back to article Bundling ZFS and Linux is impossible says Richard Stallman

Free Software Foundation president and Gnu Public Licence (GNU GPL) author Richard Stallman has weighed in on the spat over whether Ubuntu can legally include ZFS in Linux, with a resounding “No!” Stallman has issued a statement he says “.... explains some issues about the meaning and enforcement of the GNU General Public …

  1. Paul Johnston
    IT Angle

    Question

    Illegal or impossible, not sure they are the same.

    1. boltar Silver badge

      Re: Question

      "Illegal or impossible, not sure they are the same."

      Either way, few people care now what Stallman thinks. Life is a lot more naunced that his rather black and white way of seeing the world. Linux will go in the direction that Linus and the users want it to go in, which almost certainly won't be the way this purist wants.

      1. Sam Liddicott

        Re: Question

        ...and yet people care about whether or not people care about what Stallman thinks.

        Whichever way Linux goes, it's going to be under the GPL2 for a very long time, they'll be no nuances there whatever your black and white thinking would lead us to believe.

        1. boltar Silver badge

          Re: Question

          "Whichever way Linux goes, it's going to be under the GPL2 for a very long time, "

          You think? It would be fairly simple to divide the kernel up into GPL and non-GPL sections. In fact IMO that would be a good thing though YMMV.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @boltar - Re: Question

            Problem is not to divide the kernel, it's how to combine the GPL and non-GPL pieces.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: @boltar - Question

              So how is this any different from, say, the non-free graphics drivers nVidia and AMD provide to power their graphics cards in Linux? Is it the fact it's designed as a baseline filesystem and therefore has to be low-level and integrated into the kernel (even as a module--kernel modules have to match the kernel so are part of the tree) to do that that's the issue?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                @Charles 9 - Re: @boltar - Question

                It's a piece of cake: no Linux distro is allowed to distribute Nvidia binary drivers. End-user is the one who actually search for, downloads and installs the driver and this is compliance bothe with GPL and Nvidia proprietary licenses. It it inconvenient but GPL crowd also respects other licenses too.

                Remember, we're talking about the permission to distribute not the permission to use.

                1. bazza Silver badge

                  Re: @Charles 9 - @boltar - Question

                  It's a piece of cake: no Linux distro is allowed to distribute Nvidia binary drivers. End-user is the one who actually search for, downloads and installs the driver and this is compliance bothe with GPL and Nvidia proprietary licenses. It it inconvenient but GPL crowd also respects other licenses too.

                  Remember, we're talking about the permission to distribute not the permission to use.

                  That doesn't sound quite right. No licence can prevent one exercising one's right to free speech. Otherwise i couldn't mix GPL code with, on the same CD, the works of Shakespeare, a list of English words or indeed the file allocation tables off the media itself.. That would clearly be nuts.

                  Clearly you can distribute GPL licensed software alongside non-GPL files, no matter what the GPL says.

                  1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                    Re: @Charles 9 - @boltar - Question

                    "That doesn't sound quite right. No licence can prevent one exercising one's right to free speech. Otherwise i couldn't mix GPL code with, on the same CD, the works of Shakespeare, a list of English words or indeed the file allocation tables off the media itself.. That would clearly be nuts."

                    Um, the license is related to copyright, and copyright IS a legally-erected restriction on the First Amendment: namely, speech and press can have ownership, and that ownership can impose restrictions which are supported by the law.

                    The works of Shakespeare are generally OUT of copyright because Shakespeare died hundreds of years ago. English words fall under the "too generic" escape clause (but a compiled dictionary can be subject to copyright), and the file allocation tables are the product of machine, not man.

                    "Clearly you can distribute GPL licensed software alongside non-GPL files, no matter what the GPL says."

                    No, because you can violate the license and copyright associated with the GPL. Without copyright, authors can't prevent their works being copied and so on.

                2. PaulFrederick

                  Re: @Charles 9 - @boltar - Question

                  "no Linux distro is allowed to distribute Nvidia binary drivers"

                  Oh really?

                  pfred1@buck:~$ apt-cache search nvidia

                  nvidia-glx - NVIDIA metapackage

                  nvidia-kernel-source - NVIDIA binary kernel module source

                  nvidia-kernel-686-pae - NVIDIA kernel module for Linux (686-pae flavor)

                  nvidia-driver-bin - NVIDIA driver support binaries

                  The GPL license only affects code licensed under the GPL. The GPL CANNOT restrict you from distributing software with other licenses.

              2. cantanko

                Re: @boltar - Question

                I seem to remember that the nVidia drivers use a shim that is compatible with both GPL and nVidia licenses. As it's only the shim that compiles against the GPL code, the issue is sidestepped (again, IIRC)

              3. oldcoder

                Re: @boltar - Question

                First, the graphics drivers were specifically written to interface with Windows.

                Second, the interface between the GPL kernel and the proprietary graphics drivers is also GPL.

                Third, it is the user that obtains the driver directly from the proprietary vendor, thus gains permission from that vendor.

          2. oldcoder

            Re: Question

            You can't divide it.

            If what is non GPL, is outside the kernel, it is not part of the kernel...

            There is no "this section of". It is all GPLv2.

          3. gnufrontier

            Re: Question

            i don't think you understand what the gpl is. there would be no mass adoption of a single linux kernel without it. the gpl is actually a more important contribution of stallman than all the code he has written

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Question

        Sorry but you are plain wrong. That black and white enough for you.

        This isn't a matter of what Stallman thinks but what the license says. Whilst you may disagree with Stallman (and many people do, though many people think he's done rather a lot of good for software), his reading of the license is probably correct. Subtle nuances are really nice in music and art, in license terms they are a sodding nightmare.

        I suspect Ubuntu found legal advice that says it *may* not be illegal due to this tenuous legal thread that we've worked up and devised. I'd be astonished if a lawyer went out on a limb and said it was legal. Lawyers never commit to anything like that even if they are 100% certain they are right.

        I'm thinking back and can't remember a case of somebody winning against the GPL2 license. I could be wrong though.

        When Stallman speaks, my advice would be to listen carefully, You may not like what you hear, but as one of the main architects of free/open software AND the GPL license he tends to carry a lot of weight (no pun intended).

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Question

          "Sorry but you are plain wrong. That black and white enough for you."

          Hi there, A/C.

          Are you a judge who's had this case to decide? Because if you're not neither your view nor Stallman's nor Ubuntu's nor Linus's nor my opinion counts.

          The contention on Ubuntu's side seems to be that loading a module does not create a derived work of the kernel, it's just two works sitting alongside each other in memory. Until we get a court ruling on that we don't know whether it's right or wrong. Stallman may have been responsible for the GPL but even he can't determine how the court will rule on the facts of a specific case.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @Doctor Syntax - Re: Question

            You're missing the most important part here. The problem is not loading a module, it's the legal permission to distribute that module with Ubuntu or any other distro.

            Look for a crash-course in IP licensing.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: @Doctor Syntax - Question

              "The problem is not loading a module, it's the legal permission to distribute that module with Ubuntu or any other distro."

              The solution being NOT to distribute it. As with the other non-GPL stuff the distro package is a loader that pulls the real package down from a separate resource.

              Problem solved.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Question

            "Are you a judge who's had this case to decide? Because if you're not neither your view nor Stallman's nor Ubuntu's nor Linus's nor my opinion counts."

            You are correct, of course, and that should make us all fearful.

            If my I learned anything from my old Intellectual Property professor in law school it was that the courts simply don't understand IP law. Prof. Blaustein proved that by forcing us to read every off-the-wall, counter-intuitive and contradictory decisions made by the US Supreme Court up to passage of the 1976 Copyright law (I took the class in 1980). And most of those involved technology that most today would consider backward, like gramophone records. Operating systems? The Internet? What? I (proudly) don't even know how to send an e-mail!

            We are all so screwed.

            1. gnufrontier

              Re: Question

              One thing we do know about law as evidenced by the judges of the supreme court, there is no right interpretation. It all relative to time, culture and geography. Law is totally fungible over time.

          4. Oh Homer Silver badge
            Headmaster

            "loading a module does not create a derived work of the kernel"

            Yes, it does.

