HP's Martin Fink arguing for copyleft licenses

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Sun Nov 1 21:54:41 UTC 2015

On Sunday 1. November 2015 21.41.47 Hugo Roy wrote:
> Hi Fabian,
> ↪ 2015-11-01 Sun 12:20, Fabian Keil <freebsd-listen at fabiankeil.de>:
> > Mr. Fink also seems to knowingly conflate the Linux kernel with the free
> > software community in general, for example when he spreads the FUD about
> > DTrace and ZFS which according to him can't be used by "the community".
> In that case, it's not far fetched considering the licenses for ZFS
> was apparently designed with the intention to make it incompatible
> with major existing licenses used in large shares by the free software
> community. (That's what I have heard repeatedly anyway.)

I would have to revisit the discussions and opinions about this from the 
fairly-well-known people who once worked for Sun. I don't think it was only my 
perception that various factions within Sun didn't want to see Linux enriched 
by code that supposedly gave Solaris an advantage. An impression did appear to 
build up over the years that Linux had eclipsed Solaris and that this was seen 
as undeserved.

Of course, the "success, but only on our terms" attitude that those factions 
nurtured ultimately resulted in the end of Sun and some of those people now 
having to work for Oracle. Similar inputs are presumably feeding the recently-
reported malaise in the Apache OpenOffice project and some latent antagonism 
towards LibreOffice, where you get to see what happens when people are willing 
to drop the "only on our terms" bit and work with the community.

I personally think that Sun could have played a masterstroke by relicensing 
Solaris and accompanying technologies under GPLv3 or later. That would have 
shown up the GPLv2-only advocates in the Linux kernel community and possibly 
pushed Linux to become GPLv3-compatible. But as Hugo points out, there were 
patents on ZFS that the corporate hierarchy presumably wanted to withhold, and 
those factions presumably felt that all of this would have been "giving away 
the farm" or whatever. (One also wonders what influence some corporate 
contributors behind Linux have had in keeping it away from GPLv3 for similar 

Of course, relicensing a large, previously-proprietary product is a huge 
challenge. It arguably worked with StarOffice/OpenOffice and with Java, both 
with existing licences. And it is possible that the CDDL helps get around 
sudden (copyright and patent) licensing surprises and the need for binary 
blobs. But GPL compatibility is a pretty good measure of how reusable code is 
likely to be in other Free Software projects and is a desirable property even 
when dealing only with permissive licences. When something is not GPL-
compatible, one wonders what kind of weird clause is in the licence and how it 
might affect further development and distribution.

Myself, I am a big supporter of copyleft licences, but I don't need someone in 
a corporation to legitimise my own preferences, particularly if they tell 
everybody else to do one thing while doing something different themselves 
(producing and advocating the use of proprietary software).


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