A fight against evil or a fight for attention?

Two hot issues are making the rounds. First, Debian and Firefox are having a spat, and the end result may be that Debian will distribute Firefox under a different name. Second, the war betwen Linus Torvalds and other Kernel developers and the Free Software Foundation over GPLv3 is continuing, with Torvalds saying he's fed up with the FSF. Here is my take on both, and related issues.

Defining our terms

First, let me tell you a little about evil. Lies are evil. Greed is evil. When the attempt to satisfy one's own desire for power and/or wealth prohibits others from engaging in perfectly ethical practices, that is evil.

Based on these descriptions of some evils, commercial software is not evil. Proprietary software is not evil. Open source is not evil. Not even DRM is evil. Evil people use some of these things for evil purposes.

Proprietary software, itself, isn't evil. We're used to thinking of proprietary software as evil because of the way it has been abused, mostly by companies like Microsoft, though Microsoft is certainly not the only offender. Granted, it is also a bad thing if you buy proprietary software and it is discontinued. This may leave you in a position where you have no way to support it. But this latter problem doesn't stem from evil intent. It's just a circumstantial inconvience that you could have avoided if you chose an open source product instead.

I hate DRM with a passion, but not even DRM is evil. What if you could take a DRM-protected song and do anything you want with it except sell copies of it or make it publicly available? You could make as many copies as you want, and store these copies on virtually any device or media. You could transcode it into any format you want. In other words, the DRM would not restrict your fair use in any way. It would only prevent you from doing something illegal or unethical.

I don't see how it would be possible to implement this kind of DRM from a technical perspective. My point is simply that the supposed intent of DRM, which is to prevent illegal or unethical use of copyrighted material, is not evil. At best, DRM is an inconvenience. At worst, the motives of those who are promoting DRM are evil. There are implementations of DRM I would consider evil because they are attempts to satisfy someone's desire for power and wealth while prohibiting users from engaging in perfectly ethical practices like fair use. But DRM itself is not evil.

Proprietary software, DRM, and other things I listed above are more or less easy to exploit for evil behavior. Don't think for a moment that open source is immune. The LGPL invites evil behavior. I can sell a proprietary application that links LGPL libraries. According to the LGPL, I can profit from the work of those who created and maintain the LGPL libraries I used, but I do not have to share my source code or my profits with them. In fact, I can choose not to compensate the community in any way. That's greed, and it's evil. But it is the greed and the abuse of the LGPL that is evil, not the LGPL itself.

In fact, the only thing that comes close to being immune to evil exploitation is software licensed under the GPL. It isn't totally immune, but it is better than anything else in my list. That doesn't make everything else evil, however. It just makes everything else easier to abuse by evil people.

Linux, Linus, and GPLv3

There are a number of reasons why Linus Torvalds and others do not like the GPLv3 drafts. Let's take the example of its attempt to prevent Tivoization. TiVo uses Linux for its digital video recorder products. TiVo makes its modifications to the source code publicly available, as required by GPLv2. The term "Tivoization" describes the fact that you can't further modify the TiVo source code and make it run on TiVo hardware. TiVo uses a digital signature to prevent you from doing so. The Free Software Foundation objects to this. Linus Torvalds does not.

I side with Torvalds. The question is, should the GPL be modified in such a way that it prevents people from doing this in the future? Should the new GPLv3 prohibit anyone from modifying GPLv3 software such that you cannot further modify the software and then run it with your modifications on their hardware? [edit: "their" as in "the hardware they designed", not as in ownership after you buy it]

I hope that question sounds as silly to you as it does to me. What does the GPL have to do with hardware? Hopefully, nothing.

In fact, I am suspicious of the motives of anyone who wants to modify the GPL such that it forces vendors to redesign their appliances to conform to the Free Software Foundation's ideas of how such appliances should work. That sounds an awful lot like "when the attempt to satisfy one's own desire for power prohibits others from engaging in perfectly ethical practices". The only way to exonerate the FSF from such a charge would be to demonstrate that TiVo did something illegal or unethical by preventing people from running a modified copy of Linux on their boxes. I think that would be quite a challenge.

I don't know what motivated the folks at TiVo to implement this limitation, so I can't say with confidence that what they did is evil or benign. However, I believe TiVo complied with the GPLv2 by releasing its modifications to the source code for the benefit of anyone who wants to study them or use them. Some argue that the digital signature should be considered part of the modifications that TiVo must release. If so, TiVo is guilty as charged. But I don't see how a digital signature qualifies as source code, so that's a techniality that I'd rather let lawyers decide, if it should come to that.

Debian and Firefox

Mozilla wants to protect its trademark, which reflects its reputation. It is trying to do so by prohibiting anyone from distributing its browser under the name Firefox with the Firefox logo if they apply patches to the software that haven't been approved by the Mozilla team. Debian believes this goes against the spirit of free software. So Debian may distribute Firefox under a different name, along with a different logo and icon.

I'm not going to take sides on this one. I can sympathize with both Mozilla and Debian. If a distribution includes a patched version of Firefox that doesn't work very well, I can see how that may reflect unfairly on Firefox. On the other hand, distributions employ versions of the Linux kernel with custom patches all the time, and they still get to call it Linux and use the Tux logo. On the third hand, there's no way to get those patches into the standard Linux kernel unless the appropriate Linux developer signs off on the patches.

I think both sides are overreacting. Some distributions won't install on my workstation because of the way the kernel is configured or patched. That doesn't reflect badly on Linux. It reflects badly on the distribution. So Mozilla is probably being overly cautious. On the other hand, I don't see why Debian maintainers can't try to get their patches approved by the Mozilla team before they deploy them.