            Kernel modules do not exist in a bubble, they're directly linked (in the compiler sense) to Linux, which is licensed under the GPL. Those modules are therefore inescapably "derivative works" of that GPL licensed code, as they literally contain parts of it, simply cannot function without it, and therefore must be published under the same license, or else be in violation of copyright law (assuming they are actually published, as opposed to used privately).

            The question is not whether or not this is a copyright violation, as it quite clearly is, the question is whether or not the copyright holders (and in Linux there are many) have any interest in challenging this particular violation, and in this case I suspect they won't.

            As the author of the GPL, I'm fairly confident that Stallman probably understands it well enough to know when it's being violated. The fact that certain Linux (and other Free Software) developers seem not to care, is not somehow a poor reflection of Stallman, but rather a stark example of the sort of hypocritical "pragmatists" who are quite happy to benefit from the environment of academic freedom created by this license, but then whine about "fundamentalism" (as one of the more diplomatic examples of their rhetoric) whenever they feel the urge to prostitute themselves to some proprietary software vendor, whilst sacrificing our freedom at the alter of their "convenience".

        2. boltar Silver badge

          Re: Question

          "When Stallman speaks, my advice would be to listen carefully,"

          I've listened to him enough over the years and frankly I can't be bothered anymore. Some would call him an OSS "evangelist", I'd call him an inflexible arrogant zealot. If you want to listen to his quasi religious diatribes that are usually one step removed from reality then knock yourself out. For me - I'll just get on with using software that suits my needs, regardless of its provenance or license conditions.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @boltar - Re: Question

            Make a difference between using the software and distributing it. Using the GPL software, there's no restriction. Distributing GPL software requires compliance.

          2. gnufrontier

            Re: Question

            what you have said has nothing to do with the issue in question. but thanks for sharing your rather philistine approach.

          3. DuncanLarge Bronze badge

            Re: Question

            "I've listened to him enough over the years and frankly I can't be bothered anymore"

            I've listened to people like you enough and cant take it anymore. How the hell did you come to the conclusion that RMS has ANYTHING to do with Open Source Software? He has never been involved in OSS has wont touch it with a barge pole. It's like complaining that Santa failed to deliver the easter eggs on easter sunday. Or complaining to the grower of apple trees that the tree he sold you did not produce any bananas.

            This is a political issue. If you dont like politics fine, continue to avoid voting.

        3. PaulFrederick

          Re: Question

          GPLv2 is a pretty liberal license. Linux specifically did NOT go to v3 because it is more restrictive.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @boltar - Re: Question

        The fact that Stallman and Oracle lawyers are on the same side of the fence should give you (and Ubuntu) a clue here.

      4. gnufrontier

        Re: Question

        nothing to do with purity. the license dictates what can be done not the users nor Linus. Linus works on the code. He settled the direction legally when he put the kernel under the gpl.

    2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Question

      Not even "illegal".

      Violating a contract can open up civil liability, but it's not 'illegal'.

      I'm not even sure that the GPL achieves the status of 'contract'.

      There are quite a few likely legal off-ramps before anyone would be handing over a settlement cheque.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Question

        @JeffyPooh:

        Not even "illegal".

        Violating a contract can open up civil liability, but it's not 'illegal'.

        That point is interesting. Even if rms got his way in court, what damages could he claim? It's not like he could claim lost income, the entire point of GPL is that it's free. Whatever gets bundled with GPL code, it can't cause him material loss, so it basically boils down to hurt feelings. How do US courts deal with that? It's not like the US has european style "moral rights".

        1. BitDr

          Re: Question

          It might not cause HIM material loss, but it could very well harm the GPL2 eco-system and cause others harm. It wouldn't be the first time that someone sought their fortune by claiming ownership of Linux because their code was included in it by a third party. *cough*SCO*cough*

        2. danny_0x98

          Re: Question

          We had these exact arguments years ago. In the US, a creator has copyright and may restrict use and derivative uses of her creation. The law governing infringement is civil law, but there are instances when, if one infringes upon the wrong thing, the FBI comes and arrest you.

          Commercial software writers specify the terms of use in an EULA as per their rights as a copyright holder, and disputes over an allegedly unlicensed use are pursued against purchasers under contract law.

          No one has permission to use GPL software, or any software under copyright, except they receive a license. There is an allowance for fair use, and while ZFS on Ubuntu may be rationalized under that basis, I expect that a Court would have to decide. I expect that Canonical's positive advice hinges on ZFS being licensable by the end user and that Canonical does know how to distribute non-GPL software to users.

          My personal opinion? I can license GNU software to run on my FreeBSD and OS X systems. If a Linux distributor wants to include a non-GPL file system to improve integrity and function for the user, it should be possible without one author coercing another author to change his license. As the catalyst for the GPL was a vendor's withdrawal of code that Stallman was using at MIT, it would be ironic to use the GPL to have Canonical withdraw its packaging of ZFS. I think Stallman should let this be, because if the slippery slope is to more user choices and inclusion of better technology, let's slide. GPL software's importance will not be diminished.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @danny_0x98 - Re: Question

            No, the slippery slope is to legal action from Oracle and others. Look here, mate, Microsoft has also better technology and could offer more user choice but we can't do anything but respect their license.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Arthur the cat - Re: Question

          The IP law does not work like that. Lost income is only a guideline to estimate punitive damages, it is not used to decide if an infringement has been committed.

        4. sisk Silver badge

          Re: Question

          That point is interesting. Even if rms got his way in court, what damages could he claim?

          Damages as in monetary damage? Probably none, at most very, very little.

          Given that the properties involved here would be the Linux kernel, property of the Linux Foundation, and ZFS, property of Oracle, I'd guess he doesn't even have standing to bring a suit in the matter at all. I suppose you could make some tenuous thread between the GNU utilities being distributed along-side ZFS, but the actual, tangible link is only between the kernel and the file system, neither of which are FSF properties. I think any suit Stallman tried to bring here would get thrown out entirely.

          But let's pretend for a moment that he did have standing to bring a suit or that it was Linus (who, as the public face of the Linux Foundation, probably would have standing) calling foul on Ubuntu. At that point the case would become a lot clearer and the possible end result would be an injunction, not damages.

        5. gnufrontier

          Re: Question

          it's not about the money fool I'm guessing you have grown up with Linux and have no idea what it was like before the gpl.

        6. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: Question

          I don't know if rms has contributed any code to Linux, as far as I'm aware he hasn't. But a Linux contributor could sue for copyright infringement, and possibly Oracle could as well depending on the terms of their licence.

          1. PaulFrederick

            Re: Question

            RMS wrote make, GCC, and EMACS. So yes RMS has contributed a bit to GNU/Linux besides just the license.

        7. SeymourHolz

          Re: Question

          "Damages" are only one possible part of a legal remedy.

          As you indicate, the "damages" in this case would probably be limited to legal fees, since there is no income to be deprived of.

          However, the remedy would probably also include an injunction against the prohibited behavior, i.e. either they bundle with all source code, or they do not bundle at all. That is the remedy RMS would be most interested in. You can not bundle non-free software with free software with impunity; that part of the license has been litigated before.

          Aspects of 'hurt feelings' or 'moral rights' do not have obvious relevance in this scenario.

        8. DuncanLarge Bronze badge

          Re: Question

          "the entire point of GPL is that it's free"

          No its not. It has nothing to do with being free. The GPL has everything to do with being free!

          Confused? Shame about our language. I'm assuming you are using free = zero cost. Well the GPL is not zero cost. Plenty of GPL software is happily sold for a nice profit my many many companies every day. I once bought RedHat, off a store shelf.

          People buy my GPL'ed software all the time. But they are free because of it. ZFS bundled into Ubuntu removes that, or at least threatens that. The GPL is designed to protect that freedom.

          You need to be careful of your definitions here. The GPL may usually be free, but does not need to be free as it places no restriction on charging a price but the GPL is entirely free, all of the time and guarantees preserving that freedom to anyone who has the GPL'ed code.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Question

      Whilst I'm no fan of RMS from reading through the multitude of comments it's clear that he is correct and it would be against the rules, though most agree the end result would be valuable.

      Rules can be changed, but religious idolatry can't.

  2. Suricou Raven

    Simpler solution.

