16 Jul 2000 samth   » (Journeyer)

I continue to be bad about posting diaries here. But I have some free time, so here goes nothing.

More GPL/QPL/KDE Insanity

Recently, Troll Tech employee Eirik Eng wrote an editorial on Freshmeat purporting to rebut Joseph Carter's article on the same subject. Since then, James Ramsey has posted a response, outlining again why the QPL conflicts with the GPL, and why this makes distribution of binary forms of KDE illegal. So the debate continues to rage.

However, the people who argue the KDE/Troll Tech side seem to have an unfortunate desire to cheat in their interpretation of both copyright law and of the GPL. I really wish that people arguing this topic (and other license topics) would take the time to read 17 USC (the copyright code). As a DVD/DeCSS activist, I've gotten plenty of opportunity already.

The claim that KDE people seem to be making is that KDE binaries are not derived works of Qt. This is untrue, but since the QPL does not place restrictions on derived works, this is irrelevant. But KDE binaries are clearly derived works of KDE. No amount of quibbiling will avoid that conclusion. In case someone wanted to try, here is the definition of derived work, from 17 USC 101 [Definitions]:

A ''derivative work'' is a work based upon one or more
preexisting works.
The claim that KDE is not based on either the KDE or the Qt source is simply false.

Therefore, by the GPL Section 2b

You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that
in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program
or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge
to all third parties under the terms of this License. 
Therefore, the source code to all parts of the KDE binary must be published under the terms of "this License", that is, the GPL. Since Qt is part of the KDE binary (by any reasonable definition, including the one in 17 USC 101), Qt must be distributed according to the terms of the GPL. QED

NB: Matthias Ettrich, KDE developer, claimed in reponse to James Ramsey's artcle that they were basing their interpretation of the GPL on the statement on Lineo's statements on the issue. First, basing your copyright law analysis on a statment on a webpage by a company that has a vested intrest in limiting the GPL is not that intelligent. Second, Lineo is simply wrong. Reading their page in light of the quoted section of 17 USC 101 shows this.


AbiWord development continues to progress apace. Important developments include:
  • List Support. Martin Sevior, coder extrordinare, has added list support for AbiWord. It's fairly far advanced, as well. This is the biggest user-visible feature that we are waiting on for 1.0.
  • BeOS port. Several people have started submitting patches for the Be port, making me optimistic that it will be at least close enought to parity soon that we can make that a 1.0 release goal.
  • Smart Quotes. We now properly handle Word's Smart Quotes, and soon people will be able to use them in AbiWord also. Lots of props to Bill Carpenter, for implementing Smart Quote in a way that is significantly smarter than the way it works in Word.
  • Lots of patches. As the only person who really looks at the mail that gets sent to patches@abisource.com I have been fairly busy working to get everyone's work integrated into the tree. (I have to admit to liking this problem.) Fortunately, our liberal policy with regards to CVS write access means that if someone submits a whole lot, they will eventually not have to wait for me anymore. Also, CVS itself makes my life 10^9 times easier. For those who haven't, you should read Karl Fogel's book, Open Source Development with CVS. It taught me so much, and caused me to realize what a powerful and flexible tool CVS really is.
Everyone who is interested in development should read the AbiWord Weekly News, written by yours truly.

Come help us out as we push towards 1.0


Played in my first Ultimate Frisbee hat tournament yesterday. In a hat tournament (for those of you who don't know) teams are randomly drawn, and then basically left to themselves to organize. Well, our team didn't look like much of a powerhouse at the beginning of the day. But we (by now named Fruity Pebbles) played with lots of spirit, and lots of heart, and we really wanted it, so before we knew it, we were in the semi-finals. There the match became really tough, and it ended with a final score of 10-9, after the other team had made a huge comeback to get to 9-9 from 8-6. The final point was scored on a huck from me to another one of the 5 guys over 6ft on our team. So, on to the finals, where we met a team that was truly stacked with experienced players. We kept with them for a while, but eventually they were just too much. At the end, we got fired up and tried for a comeback, but by that time they were up by too much. Well, we were very happy with second place.

The Tragedy of the Commons (response to raph)

I disagree that there is as much modification from the traditional theory to applying it to free software. In the traditional model, there is

The potential for network effects. If I plant grass and you water it, we can do much more than either of us alone. Division of labor is applicable in a surprising number of places.

The ability of one person to benifit everyone. Planting more grass on grazed over patches (in the most classic model of the commons as a cow pasture) is extremely inexpensive. Yet it would benifit everyone. It would probably even benifit the doer more than it would cost, in the long run. Why, then, is it never done.

  • No one thinks long term. While Keynes is right that "In the long run, we're all dead," such thinking misses the point. There is clearly a potential for thinking much too short term, and it is precisely this mentality that leads the cattle herder not to plant more grass. The cost is all upfront, but the benifit is spread over multiple years.
  • People are lazy. Everyone figures that since it's so easy, and will help everyone, that someone else will do it for them, allowing them to benifit with no cost. This is the real tragedy of the commons, and it is what people accuse Sun (for example) of attempting to do with the SCSL, that is, get other people to do their work for them.

Finally, free software can be a "pure Toc", since even in a classic ToC scenario, people can stil be motivated to contribute for a number of possible reasons:

  • Fun. Lots of things can be fun, even planting grass. This is a major motivator in the free software world.
  • Concern for the commons. This is what motivates people like the Sierra Club. Software in the Public Interest is a canditate for this status.
  • Altruism, the desire to help other people. The FSF could be considered to fall into this category. Note: the distinction between this and the previous are usually blurry.
  • Recognition of long term benifit. Usually, work you put into the commons helps you in the long term. The collapse of the commons certianly does not. Free software mostly just accellerates this benifit.

Well, there's my entry in the I'm more verbose than schoen contest.

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