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iPhone restricts, GPL3 frees – FSF

By   |  June 29, 2007

June 29 – Not not everyone in the continental US will be waiting in line to purchase a $500 iPhone. In fact, hundreds of thousands of digital aficionados around the globe won’t be standing in line at all, for June 29 marks the release of version 3 of the GNU General Public Licence (GPL). Version 2 of the GPL governs the world’s largest body of free software – software that is radically reshaping the industry and threatening the proprietary technology model represented by the iPhone.

The author of the the GPL is Richard M. Stallman, president and founder of the Free Software Foundation, and creator of the GNU Project. With his first revision of the licence in sixteen years, version 3 of the GPL fights the most recent attempts to take the freedom out of free software – most notably, version 3 attacks "Tivoization" – and that could be a problem for Apple and the iPhone.

Now, from China to India, from Venezuela to Brazil, from Tivos to cell phones: Free software is everywhere and it is slowly building a worldwide movement of users demanding that they have control over the computers and electronic devices they own.

<b>Tivoization and the iPhone?</b> "Tivoization" is a term coined by the FSF to describe devices that are built with free software, but that use technical measures to prevent the user from making modifications to the software – a fundamental freedom for free software users – and an attack on free software that the GPLv3 will put a stop to.

The iPhone is leaving people questioning: Does it contain GPLed software? What impact will the GPLv3 have on the long-term prospects for devices like the iPhone that are built to keep their owners frustrated? Peter Brown, executive director of the FSF said, "Today, Steve Jobs and Apple release a product crippled with proprietary software and digital restrictions: crippled, because a device that isn’t under the control of its owner works against the interests of its owner.

We know that Apple has built its operating system, OS X, and its web browser Safari, using GPL-covered work – it will be interesting to see to what extent the iPhone uses GPLed software."

The GNU GPL version 3 will be released at 12:00pm (EDT) – six hours before the release of the iPhone – bringing to a close eighteen months of public outreach and comment, in revision of the world’s most popular free software licence.


19 Responses to “iPhone restricts, GPL3 frees – FSF”

  1. Graham
    June 30th, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    OS X, running on Darwin (a BSD derivative under the BSD license, not the GPL), and Safari, running on WebKit (a KHTML derivative under the LGPL, not the GPL), somehow infringing upon the GPL v3?
    Enough with the FUD…

  2. Marcos
    July 3rd, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    Gee, I can hardly wait for GPL v 4.0, which will prevent F/OSS services from running on an iPhone or other proprietary device. We must fight iPhonization! We cannot allow our freedom to be infringed by others using anything proprietary. So long as a single person owns anything, none of us are free. So send your donations to the FSF, please. If you still own anything, you haven\’t donated enough.

  3. Brian
    July 3rd, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    Settings / About / Legal (or thereabouts) on the iphone will get you an *enormous* document, including licenses of (presumably) every open source component in the system. I seem to recall seeing some GPL and LGPL items listen (among the many many BSD, MIT, etc) licenses, with language along the lines of \”source available upon request for nominal fee\”, which I\’m pretty sure falls within the bounds of GPLv2.

  4. Graham
    July 3rd, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    The iPhone built to keep their owners frustrated… good one. Yeah, aparently about 500,000 people are looking for a $600 piece of frustration, judging by estimates of this weekend\’s iPhone sales. After all, that\’s what the iPhone is – a bait and switch.

    What bull.

    So the iPhone contains GPL\’d code or software – if it does, it is all GPLv2. Or are you telling me that the FSF automatically forces upgrading to GPL3 on its software? Is the FSF as restrictive as Tivo, forcing restrictions on companies that use FOSS by imposing an upgrade to a new license that automatically puts corporations in violation of the new rules?

  5. Peter Vansnikkelmans
    July 3rd, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    please, frustrate me !!!

  6. anonymous
    July 3rd, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    GPL-covered work? Is this guy on crack, or simply just a dumbass? The OS is based on BSD code – mostly FreeBSD and Mach – BSD, not GPL – apple took a smart choice. Let\’s get the facts straight.

  7. Random832
    July 3rd, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    \”Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted worldwide, without royalty, in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.\”

    It\’s not a verbatim copy, but i\’ll give the benefit of the doubt and assume it\’s a copy of an earlier version. But, the notice wasn\’t preserved.