Regardless, if Debian renames Firefox, I suggest they name it Hotbeaver. No, it is not my intent to proliferate a sexual innuendo. I just happen to like beavers (thanks to my favorite cartoon, Angry Beavers), and "hot" is a substitute for fire. But if Hotbeaver offends anyone, then perhaps BlazingAardvark would be a good alternative. Someone on VarLinux.org suggested Hotdog. That would be good, too.

The moral of the story

Forget TiVo for a moment and take DRM. As you can see from my example above, I don't think it's possible to create a DRM scheme that would both protect copyrights and support fair use properly. So, at best, DRM is goint to be inconvenient to the consumer. At worst, it's an abomination. So I'm all for protesting DRM into oblivion.

But is it the job of the FSF to do that? If so, what does that have to do with the GPL? Nothing as far as I can see. If the FSF is going to protest DRM, it should create an anti-DRM division and leave it to those people to do so. As it is, the FSF is trying to cram all its personal agendas into a single license.

Edit: I like the way it was stated in an anonymous post below. It states it more clearly than I did...

The cause of ending the DRM is one thing (And I support that cause); Trying to achieve that by a software license is something else.

And I also VERY MUCH would like to :

- End all wars
- Destroy all nuclear weapons

Both of these things are a good ideea taken (and fought for ) individually. But when you try to put these beliefs in software licenses (thou shall not use this software for war ), then this all becomes crap/bullshit.

You see, lot's of people dislike NOT the DRM bashing itself, but piggybacking these ideea on a *software* license.

Finally, here's why I started out this piece with a definition of some of the evils in the software world. Some of you may have noticed that I can't even mention a commercial or proprietary software product, let alone praise it, without a few people (posting as Anonymous) screaming about how Linux Journal has abandoned its roots and should be burned at the virtual stake.

Why is the FSF cramming issues into the GPL that are arguably unrelated to the original intent of the GPL? Why does the mere mention of a commercial product elicit such vitriolic responses?

I have a feeling that, now that we have finally reached a point in history where most people realize that open source is a Good Thing, the people who used to have to fight over this issue are feeling marginalized and ignored. Perhaps they are feeding their need for attention by finding new controversies to exploit, or by seeking out ways to rail against anything that rubs their open source idealism the wrong way.

I, for one, am glad that we've reached a point where we don't have to fight as hard to make people understand the benefits of open source. Not everyone is educated, and not everyone who is educated at all is fully educated, but I'm glad it's not as big a struggle as it used to be.

I can only hope that people will understand the difference between fighting for the GPL and fighting about DRM. I can only hope that people who understand the superiority of open source will learn to be confident enough about it that they don't have to feel threatened by praise for something that is not open source. We all need to be careful to discern the difference between software, hardware, policies, licenses, and how they are used, and whether or not there is evil intent involved.

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> I don't believe Mike

Anonymous's picture

> I don't believe Mike Connor cited this as a reason [...]
No one claimed that...

> Can you cite your source, please?
Since this websearch mostly results in posts about this, I was only able to find http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/asa/archives/2006/09/ha_ha.html (Jed and others), but http://benjamin.smedbergs.us/blog/2006-02-22/debian-versioning-of-mozill... and https://help.ubuntu.com/community/FirefoxNewVersion are also good reads.

May I beg to differ...

Tim's picture

Proprietary software, itself, isn't evil. We're used to thinking of proprietary software as evil because of the way it has been abused, mostly by companies like Microsoft, though Microsoft is certainly not the only offender. Granted, it is also a bad thing if you buy proprietary software and it is discontinued. This may leave you in a position where you have no way to support it. But this latter problem doesn't stem from evil intent. It's just a circumstantial inconvience that you could have avoided if you chose an open source product instead.

Proprietary software is indeed evil, it strips the the user of the basic rights to learn from and understand a peice of software, to modify and improce it to better fit their needs, to share those improvements with friends, neighbors and the world. Worse it makes 'pirates' and 'thieves' out sanyone who does one of the modt basic things everyones mom taught them to do as one of the most basic parts of being a good person, sharing. This is more then just inconvient, it is wrong.

That's just silly

Nicholas Petreley's picture

According to those measurements of what's right and wrong, every can of chili would have to come with a recipe and a complete set of instructions on how to make the same chili. Otherwise it strips the right of the eater to learn how to make good chili from a can of good chili. Every house would have to come with a complete set of blueprints and instructions on how the house was built, otherwise it strips the rights of a house owner to learn from the house how to build a house like it or improve the design and build a better house. And so on.

Propietary software isn't evil just because you want to know how it works and they don't tell you. That's a very self-centered and narrow viewpoint of the rights of an end-user. Most end-users couldn't possibly care less how an application works, anymore than a person who eats chili wants to know exactly how their can of chili was made. Some do want to know, but that doesn't mean everyone has a right to know.

house without blueprints?

Anonymous's picture

i would NEVER buy a house with out getting the blueprints!!!
as a house owner i am responsible for everything that happens, and need to be able to fix anything that breaks. for many of these things (where does that leaking pipe run in the wall?) blueprints are needed. providing the blueprints is probably even required by law in some countries.

greetings, eMBee.

catching on straws?

Danijel Orsolic's picture

This is the usual strawmens argument. You are deliberately making silly sounding comparations to make his point look invalid, while not actually offering any real counterargument.

