Everyone who cares about the continued smooth running of the free software world where communities of independent parties gather around working on projects as we do in KDE or Linux should keep an eye on recent developments.

The VMWare case has a Linux developer suing VMWare for using Linux as part of their proprietary product.  Harald ‘LaForge’ Welte has a nice write up on his blog.  It will define how much modification can be done and then whether linking to a modified Linux build will be a derived work of the original.

The other one is Canonical who have announced it plans to ship zfs with Ubuntu.  An employee wrote in a confusing blog post “As we have already reached the conclusion, we are not interested in debating license compatibility, but of course welcome the opportunity to discuss the technology.” but in linking to differing opinions feels the need to highlight “please bear in mind that these are opinions.”  The Software Freedom Conservancy wrote an post discussing why it was a derived work and why that’s illegal to distribute.  And the SFLC’s Eben Moglen wrote another one which based on a link from Dustin’s blog is the opinion they are replying upon for thinking everything is ok.  Eben’s blog post is fascinating and makes for page turning bed-time reading by going into exactly why it’s a derived work.  It all depends on “literal interpretation of GPLv2’s system library exception” and that based on that

If there exists a consensus among the licensing copyright holders to prefer the literal meaning to the equity of the license, the copyright holders can, at their discretion, object to the distribution of such combinations. They would be asserting not that the binary so compiled infringes their copyright, which it does not, but that their exclusive right to the copying and redistribution of their source code, on which their copyright is maximally strong, is infringed by the publication of a source tree which includes their code under GPLv2 and ZFS filesystem files under CDDL, when that source tree is offered to downstream users as the complete and corresponding source code for the GPL’d binary.

Which nicely explains why an unlinked nvidia driver is ok but a linked zfs driver is not.

Canonical are already distributing Linux illegally because their previous Intellectual Property Policy claimed additional restrictions which do not exist so they have lost the right to copy it under the GPL 2 licence.  My guess would be that they realised nobody much cared about that and reasoned they had nothing more to lose.

I can’t find zfs in the Ubuntu archive or queue, as an archive admin I would of course reject it as it’s not compatible with Ubuntu’s policy.

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