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FSF Rattles Tivo Saber At Apple 571

Posted by kdawson
from the interesting-to-try-and-prove-that dept.
Ohreally_factor takes us back to Friday when both the iPhone and the GPLv3 were released. "This article at Tectonic suggests that Apple's iPhone might run afoul of the GPL. Peter Brown, executive director of the FSF is quoted as saying: 'Today, Steve Jobs and Apple release a product crippled with proprietary software and digital restrictions: crippled, because a device that isn't under the control of its owner works against the interests of its owner. We know that Apple has built its operating system, OS X, and its web browser Safari, using GPL-covered work — it will be interesting to see to what extent the iPhone uses GPLed software.' Might there really be GPLed code in the iPhone? It's well known that OS X built on BSD, which of course uses the BSD license. Webkit is based on KHTML which uses the LGPL."
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FSF Rattles Tivo Saber At Apple

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:35AM (#19728125)
    If there isn't any evidence of GPL violation, why make the accusation?

    This is despicable sensationalism, and not what I'd expect from the FSF.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bheer (633842)
      Because the GPL3 is not about "free as in liberty", it's about "free as in do what RMS says". This is fine if you agree with RMS, but you should be aware that there are a lot of people, including people who've made valuable contributions to open-source, who don't.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vadim_t (324782)
        So if you don't agree with it, why contribute?

        I don't submit patches to BSD licensed projects, then whine because my code is used in a way that I don't like. I just don't send any patches in the first place.

        It should be noted that the purpose of the GPL isn't world dominance, so the fact that there are people who disagree with the ideas isn't a big loss.
      • *Users'* freedom (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DrYak (748999) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @05:30AM (#19728363) Homepage

        Because the GPL3 is not about "free as in liberty", it's about "free as in do what RMS says".


        As often said, (L)GPL is about protecting the freedom of the *USERS*.
        GPL serves to basically grant to USERS freedom to do whatever they want with code, as long as they pass along the same freedom, shall they decide to distribute the code (ie.: they have to transmit the code and the same freedom to the next in line).

        Yes, it does restrict professional developpers', manufacturers' and other corporates' freedom. But the GPL was always centered around the user.

        The problem that the FSF is trying to bring attention to is that with iPhone those users' freedoms aren't preserved. There is code covered by GPL or LGPL version 2 or previous inside the iPhone. One well known exemple is WebKit/KHTML.
        You bought the iPhone, and you own it, it's yours. You got the software running on the iPhone, and you can get the source code for (L)GPLed elements from the web.
        BUT you can't do whatever you want to do with it : you can't recompile it and put a new version.

        Let's say that KHTML gets some upgrade making it better support newer standarts (strong standart support has always been KHTML/Webkit's selling argument). Or let's say GCC or some other compiler project (be it closed or open source) release a newer compiler version which compiles much faster code, and produce faster software.
        The "do-whatever-you-want" freedom to tinker should allow you to rebuild the webkit component in the iPhone (and having either a better or a faster one, according to the previous scenarios).
        *BUT* you can't actually upload the newly produced firmware, because the iPhone is DRMed to the bone with Trusted Computing chips, and as such does only run signed and crypted code. The DRM architecture in the iPhone takes away your freedom as an end user to play around with FLOSS inside the firmware.
        The only hope for you is to wait and hope that Apple will release a newer firmware with an upgraded WebKit and/or recompiled faster. And hope that Apple won't act like other phone manufacturer ("Sorry this new feature [which btw is only a matter of software support] is only supported in our newer Phone model. Buy it now and enjoy support for newer web-stantard or whatever else").
        Once again tivoization occurs.

        The speculation of the article ask an open question about what is the long term impact of GPLv3 on this kind of behaviour.

        This is an interesting thing to ask oneself. It brings lot of questions about the future :
        - Will companies start to think of strategies to let the user tinker the GPL parts (special signing keys for the GPL modules can be ordered from the manufacturer that allow to use modified GPL code in the firmware, while everything else is still restricted) ?
        - Will manufacturer start forking project (Apple's forks staying GPLv2, while opensource projects slowly make transition toward GPLv3) ? And which manufacturer will be able to sustain their own fork, or will most of that forking will lead to poorly maintained projects ?
        - Or will manufacturer simply stop using GPL code at all and slowly switch to more corporate-friendly instead of user-friendly license like BSD ?
        - And will Apple try to bribe the FSF by offer free iPhone, please ?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Eunuchswear (210685)

          *BUT* you can't actually upload the newly produced firmware, because the iPhone is DRMed to the bone with Trusted Computing chips, and as such does only run signed and crypted code. The DRM architecture in the iPhone takes away your freedom as an end user to play around with FLOSS inside the firmware.

          And how is this not in breach of section 6 of the LGPL 2.1? [gnu.org]

          [...]
          For an executable, the required form of the "work that uses the Library" must include any data and utility programs needed for reproducing the ex

          • For an executable, the required form of the "work that uses the Library" must include any data and utility programs needed for reproducing the executable from it.

            Seems to me that "data" includes their signing keys

            And I'm sure that, very well paid lawyers from TiVo and Apple will tell you that data DOESN'T include the keys, because, even without them, you CAN produce an executable ELF.
            It just happens that your iPhone won't run it. But it's a perfectly standart executable, that follows exactly the ELF specif

        • by Chemisor (97276) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @06:26AM (#19728685)
          > The DRM architecture in the iPhone takes away your freedom as an end user to
          > play around with FLOSS inside the firmware.

          Whoa there! FSF makes an accusation and you swallow it without question? There is no proof that there is any GPL software in the iPhone and until such proof becomes available, how are you any better than RIAA or SCO in assuming otherwise?

          > Or will manufacturer simply stop using GPL code at all and slowly switch to more
          > corporate-friendly instead of user-friendly license like BSD ?

          More likely they will simply continue making and using proprietary code. That's what I would do. Aside from really large projects like the Linux kernel, it is not that much more difficult to rewrite than it is to reuse. That's what salaried programmers are for and lots and lots of unpaid overtime. If they bark, we can always outsource to India.
    • by Saint Fnordius (456567) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:51AM (#19728209) Homepage Journal
      This is a base attempt to get attention, to get some of the bigger press outlets to look at them. I suspect that they are in reality simply resenting that the iPhone buried almost all awareness of the GPL3 release, and are now desperate for attention.
      • This is a base attempt to get attention, to get some of the bigger press outlets to look at them. I suspect that they are in reality simply resenting that the iPhone buried almost all awareness of the GPL3 release, and are now desperate for attention.

        Except that:

        1) FSF said nothing like the summary implies.
        2) I suspect the FSF chose the 29th so they wouldn't have too much publicity - I mean all the MS/Apple pundits who'd otherwise love to have a bit of a GPL3 bash have had their hand full. (either denouncing the iphone or heralding it as the second cumming)
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by stackdump (553408)

          (either denouncing the iphone or heralding it as the second cumming)
          Did you mean "coming", I mean the iPhone is really cool but...
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Macthorpe (960048)

          FSF said nothing like the summary implies

          Would it be easier for you if I linked you directly to the release from the FSF? Here. [fsf.org]

          Here's the Slashdot summary:

          Peter Brown, executive director of the FSF is quoted as saying: 'Today, Steve Jobs and Apple release a product crippled with proprietary software and digital restrictions: crippled, because a device that isn't under the control of its owner works against the interests of its owner. We know that Apple has built its operating system, OS X, and its web browser Safari, using GPL-covered work - it will be interesting to see to what extent the iPhone uses GPLed software.'

          Here's the quote from the FSF news release:

          The iPhone is leaving people questioning: Does it contain GPLed software? What impact will the GPLv3 have on the long-term prospects for devices like the iPhone that are built to keep their owners frustrated?

          Peter Brown, executive director of the FSF said, "Tomorrow, Steve Jobs and Apple release a product crippled with proprietary software and digital restrictions: crippled, because a device that isn't under the control of its owner works against the interests of its owner. We know that Apple has built its operating system, OS X, and its web browser Safari, using GPL-covered work - it will be interesting to see to what extent the iPhone uses GPLed software."

          So basically, you're talking out of your arse.

