GNU License for Hardware
Derek J. Balling
dredd at megacity.org
Wed Oct 13 22:12:27 UTC 1999
At 03:43 PM 10/13/99 -0600, Richard Stallman wrote:
> > If I was to replace all of Solaris's utilities with the GNU
> > equivalents, would anybody call it GNU/Solaris?
>I for one would not call it that. Copying just the utilities from GNU
>is not enough of a reason to say "the result is basically the GNU
>system." What GNU/Linux has in common with GNU is much more than a
>bunch of utilities. If you took the kernel of Solaris and made it
>work in the GNU system, that would produce GNU/Solaris.
Applications are compiled to work with a kernel, not the other way around
(unless you're M$, trying to maintain backward compatibility). If you take
all the GNU stuff and compile it to run under the Solaris kernel, leaving
none of the original Sun stuff behind, why SHOULDN'T it be called
GNU/Solaris? Your argument is that the operating system is more than just
the kernel, it is the applications as well. (Hence you want people to use
GNU/Linux). If the only difference between a Linux box and a Solaris box
suddenly becomes the kernel, then for your argument to hold up logically,
you would also have to defend the use of "GNU/Solaris".
If your argument is that "this new system isn't the GNU system", then on
behalf of many many people, let me tell you... Linux is not the GNU system
either. I hope the FSF continues working on Hurd, and finishes the GNU
system, because that's not what Linux is, nor is it what Linux strives to
be. Linux is an operating system that cannibalized a good chunk of the
existing GNU system. Linux developers could do that, thanks to the GPL.
>> If Stallman wants a GNU/Linux distribution, he
> > should create a Linux distribution, and call it GNU.
>We want users to know that the various popular system distributions,
>such as Debian and Red Hat and Caldera, are all variants of the
They are variants of the Linux system. The Linux system uses GNU utilities
and libraries. There is no denying this, nor would they want to try.
> Linux is a perfectly good name for an operating system.
>It would have been a perfectly good name, but the principal developers
>of this particular system use the name GNU.
Part of the GPL, which you yourself wrote, is the lack of control over code
once it leaves your hands. I could, if I were so inclined, take the source
code to emacs and republish it under the name
"rms-can-eat-my-shorts-editor". Could you stop me? No. Would I want to do
that? No. But I have every right to take your product and do whatever my
heart's desire is with it, so long as I conform to the requirements of the GPL.
The GNU developers have voluntarily given up the ability to control the
destiny of their software. That's the price of freedom, Richard. GNU
developers freely open Pandora's Box every time they release code under the
GPL. They have said "Anyone may use this software any way they see fit. You
don't need to pay me, you don't need to get my permission, you don't need
anything at all from me. Just obey the rules in the GPL and everything is
fine." The Linux movement took them at their word. They incorporated that
code into their product, the Linux Operating System. It was a success. It
was a success because of good marketing, excellent reliability, and a
fairly rapid deployment rate (due in no small part to their reuse of
existing GNU code).
I think maybe you would have, in retrospect, been happier with a BSD-style
license, which required the advertising. That seems to be more in line with
what you want users of GNU software to do. You seem to think that you have
the right to demand that they change the name of their product to include
"GNU", simply because they are using some code you told them they could
use. There were no strings attached then, and so long as the code they use
remains under the GPL, there never will be.
The more you whine (and yes, Richard, it IS whining) about GNU/Linux vs.
Linux, the less credible you sound to many people. I, and everyone else in
this forum I am sure, respect you for bringing us where we are today, both
in philosophy and in code, but you need to stand by your philosophy, even
if it doesn't soothe your ego to do it. The GNU philosophy explicitly
grants the Linux developers the right to take the GNU code away to do what
they want with it. Either you have to defend their right to take that code
and name it what they will, or you have to admit to a harsh difference
between your published philosophy and your actions.
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