The folks looking after the general public license (GPL) are fond of portraying themselves as the humble shepherds of the free and open source software movement. Their job, among other things, is to provide an open and transparent means for protecting the freedom to review, copy, tinker with and redistribute code. So fervent is …
The slant and bias of this article is obvious, but the icing on the cake is the mention of contract law in the closing paragraph - the GPL *is not a contract* as anyone with even a passing interest in the area knows, and has know for more than a decade, now. It is a *licence*, backed by *copyright law*, *not* contract law.
Free or Libre?
There seems a little confusion here between free (speech) and free (beer). Whilst I'm sure you understand the difference it isn't made all that clear from the article. I agree the cost of $7000 seems a lot, but then I generally think that anything that describes itself as a seminar as pretty worthless. I also agree that if the GPL (v3) requires that level of understanding then it isn't terribly well written - but that's never stopped a license before...
The underlying thread of this article though suggests that an organisation that calls itself 'Free' shouldn't be charging. This is wrong. The 'Free' is all about the freedom to tinker with, alter or distribute the code - it's nothing to with money.
If you really believe about the 'carefully selected' clients, then you probably enter all the competitions where you are a 'carefully selected' entrant, and more fool you.
If some suckers are going to pay $7000 for a seminar, good on 'em - they'll be supporting Free Software. If they're lawyers it's probably only the equivalent of one lunch bill anyway.
Waste of Time
A short list of interesting points entirely missed by the writer of this article:
* The distinction between a license and a contract;
* The distinction between free speech and free beer;
* The differences between GPLv3 and previous versions of the GPL;
* The likely uptake of GPLv3 by the free software community;
* The implications of GPLv3 compatibility with the DFSG/OSD.
Only someone new to the field trying to be deliberately pig-headed could conceive of a GPLv3 article which doesn't touch on any of the above points. What we got was an article loaded with superficial rhetoric and light on actual facts.
I'm trying desperately to stop myself from launching into a line-by-line critique of this diatribe. Boiling it down, the only point of the article is that legal advice costs money. Stop the presses.
Accuracy vs Precision
I think we could all benefit from a little logic refresher: specifically, the difference between accuracy and precision. Simply put, accuracy is whether you hit the mark, while precision is how well-defined (or small) the mark you hit is. For example, "Pi is just above 3" is an accurate statement, but it's not as precise as "Pi is approximately 3.14159".
Here's another example:
A contract is a legal agreement between two or more parties. (I know there's more to it than that, but I'm going for accuracy not precision here.)
A license agreement is a _contract_ with respect to a work protected by patent, copyright, trademark, or other laws. (There's your precision for you!)
So Mr. Goodin was right when he called the GPL a contract, he just wasn't being very precise. But "Idiot*" was wrong when he said a license was backed by copyright law and not contract law. A license is backed by copyright law AND contract law. Licenses (GPL included) often include terms such as limitations of liabilities and of warranties for specific purposes which are not covered by copyright law.
"Free or Libre" and Matt Kern both raised some good points, although I disagree with their interpretation of the article and its purpose. I don't think the article was really about the money (although that was the hook), and I don't believe the Mr. Goodin should be required to recap the entire history and current state of GPLv3 (interested parties who don't already know can google -- oops -- "search the web for" that.)
What I see as the point of this article is that the actions of the SFLC seem to imply that GPLv3 is much more complicated than v2, and that this could be a problem for a document which has historically been perceived as an attempt to simplify licensing.
Personally, I see this as a reflection of the larger legal environment: it's legally and politically more expedient to create special exceptions and complicate law rather than to retool existing law to make it simpler and more logically consistent. Consequently contracts such as GPLv3 have to be more complicated as well.
*I don't necessarily think he's an idiot, and I'm just using "he" as a neuter pronoun, because he didn't bother leaving a name.
Quality Counts in a world of cheap and nasty
"Attendees "are going to get from the horse's mouth what the horse is going to do to enforce this new code."
Most other FOSS curmudgeons declined to grumble on the record, insisting that their comments would only increase the chances that their clients would be targeted by the FSF and SFLC. With the veil of anonymity, however, they suggested the $7,000 price tag - about five times the going rate of other legal seminars - amounted to little more than protection money.
Large companies professing their love for open source in public will want to go ahead and send a few lawyers to this conference for educational, political and back-rubbing due diligence."
QuITe. And to get from the horse's mouth what the horse is going to do to enforce new code to protect money, would suggest that $7,000 would be far too cheap and much better as £.007m.
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