You are again forgeting something. The source code availability is not usable only to those who are programmers, but end users too. Just because they don't know how to modify it doesn't mean someone they know or a programmer they may pay doesn't. If they want a new feature or something fixed they can hire a programmer to do it. If they have certain problems with the program they don't need to depend on one single vendor for support, but anyone who can take a look and tell what's wrong.

And of course, Free Software is not just about having the source code, but about being able to use it for any purpose and share it. These are fundamental freedoms one should have to be in control over his own computer rather than turning down part of this control to someone else. If I bought it then I should be able to do with it what I want, use it for any purpose, modify it for whatever I need (or hire someone to do it) and share it in either modified or unmodified form. Noone should be allowed to forbid this.

Simple solution

DavidD's picture

There is a simple solution for your arguments: if you don't agree with the terms of the closed, proprietary software's license, don't buy the software. If you dislike being unable to modify that software to meet your needs, don't buy it or use it. Remember, you aren't usually "buying" the software, you're buying a _license_ to use the software, which means you are saying you will use that software in accordance with whatever restrictions the software producer places on it. If you don't agree, don't buy.

Use Free Software instead.

This has a 2-part effect: first, it gets Free Software into wider use. Second, it reduces the use of closed software, which, if the closed sofware is rejected enough, will eventually wither and die.

Not strawmen

Nicholas Petreley's picture

Okay, to cite a closer analogy, your television and many other products run software. Even if you had access to the source code, it still wouldn't be easy (if possible at all) to modify it and run your own software on your television, microwave, etc. That doesn't make these products evil.

You contradict yourself

Freeman's picture

That sounds an awful lot like "when the attempt to satisfy one's own desire for power prohibits others from engaging in perfectly ethical practices". The only way to exonerate the FSF from such a charge would be to demonstrate that TiVo did something illegal or unethical by preventing people from running a modified copy of Linux on their boxes. I think that would be quite a challenge.

No challenge at all, as you've already done it! Isn't "preventing people from running a modified copy of Linux on their boxes" an evil declared in the preceeding sentence? ("when the attempt to satisfy one's own desire for power [and/or wealth] prohibits others from engaging in perfectly ethical practices") Those are your words!

The sentence preceeding that, "In fact, I am suspicious of the motives of anyone who wants to modify the GPL such that it forces vendors to redesign their appliances to conform to the Free Software Foundation's ideas of how such appliances should work" is a strawman. GPLv3 does no such thing. If a vendor wants to lock down their hardware, let them write their own damn software. If they want to use free software in their product to avoid that effort, improving their bottom line, they must give freedom back in return. Though free availability of code modifications is required, it's not about the code, it's about the freedom.

Your usage of the phrase "open source" as opposed to "free software" reveals your lack of understanding of the fundamental purpose of the GPL going back to the very beginning, when Richard Stallman's frustrated attempts at getting source code for a printer driver so that he could interface it to a mainframe triggered the conviction that software freedom is important.

It's the same way with Tivo. They have most, but not all of the features I want. If I were allowed to modify the software to provide the rest (all completely ethical), I would surely have bought one by now. I resent that they are getting away with using free software in a locked-down product instead of developing their own, while my only recourse is to build my own DVR, costing me much more time and money.

I hope that question sounds as silly to you as it does to me. What does the GPL have to do with hardware? Hopefully, nothing.

Your right, nothing... unless someone wants to exploit the benefits of free software while using hardware to restrict the freedom of use of that very same software. It's about the FREEDOM, get it?

Sure, I get it.

Nicholas Petreley's picture

It's about freedom to re-use the modifications that TiVo made to the software. And you can use their modified software. You just can't modify it and use it (uncracked) on TiVo hardware. So what? As I said in response to another thread, you don't need to buy a TiVo to get the software. Download it. Modify it to work with whatever hardware you have, or are willing to buy.

The GPL doesn't and SHOULDN'T force TiVo to make their hardware work with anything. The GPL isn't a hardware license. The GPL protects the freedom of the software, and it *is* open source. You can download it, and you're free to do anything you want with it.

The GPL doesn't protect your ability to run a modified version of it on TiVo hardware, nor should it. If you don't like the fact that you can't use TiVo hardware to run a modified version of TiVo open source software, then don't buy a TiVo. But you're still free to use the software, because it's open source and free (as in freedom). You're right - it's about freedom. And it is free, thanks to the GPL.

GPL origins

Freeman's picture

To take the Stallman example a little further:
Richard didn't want the source code for the printer driver so that he could use it for some other, less-restricted printer -- he needed to modify the code to run on a mainframe so that he could use the printer he already had. If the printer were designed to prevent the use of unsigned or modified driver code, the souce code for the driver wouldn't have done him any good and he still would have been prevented from the ethical use of his own hardware. This is the "Tivoization" problem, and it's evil by your own definition.

No, you don't get it

Freeman's picture

What planet are you from, where you don't own the hardware you buy?
It's not the vendor's hardware once I purchase it, it's MINE. Your viewpoint is a denial of your freedom to own the hardware you purchase.

The GPL doesn't protect your ability to run a modified version of it on TiVo hardware, nor should it. If you don't like the fact that you can't use TiVo hardware to run a modified version of TiVo open source software, then don't buy a TiVo. But you're still free to use the software, because it's open source and free (as in freedom). You're right - it's about freedom. And it is free, thanks to the GPL.
This is just plain obtuse. What other purpose would there be to run a version of Linux specifically modified for use in Tivo's on anything but a Tivo? You'd have to re-modifiy the code to work with other hardware, and you'd be better off starting out without Tivo's modifications. It's like the original Stallman example - he needed to modify code written specifically for a peice of hardware in order to interface it to something else, and I want to modify code to interface a Tivo-like appliance with some other hardware. I could benefit from the already-engineered Tivo platform just as they benefit from the already-engineered Linux kernel, except for their lock-out, so like I already said, I'm NOT buying a Tivo.

