Open Sauce’s Mr Sweary has gone off on lawyers making money on GPL enforcement.
Linus Torvalds waded into the Software Freedom Conservancy and Bradley Kuhn over the question of enforcing compliance of the GPL General Public Licence.
Software Freedom Conservancy head Karen Sandler made a mistake when she suggested that Linuxcon in Toronto should include a session on GPL enforcement.
A number of developers think that while discussing enforcement issues was topical and necessary, doing it at a conference of this kind could well lead to people who took part being deposed later on by lawyers for their own cases.
Matthew Garrett, a former kernel developer and someone who was not attending LinuxCon, joined the discussion, pushing his view that a militant approach was better and this appears to have set Torvald’s off.
He backed the proposal to have a discussion on GPL enforcement but said no lawyers should be present, only developers. “I personally think this arguing for lawyering has become a nasty festering disease, and the SFC and Bradley Kuhn has been the Typhoid Mary spreading the disease,” Torvalds said.
Torvalds added: “I think the whole GPL enforcement issue is absolutely something that should be discussed, but it should be discussed with the working title ‘Lawyers: poisonous to openness, poisonous to community, poisonous to projects.’
“…quite apart from the risk of loss in a court, the real risk is something that happens whether you win or lose, and in fact whether you go to court or just threaten: the loss of community, and in particular exactly the kind of community that can (and does) help. You lose your friends.
“Because lawsuits — and even threats of lawsuits — make companies way less likely to see you as a good guy. Even when you’re threatening somebody else, everybody else around the target starts getting really, really antsy.”