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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday February 16 2020, @02:22PM   Printer-friendly
from the no-way-out dept.

The head of security firm Open Source Security, Brad Spengler, says he had little option but to file a lawsuit against open source advocate Bruce Perens, who alleged back in 2017 that security patches issued for the Linux kernel by OSS violated the licence under which the kernel is distributed.

The case ended last week with Perens coming out on the right side of things; after some back and forth, a court doubled down on its earlier decision that OSS must pay Perens' legal costs as awarded in June 2018.

The remainder of the article is an interview with Brad Spengler about the case and the issue.

iTWire contacted Spengler soon after the case ended, as he had promised to speak at length about the issue once all legal issues were done and dusted. Queries submitted by iTWire along with Spengler's answers in full are given below:

Court Orders Payment of $259,900.50 to Bruce Perens' Attorneys

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2020, @07:16AM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18 2020, @07:16AM (#959465)

    >You seem to be operating under the assumption that putting constraints on future business transaction is equivalent to putting constraints on the licensed software. I don't see it, except in spirit. And the law is defined by the letter, not the spirit.

    When using some other Copyright holder's Work licensed to you under the terms of version 2 of the GPL: The GPL governs you, the licensee's business dealings with any future distributees where there is a nexus with the GPL'd work. It _FORBIDS_ you to engage in any contracting that adds ANY addtional terms between YOU and the Distributee. See section 6 and 4. You simply are NOT allowed to create such contracts between you the licensee and the distributees. When you DO create such a contract, your license is /IMMEDIATLY/ revoked (section 4). The MOMENT you offer additional terms, in a situation where the GPL'd Work (of another) is implicated.

    >I sell you a copy of ImmerOffice, and give you the full source code under the GPL. At that point I have fulfilled my legal obligation under the GPL

    . Wrong.

    >I then tell you that if you redistribute that code, I won't do business with you any more.

    You have now violated section 6 and section 4 of the GPL. The Copyright owners forbid such business dealings, weather you like it or not, mr american buisnesss man. The Copyrighted Work is NOT your property, it is NOT your posession, it is the COPYRIGHT OWNERS PROPERTY, and he may RESCIND your PERMISSION to use HIS PROPERTY at his LEASURE. Here he has chosen to rescind the license when you implicate his Work in a negative covenant inconsistent with the proffered terms.

    >I have not in any way revoked or limited any of the rights I already granted you, I have simply put conditions on you doing business with me in the future.

    Wrong: you have engaged in behavior forbidden by the Owner of the Copyrighted work, and have lost your PERMISSION to use his work, as stated in section 4. You no-longer have a license and hence-forth are implicated in Copyright infringement.

    >It certainly violates the spirit of the GPL, especially for a product where regular updates are essential to the functionality, but nothing in the GPL actually requires me to continue doing business with you. I haven't altered what you can legally do with the software I already sold you in any way. I've only conditionally limited your ability to continue doing business with me.

    It violates the text of section 6 and section 4. And yes, I am a lawyer. You should be sued in such a case. The Copyrighted work is NOT your property. It is NOT an item you have title to. You merely have permission to use another's property (like if you were /licensed/ to walk over someone's land), which is revoked at the owners leisure. The owner has stated that the permission is revoked if you add any additional terms between you and anyone you distribute the Work (or any derivative there-of) to. Which you have done so. No more license.

  • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday February 18 2020, @03:26PM (2 children)

    by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday February 18 2020, @03:26PM (#959539)

    Where does it say you can't add any further terms to the transaction? It says you can't add any further *restrictions* to the

    [Section] 6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein. You are not responsible for enforcing compliance by third parties to this License.

    So long as I provide you the full source under GPL2, then I'm putting no further restrictions on you redistributing it as you see fit. Threatening to refuse to do any further business with you if you exercise those rights, doesn't actually restrict your rights - it just restricts your future business dealings with me. You're perfectly free to flip me off and redistribute the source I gave you.

    I don't see that section 4 is directly relevant, until we establish that I have indeed violated section 6.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19 2020, @02:42AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19 2020, @02:42AM (#959757)

      >Where does it say you can't add any further terms to the transaction? It says you can't add any further *restrictions* to the

      > 4. You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under this License. Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is void,

      Grsecurity is a modification of the Program. They are modifying the Program, and sublicensing it, with added terms. They are in violation.

      Additionally, A consequence, aswell as A negative covenant, is a restriction.

      >You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein.

      They are violating the license on two counts, not just one count.

      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday February 19 2020, @03:55AM

        by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday February 19 2020, @03:55AM (#959781)

        Their argument is that there are no added terms. The patch is provided under the GPL2, which means you can redistribute it freely.

        You won't be able to business with them anymore if you do, but that doesn't limit your ability to redistribute in any way.

  • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday February 18 2020, @03:48PM

    by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday February 18 2020, @03:48PM (#959549)

    I suppose the question boils down to - does my threat to stop doing business with you in the future constitute a restriction on your rights to the GPL source I just gave you - or does it only constitute a restriction on our future business relationship?

    I could certainly see a court case going either way - but it could be a very long and protracted battle. Aftrer all, I am giving you the full source nder the GPL2, and you and anyone downstream are completely free to redistribute it. Unlike more typical clear-cut GPL violations, where the the full source of the derivative work is not made available under the GPL, and the infringer thus clearly has no license to redistribute the code.