[sf-lug] [Fwd: [FSF] Thank you SGI, for freeing the GNU/Linux 3D desktop!]

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sun Sep 21 17:42:27 PDT 2008

Quoting jim (jim at well.com):

> In January of 2008, software code at the heart of GNU/Linux 3D
> applications was discovered to be non-free -- a potential disaster
> for free software advocates hoping to see advanced graphical
> acceleration now common on modern operating systems.
> The code, licensed by Silicon Graphics (SGI), was distributed under
> the SGI Free License B and the GLX Public License. These licenses,
> although permissive, contained three sets of terms which created
> significant burdens for all users and developers and a particular
> problem for the free software community because they made the code
> non-free [...]

Thanks for posting this, Jim.  Not a complaint against _you_, but that
description (which you forwarded, not wrote) was maddeningly vague, so I
took the trouble to look up the terms in question.

SGI Free License B version 1.1 and GLX Public Licence 1.0 section 7 forbade
redistribution of code if it directly or indirectly infringes anyone's 
"intellectual property rights" or any "represention or warranty" --
which would hold supposedly free / open source code hostage to patent
claims without the threatening party even needing to bring patent
litigation.  Adjoining sections of bother licences obliged users to
inform decelopers of potential infringements of third-party intellectual
property by the code, which would tend to force users to reveal
privileged information, e.g., your lawyer informing you that your use of
the codebase might infringe a patent.

SGI has upgraded SGI Free License B to 2.0, to eliminate the problematic
language.  It seems not to have yet bother to do the same to GLX Public
Licence -- but is reported to, in any event, be aiming towards
deep-sixing both of those half-assed licences in favour of the MIT/X
licence, the smartest legal move I've heard in a long while.

Honestly, these things aren't very difficult to understand in detail,
rather than just saying (paraphrasing the quoted press release "FSF
found a problem that made a bunch of code non-free, but we helped them 
fix it."

Again, _not_ a complaint about your forwarding.  The problem lies in the
vagueness of FSF's original text.

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