    Just invest further in refining BTRFS. It still hasn't reached the maturity of ZFS, but it's stable enough for production use now, and storage management is a whole lot easier than ZFS - you can pull a drive from a volume with ease, unlike ZFS. It just needs a few more features, mostly relating to performance.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Simpler solution.

      AFIK Oracle was the major contributor to BTRFS for Linux, but that stopped when it bought Sun and inherited ZFS in the process.

      Interesting point though, is the effort of brining BTRFS to match ZFS bigger or smaller than finding a way round the license terms?

      1. Skoorb

        Re: Simpler solution.

        If you are running over a cluster then IBM's GPFS can knock ZFS into a cocked hat. You have to endure IBM's sale process though and pay them silly money.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Simpler solution.

          Configuring GPFS correctly and optimally can be almost as easy as encrypting text in RSA 2048 in your head...

          1. Skoorb

            Re: Simpler solution.

            Personally I assumed that's the main reason that IBM charge so much for the damn thing - covering their support costs.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Simpler solution.

        Re: BTRFS

        One of the key benefits of BTRFS over ZFS would be over the design and API. Whilst everyone has been focusing on the ZFS source, we should not forget the other battles involving Oracle and specifically those around API ownership and the IPR embedded in the design of ZFS - remember MS and long filenames...

        However, depending upon the IPR issues around design and API's it might be relatively easy to use these and using a clean room approach, create new code implementing ZFS...

    2. HmmmYes Silver badge

      Re: Simpler solution.

      No, dont split effort doing the same thing for multiple implementations.

      ZFS is all the (enterprise/large) file system you need - bar a simple one for small RAM devices.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Simpler solution.

        No, dont split effort doing the same thing for multiple implementations.

        Yeah, screw competition and innovation; let's just cede all technological progress to multi-billion-dollar international mega-corporations, with histories of ridiculous litigation and screwing over communities, in pursuit of ever-larger yachts.

    3. Adam Inistrator

      Re: Simpler solution.

      btrfs has been the default file system for SUSE for a few years now. Those Germans know what they are doing. I find btrfs is much more flexible than ZFS which I used to use before.

  3. LDS Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

    ... why only others should change their licenses to make them GPL compatible?

    1. LosD

      Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

      No, he cannot.

    2. Martin M

      Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

      The GPL and CDDL may be compatible anyway; it's never been tested in court. The version of the GPL under which the Linux kernel is licensed is rather poorly worded in this area. There's a long treatment of the linking question in ch 06 of Rosen's Open Source Licensing book at http://www.rosenlaw.com/oslbook.htm. In Rosen's opinion (which he says not to rely on, and may have changed since he wrote it), he doesn't think that the anti-linking aspects of the license will stick if things actually went to court. Canonical's lawyers seem to have come to a similar conclusion.

      Although he may have written the original license, Stallman can't retrospectively change licensing terms relating to others' copyrighted code (e.g. Linux). Linux developers have licensed their contributions under a specific version of the GPL license. The developers could choose to relicense under a different version or license in theory, but in practice it would be essentially impossible to coordinate. Every single individual and corporate contributor would have to participate, and some wouldn't want to.

      1. SlavickP

        Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

        It has been tested in the court of Richard Stallman, and found guilty.

      2. ultimate_noobie

        Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

        Essentially, the CDDL in this case says it's ok to create the combined work, and the GPL has the problem as if any GPL only symbols are used, that would be a "derivative" and require the ZFS code to be then GPL. As long as no GPL only symbols are used or used indirectly through a shim, then even per the GPL that would be a combined work and okay. It's all about how you define "combined work" vs "derivative work" and unfortunately, that requires arguing the breach of contract potentials before a judge.

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

          "derivative work"

          Surely the only definition that is logical (asides from this API/symbol guff) is code that is derived from something GPL. A clean piece of code written to fit a known API shouldn't become tainted GPL purely by use of the API...?

          1. oldcoder

            Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

            Oracle sued Google over that.

            And a HUGE amount of legal fees were the result.

          2. ultimate_noobie

            Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

            Actually, yes it is. By using the GPL'd function, you've accepted that your code must also be GPL per the license terms. LGPL eliminates this potential. Check into the history of "EXPORT_SYMBOL_GPL" to see how the linux kernel has been effectively copyrighting it's API long before Oracle started making claims to the same effect. (Yeah that's gonna get downvoted but it's still true.)

        2. PaulFrederick

          Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

          Does the license use some other wording to describe symbols? Because the word "symbol" does not appear in the license at all.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

        That's also how I read Rosen's comments in the book. Hopefully judges deciding cases dealing with the issue will have as well, or at least assign one of their law clerks to. As I wrote further above, the problem in this particular area of law is that it isn't viewed by the judiciary are a specialty worthy of specialization on their part. Given what we all know to be the complexities involves, that's a prescription for unpredictability at best, disaster at worst.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

      You mean he's going to go up there & upgrade all those satellites?

      1. Chris King Silver badge

        Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

        Can you imagine the cost of lifting him (AND his ego) into orbit ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

          Can you imagine the cost of lifting him (AND his ego) into orbit ?

          The ego is mostly air, so that compresses well.

      2. 45RPM Silver badge

        Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

        @Doctor Syntax

        Of course. Didn’t you know? Stallman is almost exactly like God*. Capricious and a bit of an arsehole, but did something good once and now he won’t let anyone forget it.

        *all except for the fictional bit.

        1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

          > Capricious and a bit of an arsehole, but did something good once and now he won’t let anyone forget it.

          Actually, I think he still does good.

          The first thing to remember is that no-one, and I mean no-one*, "has" to write code and release it under GPL. That many people have chosen to embrace the GPL indicates that a great many people think it's "a good thing". Many of the people arguing that it's a bad thing tend to be doing so because it gets in the way of them "ripping off" someone's work and not "sharing".

          I've met him, and yes he does come across as a bit of a tit. But although I disagree on some point, I respect his point of view, and I respect his integrity with it.

          I'm a pragmatist myself - I use both closed non-free and open free software, both personally and for work. A foot in both camps as it were, and I can see the pros and cons both ways.

          But one thing I am certain of, if it weren't for the "hardline" purists, the computing landscape would be a lot different. Even if you never use a single piece of software written with his purist views in mind, and quite possibly released under GPL, the very fact of their existence creates competition that keeps all vendors in check to some extent or other.

          I suspect a few people are "too young" to remember when Microsoft seemed to have a complete and total lock on the desktop, on servers, and even on the web browser. Back then the "easy" thing to do would be to just accept that "Exploder 6" is "the standard" and work with that - it's only because enough people pushed back with open and interoperable standards that such a dominance got broken. I suspect fewer people still remember the "Unix wars" that turned something that was largely open (though not on an open licence) into a minefield of competing proprietary standards - and which in part contributed to Microsoft's rise to dominance.

          Now, what's that saying about those who forget history being prone to repeat it ? Says I looking at what Red Hat (and others) are trying to do these days ...

          * OK, you might argue that some people get paid to do so, but then they still made a decision at some point to take that job.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

            a great many people think it's "a good thing"

            Argumentum ad populum. There have been one or two other ideas that "a great many people" thought were good things, and that others don't hold in such high esteem.

            I suspect a few people are "too young" to remember when Microsoft seemed to have a complete and total lock on the desktop, on servers, and even on the web browser.

            I've been a professional software developer for nigh onto thirty year, and I don't recall this grim era. We had viable desktop and server OSes before the Web (and thus the web browser) even existed. As, say, OS/2 on the desktop and commercial UNIXes on the server waned, Linux rose. At no point did Microsoft appear to have an overwhelming monopoly except to the ignorant.

            Perhaps more importantly, there was a great deal of open source and the exchange of source code long before there was a GPL. It didn't have a fanatical ideology attached to it, but it existed nonetheless. Hell, binary-distributed proprietary software was still something of a relative novelty, having been common for only around a decade and a half at that point.

            The GPL was revolutionary, but it was a cultural revolution: it spawned a movement of programmers who believed they were saving the world by doing something terribly daring and novel. But there's much less ground for arguing it really deserves much credit for the proliferation of open-source software. Linux could have been accompanied by a BSD userland just as easily, for example.

