what the kernel guys got wrong

I just posted about what the kernel guys really want. They are saying some other non-substantive things, but most of these are either solvable or just plain wrong.

  • Virtually everything they are saying about license proliferation is wrong, except for the obvious statement that license proliferation is bad. We’re all agreed on that. GPL v3 increases compatibility with other licenses (apache license would now be compatible, for example, helping solve all the hoops beagle has to jump through currently to use lucene), so gpl v3 helps this problem, not hurts it. They are working hard to make even more licenses compatible, if they can- lots of people are looking at making eclipse license and gplv3 compat, for example.
  • Similarly, allowing GPL to add and remove clauses in an orderly way would actually reduce fragmentation, not increase it as they claim. Sure, you’d get lots of GPL variants- but many other licenses would quickly die away as they became GPL variants (LGPL, for example, will do just this), so the net number of licenses actively being used in new could should stay the same. And if there are 100 licenses, and 90% of them share 95% of their language, we’re way better off than the current situation- where we have 100 licenses, which mostly agree on shared goals, but which share no language and hence are hard to make work with each other. [The shared language things matter- if I find code under a GPL variant, it is a lot easier to convince someone to add or subtract one clause than it is to convince them to change from, say, MPL to GPL (any version.)]
  • They criticize the wording of the patent provision- but some very, very large patent patent portfolio owners have had large teams of lawyers participate in this process, and they’ve been willing to work with the draft. So it seems likely that the patent clause is not nearly as hosed as they think it is. The real thing to watch here is IBM- they are both the biggest contributors to the kernel, and the largest holder of patents in the world. So if they remain involved, then there is a pretty good chance that they think that the patent clause is (at least) salvageable.
  • They completely ignore the many small and real problems that have been solved- the license is now more likely to be upheld by international courts and has a clearer definition of linking, for example.
  • Their complaints about the DRM language are… well, maybe FUD is a little strong, but saying ‘people were confused at the first draft, so we should give up altogether’ is pretty irritating. They should either say flat out ‘we disagree philosophically with the DRM clause’ (which is fine, and honest) or they should work with those who are working hard to clean up the language by giving specific complaints.
  • c’mon, guys- when you say ‘politics’ we all know you mean ‘how we define ‘freedom”, or some variant thereof. Quit playing the linguistic game of calling it ‘politics’.
  • [Later edit: I totally forgot, of course, the most serious disingenousness- the belief that the FSF wasn’t political, and is now political. C’mon. The FSF has been political from day one, guys- everything they are doing now would have been pretty damn predictable from the first day RMS heard about DRM, and the first day someone asked ‘what about this patent?’ on an FSF mailing list. To claim that this is now betraying the trust of people is really pretty silly. Is it in disagreement with what most kernel FLOSS contributors believe? Quite possibly. Is it in disagreement with what the FSF has been advocating for more than a decade? No, not at all. C’mon.]

So yeah… again, a shorter, sweeter, more straightforward declaration discussion would have been preferable. They’ve got a strong core point- people disagree about what the core freedoms are. They don’t need to surround it with groundless claims to substantiate it.