I have absolutely NO problem with the FSF wanting to create a version of the GPL to address this situation. It is not a hardware license, but a free software license that restricts against the use of free software in non-free ways. If the Linux kernel developers don't like it, they are FREE to continue to use GPLv2 or anything else they like. If Linus and other kernel developers don't mind the Tivo situation, that's their right, but some of us disagree.

Freeman

Actually, your argument is silly because

Anonymous's picture

you have exactly the same freedom to modify the hardware that you have to modify the software.

And that's all you have to do to get around the 'lock'. Tivo has the lock on to protect thier customers, as they have a legal responsibility to do so. If you want to modify the system, then you first need to disable the 'hardware lock'. Then you can change the software to your hearts content.

Remember, you didn't buy a software product, you bought a complete system.

You'll have to be a skilled programmer to make a decent modification to the software, you'll also have to be a decent engineer to modify the hardware. Not impossible, but not easy either.

As Nick said above, if you wanted a system to tinker with, you bought the wrong box.

Now you know what you need, Good luck, and let us know if you can make it any better.

Re: A fight against evil or a fight for attention?

Anonymous's picture

>>Should the new GPLv3 prohibit anyone from modifying GPLv3 software such that you cannot further modify the software and then run it with your modifications on their hardware?

I hope that question sounds as silly to you as it does to me. What does the GPL have to do with hardware? Hopefully, nothing.<<

Wrong, wrong, wrong. It's not THEIR hardware after you have purchased it - it is YOUR hardware. The FSF is trying to prevent companies from violationg the spirit of the GPL which, in the case of TiVo, should allow you to modify the kernel and be able to USE it on YOUR device. The source code TiVo provides is absolutely useless. What happens in the future when Intel decides that only an approved kernel (read: bought and paid for license) can run on their processors? Your take on this is very shortsighted.

Stallman has proven to be very farsighted over the years, regardless of what people think of him personally. His insight into the software industry and copyright issues, while politically charged, has been fairly dead on for many years. RMS and the FSF have done much more for the FOSS community than anyone else has, or possibly ever will.

Linus is making mountains out of molehills, and stirring up tempests in teapots. His behavior and statements of late seem to be similar to that of a spoiled child throwing a tantrum because he wasn't invited to the party. He basically is stomping his feet right now because he wasn't the center of attention, and linux wasn't at the forefront of the FSF's thoughts when writing the GPL v3. I think that Linus needs to remember that it was GNU and the FSF that made his little kernel useful. GNU doesn't need linux as much as linux needs GNU.

Tivoisation.

Anonymous's picture

Yep the fsf is making a land grab. and I fully support them in doing this. Tivoisation makes a mokery of the fundamental freedom to run modified versions of software and I think it's well within scope to address this in the new version of the gpl. What's the point of having free software when you can't run it on any computers because the vendors hold all the keys or you can only run the kernel that the hardware manufacturer has signed. it's a joke and a bad one at that.. I thought linus lost most of his credibility on free software issues after the whole bitkeeper debarcle

Software vs. hardware

Nicholas Petreley's picture

TiVo doesn't prevent you from using a modified version of the software on hardware. It prevents you from using a modified version of the software on THEIR hardware. You don't need to buy a TiVo to get a copy of the software. Just download it from their site. You may have to modify it to work on your own hardware, but it's not TiVo's responsibility to make their version of the software work on whatever hardware you have, or are willing to buy.

Software vs. Hardware

Vector's picture

In other words, TiVo should be allowed to continue their monopoly of using open-source software in their hardware!???

Monopoly?

Nicholas Petreley's picture

Huh? What on earth are you talking about?

forgeting something?

Danijel Orsolic's picture

You are apparently forgeting something. The hardware that you bought from them should be yours, no? If it is yours then they have no right not to let you do with it whatever you want, including run modified version on it. You payed for it and it should be yours.

It's the same argument for software. Why should anyone be able restrict what I can't or cannot do with my own copies of software running on my own computer, especially if I bought it. Neither DRM, nor proprietary software are justifiable in this sense. And I am surprised you are so willing to compromise your own rights by these anti-justification.

Sorry, but I do not agree

Nicholas Petreley's picture

The fact is that TiVo uses Linux. TiVo modified the Linux code and other GPL code. TiVo made its modifications publicly available. You can get that code without buying a TiVo. TiVo has made good on the GPL.

If you are opposed to the fact that TiVo designed its hardware so that you can't easily modify their code and run it on the TiVo, and you aren't willing to hack around this protection, then don't buy a TiVo. If you really want to modify the TiVo software and run it on something, modify it to run on some other hardware. Thanks to the fact that TiVo made good on the GPL, you can do that. It may be harder to do that, because the software isn't designed to run on something other than TiVo, but it's not impossible.

The fact is, nobody is forcing you to buy a TiVo to get the TiVo software and use it any way you like. If you're dissatisfied with the fact that you already own a TiVo and have to work too hard to use a modified version of the software on it, then you only have yourself to blame for buying the TiVo box in the first place.

The TiVo is a dedicated appliance, just like a TV or microwave. You have far fewer options with your TV and microwave than you do with your TiVo, because your TV and microwave probably don't run Linux, and even if they did, they don't provide you with a way to upload your own version of the software. Why isn't anyone complaining that their rights have been violated because they can't easily modify their TV's code and run it on their TV? Why isn't anyone complaining that their rights have been violated because they can't easily modify their microwave's code and run it on their microwave?

