back to article ZFS comes to Debian, thanks to licensing workaround

The ZFS file system has come to popular Linux distribution Debian, but in a way the distro's backers think won't kick up another row over compatibility of open source licences. Ubuntu 16.04 added ZFS, despite pre-release grumblings from Richard Stallman to the effect that anything licensed under the GNU GPL v2 can only be …

  1. Nate Amsden

    does it automatically

    build and install it for you(similarly how some other packages come with scripts that automatically download 3rd party things to install)? just shipping the source sounds like a waste of time, might as well go get it from zfsonlinux.org

    But if it is integrated into the system then that would be pretty neat.

    I cannot tell if it is integrated based on the article or the link to the package tracker.

    (been using Debian with zfsonlinux for a few years now on one system anyway, no real issues)

    1. Nate Amsden

      Re: does it automatically

      (one more tidbit, debian user for the past 18 years)

    2. Tom 64
      Holmes

      Re: does it automatically

      Good question. If it can build it all and install it from the install CD, I'll give it go.

      If its required to already have to have a working system from which to build, I doubt it's going to see much uptake.

      Still, I tip my wizardly hat to the greybeards for enabling more choice =)

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Re: does it automatically

      It can build it as well - just you're going to need a lot of additional dependencies - the compiler, tools, dev libs, etc. - installed as well, something that maybe you'd like to avoid on a production system.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never felt like GNU was right for open source projects. Free is Free as in BSD licensing, not as in GNU GPL (I know ZFS is neither, just saying since the issue here is license model).

    AC for real reasons, don't want GPL zealots after me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sound Effect For Added Realism:

      gnash gnash gnash gnash

      <the sound hungry and wild gnuistas being let off the leash>

      1. Justin Clift

        Re: Sound Effect For Added Realism:

        the sound hungry and wild gnuistas being let off the leash

        Hmmm, I'd be more worried about Oracle. They have a reputation for aggressive legal shenanigans, especially towards competitors.

        It sounds like Debian have been careful to not step on the license, so won't have "provided an excuse".

        Canonical though... hmm.... wonder what the terms they agreed to are? Perhaps they'll have a new owner soon. ;)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sound Effect For Added Realism:

          Every time ZFS is mentioned, the Oracle name sooner or later pops out, thrown in as a bogeyman.

          With zero hint on why and how they could do anything, since ZFS is now effectively forked, they have no involvement at all in the ZFS running on Linux and of course, absolutely no control over it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @AC - Re: Sound Effect For Added Realism:

            Erm, how about software patents ? As far as I remember, US still has them.

    2. tom dial Silver badge

      You are entitled to your opinion, as I am to mine.

      The problem with non-GPL licensed software seems to me to be that it eliminates the requirement for reciprocity that the GPL licences embody. There are enough of us who, because we make no contributions other than minor ones for our own use, only take. Red Hat's suggests rather emphatically that the GPL, although not the only viable license model, is quite a decent one.

      That ZFS is covered by an incompatible open source license should not be a greater impediment than the even more restrictive licensing of Nvidia drivers and a good deal of WiFi chip drivers. I look forward to installing the package that will download and compile it from source.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Tom dial,

        "The problem with non-GPL licensed software"

        It's a mistake to describe non-GPL licensed software as a problem. It's not a problem, it's a free gift to the world. That's never a problem. In the case of ZFS, it's an amazingly generous gift that most people (well, most sysadmins; they probably still count as people), would love to use. The authors of software have the absolute right to choose whatever license they wish. The real problem is that the GPL-fanatics complain, often volubly, when that right is exercised contrary to their own wishes.

        As the old saying goes, never look a gift-horse in the mouth. The problem with GPL is that it mandates the inspection of each of the horse's teeth, and requires that the animal to be judged unhealthy should any of them fail to have "GPL" carved in no matter how pearly white each one is.

        "Red Hat's suggests rather emphatically that the GPL, although not the only viable license model, is quite a decent one."

        It's done OK, but it causes tremendous problems in situations like this. It was naive of the creators of GPL to assume that theirs would be the only open source license ever to be used. Whether Linux would have advanced quite so rapidly under a different license is hard to judge, but it's certainly causing absurd problems like this now.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          My right to choose how to liscence my own software...

          includes a clause all must wear chicken costumes while using said software. ;)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Free is Free

          ... and don't need reciprocity.