  8. anonymous
    July 3rd, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    Mach is BSD.

    Webkit (Safari engine) is LGPL – originally from konquerer (KDE).

    It\’s the exact same situation as with OS X.
    There isn\’t much anything in this…. really!

  9. anonymous
    July 3rd, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    Not only is WebKit LGPL, but Apple has been contributing its changes back to the WebKit/KHTML people (not without some controversy, mind)..

  10. Mike
    July 3rd, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    Linux interface design skills and usability skills can best be described as having been designed by a committee that\’s never met. When Linux has a user interface 15 years behind Mac OS X in terms of usability, friendliness or sheer gorgeousness, we\’ll take these comments seriously. Until then, issue bitter press releases all you like

  11. Me
    July 3rd, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    \”Linux\” is a kernel. It doesnt have a \”user interface\”, at least not like what you are thinking of.

    Perhaps you are discussing KDE\’s user interface? or Gnomes? Or perhaps Firefox\’s ?

  12. giante martini
    July 3rd, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    What\’s with all the FUD against Apple this past week? Everything negative I\’ve read in the media is quickly disproven by other media shortly afterwards. It\’s like you WANT to generate this crap.

  13. dw
    July 3rd, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    Some of you need to read more carefully. The point of the article is to contrast the release of the iPhone with the release of GPLv3. The question of whether the iPhone contains any GPL\’ed code is left open.

    I think the point is valid. The question, for me, is what kind of network we want. Do we want to be able to use devices that we control, and can modify? Do we want to be able to continue to innovate at the ends of the network with new devices and new applications? Or do we want a bunch of iPhones and Tivos that lock us out of innovating?

  14. Frank
    July 4th, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    Who Cares? I want an iPhone. You all are just a bunch of freakin whiners because you couldn\’t come up with anything better.

  15. NuShrike
    July 4th, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    >I think the point is valid. The question, for me, is what kind of network we want. Do we want to be able to use devices that we control, and can modify? Do we want to be able to continue to innovate at the ends of the network with new devices and new applications? Or do we want a bunch of iPhones and Tivos that lock us out of innovating?

    Aren\’t you posting from Microsoft Windows based machine? That OS locks you more out of innovating than any BSD-derivative, or TiVo.

    OS X is BSD and Mach, not GPL. Just because it uses GPL tools to compile does not make it GPL. Go do some research because you\’re just FUD.

  16. Claudiu Covaci
    July 4th, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    Tivoisation means:
    You _get_ the source code, as the GPL sais, you _can_ modify it (duh!), but you can\’t run it on the device, since it has a hardware DRM-like restriction. Questionable if a software licence should involve itself in hardware restriction (I recommend reading the opinion of Linus Torvalds :) ).
    Your definition of it seems false…

  17. zahadum
    July 5th, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    in addition to the obvious confusion about osx\’s IPR regime displayed the \’staff writer\’ (if that is his real name 😉 …

    there is also an equally doltish confusion about opensource.

    opensource is a methodology for managing code quality & features;

    opensource is not a commitment one particular pricing model.

    never seen this site before – and based on the lame editorial quality of this article, i dont think i will return.

    ps: now for some flaimbait 😉 … alot of the technical rationale for opensource comes from legacy (procedural) engineering models in which formal methods for verification/validation of design (eg UML) or implementation (eg SPIN) were not available.

    In the primitive & world of brittle C/C++ code (especially in its mutant Win32/COM/ActiveX variants), the correctness of a system must be established manually – hence an enthusiasm for code transparency. But \’real\’ software does not have this requirement because its is built upon mathematically sound principles that are independent of implementation details – take \”proof-carrying code\” as just one recent example; SOMObjects is a more historical example (the linux script kiddies will now need to consult wikipedia 😉

    in other words, opensource – as a methodology not an ideology – contends that if you must check a system the same way you build it, which -for the less talented engineers- means manually, procedurally, & by trial & error.

  18. Matthew
    July 30th, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    I call bullshit. Not only is OSX compiled with GPL\’d sofware, OSX is GPL\’d software – not every component, but major parts.

    osx% locate COPYING

  19. Thomas
    September 21st, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    Fifteen years behind? Have you SEEN MacOS pre-OSX? It\’s not a pretty sight.

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