One month ago, LWN ran an article
about the cdrtools license change
and resulting controversy. The
biggest issue remains the distribution of binary versions of the
utility. This tool is licensed under the GPL, and has
copyrights held by a number of authors. The current version, however,
requires the libscg library - which is now distributed under Sun's CDDL
license. Since the GPL and the CDDL are mutually incompatible, it is hard
to see how mkisofs can be distributed legally.
That situation has not changed in the last month; cdrtools author Jörg
Schilling appears to be determined to go forward with the license change.
What has happened, however, is that a number of distributors have responded
to the change - though not all have responded in the same way. Here is a
summary of what the distributors are doing:
- Debian was the first distributor to notice the license problem,
and the Debian developers have reacted quickly. It now appears that
etch will ship with cdrkit, a new project based
on a version of cdrtools from before the license change. The Debian
maintainers are actively pushing forward with this project, and they
have approached other distributors to see if they want to help.
- Fedora has dropped back to the 2.01 release, which predates
the most controversial license changes. That change allows them to
get the Fedora Core 6 release out without excess worry or delay
while the longer-term plan is worked out. That process appears to be
going slowly, with the Fedora cdrtools maintainer not yet
participating in the discussion.
Meanwhile, Fedora has also slipped a version of libburn into the Extras
- Gentoo has taken an interesting approach. Since Gentoo
distributes in source form, the developers have concluded that they
need not worry about this issue. There is no combination of
mkisofs and libscg until the end user builds a binary - and
the user has the right to do that. As long as those binaries are
not distributed, licensing does not come into play. Thus, Gentoo
ships the (relicensed) 2.01.01-a11 release.
That said, the Gentoo developers have also put cdrkit into their distribution, and
it looks like that is what they plan to support going into the future.
- Mandriva has made no public statements about the license change
at all. The recently announced
Mandriva 2007 release candidate contains version 2.01.01-a11, which
includes the relicensed code.
- Slackware has no recent cdrtools-related entries in the current
changelog. The upcoming Slackware 11 release appears to be
poised to ship version 2.01.
- SUSE's response, so far, is
"We'll look into cdrkit." The current "factory" OpenSUSE
tree contains version 2.01.
- Ubuntu currently has 2.01.01-a3 (which predates the license
change) in the repository for the
upcoming "edgy" release; cdrkit has not yet made an appearance there.
It would be surprising if Ubuntu failed to follow Debian's lead on
The overall picture that results is that, while a number of distributors
are taking overt action in response to the cdrtools licensing issues,
others appear to be waiting until things settle - and a final 2.01.01
release is made. Only one of the distributors listed above (Mandriva)
looks set, at the moment, to distribute a version of cdrtools released
under the new license.
For years, there has been occasional talk of forking the cdrtools package.
It has remained talk, however; CD burning can be a tricky task, and, as a
result, cdrtools is not a trivial package to take on. It now appears
likely that this fork will happen at last; the licensing changes
have given the distributors (at least those most concerned with these
issues) little choice. The real remaining question, then, would be: just
how many forks will result? No distributor has an interest in taking on
the full maintenance of a package like this, so the incentives should be in
place to bring everybody together on a single CD burning utility.
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