GNU License for Hardware

Derek J. Balling dredd at
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
>GNU/Linux system.

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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