of the OS to make it work for them. Not a problem - that's the intention of the copyright holders. Take it and change it to your heart's content.

      And so they did, and they took that (modified) source and compiled it into binaries and put the binaries in their router and released (sold) it. Again, no problem here. They sold the hardware, for-pay, with GPL-ed software in it.

      What they failed to do was to comply with the GPL and re-release the modified source code - the derivative work. Like it or not, that's one of the conditions set by the GPL, and the GPL is the license under which the copyright holder released the code, and in order to comply with the GPL, that's what they have to do. They heve not.

      The article

      It is unfair to say that the FSF is now forcing these guys to burn down their house. These guys knew full well what they are getting into. They want to have an OS for free. Well, guess what - it comes with strings attached. No, not monetary strings - but you have to comply with the license.

      If Linksys were violating some other company's license, a commercial license, they would go to court and either settle or get a ruling. If indeed they were in violation, they'd lose. They will be ending complying to the license.

      The FSF

      But the FSF, a voluntary organization, does not seek settlements. They seek compliance. They are a bunch of idealists, endowed with the ideals of the well known free software advocate Richard M. Stallman, and what they want is more free software. It hurts their feelings that companies take free (as in speech) software and make it un-free.

      And you know what? They're within their rights.

      "We'd like people to stop selling proprietary software. It's bad for the world," Kuhn says. And he's not saying that because he has some secret agenda. He truely believs that. I have met with Mr. Stallman, and he believes that. I tend to agree, to the most part.

      House burning

      The FSF don't want you to burn down your house, nor do they want you to share it with cloners. If anything, it is you, the license violator, that has taken the FSF's copyrighted code and had your way with it. You were doing it under a license, which you violated.

      The consequences are not that bad. All they have to do is publish the source code on their web site. Linksys are selling hardware. They will continue selling hardware. Some cloners may have it easier for them if they want to clone a Linksys router, but it's still hardware-cloning. It's not as easy as copying a CD.

      Hacking (in the original, non-criminal sense)

      I'd be sorry if Linksys/Cisco will opt to change the OS used for their router. I'd love to have a router I can mess around with, and I will buy their router if I can mess with it. You hear me, Cisco? I will favor your equipment if I can recompile and mess around with your code. I'm just that kind of guy. It is likely that I will add my own code. If I will, and it is useful enough, I may share it with other people who have your routers. I will release the source code, as it is protected under the GPL. If you find it useful, you may incorporate it back into your product, so its usefulness may reach your non-hacker users.

      That's what free software is all about.

      -- Arik
      **********************************************************************
      This email and attachments have been scanned for
      potential proprietary or sensitive information leakage.

      PortAuthority(TM) Server
      Keeping Information Inside
      Vidius, Inc.
      www.vidius.com
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    • Tal Rotbart
      I really liked your comment, Arik! :) Good job! ... From: Arik Baratz [mailto:arikb@vidius.co.il] Sent: Tuesday, October 14, 2003 5:55 PM To: Hackers IL
      Message 2 of 5 , Oct 15, 2003
        I really liked your comment, Arik! :) Good job!

        -----Original Message-----
        From: Arik Baratz [mailto:arikb@...]
        Sent: Tuesday, October 14, 2003 5:55 PM
        To: Hackers IL
        Subject: [hackers-il] Linksys and freedom



        Hello all

        I've just read http://www.forbes.com/2003/10/14/cz_dl_1014linksys.html and I
        felt so strongly about it that I have submitted the following response to
        their comment system:

        Free

        The word Free has two meanings. "Free as in free beer" (which means you get
        something without paying for it) and "Free as in free speach" (which means
        that you enjoy some kind of freedom).

        GPL

        The GNU Public License is a software license. Like other licenses, the
        copyright holder can decide that the conditions to distribute the
        copyrighted material (source code) will be compliance with the license.

        Unlike a commercial license, the conditions in the GPL are meant to preserve
        the freedom (Free in the latter form) of the source code.

        One of the conditions set in the GPL is that if you create derivative work
        of the source code, you have to release your derivative work under the same
        license.

        Another clause determines that the code protected under the GPL must be
        available in source code format, for free (not for money free), if it is
        available in binary form (such as inside a Cisco router).

        These conditions were put there in order to preserve the freedom of the
        source code.

        What right?

        It is the right of the copyright owner to set conditions for use of their
        copyrighted material, and failure to comply with those conditions is a
        license violation. In this case, the various authors of the Linux OS have
        chosen the GPL as the set of rules, and as a licensee, Cisco has to abide by
        the license. Not abiding by the license is a violation of the said license.

        The FSF then, as the copyright holder, has a right to use whatever means the
        law provides in order to make the said violator to comply with the license.

        Linksys (before it was Cisco)

        When the Linksys engineers have opted to use Linux as their operationg
        system, they did not do it because Linux had a monopoly in the embedded OS
        market, nor was their hand twisted in any way.

        They chose Linux because it is available, and it is free. They got an OS,
        which was developed by a collective effort equal to thousands of man-hours,
        and they got it for free. Yay. More power to them.

        And now those Linksys engineers built a device which includes this OS, and
        they had to change parts of the OS to make it work for them. Not a problem -
        that's the intention of the copyright holders. Take it and change it to your
        heart's content.

        And so they did, and they took that (modified) source and compiled it into
        binaries and put the binaries in their router and released (sold) it. Again,
        no problem here. They sold the hardware, for-pay, with GPL-ed software in
        it.

