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Ubuntu wants to restrict derivatives using their repositories, to prevent competition

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  • Ubuntu wants to restrict derivatives using their repositories, to prevent competition

    From distrowatch

    http://distrowatch.com/weekly.php?issue=20131209#qa

    Third, and I think this is a point other Linux news websites are ignoring, Clem claims he has been asked by Canonical's legal department to license the binary packages used by Ubuntu. To me this is a scary thought. Ubuntu is a base distribution for many projects, some of them (such as Mint and Kubuntu) are quite successful. Clem's statement makes me wonder if Canonical has approached other open source projects about licensing the right to access Ubuntu's package repositories. If so, what might follow? Would derivative distributions need to pay to use Canonical's packages? How would Canonical enforce such a policy, with lawyers, by blocking access to the repositories if a user isn't using Genuine Ubuntu? Canonical would certainly have the right to restrict access to its packages, they are on Canonical's servers after all. However, most Linux distributions are quite open about allowing anyone to access their software repositories and I wonder if Canonical might be acting in a short-sighted manner if they are trying to license access.

    With these thoughts in mind I contacted Canonical and asked if they could shed any light on the issue. At the time of writing I have not received a reply. An e-mail to the Linux Mint project asking for details yielded much better results. Clement Lefebvre responded the following day and, while he wasn't able to go into specific details as talks with Canonical are still on-going, he was able to share a few pieces of information. When asked if Canonical was hoping to collect a fee for using their binary packages, Clem responded, "Money isn't a primary concern. Although the original fee was in the hundreds of thousands pounds, it was easily reduced to a single digit figure. The licensing aims at restricting what Mint can and cannot do, mostly in relation to the OEM market, to prevent Mint from competing with Canonical in front of the same commercial partners."

    Clem went on to indicate Canonical has not offered any threats nor discussed enforcing any licensing terms. When I asked what Mint's plans were concerning the licensing deal Clem answered, "We don't think the claim is valid (i.e. that you can copyright the compilation of source into a binary, which is a deterministic process). With that said, Ubuntu is one of Mint's major components and it adds value to our project. If we're able to please Canonical without harming Linux Mint, then we're interested in looking into it. As negative as this may sound, this is neither urgent nor conflictual. It's a rare occasion for Canonical and Linux Mint to talk with one another and although there are disagreements on the validity of the claim, things have been going quite well between the two distributions and both projects are looking for a solution that pleases all parties."

  • #2
    So what? They provide a service, they want to get money for that from their competitors. I don't see the problem.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Vim_User View Post
      So what? They provide a service, they want to get money for that from their competitors. I don't see the problem.
      It's not the money that is the issue. Read carefully:

      When asked if Canonical was hoping to collect a fee for using their binary packages, Clem responded, "Money isn't a primary concern. Although the original fee was in the hundreds of thousands pounds, it was easily reduced to a single digit figure. The licensing aims at restricting what Mint can and cannot do, mostly in relation to the OEM market, to prevent Mint from competing with Canonical in front of the same commercial partners."

      Comment


      • #4
        If canonical wants to succeed in mobile market they will need large amount of patents which they dont have so instead this foolishness they could patent everything and then patent troll Mint and other Ubuntu derivatives out of existence
        Advantages are clear
        - elimination of competitors
        - important experience before entering litigious mobile market

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Ramiliez View Post
          If canonical wants to succeed in mobile market they will need large amount of patents which they dont have so instead this foolishness they could patent everything and then patent troll Mint and other Ubuntu derivatives out of existence
          Advantages are clear
          - elimination of competitors
          - important experience before entering litigious mobile market
          Patent what? Firstly, Canonical deals in software, software patents are valid in a limited part of the world only, and where they are, the patent troll problem is invariably huge and there's already a huge field of competition for such activity.

          Secondly, GPLv3 contains a patent grant. You can't sue users of GPLv3 software for patent infiringement because the GPLv3 grants every user a license to any patents required to use the software as well.

          Thirdly, Canonical doesn't actually make most of their software, Ubuntu relies 99% on community-developed open source software, so they can't really patent something that they haven't authored, and they don't really have any patentable material. Even in cases where Canonical has developed their own software, they've mostly released it under GPLv3, in which case, see "secondly".

          Comment


          • #6
            Mint could get a nice build server and grab the src debs instead. Unless they lack funds to do that.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by dee. View Post
              Patent what? Firstly, Canonical deals in software, software patents are valid in a limited part of the world only, and where they are, the patent troll problem is invariably huge and there's already a huge field of competition for such activity.

              Secondly, GPLv3 contains a patent grant. You can't sue users of GPLv3 software for patent infringement because the GPLv3 grants every user a license to any patents required to use the software as well.

              Thirdly, Canonical doesn't actually make most of their software, Ubuntu relies 99% on community-developed open source software, so they can't really patent something that they haven't authored, and they don't really have any patentable material. Even in cases where Canonical has developed their own software, they've mostly released it under GPLv3, in which case, see "secondly".
              In EU SW patents which are related to HW implementation are valid In US they can patent almost anything they made and use it against competitors

              Canonicals GPLv3 license isnt really a problem for them They have CLA on everything they can change license anytime

              Yes amount of SW they make is insignificant but that is irrelevant since even single patent can win lawsuit

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Ramiliez View Post
                In EU SW patents which are related to HW implementation are valid In US they can patent almost anything they made and use it against competitors

                Canonicals GPLv3 license isnt really a problem for them They have CLA on everything they can change license anytime

                Yes amount of SW they make is insignificant but that is irrelevant since even single patent can win lawsuit
                Software patents are invalid in EU. There are some swpats that have been granted because they relate to a HW implementation and those may or may not be valid in court, depending on exactly how tied to a certain hardware they are.

