User: Password:
Subscribe / Log in / New account

More DTrace envy

More DTrace envy

Posted Jul 3, 2008 20:27 UTC (Thu) by bronson (subscriber, #4806)
In reply to: More DTrace envy by bcantrill
Parent article: More DTrace envy

> if there are no damages, there is no tort.

Erm, it's fairly easy to get injunctive relief and attorney's fees even without damages.

On top of this, there are plenty of reasons to sue other than tort.  Unfair competition,
deceptive business practices, breach of contract, etc.  Any of these might apply.

More generally, while article 3 of the constitution leaves this open for interpretation, a few
of the recent Supreme Court decisions have allowed large suits with some awfully vague damages
(Mass v. EPA).  And many states have their own laws, like CA's recent prop 64, that
essentially do allow tort without damages in certain circumstances.

So, depending the state where the lawsuit is brought and the current makeup of the Supreme
Court, your statement ranges from somewhat incorrect to completely false.

So, just because two entites are making no profits, that doesn't mean they can wantonly
violate their mutual licenses and contracts.  Now *that* would be absurd!

(Log in to post comments)

More DTrace envy

Posted Jul 3, 2008 20:45 UTC (Thu) by paulj (subscriber, #341) [Link]

So who is going to sue whom on what grounds? Say Novell ships a Linux-DTrace and SCO file for
injunction relief based on their copyright interest in Linux (see mjg's comments). What are
the grounds exactly?

If you really want to find reasons why you can't port DTrace, knock yourself out. Seems a
productive use of energy..

More DTrace envy

Posted Jul 3, 2008 20:55 UTC (Thu) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239) [Link]

The argument would be that any Linux implementation of dtrace is going to end up being a
derived work of the Linux kernel, and therefore would have to be available under the terms of
the GPL. The CDDL includes restrictions not present in the GPL, making it impossible to
satisfy both licenses simultaneously. Shipping the combined work would therefore be a
violation of the GPL. In the absence of the GPL there's no further permission to distribute
the Linux (and Linux derived) code, and therefore doing so constitutes a copyright

Various people have various opinions on the validity of that argument. I'm aware of various
legal opinions that have been professionally offered. To the best of my knowledge, though,
there's no especially useful case law and so it's difficult to know which way the courts would
go. People tend to err on the side of caution when the potential cost (injunctions against
distributing their primary product) outweigh the potential benefit (a single, even if useful,

More DTrace envy

Posted Jul 4, 2008 0:52 UTC (Fri) by giraffedata (subscriber, #1954) [Link]

You missed his point. He's saying even stipulating that a Linux copyright holder would have a legal right to stop someone from distributing a Dtrace-enhanced Linux kernel, why would he do it?

The answer lies in the basis of the free software movement: Any free software activist who happens to be a copyright holder and able to stop Red Hat from distributing a Dtrace-enhanced Linux kernel would want to do so. The movement is about encouraging the proliferation of free software by restricting the proliferation of less free software, using copyright. So yes, he would deprive the world of Linux Dtrace so that 1) he wouldn't be personally contributing to the expansion of less free software, and 2) to put pressure on Red Hat to create some GPL alternative.

It's the same reason Linux people have sued router manufacturers for distributing enhanced Linux kernels that contain code for which you can't get the source.

More DTrace envy

Posted Jul 4, 2008 12:14 UTC (Fri) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239) [Link]

You missed his point

No, I didn't.

More DTrace envy

Posted Aug 31, 2008 20:10 UTC (Sun) by rlhamil (guest, #6472) [Link]

> The movement is about encouraging the proliferation of free software by restricting the
> proliferation of less free software, using copyright.

_That's_ what makes me crazy about the GPL: to advance the Cause and preserve one's
own freedom, it restricts other freedoms that might have more immediate practical benefit.

I never saw how some could argue that BSD is _less_ free than GPL, especially the GPL
adherents, from whom there's usually the sucking sound of one-way transfers of code
from BSD to GPL. Someone creating a proprietary fork of a BSD licensed program takes
away _nothing_ from the freedom of those who continue to retain access to the pre-fork

GPL strikes me as equivalent to the mandatory volunteerism one sees in high schools today
(community service as a requirement of passing). A great idea to _offer_ such a thing, but
apalling to require it. There _is_no_virtue_ when virtue is enforced rather than chosen

Nevertheless, I don't deny it serves a purpose, just that its purpose is not and should not
be the only one worth serving.

Sure would be nice if someone worked out a way to dual-license that required that
derivatives of the dual-licensed code remain subject to the choice of license, but
was otherwise clearly non-viral, so that neither side could lay claim to more than what
they brought to the table, allowing DTrace, and zfs (native, not FUSE) on Linux, for example.
The source file scope of CDDL seems to me useful in that regard, avoiding issues about
static vs dynamic linking and binaries altogether. Despite that having more practical benefit
to Linux (which could then receive dual-licensed code) than OpenSolaris (for which I doubt
GPL ideologues and Linux zealots would choose to return the favor by dual-licensing
anything), simply getting more input might well at least improve the software shared as
a result faster than the originators alone could do so.

IMO, the _real_ problem isn't license incompatibility so much as it is what causes a lot of
it: hardware with closed specifications and thus closed drivers. But given the often blurry
line between hardware and software, enouraging open hardware specs might require
tolerating at last _narrowly scoped_ software patents, which are landmines in their own

There may not be any good answers given a range of perfectly legitimate if widely varying
interests. But I'd sure like to see an attempt to strike a different balance between
ideology (which carried to its logical conclusion is often self-contradictory) and pragmatic
concerns (which arguably are often short-sighted). And though they're not the same thing,
both cooperation _and_ competition serve a purpose; on the far side of Eternity, there may
be One True Answer, but until then, a selection of approaches remains useful, especially
given the power-tripping that those who think they have the One True Answer prematurely
tend to eventually descend to.