    • by xaxa (988988) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @05:36AM (#19728379)
      Why not link to the original article [fsf.org] on the FSF website? (Tectonic isn't respecting the copyright of the FSF article "Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted worldwide, without royalty, in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.")

      Slashdot is spreading the FUD here, the FSF isn't making an accusation: "it will be interesting to see to what extent the iPhone uses GPLed software" isn't an accusation, neither is "What impact will the GPLv3 have on the long-term prospects for devices like the iPhone?".
  • Grandstanding. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:40AM (#19728149) Journal
    Apple's work on the Mach kernel for ARM isn't under the GPL, it's under the BSD license. The graphics libraries are their own, and KHTML is available under it's own license. The FSF is trying to pull a Greenpeace-style publicity-grab here.

    -jcr

    • The FSF is trying to pull a Greenpeace-style publicity-grab here.

      Bullshit.

      Just because there's an article about the FSF & Apple, doesn't mean its endorsed by Apple or the FSF.

      The only quote in the article from the FSF is a (rather general) statement about the iPhone being proprietary & DRM laden. Nothing about licensing at all.
  • I can't see what in the iPhone can be potentially violating the GPL. I thought they released WebKit changes back to the community and as it's LGPL they don't need to release Safari's entire codebase. Despite GPLv3 being released just before this device was released doesn't mean that all the "GPLv2" or "GPLv2 or higher" software was magically turned into "GPLv3 only" software, so they're not required to make it modifiable. Instead, I believe the distributor can decide what license he wants to distribute the
    • I can't see what in the iPhone can be potentially violating the GPL. I thought they released WebKit changes back to the community and as it's LGPL they don't need to release Safari's entire codebase.

      No, but they do need to release the "machine-readable source code" of the version of Webkit used on the iPhone, as per LGPL 2.1 [gnu.org] Section 4.
  • Why stop with GPL software? If you suspect, without giving any reason, that Apple might have stolen GPL'd software and is using it in the iPhone without license, then you should suspect that they might have stolen software from anyone else as well. Not that there is any reason for any such suspicion except paranoia, but you can be paranoid as much as you like.
    • As part of deal with Gates and company buying 25% of Apple in non-voting shares a few years back, Apple has use of the MS patent library as part of the deal. Technically MS owns the patent to the jogging dial thingy on the iPod too, but since the terms of the deal...
      • by arivanov (12034) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @05:11AM (#19728285) Homepage
        You are mistaking patents for copyright and vice versa.

        As far as the iPhone software is concerned this is all a storm in a teacup. The real storm will start later.

        If the postings so far on various security boards are correct it looks like it indeed runs something OSX like enough and runs everything even the web browser as ROOT. Now if that is not a hacker dream dunno what is. Every exploit no matter how small will provide the attacker with full access to the system including ability to break out of the ghastly contract obligations to ATT and Apple. While the lack of fine grained privilege system is a general problem for all smartphones, in the apple's case it is made worse by the platform being "bigger" and everything having direct access to the iron.

        It is too early to say if the iPhone will be the first phone where the admin vs user and privilege control issue will be finally forced, but there is a considerable likelihood of this happening. Once this happens, it will also inevitably open up as a platform (and we will soon know exactly how much (X)GPL code it contains).
      • Really?

        I don't own an iPod, but all my very early Qualcomm cell phones WAY back in the day had jog-dials. It made it easy to control and navigate all the menus in your phone with simply your thumb. I never understand why it disappeared.
  • by GreggBz (777373) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:46AM (#19728183) Homepage
    So, I read the story and realize that Apples making cell phones now!?
    Cool, I'll have to check this out.
  • Harmful (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pubjames (468013) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:49AM (#19728201)
    I like the FSF a lot, but I'm sure this kind of posturing is very harmful to the adoption of Linux. OSS advocates scream "FUD" when companies like Microsoft try to scare clients by saying using GPL software opens them up to legal action, but this kind of statement by the FSS shows that they have a point. The FSS needs to choose its battles more wisely if it is not going to harm the people it is supposed to help.
    • Re:Harmful (Score:5, Informative)

      by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @05:41AM (#19728411) Homepage Journal
      I like the FSF a lot, but I'm sure this kind of posturing is very harmful to the adoption of Linux.

