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GNU is Not Unix Open Source Programming News

Emacs Has Been Violating the GPL Since 2009 295

Posted by Soulskill
from the source-of-conflict dept.
Digana writes "Emacs, one of GNU's flagship products and the most famous software creation of Richard Stallman, has been discovered to be violating the GPL since 2009-09-28 by distributing binaries that were missing source. The CEDET package, a set of contributed files for giving certain IDE functionality related to static code analysis, has distributed files generated from bison grammars without distributing the grammar itself. This happened for Emacs versions 23.2 and 23.3, released during late 2009, and has just been discovered."
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Emacs Has Been Violating the GPL Since 2009

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  • Emm (Score:2, Informative)

    by kikito (971480) on Friday July 29, 2011 @11:46AM (#36922064) Homepage

    Bison's output isn't binary, it's C (a somewhat contrived and difficult to understand C, but C nevertheless). It doesn't generate "compiled binaries", as the article points out.

    It's still source code. Maybe not the original source code, but source code anyway. I don't think that violates the GPL intrinsically (maybe it violates its spirit, but not the license by itself).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 29, 2011 @11:51AM (#36922136)

    Mod parent up. There is no stipulation in the GPL that source code must accompany any distribution of binaries. Total myth.

    Section 6 of the GPL

    "You may convey a covered work in object code form under the terms of sections 4 and 5, provided that you also convey the machine-readable Corresponding Source under the terms of this License, in one of these ways:
    [...]
    "# b) Convey the object code in, or embodied in, a physical product (including a physical distribution medium), accompanied by a written offer, valid for at least three years and valid for as long as you offer spare parts or customer support for that product model, to give anyone who possesses the object code either (1) a copy of the Corresponding Source for all the software in the product that is covered by this License, on a durable physical medium customarily used for software interchange, for a price no more than your reasonable cost of physically performing this conveying of source, or (2) access to copy the Corresponding Source from a network server at no charge.
    "# c) Convey individual copies of the object code with a copy of the written offer to provide the Corresponding Source. This alternative is allowed only occasionally and noncommercially, and only if you received the object code with such an offer, in accord with subsection 6b.
    "# d) Convey the object code by offering access from a designated place (gratis or for a charge), and offer equivalent access to the Corresponding Source in the same way through the same place at no further charge. You need not require recipients to copy the Corresponding Source along with the object code. If the place to copy the object code is a network server, the Corresponding Source may be on a different server (operated by you or a third party) that supports equivalent copying facilities, provided you maintain clear directions next to the object code saying where to find the Corresponding Source. Regardless of what server hosts the Corresponding Source, you remain obligated to ensure that it is available for as long as needed to satisfy these requirements."

    http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 29, 2011 @11:52AM (#36922144)

    If not, then it's not breaking GPL.

  • text of RMS's mail (Score:5, Informative)

    by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Friday July 29, 2011 @11:53AM (#36922174) Homepage
    For anyone who didn't click the link, here's RMS's reaction:

    We have made a very bad mistake. Anyone redistributing those versions is violating the GPL, through no fault of his own.

    We need to fix those releases retroactively (or else delete them), and we need to do it right away.

    I see two quick ways to fix them: to delete the compiled files, or to add the sources they are made from.

    From the mail linked to in the story: http://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/emacs-devel/2011-07/msg01155.html [gnu.org]

  • by 0racle (667029) on Friday July 29, 2011 @11:56AM (#36922214)
    That is the basic gist of it. Source doesn't have to be shipped together with binaries. GPLv3 changes the 'bothered to request it' part as that is something of an artifact of physical media distribution of GNU software.
    Quick Guide to GPL v3 [gnu.org]

    One of the fundamental requirements of the GPL is that when you distribute object code to users, you must also provide them with a way to get the source. GPLv2 gave you a few ways to do this, and GPLv3 keeps those intact with some clarification. It also offers you new ways to provide source when you convey object code over a network. For instance, when you host object code on a web or FTP server, you can simply provide instructions that tell visitors how to get the source from a third-party server.

    The actual wording for network distribution in the GPLv3 says you just have to make or have the source available in the same methods that the binaries were
    GPLv3 [gnu.org]

    d) Convey the object code by offering access from a designated place (gratis or for a charge), and offer equivalent access to the Corresponding Source in the same way through the same place at no further charge. You need not require recipients to copy the Corresponding Source along with the object code. If the place to copy the object code is a network server, the Corresponding Source may be on a different server (operated by you or a third party) that supports equivalent copying facilities, provided you maintain clear directions next to the object code saying where to find the Corresponding Source. Regardless of what server hosts the Corresponding Source, you remain obligated to ensure that it is available for as long as needed to satisfy these requirements.

    I bet we can find Emacs source on the same server we can find Emacs binaries.

  • by msauve (701917) on Friday July 29, 2011 @12:02PM (#36922316)
    "If not, then it's not breaking GPL."

    Yes, it is. See GPLv3, section 6. If you make the object downloadable, the source must be, too - no request necessary.
  • by BitZtream (692029) on Friday July 29, 2011 @12:17PM (#36922522)

    Not really strange, no one cares except pedants who were too busy slurping Stallman's wiener and bitching about everyone else to notice their own hypocrisy.

    This is simply no big deal, the source to the files IS available. There really ISN'T a GPL violation. Its just not in a specific set of packages, which there is no requirement for it to be so.

    The GPL requires the source to be available, it is, its just not included by default, which is perfectly acceptable.

    Second, in order for this to be a violation, the authors of said files have to call it a violation. You (nor I) get the right to determine its a violation (again, this goes contrary to what most GPL zealots think). The copyright holder does, to which, the copyright holder may have granted an exception or special license to Emacs for this purpose.

    The only thing going on here is a few people getting their panties in a bunch over nothing. Another fine example of why any intelligent company keeps as far away from GPL as possible, the followers of the Cult of GPL will happily stab themselves in the eye because a doctor gives them pink eye medicine.

    If the original author of these files hasn't bitched, there is no violation. If he or she has/is then we have something to talk about, but I find it highly unlikely that said person will be raising much hooha about it.

    Mistakes happen, everyone needs to not go retarded nuts over shit like this in relation to the GPL, you just make yourselfs look like a bunch of dick heads.

    (Note: This post isn't entirely directed at the person I'm responding too, just happens to be the place I decided to post my thoughts)

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