More DTrace envy

Posted Jul 3, 2008 22:46 UTC (Thu) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

> So who is going to sue whom

Doesn't matter.

> on what grounds?

From my previous post: unfair competition, deceptive business practices, breach of contract,
etc.  Depends on the circumstances and parties.

> If you really want to find reasons why you can't port DTrace, knock yourself out.

Nobody's trying to create reasons not to port DTrace if that's what you're implying.  But
here's the thing: if it isn't clearly legal and moral to snake someone else's code, then it's
only considerate and safe to assume that you can't!

I've been searching for reasons to believe that they're compatible but I haven't found any
clear legal statement from Sun or anyone else, nor even any tiny nugget of estoppel.  Did Sun
ever produce the Devleoper's Bill of Rights?

More DTrace envy

Posted Jul 3, 2008 22:10 UTC (Thu) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

I showed my engineer-attemptls-law post to a friend and she said:

> Sometimes when you sue for breach of contract, you can be awarded restitutionary damages
which means that even if you can't prove that you have been damaged, you can be awarded money
equivalent to the other party's "ill gotten gain".  So if the other party unfairly got some
advantage that was, for lack of a better term "unfair", you could recover their gain just
because it is unfair for them to keep it.

> That's one reason why it is dangerous for profitable companies to use open source code.  You
use code in a way that breaks your contract with the programmer ... that programmer could
recover your "ill gotten gain".

Wow.  Now I'm curious if this has been used in any of the GPL violation cases.  I'll have to
watch them a little closer!

More DTrace envy

Posted Jul 3, 2008 22:47 UTC (Thu) by bcantrill (guest, #31087) [Link]

You (or rather your friend) is making my point:  the restitutionary damages that she mentions
are the case of Meglocorp shipping GPL'd goober in proprietary product, and Hacker suing for
damages.  That's not the case that was being floated; the assertion was that Meglocorp would
become a Linux copyright holder and then could sue when CDDL'd source was distributed with
the(ir) GPL'd source.  I don't see what the damages are in this case -- compensatory or
restitutionary.  I think if it's flipped around -- Meglocorp ships GPL'd+CDDL'd goober, Hacker
sues because GPL has been violated -- one at least has a case, but I happen to think it's an
extraordinarily weak case: it relies on both an expansive definition of a derived work, and a
creative approach to damages.

More DTrace envy

Posted Jul 3, 2008 22:58 UTC (Thu) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239) [Link]

Nobody knows how far the derived work clause of the GPL would actually reach. Staking your
future business to a legal gamble isn't a move many people are willing to make without a large
resulting benefit, and dtrace simply isn't perceived as a sufficiently large benefit. It's
perfectly rational reasoning.

More DTrace envy

Posted Jul 4, 2008 0:03 UTC (Fri) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

> Meglocorp ships GPL'd+CDDL'd goober, Hacker sues because GPL has been violated

Agreed.  This is the only one that seems plausible.  But proving damages seems to be rather
easy nowadays.  And just about anybody involved with Meglocorp could sue; it doesn't have to
be a Linux kernel hacker.

Here's the big-picture problem as I see it: after the SCO disaster, the Linux kernel devs will
not incorporate any code of questionable license status into the kernel.  They want to keep
the entire tree completely unencumbered by legal issues.  It was a good lesson at a good time.

So, until it can be demonstrated that CDDL and GPL code absolutely can be mixed, they won't
accept CDDL-licensed code into the kernel.  it's just too risky.

As far as derived work, while I agree that those parts of the GPL are horribly murky and
untested, I don't think it's very relevant here...  Even if someone *could* claim that DTrace
is a derived work (a stretch!), as long as the CDDL+GPL combination is "licensed as a whole at
no charge to all third parties under the terms of [the GPL]" everything is good.  If the CDDL
and the GPL are compatible, the terms of the GPL are met, and the whole derived work issue is
moot.  (Right?)

To make CDDL+GPL compatible, IIUC the patent issues just need to be resolved the way Mozilla
did with the MPL.  Everything else in the CDDL and the GPL is compatible today.  (I'm no
expert though so I'd sure value someone else's opinion.  That almost sounds too easy!)

It would be nice to see someone reject license prejudices and try to maintain an out-of-tree
DTrace-Linux but...  can you imagine?  The git-rebases would make the even the heartiest
programmer cower in fear!


Posted Jul 3, 2008 23:13 UTC (Thu) by corbet (editor, #1) [Link]

This scenario, of course, depends on the idea that the GPL is a contract; the people who wrote the GPL did not intend that, however; they wrote a license. Assuming that legal reasoning holds, there's no contract to be sued for breaching. And no, I do not believe any GPL-violation case has been a breach-of-contract case; they are copyright infringement cases.


Posted Jul 3, 2008 23:17 UTC (Thu) by bcantrill (guest, #31087) [Link]

Yes, the authors did intend it to be a license -- but the attorneys that I have spoken with on
this issue believe that the expansive views of the GPL require it to be interpreted as a
contract.  Again, some case law here would be quite helpful...


Posted Jul 4, 2008 0:22 UTC (Fri) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

That's a relief, although it does diminish the chances of me finding my code in the Google
Toolbar and making a quick hundred million.  :)

Copyright © 2017, Eklektix, Inc.
Comments and public postings are copyrighted by their creators.
Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds