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Can I make a closed source Linux derivative ?

  1. May 11, 2007 #1
    If I take an open source Linux kernel and modify it somewhat and then recompile it and link it to some other proprietary programs and release it as a closed source proprietary operating system, only the binaries, can I do it ?

    Could anyone ever find out that it was derived from a previous open source linux since it is now only binary ? could the binary be reverse engineered or disassembled and discovered how much it looks alike to Linux ? And what is the limits, who can say it is the same or if it is just somewhat similar ?

    Are there examples of closed source linux derivatives sold out on the market ? I think many compaines do these things, even if indirectly, you don't pay for the software, but the price is bundled in the price of devices...
  2. jcsd
  3. May 11, 2007 #2


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    I think Linux is distributed under GPL, which means that you can modify it and distribute it, but it has to be free and open source.

    You might be able to make some profit but there would probably be some fee you'd have to pay, i'm not sure.

    As far as reverse engineering you'd have to go to great lengths to hide the fact that it's a Linux kernel.
  4. May 11, 2007 #3
    Study the GPL, get a lawyer if you are really serious.

    The only way you could sell this software if by also offering it for free. Anything else is illegal, and I think you would be caught easily.
  5. May 11, 2007 #4
    Technically yes, legally no.

    Why would you even want to consider that? Linux is developed by people who make no money from it. Would you think it reasonable that someone simply takes that, puts his own name on it, and profit from it?
  6. May 11, 2007 #5
    Because that is the reason why there are so few commercial applications for Linux. You can't statically link to the OS, but dynamically so this limits things you can design and sell.

    And then most desktop, professional applications like CAD, Scientific were made for the proprietary unix, not linux, and many were not ported because of the GPL.

    And linux open source community does not respect or buy proprietary software, they think it is a SIN, so no one will develop it and the result is mostly crappy, hack job applications, like open office that sucks and has a macro language broken that sucks and no one will ever fix it because there is no money to be made.

    BSD seems the way to go, that is why MAC OS X chose that licensing.

    I am convinced that Linux is really limiting commercial competition because of the GPL crap.
  7. May 11, 2007 #6
    Few commercial applications? There are tons of commercial applications available.

    What kind of applications did you have in mind that need to statically link to the OS? :confused:
    And even if they do, you still do not have to distribute that as a separate OS.

    I do not see a point in arguing these kind of strawman arguments.
    Feel free to use another OS if you do not like Linux, it looks like it was not made for you. :biggrin:
  8. May 11, 2007 #7
    As mentioned here you cant legally do it. However there are ways to use Linux in a closed sourced system. For example, Avaya PBX's are closed sourced and based use Linux.
  9. May 11, 2007 #8

    They don't stop with just the operating system though.. They sell people freeware programs for retail prices. Their excuse is that they are selling the service of transferring the program to the person's linspire machine. Screw linspire.
    Last edited: May 11, 2007
  10. May 11, 2007 #9
    What about apache? It's only the most used webserver ever. Why are businesses including linux machines in their workgroups? There are a lot of applications for linux and there are tons of propriety software out there for linux.
  11. May 11, 2007 #10
    Linspire is a linux distro bundled with some proprietary software such as the installer, fonts, spell checker, Flash, Java, etc. I may be wrong, but I think the OP is interested in altering and redistributing the kernel under another license.
  12. May 11, 2007 #11
    The last time I looked at linspire, they were offering an "easy 1-click install" system where users could purchase software. They would list open source freeware software alongside the shareware type software. For instance, they had VLC for.. I think $49.99. I don't know what they're doing now, but I think that shows how dishonest this company is.
    Last edited: May 11, 2007
  13. May 11, 2007 #12
    Almost all the software are cheap, hack jobs, aside for the SERVER market where there is indeed alot of stuff:

    There are no top notch professional :

    CAD software;

    Scientific - engineering software;

    CASE(computer aided software) tools;

    High class desktop publishing;

    Word processors with a macro language that works;

    A way to record and playback mouse and keyboard strokes;

    etc. etc.