          The beauty if BSD is that the contributions can be used in both great open source projects AND amazing closed source one's. It just have to acknowledge what portion of the code is BSD and who wrote it.

          The reciprocity concept is only limiting in a supposedly free licensing model . If you expect reciprocity then sell your software. The reciprocity comes under the form of cash.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @AC - Re: Free is Free

            Yeah, amazing closed source ones. Like in building a multi-billion dollars multinational empire without ever sending back a thank you postcard. GPL does not agree with you and you're free to use it or not. However, obeying the licensing terms is compulsory for GPL as well as for any other open or closed source license.

          2. tom dial Silver badge

            Re: Free is Free

            "Contributions" if made public "can be used in both great open source projects AND amazing closed source ones." That "if made public" is a significant difference. Apple (for example) might have developed major improvements to the BSD kernel that they do not release publicly, as the BSD licenses allow. Those improvements are unlikely to be used in "great" or, indeed, any open source projects.

        3. Damon Lynch

          On GPL vs BSD, I like what Pieter Hintjens has to say:

          http://zguide.zeromq.org/page:all#The-Importance-of-Contracts

          1. LDS Silver badge

            The true meaning of that post, although probably an unwanted one, is "before choosing a license, be aware of what it really means, and then choose what suits best your interests".

            I've seen people (and projects) choosing a license just because of their personal beliefs and "political" stance. That's one of the most stupid things you can do - especially when you're not fully aware of the long-term implications.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              "That's one of the most stupid things you can do - especially when you're not fully aware of the long-term implications."

              Another is to not specify a licence in the first place, presumably on the basis that it's the freest of all. It's not, of course, it's the most restrictive because a licence is a grant of permission to use: no licence, no permission.

          2. asdf

            adding nothing to the conversation but

            >On GPL vs BSD

            My 2 cents. I have to boot GPL (or proprietary) to get steam to work natively but am all about BSD licensing for my web browsing (VM) and banking (mem stick) and everything else I can (if your system's default user shell is bash sorry you are not a UNIX). As for ZFS overkill for my hone use for most part but after using it under FreeBSD for quite some time if it came natively to say Mint out of the box with its awesome snapshotting and its incredible flexibility I would probably use it even with its slightly higher overhead.

            1. asdf

              Re: adding nothing to the conversation but

              As a yet further aside learned this weekend you can viably run OpenBSD in Virtualbox headless (so stupid VBox app goes away) with only 512 meg memory and then forward a port through VBox and with allowing X11 forwarding through ssh on the BSD run OpenBSD Midori (FF way too slow at least on my rig) on your Linux desktop as basically a native app quite well. Using authentication keys instead of passwords is not only safer but allows icons on the desktop of programs actually running from VM without password prompt. Basically gives you the speed of Midori but with total OS sandboxing (X client aside).

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @AC - Could you please give us an example

          where rabid GPL fanatics would like to use ZFS but they can't because of the GPL license and they want it changed ? To me at least it's not like ZFS wanting to use Linux against the wishes of GPL crowd.

          You're saying authors of software are free to chose the license they want. Authors of GPL licensed software and authors of ZFS did just that and I don't see any of them trying to force the others to change it.

          Looking at the prevalence of GPL software today I would say you're barking at the wrong tree.

        5. tom dial Silver badge

          I did not claim that GPL is the only appropriate open source license, or that it is the best for all purposes. I do consider non-GPL open source software to be subject to exploitation in ways that GPL licensed software is not. Indeed, I consider that to be entirely obvious, and it is confirmed from time to time by closed-source advocates, maybe most famously by Steve Ballmer's description of it as a "cancer."

          Any author, of course, has the liberty to use any license, or none, for his or her software products. Those who choose a version of the GPL have taken a position that extensions of their work must be licensed in the same way if published at all.

          I do not see it as a major problem, and the Debian Project approach seems a reasonable way to handle the issue of GPL vs non-GPL incompatibility, as it was for the proprietary Nvidia, AMD, and WiFi drivers I and many others use. The only evident defect is that it will be difficult to set a system up that is entirely on ZFS; yet /boot hardly needs that, and / certainly needs it less than general storage for application data and user login file systems. I would not be at all surprised, however, to read in the not distant future that the installer had been taught to download and compile ZFS to enable its use for the entire system.

          The first order evidence from Linux vs the various BSD kernels certainly suggests as a plausible hypothesis that the GPL is the superior license in practice. The claim that the GPL "causes tremendous problems in situations like this" is a major overstatement for which there is little real evidence, if any. The GPL folks had a rather public, but still internal, discussion about it and the starchiest of the major producers settled the issue for themselves in a way that seems fairly reasonable and workable. And the world will move on, an increasing part of it on Linux with ZFS.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "The problem with non-GPL licensed software seems to me to be that it eliminates the requirement for reciprocity that the GPL licences embody."

        It's only a problem if your wrote the software and demand reciprocity. If you write something and release it under BSD then presumably you don't care about reciprocity so no problem.

        1. tom dial Silver badge

          The claim on the GPL side, though, is that the reciprocity requirement provides greater total utility to the population of all software developers and users (as opposed to only those who develop and use the particular software) than other licenses, whether open source or not. It is not implausible.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You are entitled to your opinion, as I am to mine.

        Amen to that :)

        The problem with non-GPL licensed software seems to me to be that it eliminates the requirement for reciprocity that the GPL licences embody. There are enough of us who, because we make no contributions other than minor ones for our own use, only take. Red Hat's suggests rather emphatically that the GPL, although not the only viable license model, is quite a decent one.

        I'm more in the LGPL camp on this, because a license that forces me to do something isn't really what I would call "freedom". Personally I'm quite OK with people using GPL code as building blocks and then do their own thing on top which may be offered under a different license model, as that enforces the viability of those elements as building blocks, yet leaves people to do their own thing.

        Evil as they are, Microsoft did rather accurately lay its finger on that problem spot during its anti-Linux campaign (now replaced by the first stage "Embrace" - you know the rest so don't tell me you didn't see it coming), which is why pure GPL code never got any industry traction. It doesn't really work that well in the real world which has been endlessly frustrating, because the net result of that rigidity is that people simply returned to their Windows addiction :(.

      4. TVU Silver badge

        "That ZFS is covered by an incompatible open source license should not be a greater impediment than the even more restrictive licensing of Nvidia drivers and a good deal of WiFi chip drivers. I look forward to installing the package that will download and compile it from source."

        However, OpenZFS is covered by the Common Development and Distribution License which is an open source license and three out the four legal opinions I have seen back Canonical's way of including OpenZFS in the latest incarnation of their Ubuntu operating system (the only dissenting opinion came from the Software Freedom Conservancy).

        In contrast, Oracle Solaris ZFS is a completely proprietary file system and it really would be asking for trouble to try to include that in a Linux distribution. I just don't get this ongoing fundamental inability to distinguish between the open source OpenZFS and the wholly proprietary Oracle Solaris ZFS.

        1. asdf

          Wasn't one of the big knocks on ZFS and especially DTrace is how much Solaris cruft came along with it that had to be ported? I assume that is better today but I remembered something about that in regards to FreeBSD's implementation anyway.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's Why...

      ...OS X, PS4, and a bunch of other things are based on FreeBSD, not Linux.

      They'll have to sort out this mess sooner or later. This is not going to be the last time Linux is unnecessarily hamstrung by licensing niceties, barred from using some useful tech simply because RS and friends don't like the license it was released under.

      If something truly important comes along (arguably ZFS is in that category) and Linux refuses to adopt it over license tetchiness, then Linux risks becoming irrelevant. They can't keep recreating everything that others have pioneered - it's a constant waste of manpower diverting effort away from more pressing work.

      Ubuntu and Debian are simply trying to move Linux onwards for the greater good, why should anyone want to stand in their way?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: That's Why...

        Firstly, we need to differentiate between Linux the kernel and Linux distributions.

        Linux the kernel has the ability to accommodate loadable modules some of which are included in the kernel source. ZFS isn't one of these. Neither are such items as user space file systems and binary drivers.

        Linux distributions package the kernel, a bundle of tools including a whole raft of more or less Unix-like tools. As we've seen Ubuntu bundle a GPL'd kernel-derived module which interfaces with the non-GPL'd ZFS file system. Ubuntu, presumably on the basis of legal advice, take the position that this indirect link between the kernel and non-GPL code isn't such as to make the ZFS code a derivative on the kernel and hence isn't subject to the GPL.

