Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
GNU is Not Unix Software Linux

CBC News Interprets GPL - Poorly 252

Posted by Zonk
from the that's-a-new-one dept.
frankShook writes "The Canadian news service CBC has up an article entitled 'Linux distributors scorn Microsoft partnership'. Primarily, it looks to describe the ongoing licensing saga between Microsoft and Linux distributors. It also includes a highly unique interpretation of the GPL: 'Open-source software such as Linux, on the other hand, encourages individuals to add to or modify software without fear of legal repercussions, so long as they abide by the conditions of the general public license, which stipulates that the program must remain open and sharable.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

CBC News Interprets GPL - Poorly

Comments Filter:
  • by XnavxeMiyyep (782119) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @11:34PM (#19632057)
    ...but at least it's coverage. They say no publicity is bad publicity.
    • by mqduck (232646) <mqduckNO@SPAMmqduck.net> on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:06AM (#19632263)

      They say no publicity is bad publicity.

      I think that only goes for show business. "Saturday June 24, Linux Users Eat More Babies" just ain't good for Linux no matter how you interpret the meaning of the title.
      • by grcumb (781340) on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:36AM (#19632449) Homepage Journal

        They say no publicity is bad publicity.

        I think that only goes for show business. "Saturday June 24, Linux Users Eat More Babies" just ain't good for Linux no matter how you interpret the meaning of the title.

        Yeah, but if you do a follow-up on June 25 explaining that they're terrorist babies, it's okay again.

        • "Saturday June 24, Linux Users Eat More Babies" just ain't good for Linux no matter how you interpret the meaning of the title.
          How could linux users manage to eat babies on Saturday June 24 when Saturday actually was 23rd? So there must be some kind of witchcraft or sorcery about linux, something wicked, and what's worse, it's even distributed open source. Sounds like bad news to me.
      • by jd (1658)
        Leela: "They say the Evil One eats babies!"
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Mercano (826132)
          As opposed to Futurama's Leela, who eats the babies of the people of Omicron Persei VIII (who's parents aren't what you would call friendly).
    • by Xenographic (557057) on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:49AM (#19632505) Homepage Journal
      Just how is it inaccurate? The General Public License exists to protect the four freedoms of the software it covers [gnu.org]. It can't shield a person from all legal liability, of course, but I don't see any major inaccuracy. Are people reading that to say that the GPL shields one from all liability? That would be a horrible misreading of the article, not an inaccuracy. The GPL most certainly does shield people from legal liability for copyright infringement when modifying the software. You know, that whole clause in the GPL that says "You are not required to agree to anything to merely use software which is licensed under the GPL. You only have obligations if you modify or distribute" and the fact that the GPL works because modification and distribution would be copyright infringement without the permission granted by the GPL?

      That's right. The GPL shields you against copyright infringement claims by the GPL'd software's authors so long as you follow the rules of the GPL. It's the very source of the GPL's power; without it the GPL could not be enforced. Anyone who doesn't understand that that is how the GPL works doesn't know a damn thing about the GPL or copyright law. Which is probably why we're seeing this article here on Slashdot, huh?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Mistlefoot (636417)
        If only there was a way to mod Zonks "article" -1 troll or - 1 flamebait...
        • the submitter (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          I read the article and can't see any glaringly obvious discrepancies with the basic nature of the gpl. I think the submitter read it wrong or something, and mr. zonk went along with it.

          Mucho weirdness.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by jj421 (642627)

          If only there was a way to mod Zonks "article" -1 troll or - 1 flamebait...
          Ah ... That would be Digg.
        • by afidel (530433)
          You know you can remove him from your authors list in your preferences, right?
      • by sumdumass (711423) on Monday June 25, 2007 @01:43AM (#19632753) Journal
        The only thing out of whack is the remain sharable and the concept of shielding from liability. You don't have to share a program you changed as long as you don't distribute it.

        but the liability part, it captures the essence of free software and the principle of the GPL as you say. I think the "without fear of legal repercussions" was along the lines of , you take this program, add to it or change it, and you don't have to worry about Ubuntu taking you to court. Of course it seems a little broad in it's wording but the essence is there without getting too technical. It doesn't name the author of the article, I'm wondering it they needed the press in order to further their career. I mean, hits on the site to about the article to show to the news agency they deserve a job. It wouldn't be the first time slashdot has been used for something like this. But I'm just speculating. I didn't find the article to be too misleading. Especially when the GPLv3 comes into play.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You don't have to share a program you changed as long as you don't distribute it.

          That's always a dicey argument though and usually depends on the scale of its implementation. If Joe Shmoe's Inc. took some GPL'd software and modified a few lines for use in their back office I'm sure nobody would care because nobody ever heard of them, but if Ford heavily modified some piece of GPL'd software to use as a VPN client or something for 100,000 workers someone would argue that they're "distributing" it even thou

          • by Shano (179535) on Monday June 25, 2007 @06:49AM (#19633913)

            If the 100,000 workers are genuine employees, and Ford is considered a single organisation, then that isn't distribution [gnu.org]. If some of them are contractors, or Ford want to be seen as a number of distinct legal entities (for some reason), then it probably counts as distributing it.

          • by nevali (942731)
            But that's fine: they can also make the source available internally, if they want to. It doesn't mean any of the employees would bother to grab a copy or make it available externally (as they'd be within their rights to do).
            • by sumdumass (711423)
              You know, that is a common oversight or misconception. You only have to make the source available to those you have distributed to.

              And another thing, if they distribute it to some legal entity they control, like "Ford Mexico" production lines, they aren't really distributing it to anyone outside their control. Ford owns the computers running it, made sure it was being installed and maintained. I wonder how the employee's rights in something like this transposes from the GPL. Clearly it wouldn't be a flat ou
    • by PetoskeyGuy (648788) on Monday June 25, 2007 @10:53AM (#19635909)
      I think it's perfect. They summarized the GPL into a single sentence. Anyone who is going to use / distribute GPL software will run into the GPL in more detail. What's more annoying is that it's actually a decent article discussing Microsoft / Linux patent deals and somehow everyone is blathering on about how unhappy they are with a single sentence halfway through the article instead of perhaps... discussing the article itself.

      The CBC is disucssing Microsoft and Linux in the same page and they sound like equals. This should be a Good Thing.
  • by mr_mischief (456295) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @11:36PM (#19632065) Journal
    "encourages individuals to add to or modify software without fear of legal repercussions, so long as they abide by the conditions of the general public license, which stipulates that the program must remain open and sharable" sounds like a pretty reasonable shortened form of the intent of the GPL for lay people. I'm not sure one should expect a news article in the mainstream press to contain the text of the license or an entire treatise on how it came about and how it is applied.
    • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Sunday June 24, 2007 @11:42PM (#19632115) Journal
      I thought the same thing, so I was confused. But then I realized that if you read it, it can be interpreted to mean *any* software. That is, someone reading that part could believe that "Linux software" encourages users to freely distribute/modify proprietary software.
      • by seaturnip (1068078) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @11:59PM (#19632207)
        Actually no, the original article contains the word "the" before the word "software". This is a transcription error on the part of the submitter (unless they went and corrected the article without changing the update time).
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by quantaman (517394)

          Actually no, the original article contains the word "the" before the word "software". This is a transcription error on the part of the submitter (unless they went and corrected the article without changing the update time).

          How is leaving out "the" a transcription error? It's a 45 word exert, no one is going to type it you just copy+paste the text. If the "the" was in the original article at the time of citing there really aren't many plausible explanations other than trying to distort the meaning. Of course fact that the distortion isn't very misleading makes me believe there was no "the" in the original text.

          However, even if the "the" was missing my reading of the sentence still leaves the possibility that the software they

          • by rtb61 (674572)
            Anyway to be really well and truly accurate the article states 'GPL' not gplv1, gplv2, or gplv3 or any specific gpl at all. So the auther of the article is quite entitles to put any description to their generic description of a GPL that they choose.

            Further to that they only gave an example open source software entity covered by a GPL (technically speaking now covered by more than one type of GPL) and not necessarily the generic GPL that they described.

            The only thing the author was really wrong with is

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by quantaman (517394)

            Regardless it always bugs me how /. can have grossly misleading titles and summaries that stay on the front page forever. The comments often clear it up unanimously but the majority of readers will probably never read the comments and will come away with bad facts. I think there needs to be some kind of system whereby commenters can update headlines and summaries which are bad since the editors don't necessarily read the comments for every story.

            Big surprise. Over 12 hours since the story was posted, the comments almost unanimously condemn the story, badsummary is one of the tags, and the title and summary are still as they were. I'm seriously considering quitting /. at this point.

            The fact is I simply can't read the links and/or comments for the majority of stories and the titles+summaries are getting so absurdly inaccurate that I need to consciously filter out information I glean from there since there's such a high probability of it being inaccu

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That is, someone reading that part could believe that "Linux software" encourages users to freely distribute/modify proprietary software.

        Yes, I agree. I see it from this angle as well. I should also point out that I am retarded.

    • by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Sunday June 24, 2007 @11:43PM (#19632117) Journal
      You're missing the point of this headline, which is to generate page views, not to be accurate.
      • by fm6 (162816) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @11:51PM (#19632171) Homepage Journal
        Ah, the old debate: is Zonk stupid or clever? Does he write lame headlines because he doesn't know any better or because it attracts attention? Is he Zippy the Pinhead or Bill O'Reilly?

        Personally, I happen to think that Bill O'Reilly is Zippy the Pinhead, so it's a moot point.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Wonko the Sane (25252) *

          Ah, the old debate: is Zonk stupid or clever? Does he write lame headlines because he doesn't know any better or because it attracts attention? Is he Zippy the Pinhead or Bill O'Reilly?

          Personally, I happen to think that Bill O'Reilly is Zippy the Pinhead, so it's a moot point.
          So you're saying "Zonk" is Bill O'Reilly's online pseudonym?

          That explains so much.
        • Answer: Never attribute to marice, that which can be exprained by stupidity.
        • by coaxial (28297)
          You've never looked at the storry submission form have you? The submitter writes the headline. I suspect that submitter picked a stupid headline so he'd get a "story accepted" on his page.

          Editors tend to just click the button to accept the article.
        • by coaxial (28297)
          You've never looked at the story submission form have you? The submitter writes the headline. Editors tend to just click the button to accept the article.

          I suspect that submitter picked a stupid headline so he'd get a "story accepted" on his page. That or frankShook is some crazy ass gpl fanboy that wants to get super pendanic.

          Given that it's slashdot, I put the odds at 50-50.
      • by isorox (205688)
        I'd have to agree that it's a highly unique interpretation of the GPL -- most normal news sources (i.e. biassed and stupid) blindly repeat claims that the GPL is a cancer used by commie terrorists out to kill you.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2007 @11:43PM (#19632121)
      One of the best neutral summarizations I've heard, actually.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2007 @11:49PM (#19632161)
      frankShook and Zonk Interpret CBC News Piece - Poorly
    • by lawpoop (604919) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @11:49PM (#19632165) Homepage Journal
      Yeah really. Or maybe we should we have RMS do a half-hour rambling infomercial on the legal details of the GPL? That would help people understand the GPL better.
    • by mqduck (232646)
      Yeah, I had to re-read that sentence a number of times to see what was wrong with it. Finally I noticed: nowhere does the article say that open-source is about the source code being available. That's gotta be it, right?
      • Yes it probably is, which presumeably means that frankShoook and Zonk think its a really good idea to explain the GPL by first explaining source code to an audience who have never heard of it before.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WarJolt (990309)
      Anyone who would actually understand and appreciate the words that the GPL uses have probably already read it. They did a good job at dumbing it down.
      • I agree. Short of a 5 minute lecture on the topic, it wasn't a terrible precis. If I was to describe the GPL to my parents, I would probably concentrate on its affects rather than its particulars.
    • Seems an odd bit to focus on, rather than the continued openness of the source code. Is that even true? I don't think anything in the license would give developers any reason not to fear legal repercussions if they might to begin with.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sumdumass (711423)
        If you take a microsoft program, extend it and then resell it, microsoft will likely come after you. If you take a GPled program, extend it and then resell it, Your not going to get the same problems if you distribute the source. You have do not have to fear legal repercussions in that aspect. I think that is what the article was trying to convey with the keep it sharable comment.
      • Seems an odd bit to focus on, rather than the continued openness of the source code

        They mentioned the requirement that the program remain "open". They just didn't go into detail about precisely what "open" means in this context, or how that openness is maintained. Considering the scope of the article, I'd say that was about right.

        I don't think anything in the license would give developers any reason not to fear legal repercussions if they might to begin with.

        How true. I mean if you've been caught o

  • uh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    A comparison between this and what it really is would make this post make a lot of sense to a lot of people who are sketchy on the details of the GPL themselves.
  • The article is hardly about interpreting the GPL as the title of this story claims. There was a one liner about an aspect of the GPL; no more.
  • by rmdir -r * (716956) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @11:44PM (#19632127)

    Linux is under the GPL, and that is an excellent high level interpretation of it. Yes, there are details- lots of open source software IS NOT under the GPL, for instance, and has different requirements- but it's reasonable, and the topic is Linux, not BSD.


    What is so wrong, again? Why do we have editors?

    • by Lisandro (799651) on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:02AM (#19632235)
      What is so wrong, again?

      Nothing really - it's not a completely accurate description of the GPL, but it was never intended to be. In fact, like you, i think it's a darn good layman explanation.

      Why do we have editors?

      Hey, someone has to dupe this story next Wednesday!
    • by sidb (530400)

      Why do we have editors?

      To troll the /. readership, of course. Although in this case, the summary's thesis just seems more ill-conceived than actually trollish given that there's no deliberately misleading information other than possibly the omission of a "the" in the quote. My stupidity/malice gauge inclines toward the former this time.

      Of course, here I am still reading... I guess I'm easily entertained.

  • Right idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 4of11 (714557)
    Sounds like a good summary of the goals of the GPL to me. Why should the average person care exactly how it implements its goals?
  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Titoxd (1116095) on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:00AM (#19632211) Homepage
    Why is it "highly unique"? It sounds spot-on to me, as it captures the gist of it while being written in a lay language.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by fonik (776566)
      Well, it doesn't differentiate between different kinds of open-source. It makes it sound like all open-source licenses must conform to the GPL. Also, any license can be used without fear of legal repercussions related to the license as long as the abide by the license. It also doesn't mention that the software must be left open and shareable by placing it under the GPL. Has anyone mentioned that they called it the General Public License instead of the GNU Public License?

      It may be obvious to anyone who re
      • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Tickletaint (1088359) on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:52AM (#19632523) Journal
        Holy shit. Your post embodies everything detestable about overpedantic geekery. The point is that nobody cares about all that shit you just mentioned; and in my opinion, the CBC did a great job focusing on the relevant, interesting aspects of all that shit without fifty thousand words of expository material (the entire contents of the GPL, say).

        You're also wrong about the "GNU Public License" bit. It is in fact the General Public License (plus or minus a GNU).
      • Well, you yourself got the name wrong, so perhaps your vitriol is better directed elsewhere.

  • Sounds fine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:00AM (#19632219)
    I think what they wrote is just fine. It was meant to be a simple explanation of the license, not a verbatim copy. Besides, if they could 100% accurately describe the whole license in one or two sentences, then the GPL would only be one or two sentences long to begin with.
  • Aww, not again. This is the same genius news source that posted the "SPEED OF LIGHT FINALLY EXCEEDED LOL" article a few months back. Old Slashdot Article. [slashdot.org]

    They still don't seem very worried about their articles being accurate.
    • Do you believe everything you read on Slashdot? You don't seem too worried about using your brain.
  • Congradulations CBC! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by John Jamieson (890438) on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:24AM (#19632383)
    I don't think I have seen the mainstream media do a better job of covering a topic in so few words. The fact that they even covered this topic, and it was on the main CBC page is AMAZING!
  • The Internet news service Slashdot has up an article entitled 'CBC News Interprets GPL - Poorly'. Primarily, it looks to describe the ongoing lack of capacity for Slashdot writers and editors to think outside of the IT world. It also includes a highly unique interpretation of summarization, and with great authority and sarcasm, classifies relatively succinct and accurate generalization as 'Unique'. ..which it seems to be, for the Slashdot crowd. :-p'