                Relicensing doesn't matter, if something has been released under GPLv3, then the released version stays under GPLv3 and that release will be protected against patents. You can't retroactively change the license of already released releases. People can fork the last GPLv3 release and continue development of that, without worrying about patents. The fact that the software is already released under GPLv3 invalidates any attempts of patent extortion, even if they later change the license.

                Besides, of the Canonical-developed software, only Upstart is used by derivatives, IIRC. No one else uses Unity or Mir. And Upstart can be replaced by systemd or OpenRC, in the event that Canonical suddenly decides to relicense it. Or forked.

                Comment


                • #9
                  "When asked if Canonical was hoping to collect a fee for using their binary packages, Clem responded, "Money isn't a primary concern. Although the original fee was in the hundreds of thousands pounds, it was easily reduced to a single digit figure. The licensing aims at restricting what Mint can and cannot do, mostly in relation to the OEM market, to prevent Mint from competing with Canonical in front of the same commercial partners."

                  Good. If they want to be a community OS and use Ubuntu-paid (multi millions in cost btw) servers fine, but if they want to be a commercial OS then they need to buy their own servers, and bandwidth.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I think CentOS does something similar to RedHat like Mint does to Ubuntu. And they unpack RedHat packages, replace every occurrence of "RedHat" with "CentOS" (both names are 6 characters long) in order to avoid trademark infringement, and pack them again.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by chithanh View Post
                      I think CentOS does something similar to RedHat like Mint does to Ubuntu. And they unpack RedHat packages, replace every occurrence of "RedHat" with "CentOS" (both names are 6 characters long) in order to avoid trademark infringement, and pack them again.
                      No, they don't. They use Ubuntu main repo in addition to a small repo for some of their own homebrewed apps. If they repacked the packages, and held them in their own servers, and used their own bandwidth, then this issue wouldn't exist.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by dh04000 View Post
                        No, they don't. They use Ubuntu main repo in addition to a small repo for some of their own homebrewed apps. If they repacked the packages, and held them in their own servers, and used their own bandwidth, then this issue wouldn't exist.
                        Maybe you misunderstood. I said that CentOS is a non-commercial derivative of RedHat like Mint is to Ubuntu. CentOS way (not Mint's way, at least currently) of evading trademark infringement is to remove all RedHat strings. Mint does not attempt to remove anything Ubuntu.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by chithanh View Post
                          Maybe you misunderstood. I said that CentOS is a non-commercial derivative of RedHat like Mint is to Ubuntu. CentOS way (not Mint's way, at least currently) of evading trademark infringement is to remove all RedHat strings. Mint does not attempt to remove anything Ubuntu.
                          Oh, My mistake. Yeah, Mint should really do what Centos does.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by dh04000 View Post
                            "When asked if Canonical was hoping to collect a fee for using their binary packages, Clem responded, "Money isn't a primary concern. Although the original fee was in the hundreds of thousands pounds, it was easily reduced to a single digit figure. The licensing aims at restricting what Mint can and cannot do, mostly in relation to the OEM market, to prevent Mint from competing with Canonical in front of the same commercial partners."

                            Good. If they want to be a community OS and use Ubuntu-paid (multi millions in cost btw) servers fine, but if they want to be a commercial OS then they need to buy their own servers, and bandwidth.
                            What makes you think Canonical pays "multi millions" for hosting? They rely on a bunch of mirrors. That is, FREE mirrors, people voluntarily mirroring Canonical's servers, and without those Canonical's repositories wouldn't be able to function. So they're not even paying the bulk of the hosting costs themselves, they're rather relying on the community to do the work for them there as well.

                            And the point is, that they're not asking Mint for money for using their servers. They're asking Mint to license the binaries of open source code, code which Canonical does not own, and is trying to enforce license terms that would prevent Mint from competing with Canonical on the OEM market. That goes against the spirit of free software, and the GPL license as well, and Canonical has no legal standing here - they have no right to control how free, GPL-licensed software is used, no matter if they compiled it to a binary or not.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Mint could dump Ubuntu for upstream Debian over this, makes me want to do same

                              Originally posted by dee. View Post
                              What makes you think Canonical pays "multi millions" for hosting? They rely on a bunch of mirrors. That is, FREE mirrors, people voluntarily mirroring Canonical's servers, and without those Canonical's repositories wouldn't be able to function. So they're not even paying the bulk of the hosting costs themselves, they're rather relying on the community to do the work for them there as well.

                              And the point is, that they're not asking Mint for money for using their servers. They're asking Mint to license the binaries of open source code, code which Canonical does not own, and is trying to enforce license terms that would prevent Mint from competing with Canonical on the OEM market. That goes against the spirit of free software, and the GPL license as well, and Canonical has no legal standing here - they have no right to control how free, GPL-licensed software is used, no matter if they compiled it to a binary or not.
                              Mint already keeps a Debian-only version for insurance, probably due to Canonical's erratic behavior. Mint should ask Ubuntu to submit a list of all packages containing Ubuntu branding or trademarks so they delete or repackage each offending item. If Ubuntu does not play ball and this is about binaries and not servers, Mint should then dump Ubuntu and base Mint 17 and later on Debian unstable. They could easily look for and copy the "freeze dates" Ubuntu uses to get the same Debian Unstable snapshots as a starting point.

                              This whole thing makes me want to do the same, but for an established personal fork with myriad customizations and many saved images a reinstall from a stock installer is a bear of a job, and a crossgrade to Debian Unstable is also a nasty job, even with the easy availablity of extra copies of the starting point OS image. I suppose I could rip out Upstart and replace it with Systemd, and replace LightDM with MDM so as to be rid of all Ubuntu's CLA-licensed software, then set up APT to always prefer Debian repos but pull from both for a gradual crossgrade.

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