        2. megamanx1978

          Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

          Simple Definition of capricious

          : changing often and quickly; especially : often changing suddenly in mood or behavior

          : not logical or reasonable : based on an idea, desire, etc., that is not possible to predict

          http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/capricious

          God does not change:

          Malachi 3:6 King James Version (KJV)

          6 For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

        You mean he's going to go up there & upgrade all those satellites?

        Now we know at least what the beard is for: it's the rocket's fuse..

    4. BitDr
      Pirate

      Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

      @LDS

      "... why only others should change their licenses to make them GPL compatible?"

      If someone wants to use GPL2 licensed code in their non-free proprietary product, it is they who are wanting, not the authors of the code they desire the use of. They can either deal with the terms of GPL2 or steal the code and try to conceal the theft by obfuscation, something which never works out well. If they steal it then they have hoisted the jolly roger and shown their true colours.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @LDS - Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

      Nobody is supposed/forced to change their license, just respect other people licenses. Should anyone try to persuade Microsoft to change their license because it is not very permissive ?

    6. sisk Silver badge

      Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

      He has, but unfortunately he can't force people to use the newer, even more restrictive version.

      One thing that's always struck me as odd about the GPL. The whole point is to give users more freedom, but it does so by putting shackles on the developers. How is it free software if it restricts the person putting all the effort into it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @sisk - Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

        it's in the same manner that not allowing you to harm a human being is a limitation of your freedoms.

        GPL is putting shackles on developers who want to shackle their end-users.

        See, it didn't kill any neural cell.

    7. oldcoder

      Re: Stallman can change the GPS as welll...

      No, he cannot change the licenses used for Linux.

      He CAN offer a new GPL version (and there is one - version 3), but the Linux kernel cannot use it. It is set in GPL v2, and you can't get all of the authors to change their releases (some are even dead, so you have to wait another 90 years before the license can change).

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ReiserFS...

    ...might still be available?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ReiserFS...

      Yeah, but it doesn't get much maintenance from what I understand.

      I hear it murders wives.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: ReiserFS...

        "I hear it murders wives and gets caught"

        Neither of which are good traits in a file system developer...

        1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: ReiserFS...

          "I hear it murders wives and gets caught"

          Just normal exception handling

          sorry, couldn't resist.

          1. sawatts

            Re: ReiserFS...

            Catching exceptions and burying them under the patio is bad practice.

            1. Preston Munchensonton
              Coat

              Re: ReiserFS...

              Catching exceptions and burying them under the patio is bad practice.

              I don't know your missus, so I won't judge.

  5. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Open/Closed

    Odd really. A lot of folk accept, and Linux distros offer, closed-source drivers for video and similar. Not a GPL violation it seems.

    Where as ZFS is open-source and you can also modify it, hence in terms of the overall goals of GPL, a much better fit. But not compatible because? Because?

    I'm guessing its something to do with linking in the kernel rather than loading a driver, but it seems a little odd and almost one of those religious-wars type of reasons (you know Catholic/Protestant, Sunni/Shia, little-end/big-end, etc)

    1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

      Re: Open/Closed

      I would love to hear the reason this is different to, for example, a closed source graphics driver binaries from nVidia. Distros can include them, why not a binary version of ZoL?

      1. lleres

        Re: Open/Closed

        Simple - the copyright holder, for example nVidia, can build and distribute binary blobs of their own code.

        End users taking those binary blobs and loading them in their kernel does not violate GPL, though it does taint the kernel - see dmesg output after loading nvidia kernel module.

        nVidia cannot, on the other hand, provide their source code to be included with the kernel unless said source code is also GPL licensed.

        For Ubuntu to build and distribute binary blobs of ZFS, they would have to take ZFS source code, licensed under CDDL, and combine it with kernel source code licensed under GPL, which is not allowed under the terms of the GPL.

        It is the act of distributing the resulting binary which is not allowed under the terms of the license in the first place, not users loading binary blobs of any source code license in their kernels.

        The above is the reason ZFS on linux is only (for now) available as source code and users are required to build it them selves, and take the risk of being sued by the copyright holder as an individual.

        1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

          Re: Open/Closed

          "the copyright holder, for example nVidia, can build and distribute binary blobs of their own code."

          "For Ubuntu to build and distribute binary blobs of ZFS, they would have to take ZFS source code, licensed under CDDL, and combine it with kernel source code licensed under GPL, which is not allowed under the terms of the GPL."

          How is this different to what nVidia does? They must take their code, not under a GPL-compatible license, and "combine it with with" the kernel. Unless I'm missing something, they couldn't be distributing the binary blob without "combining it" with the kernel (i.e. compiling against the kernel).

          When you compile the ZoL modules, you are creating a binary blob in the same way as nVidia. I really fail to see the distinction. If things worked the way this argument seems to suggest, anyone who released a binary kernel module would have to license it under GPL-compatible terms, and hence release the source code.

          If there is a distinction, I'd love to see it.

          1. lleres

            Re: Open/Closed

            The difference is, and this should be obvious, is that, as the above states, nVidia is the copyright holder of the source code they used while Ubuntu are not..

            It would be perfectly fine for _Oracle_ to build and distribute binary blobs - don't hold your breath on that.

            1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

              Re: Open/Closed

              "The difference is, and this should be obvious, is that, as the above states, nVidia is the copyright holder of the source code they used while Ubuntu are not."

              Let's take a hypothetical.

              I write a kernel module. The copyright is mine. I choose to distribute it under a commercial license, but it "links" to the kernel in the same way as ZoL. If what RMS and the FSF is saying is true, it would be classed as a derivative work and, therefore, would not be allowed to be distributed as a binary blob.

              It doesn't matter who owns the copyright. The only thing that matters is that, if it is classed as a derivative work of GPL software, it must be released under the GPL or a compatible license.

              Hence, the defining test is purely: Is it classed as a derivative work?

              So what I would like to know is how the graphics card binary drivers differ from ZoL. There must be some material difference in the way it interacts with the kernel for it to fall foul of these license terms.

              1. lleres

                Re: Open/Closed

                Once again - what you do with your own code is up to you. If _your_ code interfaces with GPL licensed code, _others_ cannot re-distribute binaries of _your_ code in any shape of form, though _you_ can.

                Substitute you with either nVidia or Oracle. nVidia can and do distribute binaries. Others cannot and do not so they do not fall foul of the GPL. Same with ZoL.

                Distribution is the constraint which you are, can only presume purposefully, ignoring.

                1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

                  Re: Open/Closed

                  "Distribution is the constraint which you are, can only presume purposefully, ignoring."

                  I am well aware that this would only apply if it is distributed. I am quite at liberty to take GPL code, modify it, mash it up with any other code I would like, and keep it for myself. However, if I (or anyone else) distribute it, this must be done under a GPL compatible license (if it counts as a derived work). I cannot distribute a derived work (to anyone), as a binary or as source code, unless it is under a GPL compatible license. If the nVidia drivers were classed as a derived work, they would not be allowed to distribute a binary driver under an incompatible license. It doesn't matter that they own the copyright: If it's derived, it's covered, if not, it's not.

                  Therefore, unless I am missing something (and I have done a lot of research on the GPL in the past), RMS and FSF are making a distinction that a ZoL binary module is a derived work, and yet for some reason nVidia's (and others') modules aren't. This is the distinction I would like to understand.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Open/Closed

                    Last I checked, Linux distros can't ship with the binary nVidia blob. You have to get that elsewhere. It's not automatically included nor can they legally do so IINM. Same here. You can't pack ZoL in a Linux distro but have to go to outside channels, which poses a problem for turnkey solutions, especially offline ones.

    2. DainB Bronze badge

      Re: Open/Closed

      It would be magnitude harder to explain to Linux users why they can't use readily available drivers for Nvidia graphic cards only because some lunatic disagrees with it.

      1. Sam Liddicott

        Re: Open/Closed

        agreement of a lunatic is not a condition of use

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @DainB - Re: Open/Closed

        Nobody tells Linux users can't use readily available Nvidia graphics card drivers. What GPL says and what Nvidia requires is that drivers should not be included in standard distribution. You as an end-user are free to use whatever driver/module may please but you must be careful if you try to distribute that module. Come on, folks, what's so hard to understand that Nvidia does not allow redistribution of their binary drivers ? GPL can't do anything about it but comply.

    3. LosD

      Re: Open/Closed

      Yeah, or you know, law.

    4. David O'Rourke

      Re: Open/Closed

      Many versions of the GPL license allow for closed source or non-GPL compatible code to be used with GPL if the two connect solely through a well-defined API or similar. This is generally how driver models are implemented and the license sees this as being different to the way that binaries are linked whether that's statically or dynamically.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @David O'Rourke - Re: Open/Closed

        Using is one thing and redistributing is another.

    5. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Open/Closed

      Well, I'm not a lawyer (or I'd be skiing right now), but the whole "derivative work" argument around the GPL has always seemed to me to be tenuous.

      Suppose I put together a library with some utility functions in it and make it available under the GPL. The GPL philosophy is that if I then write some software that makes use of those utility functions, then my software is automatically covered by the GPL - hence the existence of the LGPL without which most people probably wouldn't touch the library of utility functions with a bargepole.

      However, suppose I write some application that requires a library with the same API as the GPL library of utility functions, but I don't bundle a copy of the GPL library and simply leave it to the user to supply a library of equivalent functions or write their own. Does my application get co-opted into the GPL in retrospect if and end-user chooses to link it with a GPL library? I doubt it, though since the Oracle v Google trial, I guess I could be done for infringing on the copyright in the API.

      In the same way, I don't really believe that Linux drivers are a "derived work" any more than Windows drivers are - they're just bits of code making use of an API. I know that Linux has gone out of its way to avoid an API for binary drivers to encourage source availability, but there's no difference in principle between linking source code and binary code: they're both expressions of the same intellectual concept.

      It seems like we're approaching a point at which this is going to have to be tested in court because uncertainty about the outcome of licence wars can only have a chilling effect on open software development.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Warm Braw - Re: Open/Closed

        Let's put aside GPL for a moment, OK ? Suppose you invent your totally free license and you download a binary proprietary module and include it in your work by any means you might think of. Now you start distributing your copyrighted work and for the part you wrote everything is fine. How about the proprietary one ? Do you have the legal permission to redistribute it and under which conditions ?

        Put back GPL instead of your own license and see how does it change things ?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Open/Closed

        "However, suppose I write some application that requires a library with the same API as the GPL library of utility functions, but I don't bundle a copy of the GPL library and simply leave it to the user to supply a library of equivalent functions or write their own. Does my application get co-opted into the GPL in retrospect if and end-user chooses to link it with a GPL library?"

        No. What people don't get about the GPL is that it only applies to *distribution*. What you do on your own computer isn't covered. You can well link proprietary software with even AGPL software as long as you don't provide such software as a service on the Internet [with a capital I. I'm a bit like Abe Simpson, I'll be deep in the cold, cold ground before I recognize the Internet with a small i].

        Anyway this article is shite. It makes RMS appear much more an arsehole than he really is. If you read his thoughts on the matter, granted, he still comes across as a bit of a crafty git, but it's much more genuine: what he basically says is, FSF would kindly close an eye if it held Linux's copyright, but it doesn't; the GPLv2 is a bit too strict in this area, as the licence is formally terminated if breached, whereas the GPLv3 imposes a 60-day window to complain, after which the combined work is to be considered fair use, but Linux hasn't moved on the the GPLv3 so there you go. He doesn't even try to hide the fact that he would *love* to have copyright attributed to the FSF and that they should move on to GPLv3, but that's understandable, come on. :D

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Paul Crawford - Re: Open/Closed

      Care to mention at least one single Linux distro that distributes proprietary drivers in compliance with licensing terms of the IP owner ?

      Second, ZFS is not compatible with GPL because Sun expressly wanted it so and something tells me Oracle is not in a hurry to change that.

  6. Starace

    Stallman is a loon

    All religions have their wild eyed prophet in the early days. But there comes a time when pragmatism takes the lead and the evangelists need to be retired to their hermit hole so new thinkers can bring the valuable core ideals to the world without the baggage.

    License wars are the kind of stupidity we can do without, the key is whether the tech is free, open and works. Beyond that it's all arcane theology.

    1. RIBrsiq

      Re: Stallman is a loon

      "All religions have their wild eyed prophet in the early days. But there comes a time when pragmatism takes the lead and the evangelists need to be retired to their hermit hole so new thinkers can bring the valuable core ideals to the world without the baggage".

      Or you could -- call me crazy -- not join a religion when all you need is an OS...

      1. boltar Silver badge

        Re: Stallman is a loon

        "Or you could -- call me crazy -- not join a religion when all you need is an OS..."

        Clearly you've never heard of the Church of Apple and St Jobs.

        1. 45RPM Silver badge

          Re: Stallman is a loon

          …Or the equally insane Church of Anything But Apple, which seems to have very many adherents here.

          Personally, if I’m a member of any church, I belong of the congregation of the digital church. If it can do calculations and be programmed then count me in. Android, CP/M, Linux, ProDOS, ARThur, VMS, MacOS, Windows, iOS, Haiku, Xenix, TOS, WebOS, AmigaOS, UCSD-P, MS-DOS, OS/2… I love 'em all.

          In my experience, the whole Empty Pot Making The Most Noise thing holds true. It seems that the people who get most religious and uppity about Apple / Microsoft / Google etc being crap, and who claim that they’ll never use a product from that company are the people who know the least about computers. Low level BOFH wannabes rather than programmers or sandbenders.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Stallman is a loon

            …Or the equally insane Church of Anything But Apple, which seems to have very many adherents here.

            Nope - just used as part of a diverse Open Standards approach to IT. Personally, I am more fond of the Unix way of doing things, and Apple has managed to put that in nice hardware with a shell I can even let my grandma use without too much prompting and without too much support to keep it running.

            I'm just not very fond of rickety IT I have to keep fighting with to keep it online, safe and private, which is what I have found Windows to be (well, before I gave up, which is around Windows 7 - from what I hear I haven't missed much). It's just too expensive for running a small operation like ours in both software costs, resources and risk, but it appears we'll have to spin up some Win 2008 VMs to run MS SQL because some code we want to use doesn't run on anything safer - the debate about that is still ongoing because it's a global deployment and apart from anything else we don't want MS crowing about it, which it would as soon as it found out about it. We may actually ask the developers to re-engineer the core so we can avoid this.

            In any other respect I agree - I don't care what religion it belongs to as long as it does the job.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stallman is a loon

      I don't know if he's a loon, but as far as I know, he's not a lawyer. So while his opinion is sure interesting - it's not a legal opinion, and apparently, lawyers disagree.

      1. Raumkraut

        Re: Stallman is a loon

        I don't know if he's a loon, but as far as I know, he's not a lawyer. So while his opinion is sure interesting - it's not a legal opinion, and apparently, lawyers disagree.

        Except the last time we heard about this issue was when some Free-software specialist lawyers claimed that Canonical's lawyers were wrong in their interpretation: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/02/26/canonical_in_zfsonlinux_gpl_violation_spat/

        So *some* lawyers disagree, where as some *other* lawyers agree. Sky is blue, bears catholic, etc.

        1. Jagged

          So *some* lawyers disagree, where as some *other* lawyers agree

          A Universal Constant ...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC - Re: Stallman is a loon

        Lawyers disagree because they win no matter who loses. You may very well be a criminal but your lawyer strongly disagrees.

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Stallman is a loon

      He is a loon - when I first came across his work I thought he was a raving idiot. Time however has proved him right many more times than wrong. The key is not whether the tech is free, open and works, it is whether it will remain free, open and working. And the CDDL dont play that game.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stallman is a loon

      All religions have their wild eyed prophet in the early days. But there comes a time when pragmatism takes the lead and the evangelists need to be retired to their hermit hole so new thinkers can bring the valuable core ideals to the world without the baggage.

      The problem is that being a raving lunatic and being right, even occasionally, are not mutually exclusive conditions.

      Sure, I don't have much time for Stallman (and I've actually met him a few times) because an inability to engage in constructive debate doesn't work for me - "my way or the highway" is not a way to resolve conflicts in a practical way - but that doesn't mean he's wholly wrong.