        Secondly we need to consider the legality of this in terms of licensing. As I've spelled out here a few times whenever some new legal situation arises the only way to be sure of the way the law will deal with it is the decision of the highest court that adjudicates (which might differ in different jurisdictions). The only way this is going to receive such a ruling is if someone with suitable standing, presumably a kernel contributor with contributions to the parts of the kernel most closely associated with the interfaces being used, takes the case to court. RMS might not like the situation but he isn't a court and unless he takes action himself and convinces a court that he has sufficient standing then there's not a lot he can do about it AFAICS. If the kernel contributors don't take legal action within a reasonable period of time we have to assume that either they accept the Ubuntu position, take the view that they don't believe that they have a strong enough case against Ubuntu or simply can't be bothered.

        It's worth noting that although ZFS isn't GPL it is, AFAIK open source under the CDDL licence. This is in clear distinction to many binary-only drivers that many Linux distributions include. If the inclusion of ZFS were successfully challenged in court distributions might start to be concerned about including such drivers; under such circumstances the entire Linux project would be in serious trouble.

      2. Ilsa Loving

        Re: That's Why...

        This is exactly the reason why I've been moving my file servers to FreeBSD. I have a job to get done, and I need stuff to work without babysitting.

        I want ZFS, because it's the single best file system out there for making sure your data is safe. (No, BTRFS isn't up to snuff. It's still too much of a WIP, especially it's RAID5/6 code)

        I would have preferred to stick with Linux, but I don't have time, nor the patience, to see how all this will play out. And since my desire for ZFS is greater than my preference to using Linux, the choice pretty much decides itself (for file servers, at least).

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: That's Why...

        "This is not going to be the last time Linux is unnecessarily hamstrung by licensing niceties"

        If you actually read the CDDL you can see how it was explicitly written to conflict with GPL.

        Sun could have released it under BSD or GPL and chose not to, for political reasons.

        In any case the easy workaround is "compile from source" or "pull binaries down from a separate repo" - both approaches have been used for similar conflicts in the past.

        1. asdf

          Re: That's Why...

          >Sun could have released it under BSD or GPL and chose not to, for political reasons.

          Yeah where did that get them? Owned by Larry like one of his boats.

        2. bazza Silver badge

          Re: That's Why...

          @Alan Brown,

          "If you actually read the CDDL you can see how it was explicitly written to conflict with GPL.

          Sun could have released it under BSD or GPL and chose not to, for political reasons."

          Wrong way round. GPL was deliberately written to be incompatible with every other license.

          Whatever reason Sun had in creating CDDL it was their choice, not yours, not mine, not anyone else's. They deliberately did not stop ZFS being combined with other works; it exists today quite happily embedded in FreeBSD.

    4. LDS Silver badge

      I believe everybody is free to release software the way they like.

      The GPL is just one license like many others. The issue with GPL zealots is they try to make people believe there should be no other open source license outside the GPL (and sometimes even that all code shoud be released as such), and there is often a strong political agenda (and activism) behind it.

      But is people wants to use it, they are of course free to use it - as long as other people are free to use whatever other license they like.

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      " Free is Free as in BSD licensing, not as in GNU GPL"

      The problem with BSD style licensing is that people can (and do) take your BSD code, roll it into their proprietary system and if they fork anything it doesn't get contributed back to the pool, plus "open source" code under BSD licenses frequently gets buried under the hood of expensive proprietary systems without the sources being acknowledged.

      GPL is aimed at preventing that kind of thing from happening.

      It's free, but if you distribute GPL-based stuff, you have to hand over the source code too. (If you don't, it's a simple copyright violation issue - this is the reason so few GPL cases have ever hit the court. almost all get settled(*) as soon as lawyers realise what they're up against.)

      (*) Settled, as in the source code get released along with the product. When a lawyer tells the client that they have a choice of doing that or risking their product being banned from the marketplace it's a no-brainer.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        @ Alan Brown,

        "The problem with BSD style licensing is that people can (and do) take your BSD code, roll it into their proprietary system and if they fork anything it doesn't get contributed back to the pool, plus "open source" code under BSD licenses frequently gets buried under the hood of expensive proprietary systems without the sources being acknowledged."