  • by rhendershot (46429) on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:27AM (#19632403) Journal

    without fear of legal repercussions


    as if modifying software were somehow inherently illegal, immoral, wrong, dangerous, something our legal system must take an especial interest in... and so on.
  • by jorghis (1000092) on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:51AM (#19632517)
    Come on, you are complaining about how they left out all the exceptions and nuances of it? Do you seriously expect them to just regurgitate the entire thing? The basic spirit of it is captured pretty well in that one sentence which is far better than the summary I just read here on Slashdot. I cant even begin to count the number of times I have read a summary on here which was horribly misleading or flat out false. I think this is a pretty classis case of the pot implying that the kettle could be a little less black.
  • Nit picking? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by james_moriarty (114305) on Monday June 25, 2007 @01:05AM (#19632607)
    Meh, that's close enough. It conveys the spirit of GPL, even if it confuses a couple of things. The GPL is generally a difficult thing to explain to others.
  • I think what they mean is that you are allowed to modify the software (ie, software under the GPL) and then distribute it again without having to worry about being sued, as opposed to modifying closed software and then distributing your changes.

    It seems accurate enough to me, although it perhaps is a bit incomplete and over generalized.

  • 'Open-source software such as Linux, on the other hand, encourages individuals to add to or modify software without fear of legal repercussions, so long as they abide by the conditions of the general public license, which stipulates that the program must remain open and sharable.'"

    I don't really see much wrong with this. The wording could be a little more clear but it's not completely wrong.
    It is true that additions to GNU GPL code must remain sharable. The GNU GPL doesn't say you have to share them, but it
  • by zaydana (729943) on Monday June 25, 2007 @02:18AM (#19632895)
    Slashdot summary interprets CBC - Poorly
  • And keep generating more publicity for dubious deals struck by Microsoft with a few "Linux providers". The focal point of the news article was to report on the dubious naure of the deals, and the lukewarm reaction from a few 'respectable' distros and vendors. It was not intended to interpret the GPL at all.

    Nothing else for us to see here; move along.
  • by suv4x4 (956391) on Monday June 25, 2007 @04:03AM (#19633319)
    This is typical for cult-like psychology. You want to convince everyone that your technology/company/whatever is the best thing since sliced bread, eat you (consciously or not) attack any attempt from "the rest of the world" to adopt said technology.

    A big part of the value of being in a cult is that it's exclusive. We're the smart guys, the "guys who get it". The rest of the world doesn't get it, and their attempts to "get it" are laughable and worthy of mocking at.

    Except of course, the biggest fanatics usually know less on the matter than people with more objective opinions.
  • by codemachine (245871) on Monday June 25, 2007 @04:10AM (#19633349)
    I remember a while back that they had tested and recommended mplayer for some of their streaming. Of course they still use Real in places too, but at least there is a Linux client for Real. And I've never had problems with their site in any browser, so I have to think they are making sure it is cross platform.

    I'm not sure it was very helpful to have some random contributor bash their explanation of the GPL, especially considering it wasn't all that bad of an explanation considering the intended audience. The fact that CBC is even reporting on the Linux distros that are resisting the shady MS patent deals is a pleasant surprise.

    So how about "Thank You CBC" instead of "lets publish an "article" which nitpicks and pokes fun of CBC".
  • by francium de neobie (590783) on Monday June 25, 2007 @04:39AM (#19633441)
    If I were to write a summary of GPL for the general public, I would write something very similar to that.

    The Slashdot summary, however, seems like a flame bait to me.
  • Well, I've certainly heard worse interpretations.
  • It's hard to explain the GPL (which necessarily contains some overtly political language, because it is a political statement; and many words only used by lawyers, because it may have to be relied upon in a court of law one day) to people who -- sadly, but this is a separate issue -- have more or less been brought up to believe that there is something intrinsically wrong with copying and modifying software.

    In the light of which, I think they've done a great job summarising it. Yes, the GPL has various
  • Isn't something either unique or not? I seem to remember being told that since unique means one of a kind that there are no degrees of uniqueness. Irregardless, it is highly ironical that there submission too slashdot is inaccurate to.

"From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere." -- Dr. Seuss

Working...