      What posturing is the FSF doing? I read the article & the FSF guy parsaid: 'Apple's released a proprietary & DRM-crippled phone - I wonder if it has GPLd software on it?'

      The iPhone is both proprietary & crippled by DRM - I don't see where the posturing is.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gad_zuki! (70830)
        >'Apple's released a proprietary & DRM-crippled phone - I wonder if it has GPLd software on it?'

        First off, just saying that implies it does and gplv2 has no provision to stop drm. And who are these people "saving?" Apple customers are more tech savvy than PC buyers and probably know what they are getting into. iTunes proves that DRM is not "crippling" but acceptable to the public and is the defacto way to get legal downloads. The problem here are the fsf snobs who are implying apple as a company is
    • Re:Harmful (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Eunuchswear (210685) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @05:47AM (#19728445) Journal
      Uh, Apple don't use Linux - they use Mach and BSD.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by joe 155 (937621)
      I hate to cast aspersions on you and whether or not you might actually be "FUD-ing", but it seems like you might be.

      The GPL is extremely permissive (although short of a BSD style, of course), use it if you want - you don't even have to agree to the license for that. Use someone else's software if you want - you're free to do that too. But surely it is nice, and only fair, that if you give away your software to anyone who wants to use it that they tell you what they've done with it and how. The FSF are no
  • Film at 11.

    Yawn.

    Change the (i)tune, FSF. Yes, we know that GPL3 is out, and that it's waaaaaaaaay better at infecting proprietary devices than GPL2, and we should all switch to it immediately. It's getting old.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @04:51AM (#19728215)
    In Settings / About, there's a hugenormous list of license stuff, including many BSD, MIT, and one or two GPL or LGPL licenses. I believe the GPL/LGPL stuff is accompanied by an offer to provide the sources for some nominal fee upon request (in line with the GPLv2 as I understand it).

    Nice GPLv3 propaganda if you're into the whole "tivoization is ruining the world" thing, but otherwise pretty content free. Also, rather than speculating they could have done some minimal research.
  • by tgd (2822)
    Now maybe there is and maybe there isn't GPL code in the iPhone, but this really stinks like the FSF saying "hey, they're getting a lot of attention, lets see if we can say something bad about them and people will pay attention to us!".

    Its a very childish thing to do, and very unlike the FSF in my opinion.

    Scooter Libby was in the news this week, too. Maybe they should claim he might have violated the GPL, too. Double helping of bandwagon jumping?
  • by LingNoi (1066278) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @05:00AM (#19728247)
    .. What? There is none? Talk about reverse FUD tactics.

    We know that Apple has built its operating system, OS X, and its web browser Safari, using GPL-covered work - it will be interesting to see to what extent the iPhone uses GPLed software."
    Article writer saying "will be interesting to see" != FSF sabre rattling != FSF saying "will be interesting to see"

    BSD zealot strikes again?
    • Erm .. the quote was in the article, and the summary?

      It was even put in quotes to make it easy to spot.

      On the sabre rattling front, if the intent was not to do so, that's an awful use of language. "Interesting" has a long standing history as a euphemism. "May you live in interesting times", for example. "When they ran out of sugar for their coffee, they tried using salt instead. I thought that was an interesting decision", perhaps.

      More pertinently - "I believe these people are acting in a manner offensive t
  • by itsdapead (734413) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @05:06AM (#19728269)

    If and when KHTML moves to (L)GPLv3, Apple will just have to start a GPLv2 fork of it.

    So, any future contributions by Apple will go to the GPLv2 fork... and if Apple deletes any "...or later..." clause from "their" fork, the GPLv3 version won't even be able to cross-port their changes.

    Yes, a proud day for the GPLv3.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by vadim_t (324782)
      Or they could just, you know, comply with the license.