The only reason the TiVo is an issue is because it runs Linux, has a hard drive, and the source code is easily available. People are frustrated by the fact that they have everything they need to run a custom version except the digital signature. If TiVo chose to use a proprietary operating system, we wouldn't even be discussing it. People would think of their TiVo the same way they think of their DVD player, TV, and microwave.

Sorry, but I own the TIivo.

cprise's picture

And you've demonstrated that you have no effective argument against that reality.

""Why isn't anyone complaining that their rights have been violated because they can't easily modify their TV's code and run it on their TV?""

Because very few TVs have active DRM restrictions at this point.

Even worse, these hardware restrictions are delivered under a lobbied-for regime that makes any circumvention whatsoever an automatic crime. The situation has already come to pass, and it is easily twice as evil as what GPL originally addressed.

Like 'zero-tolerance', its yet another reinforcement of the habit to ligitate and punish in our society. It's not civil.

If Tivo et al want to control the hardware they produce, then their hands are not tied to these methods by any means. They could insist on RENTING it to willing customers. But no... the suits want to shove radical new interpretations of property up our @sses! Up-ending intellectual freedom and engaging in endless tactical lawsuits makes so much more sense to them. And it will be "good" because that is what the PR buzz says.

No, not an inch more to those extremist ideologues. Rolling in piles of money will not work as camoflage for them anymore.

So modify it.

Anonymous's picture

All it takes is a soldering iron, some parts, and a little knowlege.

What's your problem?

First modify the hardware, then you can modify the software.

After all, you own it. If you break it, you are the only one affected. Right?

There you go, that's freedom.

People

Anonymous's picture

Some people are just absolute idiots.
Don't like the terms of tivo ? Don't f*cking buy it, nobody forces you to.
Don't like DRM protected music ? Don't f*cking buy it. It's a question of YOUR choice. Alternatively you can use your own hardware (small stilish boxes are largely available) and run a derivation of tivo's code (You have that, as they honoured the gpl license). Or use mythtv or freevo, or whatever.
But to enter the lion's cage at the zoo despite the big warning (EULA) and then cry out and sue the Zoo for that, that's just plain stupid. That being said, probabbly FSF and RMS will manage to finally screw everything up and enter a well deserved age obsolescence.

As for owning the tivo and being able to do whatever you want with it, well that is only partially true. They should let you run your software on it, but only if you accept to loose any warranty. Like with your hard disk for example. It's yours, you can do whatever you want with it. But if you are curious enough to open it, your warranty is void. However, as I said, when you buy a tivo you accept to only use it with their software. If you accepted and entered the lion's cage at your own will, please don't blame the zoo for your own choices.

Profanity notwithstanding

cprise's picture

Why should consumers have to examine for themselves all of the technology-licensng implications of the products they buy, before they can be assured the ability to reprogram their own hardware?

That is an unrealistic burden on end-users, one that FOSS developers should avoid contributing to.

Doubly-so when the entertainment industry is closing ranks on consumers, and through legislation ensuring that the electronics and computing industries follow suit. Without a license to serve as a legal deterant and a rallying point for the community, then in 10 years there may BE no "just buy something else" option.

Perhaps because it's their responsibility to do so?

OrlandoNative's picture

Just like so many others, it appears that you want all the 'freedoms' without accepting any of the 'responsibilities' that go along with them.

NO manufacturer warrants that ANY product is suitable for all environments... ...even those that fall within the product specifications. They only warrant that the product will work as specified. It's ALWAYS been up to the user buying the product to determine (either before, if they're smart) or after (if they weren't so smart) if the product will actually do what they want it to do.

Now, it's well known, and probably even stated somewhere in the materials that come with a Tivo, that you CAN'T RUN MODIFIED CODE ON UNMODIFIED TIVO HARDWARE. Are you saying that expecting a user to read the manual is too much to ask? And THAT KIND of user has the skills to modify the code, and is complaining about the restriction? You've got to be kidding me.

In any case, if you REALLY want to run modified code on the TIVO, then hack the bios, and do so. No one is stopping you. Just don't expect any help from TIVO if something then goes wrong.

The fact of the matter is that Tivoisation probably would never have even occured had everyone been honest and respectful of OTHERs property rights (ie what it is they actually own, and what they don't) . But unfortunately a large enough segment of the population is not; large enough, anyway, that the legal owners of that other property feel they HAVE TO INSIST on being able to enforce their ownership rights. That's the truly SAD thing.

I don't like DRM, in general. And I hate it as far as it's usage in 'content' goes. But I *do* realize that in some places it's necessary (interestingly enough, though, they're not content related, per se) and in others why it appears to be so. And *all* of them tend to be to be intended to protect the rights, or in some cases, well being, of others. And I'm not talking really about the companies that produced those DRM laced products, either - that's in the content industry rather than the product industry.

The problem with THAT is that sometimes it's not TECHNICALLY possible to protect one set of rights without consequences to other sets of rights. That's the problem most people run into with DRM on content. The intent is to prevent theft; but there isn't any technical way of determining whether what is being done is theft or 'fair use'. So, to try to deter the former, DRM hinders the latter. The sad fact is that if more people were 'honest'; this problem would probably have never surfaced in the first place. But, be as it may be, reality reared it's ugly head, and now we have DRM.

Will I *have* a choice?