        That's not a problem. It's just your own misguided opinion. The people whose opinion does matter, in this case the people who have written code and licensed it using the BSD license, have decided they have no problem with other people doing as you describe. Everyone can go get the original source and do what they like with it within the terms of the license. You're entitled to do the same thing yourself.

  3. jms222

    So given that I'm not about to study the source code what's the difference between me say downloading a kernel with ZFS source separately and building it myself (and wasting resources as a result), downloading a pre-built ZFS module or downloading the kernel with it properly built-in.

    Much GPL software was written with reference to versions with another license and they may as well have simply copied it. If Linus had never been born we'd still have BSDs and perhaps less trouble in this area.

    1. PhilPotter

      Legality

      GPL2 only covers distribution, not usage. This means it is perfectly legal to download the source of ZFS, and the Linux kernel, and compile them together for use on your machine. It would only become illegal if you were to then distribute the resulting binary work - and even then only if the ZFS kernel module could be judged to be a 'derivative work' of the kernel under copyright law (very much an open question at this point, as it was originally implemented on the Solaris kernel).

      1. ultimate_noobie

        Re: Legality

        To just throw one more point in, "derivative work" has jurisdictional boundaries: A UK court might rule it's not, a US one saying yes it is and an NZ one refusing to even hear the case. Not having a court test in any jurisdiction is probably the real crux of things since there doesn't seem to be any hive minds developing between the various (international) courts regarding software licenses.

  4. #define INFINITY -1

    Correct me if I'm wrong, please:

    GPL was developed as the authors of much Unix software had their contributions taken away from them; once bitten twice shy. These authors then rewrote their software, but this time around made it quite clear: we did this for the community first time around, and we're not doing it a third!

    I agree authors must choose their licences, but also do see the reason that GPL "doesn't play fair".

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Correct me if I'm wrong, please:

      GPL is mostly a Stallman idea. He wanted his free clone of Unix (which was licensed code from AT&T, thereby himself piggybacking on someone else work...), and wanted to assert his idea of software development.

      It is true that early Unix development saw a lot of confusion, with universities often improving the AT&T code (maybe employing unpaid students as well), and government funding them through DARPA for its needs, while the Unix owner still kept charging high license fees.

      And the very reason Stallman wanted a clone of Unix and not his own designed "free OS" is exactly he hoped to be able still to take advantage of the available Unix software he needed, without paying the contributions AT&T made to Unix....

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Correct me if I'm wrong, please: @INFINITY -1

      Back when UNIX was effectively a Bell Labs. internal project, with educational institutions given source code access for the cost of the media, a lot of this UNIX software you talk about was actually written by people working in the educational institutions. As such, they almost certainly did not own all of, or even very much of the work they did (most institutions take part or all of the rights to inventions by their employed staff, with research sponsors taking some of what's left).

      Back in those days, it was much more simple to write something for your local use, and make it available for free or media costs to other educational institutions, rather than trying to monetize it. As such it was often provided with little or no license other than something like "free to use for educational institutions". This effectively meant that by sharing it, you had already lost control.

      RMS himself understood this. In order to be free of these restrictions so that he could assert his right to make software freely available, he resigned from MIT shortly after starting the GNU project.

    3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      You cannot see what isn't there

      If you go back in your time machine, software started without explicit copyright notices and licenses. It often arrived as source code, you fixed it, compiled it and swapped your patches with friends. This emphatically applies to AT&T Unix. AT&T were found guilty of using their monopoly in one field to create monopolies in others. Part of their sentence was that they were not allowed to distribute an operating system. AT&T split up, and one of the fragments was Unix Systems Laboratories.

      USL promptly sued the Regents of the University of California for copyright infringement. There are many reasons why the litigation was an abysmal failure: They sued the people with money, not Berkley Software Distribution who actually distributed an implementation of Unix, BSD did not copy any source code from System V and there was evidence that USL did not own the whole of System V because some of it was from outside contributors.

      If we take a step forward in time, it became fashionable for companies to distribute software in binary form with a license that said you could install on one computer with one CPU, and you could not transfer it to another computer or sell the original computer with the software license. The purpose of commercial software was to encode user's data in a proprietary format, then charge for regular 'upgrades' so users could retain access to their data.

