[wp-hackers] WordPress and GPLv3

Otto otto at ottodestruct.com
Wed Dec 26 16:35:34 GMT 2007

On 12/25/07, Andy Skelton <skeltoac at gmail.com> wrote:
> Could you substantiate this for the benefit of those of us who have
> not the same knowledge that you possess? I'm trying to form an opinion
> and I want to understand your disdain for GPLv3.

My disdain for the GPLv3 is that it attempts to solve problems which
do not exist, and in so doing, it puts the freedoms of the users above
the freedoms of the developers, who are also users, but ones that they

Consider the so-called problem of so-called "Tivoization". If you
don't know the background here, I'll explain it. Tivo boxes use a
modified copy of the Linux kernel. Tivo followed the GPL to the letter
and released all their code changes ( http://www.tivo.com/linux/ ).
However, after the Tivo hacking started, they modified the code in
their actual hardware to check for a signature on the copy of the
kernel before booting it. This was to protect them and their service,
they didn't want people hacking the boxes in ways such that they did
not require the Tivo service. In other words, Tivo boxes can only run
kernels actually signed by Tivo.

Somehow this offended Stallman and the FSF. They think that the user
should be free to modify the code on the purchased hardware, despite
the fact that the hardware is not actually end-user modifiable by
normal people (just hackers) and also despite the fact that Tivo was
selling the boxes at a loss.

And that is Tivoization. Wrapping the code into a black box that can't
be modified.

What Stallman and crew are failing to see is that there's nothing
wrong with this. Tivo isn't selling hardware. Tivo is selling a
service. They leveraged open source code to create this service, and
they created an unopenable black box using that code. They released
their changes to that code back to the public, and anybody else who
wants to do so can create their own hardware and run Tivo's changes.
In other words, the GPL fulfilled its function, the changes were given
back. Tivo's only "crime" was in doing the razor blade service idea
and then trying to protect themselves from unscrupulous people.

> Some guy called Stallman seems to think you disagree with the goal of the GPL:

Yes, I absolutely disagree with Stallman and virtually everything he
says nowadays. He's gone from genius to socialist zealot.

The goal of the GPL, in my opinion, was to preserve freedom by keeping
what was released under it free for all to see and use. When the code
is free, everybody benefits. You can all use the code. You can all
modify the code. If you modify it and sell it, you have to give those
modifications back. Tivo did this. Hell, I've done this.

However, this freedom does NOT give you the freedom to take advantage
of other people's schemes. This does NOT give you the freedom to steal
service. This absolutely does not give you the freedom to set terms on
USE of that code. The GPLv2 focused entirely on redistribution. If I
redistribute the code, then I have to give away my changes. The GPLv3
adds a new one. Now, if I redistribute that code in a product, I have
to not only make the changes available, but I have to let the end-user
modify the product. I cannot protect my product and my business plan
through technical measures. I cannot give away razors while trying to
sell razor blades.

In other words, I cannot use GPLv3 code in any sort of actual
non-end-user-modifiable product that I sell. If I use GPLv3 code, I
must take extra steps to make the product modifiable by end-users.

And why? Because Stallman and the FSF think that's a good idea? Yes, I
disagree with them. I do not think that it is a good idea. I think
it's restrictive of freedoms for the developer. I want to use the open
source code to create new cool products, but this sort of ridiculous
restriction only limits the use. It takes away the freedoms of the
developer. It is far, far less free than the GPLv2 was.

> Is he wrong?

Yes. Richard Stallman is absolutely, 100% wrong in everything he has
said for at least the last 3 years. He can no longer be trusted on any
subject of any kind.

- Otto

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