Danijel Orsolic's picture

It's easy for you to escape the issue by just throwing a "don't buy it" argument which I've already heard hundreds of times from people who don't want to face the problem head on.

Don't buy it. Escape it. For how freaking long should we be escaping it when we know that the thing what they are selling shouldn't be sold in the first place?

First of all not everyone in this world is as educated as we may be about the issue and they indeed will be buying it because of that, only to end up restricted. This way, the corporation using this DRM continues to grow financially and continues to spout ever more DRM infected devices all over.

Second, the more of these DRM devices we let be sold the less non-DRM devices will be available. The way industry is going, it doesn't sound like we will even be having much of a choice, but to buy DRM hardware. So where does your "don't buy it" argument fall then?

It's so easy to think that "voting with the wallet" will solve all problems, until you don't have anyone to vote for anymore. Some things are simply more powerful than that concept. Some things cannot be stopped by a mere boycott. When corporations start agreeing with each other in DRM implementations our boycotting may only lead us to technology-free life because all technology has been locked down. If you want that then feel free to go to the woods right now.

I will stick to all the guns we have to pro-actively prevent technology makers from locking down. I have zero tolerance for what they're doing, unlike you apparently.

Thank you

Re: People

Freeman's picture

Some people are just absolute idiots.

Agreed.

Don't like the terms of tivo ? Don't f*cking buy it, nobody forces you to. Don't like DRM protected music ? Don't f*cking buy it. It's a question of YOUR choice.

Don't like GPL restrictions? Don't f*cking use GPL-licensed software in your locked-down DRM-infested product, nobody forces you to. It's a question of YOUR choice!

See this comment for more details.

Choices

Anonymous's picture

As long as GPL2 allows the use in "my" drm infested product, "I" will.
I do not exactly love DRM, but I just hate extremists that try to add their political agenda on a *software* license. As someone pointed out, for hardware related issues, use a hardware license, not a software license.
The cause of ending the DRM is one thing (And I support that cause); Trying to achieve that by a software license is something else.
And I also VERY MUCH would like to :
- End all wars
- Destroy all nuclear weapons
Both of these things are a good ideea taken (and fought for ) individually. But when you try to put these beliefs in software licenses (thou shall not use this software for war ), then this all becomes crap/bullshit.
You see, lot's of people dislike NOT the DRM bashing itself, but piggybacking these ideea on a *software* license.
As about "don't use GPL", well we're talking here not about the previous versions of the GPL, but about the new one.
I think you agree with me that the GPL3 controversy is quite significant. And because of this, I think that there is quite possible that lots of developers will stay away from the new license. (They will use their right to NOT use the new one) What then ? The new license will be used only by a few people and will not exactly gain traction. It will be just a niche license for some over political activists. Will this bring a benefit to you as an end user ? Don't think so. You'll end with a few bits of crappy software that is almost good for nothing, but boy, it's free in rms's acception.Just use hurd kernel instead of the Linux kernel. What will it be good for ? Almost nothing in the real world, just a geek toy. And this will not be so easily to overcome, as the developer mass was already splitted by the gpl2 versus gpl3 debate.
I don't want to expand further this discussion. I just want to say that the intentions are *good* (a world without *potentially* dangerous patents and drm) but the way to achieve these are plain wrong. Maybe I'm wrong, but the recent stir and the split of opinions looks too big to be treated just as "a few individuals left the boat". And I don't think that such a split is exactly the best thing to happen - no matter who's right or wrong -.
The new license has the potential to create a very dangerous loose-loose situation.

Right

Nicholas Petreley's picture

You see, lot's of people dislike NOT the DRM bashing itself, but piggybacking these ideea on a *software* license.

Exactly. That's precisely how I feel. I have no problem with (most of) what the FSF wants to accomplish, it's the method. I'd much rather see the FSF design a separate DRM or hardware license and encourage people to adopt it.

I don't know why I'm bothering, but....

Freeman's picture

I'd much rather see the FSF design a separate DRM or hardware license and encourage people to adopt it.

Well, at least I can say that this is the first comment I've seen on the subject that offers an alternative way to oppose DRM (besides "just don't buy it" -- a plan with no future). I'm just curious as to how it's supposed to work. Got any ideas?

The first comment?

Nicholas Petreley's picture

Then you didn't read the blog entry very carefully...

...So I'm all for protesting DRM into oblivion.

But is it the job of the FSF to do that? If so, what does that have to do with the GPL? Nothing as far as I can see. If the FSF is going to protest DRM, it should create an anti-DRM division and leave it to those people to do so.

Pretty much the same advice. I just didn't specify "hardware license", but that seems like a pretty obvious tactic for an anti-DRM division to use. It's also implied here...

We all need to be careful to discern the difference between software, hardware, policies, licenses, and how they are used, and whether or not there is evil intent involved.

freedom vs. restriction

Anonymous's picture

I don't want to use it on THEIR hardware. The Tivo corporation can run whatever they want on their Tivo's. I want to use it on MY Tivo, and I want the freedom to modify it to meet my needs, as the GPL attempts to insure. The free availability of the source code is pointless if the hardware won't run modifications. This restriction moots the freedom which is the heart of the GPL. A company shouldn't be able to use free software developed by others for that purpose, let them expend the effort to develop their own software for such purposes.

Freedom

DavidD's picture

You're right, it IS your Tivo, so what's stopping you from modifying the hardware like you modify the software? AFAIK, the FBI isn't going to bash your door down and drag you off to jail just for opening your Tivo and scoping it to see how the hardware works, and then figuring out how to modify the hardware to get around the Tivo key.