      The problem is that being right is not always practical or pragmatic. If you need to see examples of that, just look at the difference between Debian and, say, Ubuntu if you need to get something going on a machine - some pragmatism means that you may want accept nVidea drivers.

      In conclusion, Stallman may be right, but it's not helping much. It's clear that people are seeking ways to use ZFS - it appears the Ubuntu guys are looking for ways to make that happen which I find laudable.

  7. Seajay#

    Free as in..

    ..you WILL use my license damn you!!!!

  8. ATeal

    FFS someone just write an ACTUAL open one already.

    If it is that big of a deal....

    1. DasWezel
      Headmaster

      Re: FFS someone just write an ACTUAL open one already.

      Exhibit A) OSI-Approved Open-Source licences: https://opensource.org/licenses/alphabetical

      Exhibit B) Why the above list exists: https://xkcd.com/927/

  9. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    I use ZFS every day.....

    ... FreeBSD, NAS4FREE, PC-BSD. It isn't hard.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: I use ZFS every day.....

      I see what you did there.

    2. FrankAlphaXII Silver badge

      Re: I use ZFS every day.....

      >> FreeBSD, NAS4FREE, PC-BSD. It isn't hard.

      No it really isn't. ZFS works pretty damned well too, I've used it and btrfs (as well as NTFS which there's no avoiding if you use MS products at all, and I do) and I much prefer ZFS. The only area that I'm not convinced of its utility is through lack of experience as I haven't used it with any of our SSDs yet, but it does work exceptionally well for complex drive arrangements with regular ol' HDDs.

      I use ZFS every day as well. I don't use NAS4FREE but I do use FreeBSD and PC-BSD daily. While Linux chases its tail yet again because of people bitching and moaning we've been using ZFS for what, like 12 years now?

      Its actually kind of sad really, ZFS is not a new technology at this point by any means but Linux still doesn't/can't ship with it. I hope Canonical does do this and gets away with it, and its immense popularity convinces other distributions to push Oracle to change the license to 3 clause BSD so everyone can use it and it'll still make GPL zealots cry themselves to sleep. Everyone wins.

      1. dcw803

        Re: I use ZFS every day.....

        Hang on Frank, it's perfectly possible to use Linux (eg Ubuntu) and OpenZFS in an organisation, almost like you do in FreeBSD land, we have done this for at least the last 5 years. We use the Ubuntu-supplied DKMS packages, downloading them into our own local organisational apt repo, separate from the main Ubuntu apt repo (which we also store a local copy of). We can't distribute our customised version of Ubuntu, but why would we want to?

  10. casperghst42

    Looks like there still is a reason to use Solaris / BSD and not Linux.

  11. jake Silver badge

    I'm with Stallman on this.

    He may be an anachronistic old fart, but then so am I.

    (Note that I don't always agree with him.)

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: I'm with Stallman on this.

      In what way are you with him?

      • That ZFS can't be distributed with Linux as Ubuntu proposes?
      • Oracle should change the ZFS license to suit Stallman?

      For the first: well, surely that's a matter for the courts. For the second: why the hell should they? It was the FSF that started the incompatibility game with licences and the subsequent feeding frenzy for lawyers. Thank fuck that the GPL is rarely used on new projects.

      Solution: want ZFS? Use BSD or Solaris. Problem solved.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm with Stallman on this.

        > It was the FSF that started the incompatibility game with licences

        GPL is a damn sight more liberal than any proprietary licenses that I have ever seen.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: I'm with Stallman on this.

          GPL is a damn sight more liberal than any proprietary licenses that I have ever seen.

          But ZFS isn't under a proprietary licence…

  12. jms222

    Or bundling Linux with ZFS is impossible

    If you want ZFS with a GNU userland you can run Debian kFreeBSD https://www.debian.org/ports/kfreebsd-gnu/

    For that matter simply dump Linux and use Solaris or some other proper UNIX some of which will quite happily run Linux binaries unmodified.

    Jon

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Or bundling Linux with ZFS is impossible

      There are a number of ways to distribute and stay within the terms of GPL

      Such as having the installer download and compile ZFS code, or even just download the modules as required instead of having them on the distribution media (this is done for Flash and a few other things for much the same reason)

    2. kryptylomese

      Re: Or bundling Linux with ZFS is impossible

      Proper Unix is used on the top 500 super computers in the world, oh wait, it isn't.

      Must be because proper Unix is so good that they don't want to use it?

    3. 45RPM Silver badge

      Re: Or bundling Linux with ZFS is impossible

      @jms222 Jeeesuz! Really? You’re getting religious on Linux? Linux is just as ‘proper’* as BSD / Solaris / Mac OS X &c. They’re all great OSs. Pick the one you like, and be happy. No need to advise anyone to dump Linux.

      *note I didn’t say ‘proper UNIX’ - because I don’t think that it matters.

  13. Tom 64

    You can already use ZFS as a bolt on

    http://zfsonlinux.org/

    Stallman is referring to integrating it into the kernel (like other Linux filesystems). This is probably needed for performance improvements and better boot support.

    Anyone played with the above?

    1. Skoorb

      Re: You can already use ZFS as a bolt on

      IIRC there are three main problems:

      -Actual support. You can't just ring Canonical when you need help. This is a bit of a problem in business.

      -The faff of actually installing and configuring the thing.

      -You can't actually boot from it.

    2. theOtherJT

      Re: You can already use ZFS as a bolt on

      Yeah. Running 5 production servers, 2 test servers over about 500Tb of total storage on it and Ubuntu 14.04. It Just Works. The only issue is having to wait for the DKMS modules to compile whenever you do a kernel upgrade and given how rarely we actually do that I could so care less about any of this nonsense.

    3. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: You can already use ZFS as a bolt on

      Yes, lots of people use ZOL (ZFS on Linux), me included. Works well, but building of ZFS modules is not something that everyone will want to do. And it has to be done after each kernel upgrade.

      I understand what Canonical want to do it for their users. I do not know for sure whether or not they integrate ZOL into Linux sources, but I assume they do not. ZFS modules can be perfectly well built from the separate source tree - the resulting binaries won't allow boot from ZFS, but will allow ZFS to be used as a root filesystem (or any additional) which IMO is just right. Majority of users will normally want less esoteric filesystem for /boot anyway (and I do not see Canonical even suggesting use of ZFS for /boot , for support reasons). On the other hand, integrating ZOL into Linux kernel and then distributing the resulting binaries would IMO cross the legality barrier and there is no reason to do it, as explained above. Perhaps RMS assume they do it.

      Also, I have trouble with RMS assertion that releasing combined work of Linux kernel with non-GPL module violates GPL, for the very simple reason that GPLv2 (under which Linux kernel is explicitly released) never mentions "combined work", hence this term cannot be applied to it. It does apply to derived work, which arguably is a different matter. The relevant section of GPLv2 license is cited below:

      If identifiable sections of that work are not derived from the Program, and can be reasonably considered independent and separate works in themselves, then this License, and its terms, do not apply to those sections when you distribute them as separate works

      The above section has been removed in GPLv3 and replaced with provisions for combined work. I understand RMS may wish Linux kernel was released under GPLv3, but it is not, and its license has different provisions from GPLv3. Also, since ZFS is maintained for many different operating systems (upstream is Illumos, which is descendant of Solaris - open source under CDDL, which incidentally is also ZFS license), it cannot be considered derived work of Linux kernel. The disagreement seems to be whether ZOL (i.e. port of ZFS to Linux) can be considered derived work of Linux kernel, or alternatively whether the act of releasing its modules as a part of a distribution makes it a derived work.

      While I am very grateful to RMS and FSF for GPL which made Linux and GCC and many other great technologies available to me, for free, I do think they are going too far here. ZFS is open source even though the license is different from their preferred one. There are closed source blobs in Linux kernel I respectfully suggest they should focus on instead, e.g. nvidia module, firmware blobs and similar.

      Oh, and Oracle has absolutely nothing to do with the current ZFS as maintained by Illumos team and others. Oracle have their own closed source version which is not compatible with ZFS as used by Illumos, FreeBSD or ZOL - they all form OpenZFS, which is open source as opposed to variant of ZFS used by Oracle and which no-one cares about (except for certain Oracle customers) and which is way behind OpenZFS. There is absolutely no reason to invite Oracle into this discussion.

      1. fajensen Silver badge

        Re: You can already use ZFS as a bolt on

        Ubuntu could probably distribute ZFS in much the the same way that VmWare distributes VmWare Tools.

        The VmWare kernel modules are tgz'ed source code, which are compiled & installed by a Perl script. Probably to get around the same kind of problem. Ubuntu could do a "ZFS-Installer"-package which holds the build dependencies, management scripts and source code, on install / update it kicks off the build again.

      2. TJ1

        @ Bronek Kozicki: More data for your analysis

        It's good to see a rational statement of the facts based on research into the issue, rather than the more typical knee-jerk opinions not based on fact.

        To answer: Ubuntu 16.04 has the ZFS on Linux code as part of the Ubuntu Linux kernel source-code.

        Some people need to remember the GPLv2 is a copyright licence (unilateral permission) not a contract (an exchange of obligations) [1]. Without it there is no right to copy, distribute or use a GPLv2 work.

        When this issue first came up I did an in-depth analysis of it on Hacker News [0] and identified key issues that are being overlooked:

        1. 'Derivative works" is a concept of U.S.A. Copyright law. It does not apply in the same way in the U.K., and Canonical Ltd., is a U.K. company.

        2. The "OpenZFS On Linux" project is the so-called 'combined work' without needing to bring the Linux project into this.

        OpenZFS On Linux distributes the OpenZFS (Solaris compatible) modules under the CDDL and the 'Linux' Solaris Porting Layer (SPL) module under the GPLv2. There are other SPL modules for interfacing with other operating systems.

        These are actually separate modules with different licenses. The GPLv2 SPL is a shim (interface) layer.

        So, the legal analysis should start with the OpenZFS On Linux project itself that distributes its code as a whole with parts licensed by the CDDL and others by the GPLv2. As the act of distribution speaks to the 'intent' of the authors of OpenZFS on Linux that would be the focus in a courtroom investigation if an action were brought - not what the Linux kernel developers, or Stallman, think.

        3. When the Linux project is added into the mix, at runtime the GPLv2 OpenZFS on Linux SPL 'shim' module is dynamically linked into the Linux kernel and provides an API translation between the OpenZFS Solaris Platform API and the Linux API (just as the Nvidia kernel module does for its binary 'blob' module). The core OpenZFS modules dynamically link to the SPL module.

        4. The GPLv2 SPL shim module could equally claim to be derived from Solaris or Linux, or both, since it implements, translates and calls the API interfaces of both OSes.

        [0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11242410

        [1] https://lwn.net/Articles/61292/

        1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

          Re: @ Bronek Kozicki: More data for your analysis

          @TJ1 have an upvote for lots of useful details

      3. Fazal Majid

        Re: You can already use ZFS as a bolt on

        Oracle's branch of ZFS has support for encryption, which is not available in OpenZFS.

        Most of the original authors of ZFS have left Sun since it was acquired by Oracle, and there is probably more talent on the OpenZFS fork.

        1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

          Re: You can already use ZFS as a bolt on

          @Fazal Majid yup , encryption is the only feature OpenZFS does not have, since there is little appetite in the community to implement it. You can have ZVOL with encryption on top instead.

          For Illumos history I recommend Fork Yeah! The Rise and Development of illumos, may skip first 30mins (if you are in a hurry)

  14. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    If it compiles, ship it

    The key concept is that linking GPL code with code licensed with an incompatible license results in program you cannot distribute. Back when the GPL was written, linking to a library meant creating a single binary file containing its own copy of some of the code from the library file. The binary would run fine even if you deleted the library file. Later, dynamic linking allowed programmers to create programs that contained no library code, but several programs could share the same library (one copy on disk and up to one in memory no matter how many programs linked to it). The general consensus is that this still constitutes linking as referenced by the GPL.

    Before compiling, the kernel must be configured. Most of the configuration options select which parts of the kernel are missed out, which get compiled into a large file and which get compiled into individual modules. Kernel modules can be loaded at any time and connect to the bulk of the kernel (and to each other) in pretty much the same way that a user land dynamic library connects to an executable. According to Linus, loading a kernel module is not the same as linking as referenced by the GPL. Linus is the copyright holder for much of the kernel, and is entitled to decide what is and isn't allowed when distributing derived works of his project. He can certainly decide not to sue even if Stallman thinks he should.

    Linus is not the only contributor. Other people have contributed portions of the kernel, and they retain copyright over their contributions. Contributions are only accepted if they are licensed under the GPL or a compatible licence, that way the entire kernel including all the contributions can be distributed as a whole without all the distributors having to reach separate licensing agreements with all the contributors.

    Not all contributors agree with Linus's opinion about kernel modules not counting as linking. To allow for this contributors can mark symbols in their own code with EXPORT_SYMBOL (any module can get the value of the symbol), or EXPORT_SYMBOL_GPL (only GPL licensed modules can get the value of the symbol).

    The idea is, if you create a non-GPL module (which you can distribute independently of the kernel), and try to load it into the kernel, the kernel will check every symbol reference and will fail to load the module if it tries to use a symbol defined in code written by someone with a strict interpretation of the GPL. (I think compilation will fail, so you cannot not accidently create a module other people cannot load). You can see more of the details here.

    Stallman is welcome to limit how derived works of his projects are distributed. So is Linus, but Linus lets contributors select their own interpretation of the GPL without screaming at others that they have to see things his way.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ubuntu's legal advice process

    Ubuntu's previously stated that it's sought legal advice and believes it can bundle ZFS without breaching any licences.

    Canonical: Can we bundle ZFS without breaching any licences?

    Lawyer 1: No sir, that would be impossible.

    *Splat!*

    Canonical: Find us some new lawyers.

    ...

    Canonical: Can we bundle ZFS without breaching any licences?

    Lawyer 2: No sir, that would be impossible.

    *Crunch!*

    Canonical: Find us some new lawyers.

    ...

    [repeat for some time]

    Canonical: Can we bundle ZFS without breaching any licences?

    Lawyer n: Why yes, that's certainly possible!

    Canonical: See! I told you it could be done!

    1. theOtherJT

      Re: Ubuntu's legal advice process

      Well, yes, but to be fair that is largely how legal advice works.

      Ultimately whether or not this is legal will have to be decided by a court, at which point if lawyer N can convince the court that it is, then they were right.

      That might be a crazy hard sell, which is why none of the others wanted to try it, but the law isn't some immutable thing like mathematics. If you want to make something legal, you just need to convince a court* that it is.

      *or possibly many courts, assuming what you're trying is contentious and is going to result in an appeal.

    2. Chris King Silver badge

      Re: Ubuntu's legal advice process

      If you're squishing lawyers to get a "favourable opinion", you're doing it wrong. (Squish 'em for fun !)

      It's more likely to be...

      Canonical: Can we bundle ZFS without breaching any licences?

      Lawyer 1: No sir, that would be impossible.

      *rustling of large amounts of used banknotes*

      Lawyer 1: It would appear at first glance to be impossible, but further research is required.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think this is where systemd could really help

    ...just drop it into the conversation and watch the frothing start. See no one cares about ZFS now do they?

    systemd

    systemd

    systemd

  17. jms222

    Surely _any_ commercial software running on Linux is linking with it. Yes it's dynamic but it's still linking in some form (via libc.so and linux-vdso.so). So I find the whole GPL link argument really weak.

  18. fnj
    WTF?

    "Impossible", my arse

    Pssst - Mr. Stallman - it may be impossible in your OPINION; not in the considered opinion of many others; but in the real world it is BEING DONE. Deal with it. Ubuntu 16.04 Beta 2 has already shipped with it, and it is a wonderful win for the users. In 12 days the final release will ship. Either join the legal machinations of certain obstructionists, or shut the heck up. Ubuntu has consulted actual legal opinion, and is not about to change its mind due to your spouting off. If, then, the obstructionists win in court, you can bask in satisfaction and the users can damn you and move on to BSD.

    I have been using ZFS on CentOS for years in the form of a DKMS module that I have to compile myself every time either ZFS or the kernel gets updated. As a user, this just means when I switch to Ubuntu 16.04 I won't have to deal any longer with the stupid borked-up "weak-updates" misfeature of DKMS.

  19. Martijn Otto

    You can say many things

    about Richard Stallman, but the guy has a magnificent beard!

  20. IGnatius T Foobar
    FAIL

    Richard Stallman?

    Richard Stallman? Isn't he that guy who used to be a great hacker who wrote GCC and a bunch of other important tools, before his brain broke and he degraded into a babbling buffoon who wanders the planet bantering about some weird definition of freedom?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FOSS "fundamentalism"

    Slightly ot, but I find it troubling that so many people who I assume daily rely on gpl/gnu tools, fundamentally misunderstand RMS and his positions. I thought Register readers were better than that, but I see way too much vitriole against him for his "fundamentalism" when the people saying that almost always betray their lack of understanding the "fundamentals" of FOSS and it's principles.

    Freedom for the users (gpl), not the devs (bsd), is going to be the last bastion against the totalitarian dystopian future. Those of us who understand that sometimes freedom requires practical and pragmatic sacrifice will be ahead of the game when those days come.

    Of course, what do I expect speaking to a reader base who accepts monarchy and dumbly attributes it to "just ceremonial". Fools, most of you.

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: FOSS "fundamentalism"

      What makes you think people _misunderstand_ Stallman? The problem is they understand him only too well.

    2. Martin Taylor 1

      Re: FOSS "fundamentalism"

      It will not be by monarchy that the totalitarian dystopian future will be imposed.

    3. #define INFINITY -1 Bronze badge

      Re: FOSS "fundamentalism"

      I upvoted you but the comment about monarchy is truly ignorant.

  22. Jim-234

    Forgetting about Oracle deciding all your money is now ours?

    If Oracle has ANYTHING to do with it, stay way way away.

    So Java is supposed to be like freely licensed and available for everyone to use (at least that's the happy song Sun was singing)... Well one need look no further than Oracle trying to sue Google for more than they paid for Sun over "using the free java in a way we didn't like" basically.

    If you don't think that somewhere some legal department is coming up with a way to do massive extortion on a worldwide scale to fund more yachts and rockets then sure go right ahead....

    I'd say the only 2 ways forward is either Oracle suddenly finds a new religion and gives the ZFS away in the GPL v2 license (which means they can still license it in other types of license as well), or a clean truly open source version is written to go in Linux that is carefully checked by actual lawyers who know what they are doing to make sure Oracle doesn't wait till everybody is using it & then sue everybody for Trillions.

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: Forgetting about Oracle deciding all your money is now ours?

      How many times do I have to repeat that Oracle has nothing to do with OpenZFS? This was released, as open source, before Oracle bought Sun, and now they cannot touch it because of all the contributions they do not own.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Bronek - Re: Forgetting about Oracle deciding all your money is now ours?

        Yeah, and Google has to pay billions for just four lines of code that resembles Java.

        1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

          Re: @Bronek - Forgetting about Oracle deciding all your money is now ours?

          @AC - CDDL prevents Oracle from playing this game with OpenZFS, however at this moment it seems like it is FSF (and RMS) who want to kill OpenZFS on Linux. Oracle will not lift a finger, as it does not hurt them at all (it actually may help, by killing free competition).

  23. TJ1

    You probably don't want to use OpenZFS on Linux...

    ... on your SSDs since it has no discard (TRIM/UNMAP) erase-block support in the file-system.

    There are *experimental* patches coming along but they won't be in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS.

    For TRIM/UNMAP discard support use eXT4 or BTRFS.

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: You probably don't want to use OpenZFS on Linux...

      By now, all SSDs on the market have decent (or better) garbage collection algorithms.

      1. dajames Silver badge

        Re: You probably don't want to use OpenZFS on Linux...

        By now, all SSDs on the market have decent (or better) garbage collection algorithms.

        You seem to be missing the point of TRIM. It's not an alternative to GC in the flash controller, it's a technology that assists GC and makes it possible to achieve better wear levelling.

        It does this by ensuring that flash blocks that formerly belonged to files that have been deleted are made available for garbage collection sooner -- at the point of file deletion (when the TRIM command is issued) rather than at the point of reuse -- so that the garbage collector has more free blocks to work with.

  24. nilfs2
    Childcatcher

    That's why we can't have nice things

    If we start bending the GPL license rules, it's just a matter of time until a precedent is created and the greedy companies start doing as they please with the code.

    I support Stallman on this one, Ubuntu keep showing time and time again that they deserve to be kicked out of the Open Source community for doing stupid, selfish things with the open source software.

    1. TVU Silver badge

      Re: That's why we can't have nice things

      "If we start bending the GPL license rules, it's just a matter of time until a precedent is created and the greedy companies start doing as they please with the code.

      I support Stallman on this one, Ubuntu keep showing time and time again that they deserve to be kicked out of the Open Source community for doing stupid, selfish things with the open source software."

      I think it is worth pointing out two things. The first of which is that I have now seen four informed legal opinions about this matter and three of them support Canonical's interpretation with only one, from the Free Software Conservancy, that is a dissenting opinion.

      Secondly, the comment is deeply unfair to the great contribution that Canonical and Ubuntu have made to GNU-Linux operating systems over the years including the important publicity aspect. Along with Linux Mint, Ubuntu is a known and recognised Linux OS brand and it's one of the few that's actually available to buy on a new laptop or desktop PC.

  25. Ruben_AJ

    ZFS is a big business

    Oracle: "ZFS is currently one of the fastest growing products within the Oracle Server and Storage Systems business unit and sold more than a billion dollars". As far as I see, this is not a discussion about if GPL and CDDL are compatible. I think it could refer to Oracle’s own cloud. Did you know that Oracle has a massive global storage business? Did you know that Oracle has over three hundred petabytes of ZFS Storage Appliances deployed across its cloud, infrastructure hosting, internal product development and global IT operations?

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: ZFS is a big business

      No matter what conclusion this argument between Ubuntu and FSF reaches, this has nothing to do with Oracle. OpenZFS is growing business and the argument is around OpenZFS licensing. Oracle is not using OpenZFS and has nothing to do with it, they have their own closed source branched (technically, it was upstream then) by Sun before OpenZFS was created, and which they bought together with Sun.

      Also, this has nothing to do with Oracle and everything to do with "software defined storage" which is often using OpenZFS (except for Oracle which does not, as explained above). Oracle is so far behind, it does not even show in the rearview mirror. You mention billion dollars, but forgot the scale - it was accumulated over 6 years. EMC alone made this much in sales over 18 months, see more here. Also, as far as software side is concerned, Oracle's ZFS is stale. Their appliances are sold on the strength of the hardware and on support contracts. Today anyone can get better performance and more features with OpenZFS and a good mix of NVMe, SSD and spinning rust - all generic. Which is what they actually are doing.

      I must admit I am getting annoyed on El Reg for even mentioning Oracle in the context of this argument, and spreading bloody misinformation.

  26. hayzoos

    As identified, one of the major differences in GPLv3 vs GPLv2 is the handling of combined works and not just derived works.

    I understood a derived work as a fork. Existing GPLv2 code modified to add or change functionality in that code was required to follow GPLv2 source availability upon distribution of the binary. There was the linking statically or dynamically issue.

    Statically could be understood to be incorporating the linked code and therefore the linked code must also be GPLv2. Statically linked code is a form of a derived work. Dynamic linking not incorporating the linked code could not require the linked code to be GPLv2 even if the linked code in binary file was distributed with the GPLv2 binary which is a form of combined work.

    GPLv3 extended the reach to combined work. Combined work could be interpreted to cover an entire distribution including closed source binaries distributed with the GPLv3 code.

    Statically linked code simplifies the interaction of the code and has advantages because of that. There can be improved reliability, better performance, more efficient code execution, etc. Dynamically linked code can be more flexible, more memory efficient, and advantageous in other ways. Programmers have plenty of reasons to select static or dynamic linking not just licensing.

    So I have to wonder where this leaves all these "Live" distributions which can boot from CD/DVD/USB and support a wide array of hardware with much closed source drivers?

  27. megamanx1978

    Stallman is right and things really are black and white.

    If we don't enforce a copyleft license like the GPL then a copyright license like the EULA should not be enforced ether.

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