    • How are they able to cross port those changes without Apple submitting them back in the first place?
    • Apple would never consider forking KHTML!
    • by Chris_Jefferson (581445) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @05:37AM (#19728383) Homepage
      Apple already have their own KHTML fork, it's called Webkit. The two pieces of code have separated quite a way now, although there appear to have been attempts recently from both sides to pull them a little closer together again. Apple is more than capable of keeping webkit going on their own.
    • by dmayle (200765)

      Wow... look at all of the Apple apologists coming out of the woodwork.

      Look, I use a Macs at home, and wouldn't want to give them up (and would love to have an iPhone) but this story has already gotten ridiculous. To counter the parent as to KHTML moving to (L)GPL3: Sure, if Apple decided to fork it, they could, though they immediately lose a good portion of the benefits of open source if the rest of the developers are working on a v3 version. They have to perform all the quality control and development.

      • by itsdapead (734413) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @07:49AM (#19729211)

        The FSF has a valid point here,

        What point? iPhone contains GPLv2 code. Apple are complying with the GPLv2.

        and I don't care how much you get off with your Apple products.

        I don't even OWN an iBuzz!

        If they're using GPL, they have to comply with the license,

        AFAIK, they are...

        and if they are going to use GPLv3 when it becomes the only license for GNU code, they'll have to open up the iPhone for development if they want to continue using it.

        Nope - if the projects they are using switch to GPLv3 and they want to use code that others contribute to future versions then they will have to comply with v3. Otherwise, they can go on using and developing the existing GPLv2 code as long as they like - its not as if they don't have their own programmers.

        Some people keep on trying to "spin" reality to make it sound as if the GPLv3 can be enforced retroactively. That's a very dangerous game because if industry gets that impression they will not touch the GPL with a bargepole.

        Lets see if TiVO complies, or if they just drop Linux in favour of a closed source embedded OS.

  • by eclectro (227083) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @05:47AM (#19728455)
    Gnu/Apple
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tgv (254536)
      Does that mean the FSF will start sueing the Beatles as well?
  • Nonsense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tsa (15680) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @06:14AM (#19728581) Homepage
    From the article: crippled, because a device that isn't under the control of its owner works against the interests of its owner.

    That has nothing to do with the device running on open source software and everything to do with the user-friendliness of the software. Many of the open source advocates take it way too far in my opinion. Open source can be a great development model but at the end of the day the only thing that matters is wether the software does its job properly or not.
  • by The Mysterious X (903554) <adam@omega.org.uk> on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @06:49AM (#19728829)
    If KHTML is relicensed under LGPL3, then all Apple will do is fork at the final LGPL2 version. It's not as if they lack the resources to maintain their own fork themselves, but what will happen is that KHTML will lose a major supporter. The v2 and v3 are incompatible, so any additions apple releases to their fork won't be able to be included, unless Apple allows the "version 2 or later" clause. I imagine the same will go for TiVo; they're building an embedded device, so there is no need for them to use the latest and greatest tool. They'll just fork their own, and fix any problems they come across.
  • by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @08:03AM (#19729335) Homepage
    I think that Apple should allow users to tinker with the internal workings of the iPhone, but they would be justified in cancelling the warranty of modified devices.

    Is the typical Slashdot tinkerer willing to assume that risk on a device that costs so much?
  • Oh Scary... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Goth Biker Babe (311502) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @08:11AM (#19729409) Homepage Journal
    What a load of old bollocks. Firstly the software will have been written months ago. Secondly the licence isn't being applied retrospectively and so what if a piece of code is GPL-3 now and wouldn't have been a week ago and so who gives a shit. Finally watch for all the branched projects as they get forked so that the GPL-2 variants stick around.

    The rules say that the source has to be made available including any changes. There is nothing to stop me say modifying a 1.x kernel and making the changes available. It might not be advantageous but I can do it. I don't have to use the latest revision. This is typical scare mongering of that hippy, sandal sporting, rose tinted spectacle wearing, head in the cloud, idiot, RMS.
  • consumer reply (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pliep (880962) on Tuesday July 03, 2007 @08:33AM (#19729667) Homepage
    SlashDotters seem to get entangled in the n-millionth discussion on "Freedom" and open software.

    Consumers / potential iPhone-buyers however just say things "I would like to own an iPod that can also make calls" and simply buy one.

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