Is it complicated to do? Sure it is. But no more complicated than the Linux kernel is to a VB programmer. Should the VB scripters start complaining to Linus that they can't understand his arcane C code, and are thus unable to properly modify his kernel? No, they shouldn't.

And don't try the response that Tivo keeps the key secret. Hey, it's right there on the Tivo motherboard in front of you, you just gotta figure out how it works.

Wrong, so wrong

Freeman's picture

AFAIK, the FBI isn't going to bash your door down and drag you off to jail just for opening your Tivo and scoping it to see how the hardware works, and then figuring out how to modify the hardware to get around the Tivo key.

Go read and try to comprehend the DMCA, then come back and try to make that argument.

It's not right there

Anonymous's picture

I suggest you read up on PKI. The key is most definately NOT on the motherboard. That would not be a very secure solution would it?

No, I know that. I'm just

Anonymous's picture

No, I know that. I'm just saying that what's needed to "hack" the Tivo hardware is the Tivo hardware. The hardware isn't going to spontaneously and randomly mutate into something unknown - else it wouldn't work when you plug it up. Everything the Tivo needs is already in the box and is more or less in a stable-state. It's just a question of having the knowledge and skills to get to it and use it.

Oh, and don't forget the DMCA

Anonymous's picture

Even if you did figure out how to hack their hardware. Remember doing so is illegal.

LOL

OrlandoNative's picture

And the FBI is going to periodically PHYSICALLY inspect every TIVO to see if they're modified?

I think not.

The only way you're LIKELY to get hit with a DMCA violation is if they're ALREADY going to hit you with something else - like taking content you bypassed the DRM on and 'sharing' it with other people in violation of it's copyright and licensing restrictions.

After all, *if* you hack the code, I'm going to assume you're going to make it respond to the outside world (on the input side) as if it were an unmodified TIVO. It's what it does on the user side that is different, right?

As long as what you do is only for you; and is allowed by 'fair use', I doubt you'd have any problems, law or no.

Butting in

Nicholas Petreley's picture

I don't want to speak for the other person, but I think what he meant is that it's stored somewhere on the motherboard, not that it's printed on the motherboard in a big red font.

No, it is definitely NOT in there.

Anonymous's picture

No, the (private) key is NOT stored on the motherboard. Only it's counterpart (public key) is. The key you need to sign code is stored at TiVO world headquarters. The public key is only useful in verifying the signature. In a perfect world, the only way you would be able to modify the hardware to run your software is to replace the public key embedded in the device. Engineers _can_ make this impossible.

However, in real life engineers make mistakes or mistakenly rely on obscurity to provide security for the system. Someone almost always identifies these shortcomings and exploits them.

Just because they made a mistake and did not effectively lock us out does not make the intent to do so any less evil. I agree with posters above which point out that modifying the software to work on their hardware, then (attempting) to make said hardware useless undermines the spirit of the GPL, which is to ensure the freedom that the original developers intended their software to provide. The GPL attempts to ensure that any derived works can be further modified and used by others. You are required to provide all the components for the software to function. By placing some components in the hardware, and then locking users out of the hardware, I feel the user's freedom is being restricted.

NOW, since Linus and many kernel developers do not feel that they wish to provide THAT level of freedom, this argument is moot. The GPLv3 allows developers to CHOOSE what level of freedom they want to preserve as their software is used by third parties. Some may wish to protect against tivoization, some may not. Open Source/Free Software is about choice. This is just another choice that developers are given the freedom to make.

Thank you

Nicholas Petreley's picture

Thank you for the sane viewpoint.

I think something many people are missing is the fact that TiVo didn't build its hardware under a GPL or GPL-like license. It is under no obligation to make its hardware design or modifications to existing hardware public. If the FSF wants to deal with that, then the FSF should create a hardware license and lobby companies like TiVo to use it. But it's a separate issue, and should be dealt with separately. (Of course, the FSF would have to call itself the FSHF then - Free Software and Hardware Foundation).

It is an abuse of the GPL to prohibit people from using GPLv3 software on certain hardware. That is the point Linus is making, and it's the point I'm making. It limits the usefulness of Linux, and all it would accomplish (if Linux adopted the GPLv3) would be to drive hardware manufacturers to use something OTHER than Linux. It wouldn't accomplish what the FSF says it wants to accomplish.

Sane?

Freeman's picture

I think something many people are missing is the fact that TiVo didn't build its hardware under a GPL or GPL-like license.

I think you're deliberately ignoring the point that the software Tivo uses is developed by non-Tivo entities (except for the small amounts they modify so it will run on their hardware) and distributed under a license which is intended to prevent them from preventing others the ability to modify and run that modified code on whatever hardware the code came with or was modified to run on. GPLv2 may not have succeeded in that goal, so obviously this is why the FSF feels a need to update the license. Again, PLEASE quit throwing up a hardware-license strawman already!!!!!

It is an abuse of the GPL to prohibit people from using GPLv3 software on certain hardware.

This statement is so insane and obtuse that I don't have any desire to repeat my previous unanswered points on the matter.

That is the point Linus is making, and it's the point I'm making. It limits the usefulness of Linux, and all it would accomplish (if Linux adopted the GPLv3) would be to drive hardware manufacturers to use something OTHER than Linux. It wouldn't accomplish what the FSF says it wants to accomplish.

This is merely conjecture on your part, and it remains to be seen whether or not you're right. The FSF will release a GPLv3 and we will see what happens.