      This wonderful revenue model that vast majority businesses, governments and individuals are so keen on has a draw back: Programmers learn from reading high quality source code, and the source code in closed source software is hidden. One of the problems the GNU GPL was created to fix was the falling standard of programming skills caused by lack of good examples.

      GPL gives users several freedoms: the freedom to install GPL software on anything they own, and use it for any purpose. The freedom to study the source code, and modify it. The freedom to distribute the software, and modified versions of it. The cost of GPL software is that you cannot take those freedoms from the people you distribute GPL software to. This is, according to some, totally unfair. Some companies clearly deserve the right to take source code created by others, add spyware, addware and secret file formats, then make everyone pay of a copy bundled with every new computer - all without making the modified source code available.

      Years ago, it was legal to buy a computer with a licensed copy of AT&T Unix, and use that computer to create a GPL text editor, C compiler and debugger. Early GPL software was often replacements for the tools that came with AT&T Unix, but done better and with freedoms. You were also allowed to install your own operating system kernel such as BSD Unix or Minix, and continue your software development with open source tools. You could develop GPL software on AIX, Solaris, DOS and even Windows (check your license). The idea that software belongs to the owner of the operating system, and not the programmer who creates it is a modern one, and not entirely supported by the legal system.

      And now we get to ZFS. Sun (now owned by Oracle) chose a license for their software. They chose CDDL (oversimplified: you get to play with the source code, but the changes belong to Sunacle, so they can change to license back to closed source and charge for copies of other peoples' contributions). For some reason there has not been a stampede of programmers giving their time and effort to Sunacle for free. The CDDL and the GPL are not compatible. This means if you link CDDL code (like ZFS) to GPL code (like the Linux Kernel) you cannot distribute the result.

      The key here is the word linking, which means different things to different people - specifically Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds. If I created some CDDL library and linked it to some of Stallman's GPL software, I would look at Stallman's definition of linking and see I cannot distribute. ZFS is a kernel module, and it communicates the the kernel in a manner that resembles linking, so Linus' opinion is the one that matters.

      Linus has been perfectly clear on this for years: kernel modules do not link to the kernel in a way that automatically triggers the conditions of the GPL. Linus is not the only contributor to the kernel, and the opinions of the other contributors matter too. Some of the interfaces in the kernel are not available to non-GPL software. When you write a kernel module, you specify the license and the linker only shows you symbols you can use. There are kernel modules available with far worse licenses than CDDL, and they are legal. I can understand Debian with limited funds, out of an abundance of caution distributing ZFS in source code form only - especially with RMS ranting. As long as Sunacle have not damaged the way the kernel build system checks license compatibility, then ZFS for Linux is as legal as Sunacle choose no matter what RMS says.

      1. #define INFINITY -1

        Re: You cannot see what isn't there

        1048576 upvotes. Thank you!

  5. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    GPL and LGPL

    For applications that are compiled and run on Linux, the fact that most of GCC and many libraries are actually published under the Lesser GPL (LGPL) means that it is possible to ship code that is compiled and uses these libraries under any license you wish.

    The problem here is that ZFS requires code that runs in kernel-space, and thus uses more of Linux that a user-space program. There have been discussions about whether kernel modules use enough of the interface (specifically the kernel symbol table) to the kernel to mean that GPL licensing restrictions apply.

    In my view, there needs to be clarification of the state of kernel modules. IMHO, I feel that there should be some exemption, like the LGPL derivative work exemptions for statically linking LGPL libraries into binaries so that correctly written kernel modules can be added without violating the GPL. In this respect, I think that the stance RMS is taking, for all his good deeds and words, is akin to cutting off his nose to spite his face.

    I understand that he has a glorious vision, but pragmatically, it will never be possible to have the whole world's software infrastructure running under GPL.

    1. asdf

      Re: GPL and LGPL

      >The problem here is that ZFS requires code that runs in kernel-space

      The fuse ZFS implementation all in user space is good enough for secondary drive access (ZFS good to share data between FreeBSD, Mac OS and Linux for example) but will take your point for primary drive usage needing kernel space.