        What they failed to do was to comply with the GPL and re-release the
        modified source code - the derivative work. Like it or not, that's one of
        the conditions set by the GPL, and the GPL is the license under which the
        copyright holder released the code, and in order to comply with the GPL,
        that's what they have to do. They heve not.

        The article

        It is unfair to say that the FSF is now forcing these guys to burn down
        their house. These guys knew full well what they are getting into. They want
        to have an OS for free. Well, guess what - it comes with strings attached.
        No, not monetary strings - but you have to comply with the license.

        If Linksys were violating some other company's license, a commercial
        license, they would go to court and either settle or get a ruling. If indeed
        they were in violation, they'd lose. They will be ending complying to the
        license.

        The FSF

        But the FSF, a voluntary organization, does not seek settlements. They seek
        compliance. They are a bunch of idealists, endowed with the ideals of the
        well known free software advocate Richard M. Stallman, and what they want is
        more free software. It hurts their feelings that companies take free (as in
        speech) software and make it un-free.

        And you know what? They're within their rights.

        "We'd like people to stop selling proprietary software. It's bad for the
        world," Kuhn says. And he's not saying that because he has some secret
        agenda. He truely believs that. I have met with Mr. Stallman, and he
        believes that. I tend to agree, to the most part.

        House burning

        The FSF don't want you to burn down your house, nor do they want you to
        share it with cloners. If anything, it is you, the license violator, that
        has taken the FSF's copyrighted code and had your way with it. You were
        doing it under a license, which you violated.

        The consequences are not that bad. All they have to do is publish the source
        code on their web site. Linksys are selling hardware. They will continue
        selling hardware. Some cloners may have it easier for them if they want to
        clone a Linksys router, but it's still hardware-cloning. It's not as easy as
        copying a CD.

        Hacking (in the original, non-criminal sense)

        I'd be sorry if Linksys/Cisco will opt to change the OS used for their
        router. I'd love to have a router I can mess around with, and I will buy
        their router if I can mess with it. You hear me, Cisco? I will favor your
        equipment if I can recompile and mess around with your code. I'm just that
        kind of guy. It is likely that I will add my own code. If I will, and it is
        useful enough, I may share it with other people who have your routers. I
        will release the source code, as it is protected under the GPL. If you find
        it useful, you may incorporate it back into your product, so its usefulness
        may reach your non-hacker users.

        That's what free software is all about.

        -- Arik
        **********************************************************************
        This email and attachments have been scanned for
        potential proprietary or sensitive information leakage.

        PortAuthority(TM) Server
        Keeping Information Inside
        Vidius, Inc.
        www.vidius.com
        **********************************************************************


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      • Dan Kenigsberg
        ... And then, users will be less in need to upgrade your routers! Oops. So it doesn t necessarily make commercial sense (leaving legal issues asside) to
        Message 3 of 5 , Oct 16, 2003
          On Tue, Oct 14, 2003 at 05:54:50PM +0200, Arik Baratz wrote:

          > likely that I will add my own code. If I will, and it is useful enough, I may
          > share it with other people who have your routers. I will release the source
          > code, as it is protected under the GPL.

          And then, users will be less in need to upgrade your routers!

          Oops.

          So it doesn't necessarily make commercial sense (leaving legal issues asside) to
          release source code.

          --
          Dan Kenigsberg http://www.cs.technion.ac.il/~danken ICQ 162180901
        • Arik Baratz
          ... From: Dan Kenigsberg [mailto:danken@cs.Technion.AC.IL] Subject: Re: [hackers-il] Linksys and freedom ... No, I think it s more akin to firmware upgrade,
          Message 4 of 5 , Oct 16, 2003
            -----Original Message-----
            From: Dan Kenigsberg [mailto:danken@...]
            Subject: Re: [hackers-il] Linksys and freedom

            > On Tue, Oct 14, 2003 at 05:54:50PM +0200, Arik Baratz wrote:
            >
            > > likely that I will add my own code. If I will, and it is useful enough, I may
            > > share it with other people who have your routers. I will release the source
            > > code, as it is protected under the GPL.
            >
            > And then, users will be less in need to upgrade your routers!
            >
            > Oops.
            >
            > So it doesn't necessarily make commercial sense (leaving legal issues asside) to
            > release source code.

            No, I think it's more akin to firmware upgrade, usually given for free from the manufacturer's site anyway.

            -- Arik
          • Gilad Ben-Yossef
            ... Most people don t pay company to get functionality. They pay companies to get assurance. This is why releasing source code makes the perfect sense - you re
            Message 5 of 5 , Oct 16, 2003
              On Thursday 16 October 2003 11:55, Dan Kenigsberg wrote:
              > On Tue, Oct 14, 2003 at 05:54:50PM +0200, Arik Baratz wrote:
              > > likely that I will add my own code. If I will, and it is useful enough, I
              > > may share it with other people who have your routers. I will release the
              > > source code, as it is protected under the GPL.
              >
              > And then, users will be less in need to upgrade your routers!
              >
              > Oops.
              >
              > So it doesn't necessarily make commercial sense (leaving legal issues
              > asside) to release source code.

              Most people don't pay company to get functionality. They pay companies to get
              assurance. This is why releasing source code makes the perfect sense - you're
              creating a market for vouching to the quality of a product based on said
              source code.

              Gilad

              --
              Gilad Ben-Yossef <gilad@...>
              Codefidence. A name you can trust (tm)
              http://www.codefidence.com
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