12 Years of GPL Compliance: A Historical Perspective

Bradley M. Kuhn

Friday 29 July 2011

My History

Nature of Free Software Community

On Requirement By License

How GPL Works (Theoretically)

How GPL Works (In Reality)

Earliest Copyleft Programs

Second Copyleft Program

The NeXT Shall be First

Earliest Post I Could Find

Path: utzoo!utgpu!jarvis.csri.toronto.edu!mailrus!cs.utexas.edu!usc!apple!bbn!bbn.com!bpalmer
From: bpal…@bbn.com (Brian Palmer)
Newsgroups: gnu.misc.discuss
Subject: Objective Gnu?
Message-ID: <5768@bbn.COM>
Date: 19 Sep 89 15:36:16 GMT

In “The NeXT Book” by Bruce Webster, he says: (page 134):

Objective C is based on the Gnu C compiler developed by Richard Stallman. Release 0.9 has merged the Objective C syntax with the the Gnu C compiler to speed up compilation and to produce faster, more efficient code.

Are they using FSF software in their product? Or is Webster just badly explaining the situation … and Objective C is just preprocessing and passing C to gcc.

Otherwise Gang, I see a Copyleft violation right?


NeXT Answers

Path: utzoo!utgpu!jarvis.csri.toronto.edu!rutgers!apple!gem.mps.ohio-state.edu!tut.cis.ohio-state.edu!NEXT.COM!Matthew_Self
From: Matthew_S…@NEXT.COM
Newsgroups: gnu.gcc
Subject: Objective-C front end for GCC from NeXT
Message-ID: <8909210104.AA14825@batcomputer.NeXT.COM>
Date: 21 Sep 89 01:01:50 GMT
Sender: dae…@tut.cis.ohio-state.edu

In response to Steve Simmons’ inquiry about an Objective-C front-end for GCC, NeXT will be making our modifications to GCC for Objective-C available very soon.

Once GCC–1.36 is released (any day now), I will create a patch kit which will be announced on this mailing list. (The modifications are very small.)

Matthew Self

Thus Begins Jobs’ GPL hatred.

Tar Wars

A long time ago, in a city far far away, the Empires had taken GNU tar and placed it into proprietary backup solutions. A small band of freedom fighters enforced the GPL to liberate users who were oppressed by the proprietary nature of GPL violators.

Tar Wars

Court May Not Mandate Source Release

Coalition of the Willing

Compliance Takes Soooo Long


GCC Redux, 2003–2005

Funding Crisis for Enforcement


Enforcement Corruption: MySQL

Embedded Violations Prevalent

The Era of GPL Litigation

Linksys Redux

Challenges of Modern Compliance

The Upstream Problem

When I said that I was king of forwards, you got to understand that I don’t come up with this stuff. I just forward it along. You wouldn’t arrest a guy who was just passing drugs from one guy to another.

— Michael Scott, The Office

Suppliers Bully OEMs, AFAICT

Embedded Device Software Freedom

GPL Predicted this Problem

GPLv2: More than Just Source

For an executable work, complete source code means all the source code for all modules it contains, plus any associated interface definition files, plus the scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable.

(emphasis mine)

GPLv2: More than Just Source

GPLv3: Installation Information

“Installation Information” for a User Product means any methods, procedures, authorization keys, or other information required to install and execute modified versions of a covered work in that User Product from a modified version of its Corresponding Source. The information must suffice to ensure that the continued functioning of the modified object code is in no case prevented or interfered with solely because modification has been made.

If you convey an object code work under this section in, or with, or specifically for use in, a User Product, and the conveying occurs as part of a transaction in which the right of possession and use of the User Product is transferred to the recipient in perpetuity or for a fixed term (regardless of how the transaction is characterized), the Corresponding Source conveyed under this section must be accompanied by the Installation Information.

(emphasis mine)

GPLv3: Installation Information


Constant Vigilance!

More Info / Talk License

Presentation and slides are: Copyright © 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 Bradley M. Kuhn, and are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike (CC-By-SA) 3.0 United States License.

Some images included herein are ©’ed by others. I believe my use of those images is fair use under USA © law. However, I suggest you remove such images if you redistribute these slides under CC-By-SA-USA 3.0.