You have the right to your opinion, no matter what it may be. You also have the right to justify your opinion with reasonable arguments, and if you would excersize that right rather that continuing to insist on throwing out these hardware-restriction strawman arguments, this discussion would be alot more interesting and productive. Until you do, you'll get no respect for your opinion from those of us who see through your weak and lazy debating style. You've yet to answer a single one of my (or anyone else's, for that matter) points without falling back on the hardware strawman. I've asked in another comment how it is that you consider it OK for Tivo to restrict how their hardware is used, but not OK for software developers to use a license in an equal and opposite way to restrict how their software is used. Will you answer this sans the hardware-restriction strawman? Can you?

Wrong

Nicholas Petreley's picture

I think you're deliberately ignoring the point that the software Tivo uses is developed by non-Tivo entities (except for the small amounts they modify so it will run on their hardware) and distributed under a license which is intended to prevent them from preventing others the ability to modify and run that modified code on whatever hardware the code came with or was modified to run on.

That simply isn't true. The GPLv2 is not intended to prevent anyone from writing software that, when modified, cannot run on specific hardware. And the source code does not come with the TiVo hardware, so you don't need the hardware to get it. TiVo makes it available separately in full compliance with the GPL.

As of now, TiVo isn't violating anything. The FSF wants to change the GPL and get developers to adopt GPLv3 so that companies like TiVo would be violating the GPL if they did what they're doing now. That's one of the reasons for creating GPLv3.

By the way, the TiVo code is not totally useless. There's plenty of good stuff in the source code you could adapt for use on your own computer with a capture card. If it's hard to do that, so what? Since when was it TiVo's responsibility to write software that can easily be adapted to run on a computer with a Hauppauge card? It's just useless for the purpose of modifying it to run on a TiVo (assuming you don't want to figure out how to bypass the digital signature).

In fact, just because it's GPL, Linus Torvalds and other developers aren't obligated to make it possible to run Linux on any given hardware. It's only because people have put in a lot of time and effort that it can run on a SPARC, etc., in addition to the x86. So if you want some version of Linux to run on a TiVo, whether it's TiVo's version or your own, get in there and start coding. It's not impossible, it's just not easy.

Not wrong, just tangential As of now, TiVo

overlord's picture

Nick said

As of now, TiVo isn't violating anything. The FSF wants to change the GPL and get developers to adopt GPLv3 so that companies like TiVo would be violating the GPL if they did what they're doing now. That's one of the reasons for creating GPLv3.

I think this captures the essence of the entire debate. The "open source" folks are happy with GPLv2, because all they want is to look at the source. The "free software" folks feel that looking isn't enough, that (among other things) it's the freedom to use the source to replace the current executable that matters.

As I understand it, the concept behind the GPL is not to change the way the world works. Rather, it's to ensure that however the world works, at least some software is shared the way the free software folks feel it should be. To the free software folks, the fact that a lot of how the world works has been positively affected by the GPL is a happy side effect. The open source folks want those side effects to continue, and are concerned that GPLv3 might impact that. Both are valid viewpoints, but they're concerned with different goals: freedom or source. When you're debating different premises, it's hard to reach agreement, and that's mostly what I've been seeing here.

Most of the arguments I've seen on both sides are just straw men, as has already been pointed out by others, again on both sides, with one exception: The idea that you won't be punished for hardware modifications done to your own box for perfectly legal purposes. The DMCA makes that illegal, and yes, TiVo can probably detect that you've done it, using the very same key system that triggered all the controversy in the first place. The fact that they probably won't choose to hunt me down is small comfort. That's evil, but it has nothing to do with the GPL.

Well, not yet, anyway. One of the points in the proposed GPLv3 is that software licensed under GPLv3 would explicitly not meet the legal definitions of "protection" that make certain hardware or software modifications illegal under the DMCA.

But publishing the final GPLv3 won't suddenly revoke any rights to any code that is presently licensed under GPLv2 (yes, even if it says "or any later version", because the current version still applies). GPLv3 can only affect new code that is released only under the terms of GPLv3. It won't force TiVo to modify their hardware designs at all, unless they really want to use some of that new GPLv3 code and can't satisfy the license terms otherwise.

In the US, copyright law says that only the author gets to decide what is done with his code. He can say nobody uses it, that it's only used for schools, or upon payment of a fee, or whatever terms he chooses. All the open source licenses relax that absolute control in one way or another, but only the author has the right to choose to relax those rights.

If, as an author, "open source" is all that matters to you, use GPLv2, or CDDL, or BSD, or any other license you choose. If you feel that sharing is important not just for the knowledge you might gain but for the "freedoms" espoused by the FSF, then perhaps GPLv3 would suit you better.

None of these licenses "force" hardware manufacturers or anyone else to do anything. It's entirely up to the person who wants to use the software to decide whether the author's licensing terms are acceptable or not.

The FSF refuses to compromise on their terms, and aren't especially concerned with how many people use their software. The open source folks are more concerned with the software being used and shared. Both views are valid, but the goals are not the same. There's little point to arguing over who's "right".

But you didn't sort out the main issue.

wazoox's picture

It looks like most (if not all) hardware manufacturers (either personal computers, handhelds, appliances or whatever) want to create something called "trusted computing", remember? How do you manage the fact that someday most if not all available hardware will be actually locked and simply won't run your _not_validated_and_signed_and_DRM'd software?

Then you'll reply "vote with your wallet and blah blah" but I'm not satisfied with this kind of answers.

It looks like some sort of fundamental political misunderstanding : I'm afraid you're one of these who believes child tales such as "the hand of the market" and other free-market-globalizing bullsh*t, while we don't (well we're all st*nk'n communists after all).

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