    2. asdf

      Re: GPL and LGPL

      >I understand that he has a glorious vision, but pragmatically, it will never be possible to have the whole world's software infrastructure running under GPL.

      Hell look at how well Red Hat can get around the GPL with kdbus and they are supposed to be in the choir (for now).

  6. phuzz Silver badge

    Outside of the sueball-happy US, what's the point in licensing your free software?

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Point in licensing

      To stop others using it commercially without any need to provide worthwhile modifications such as bug-fixes or improvements in return.

      To stop anyone else claiming another license on it to your detriment.

      There may be other reasons, but in principle you are asking for "support" instead of money in return for your acknowledged work.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Point in licensing

        Once again, only if you talk about GNU GPL.

        BSD License only require that you acknowledge where the portion of code you use comes from.

        Then the resulting work can be sold (OSX,..), or distributed as a new package under another more restrictive license (but the portion under BSD license remain free of course).

        No one HAVE TO return anything. They can if they wish.

        Since it is FREE distribution, no one is harmed by what other parties can do with the pieces of code distributed. If you don't want it free, then keep it closed! Simple as that!

        Now THAT is free and good.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Point in licensing

        But given how often commercial software is pirated, isn't a bit naive to think a text file in the zip is going to change anyone's mind?

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: Point in licensing

          This is nothing to do with stopping "pirated" software. Simply that if you wish to use the given code legally you follow the terms. Basically it is the right to offer your code with the proviso that anyone benefiting from it returns the favour by offering the derivative as usable source code.

          The GPL & ZFS argument is not that simple: Both code sources and modifications are available. What it comes down to is whether loading a kernel module makes it a "derivative" of the kernel for the GPL license match to be enforcible, or just some blob you wish to offer (with code) for use like a closed source video driver.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "what's the point in licensing your free software?"

      Because if you don't license it it isn't free.

      A license is a grant of permission. That's the meaning of the word. If you don't believe me look it up for yourself. An example would be a driving license - it's a permit to drive.

      f you don't grant a license you're not allowing anybody else to use it. That's the legal position. There seems to be a common misconception to the contrary but it most certainly is a misconception.

      Of course you can add restrictive clauses to your license. Your driving license, for instance, might restrict you to driving certain types of vehicles; nevertheless without it you're not legally permitted to drive at all. A software license might impose certain restrictions. The GPL's restrictions are different to BSD's & some might consider them more onerous but in both cases they are permissions to use and distribute the software subject to those restrictions.

      I presume it's the restrictions that are the root of the misconception but, I repeat, it is a misconception because the licenses are essentially grants of permissions to do something which would otherwise be a breach of copyright.

  7. Frumious Bandersnatch

    did this solution

    "emerge" in Gentoo first? The pun aside, I'm guessing that source-centric distros (Gentoo) probably don't have the particular licensing issue so long as you don't distribute the resultant binaries?

  8. Adair Silver badge

    Plenty of FUD...

    being applied to the GPL. I wonder why that could possibly be?

    The GPL certainly doesn't fit with some people's idea of 'freedom', but then, glory be, they are free not to use it. But, then, if they do find it cramping their proprietorial instincts, money making desires, or simply their freedom to do what the hell they like with someone else's work they can always go away and write their own code, or maybe pay someone else to do it for them.

    The GPL attempts, quite successfully, to represent a certain philosophical and ethical position. If we don't understand it, or agree with it, that's fine, we are 'free' to go our own way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Adair - Re: Plenty of FUD...

      Now you did it! You've stepped on some people's wounded toe.

      I have the honor of being the first to up-vote your post. Wholeheartedly!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's wrong with MIT?

    I publish anything that is 'open' under an MIT license. No restrictions other than including a copy of the MIT license in your product.

    If there are restrictions, it is not open source, it is controlled source.

  10. Chemical Bob

    GAAAAH!

    BtrFS will probably be production ready before this license thing gets settled.

    1. asdf
      Trollface

      Re: GAAAAH!

      No way. I might have accepted the next Duke Nukem game will come out first or consumer grade memristors will come out first but not Btrfs being prod ready.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: GAAAAH!

      Donning my tinfoil hat, I have to wonder if OpenZFS wasn't put out to draw development and programmers away from BtrFS and slow its progress.

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