[Dnsmasq-discuss] GPL v3

richardvoigt at gmail.com richardvoigt at gmail.com
Fri Sep 14 01:45:56 BST 2007

On 9/13/07, Paul Chambers <bod at bod.org> wrote:
>  Now, I'm all for the switch to GPLv3 only for dnsmasq.  The only argument
> I've seen here against it is a rather specious "My company has forbidden use
> of GPLv3 in our codebase" with strong implication "because we intend to
> TIVOize".
> The companies concerned (e.g. TiVo and others) are trying to build cool
> innovative products without having to turn over their firstborn to
> Microsoft. The second problem is that the cooler products require the
> co-operation of one or more other (unenlightened) industry, be it
> broadcasters, cellular carriers, or the like. They have some pretty stiff
> requirements of device manufacturers that are not negotiable. You either
> play by their rules, or not at all.
> Carriers are extremely protective of their infrastructure,
> and are extremely sensitive to any 'modification' of a device's behavior
> that might disturb the smooth running of that infrastucture. They see any
> 'user modification' of devices using their infrastructure as a potential
> source of network disruption at worst, and inefficient consumption of a
> scarse resource at best. That's the thinking that drives every major carrier
> to insist on doing their own 4-6 month certification cycles on products that
> have already been through certification for compliance with the cellular
> technology standards.
> Content owners are the worst (the major Hollywood studios in particular).
> It may show as DRM-infested consumer devices, but believe me, those of us
> building the devices hate the stuff as much as you do. Perhaps more, we have
> to waste effort implementing the stuff as well and suffer the end result.
> Companies like Direct TV don't have a business if they can't get content
> that users want to watch. The content owners attach a whole string of
> obnoxious constraints to it, including 'protection' requirements to 'prevent
> piracy'. Broadcasters are concerned about theft of service and not falling
> foul of the nasty agreements they have to accept to get desirable content in
> the first place. Without that, you end up with products like Akimbo (no
> disrespect to the Akimbo guys, I feel their pain...)
> It's regrettable that TiVo has been characterised as the bad guy in all
> this. They're in a position of wanting to do the right thing, but not having
> the option, because of constraints dictated by the broadcasters (in no small
> part being dictated by the content owners in turn).

I'd like to agree with you, but I'm confused how TiVo is bound by these
dictates, but the several fully open-source DVRs aren't.  There's still
something missing from this puzzle.

Perhaps it isn't "not having the option", but giving up substantial
co-marketing funds, which their management may consider to be equivalent.

I must admit it's a little painful for those of us trying to champion the
> open source cause from within the consumer electronics industry to be
> portrayed as the villain. The true villains are the same people who tried to
> outlaw the VCR, thought DiVX players were a pretty neat idea, and think
> charging $1 a minute for a cellphone call across the atlantic is reasonable
> when a landline call costs 5c a minute or less.

No doubt there's a lot of villainy going on there, but generally competition
has handled those problems reasonably well.  The risk was that government
would start outlawing legal uses, just as the DMCA has done.

Another aspect not everyone may be aware of is that it's not uncommon for
> companies (at least the one's I'm familiar with) to ask their employees to
> make contributions back to the community under their own name, and not
> attributed to the company. Simply because they don't want to telegraph their
> plans to others. In other cases, a larger company may fund work done by
> Monta Vista, Wind River, and similar companies to be contributed back to the
> community. It's a double-edged sword - you don't tip your hand, but your
> company doesn't get credit in the community for its contributions either.
>  I really don't want to participate a flame war. I read and generally
> understand other people's perspectives, and respect that they have a right
> to see things differently. I'd appreciate if the same courtesy were extended
> to me, but hey, I've no right or privilege to request or expect that.

I respect the right of each company to make business decisions, within the
confines of ethical behavior, that are profitable for them.  If that means
locking down the device, that's ok.  But Simon has chosen to give his work
in exchange for guarantees that end-users will be allowed to customize any
product based on his work, and trying to take advantage of someone's hard
work without paying them would simply be theft.

I mean no disrespect to you, Richard. I'm just trying to explain the tricky
> balancing act that goes on, which might not be so obvious from outside. The
> perspective you and others have offered is no less valid.

You haven't said anything that I find disrespectful.  I also understand that
corporate management has a balancing act.  That doesn't excuse them from
acting ethically, however.  Simon had to balance the benefits of GPL vs
whatever other price he could have set on something as useful as dnsmasq,
and even though his balancing act isn't commercialized, it cannot be allowed
to be simply brushed aside.
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