    1) it is a bit like these forums; who owns the messages ? so if someone used all my messages and made a book that sold millions, I could care less, I didn't do it for the money, so there is no reason to complain if someone uses it. Therefore the GPL is flawed because it contradicts itself, either you do it for the money, or you do it for fun and give it away and don't be envious if someone makes a buck on it.

    2) How important is that dynamic versus static linking for linux ? maybe the drivers can't be used if they are proprietary ?

    3) here you have another positive feedback loop, companies don't make commercial software for linux because they know that linux users are against proprietary software for ideological reasons, aside from being cheapskates that don't respect software work, hence no software. Actually Linspire seemed nice, but as usual the open source zealots condemn them as if making money by writing software is a SIN!

    4) what is more astonishing is how little commercial software is available cosidering how easy it would have been to recompile and convert those hundreds of proprietary software packages that were made for the REAL UNIXes.
  14. May 11, 2007 #13
    Free software is not about money, it is about freedom. There is nothing contradictory about the GPL. Proprietary owners impose obstacles to cooperation. The goal of the GNU GPL is to make proprietary software obsolete.
  15. May 11, 2007 #14
    The whole point to the GPL was free as in speech, not beer. It only comes into play after you've made the exchange - at which point you're supposed to include the source for the other guy to tinker with & publish/sell his modifications at his terms.
    Last edited: May 11, 2007
  16. May 11, 2007 #15
    If google doesn't prove that you can make tons of money from open source, I dont think anything will...
  17. May 11, 2007 #16
    You guys just don't seem to understand! Now for example if you were the head of a department of CAD engineers who use the real CAD programs, and there was a proprietary CAD program available for Linux at maybe a 1,000 dollars would you buy it ? Remember the open source hack jobs available don't do even 1/10 of what a real CAD program does. That is because the open source programmers would get "bored" programming the really hard , detailed stuff.

    Would you buy an MS Office suite for linux if a department worked very fast with those and you were the boss ?

    It seems to me:

    1) the open source guys never worked in real companies, they play around, they have no idea what it means;

    2) By biasing against proprietary software they are doing Microsoft a great favor by not making companies design and sell their flagship products for Linux, therefore no software of any real worth for linux desktops and who wins ? MS Vista of course and MS thanks the open source community for their ideological purity;

    3) Would any of you ever buy proprietary software even if it were very good, just to protect your ideological purity ?

    4) can proprietary software even be made for linux ? is not the constraint of dynamic linking to libraries too much and too conditioning for flagship products (this I really don't know..)
  18. May 11, 2007 #17


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    :uhh: I gaurantee you that 95% of them have impressive resumes.

    The majority of the world's web servers run Apache on Linux. If that's doing Microsoft a favor, I guess we have different concepts of the word 'favor.'

    You seem to have this false dichotomy going: either you support only free software, or you support only commercial software. This isn't realistic at all. There's room in the world for both software models. I doubt you'll find any free-software proponent who thinks software like AutoCAD should be free.

    There are, in fact, many commercial programs available for Linux.

    - Warren
  19. May 11, 2007 #18

    Are you seriously thowing insults because people aren't charging you for their stuff?
  20. May 12, 2007 #19
    1) How conditioning is the fact that you can't statically link to GPL code for anyone wanting to make proprietary software anyways, maybe for drivers (I admit, I am stupid and suck, I don't know many things but that's ok) ?

    2) If I modify linux kernel or a set of gpl programs, up to what point can I simply say these are now completely different programs no longer derived from linux therefore my own and no longer gpl ? how on earth can you set a measure of how much difference is derivative and how much is simply new and different ?

    3) result today is that MS is a monopoly, linux can't get on desktops because no commercial software etc. so we are at a stalemate!

    4) I find it astonishing that even a company like SUN with Solaris and they had many great commercial programs for their system didn't just decide a few years ago to attack the desktop and windows head on! why on earth did they just open source solaris (which is by far the best possible UNIX) ? at least it is not gpl so I can maybe close it up and sell it ...
  21. May 12, 2007 #20
    You are seriously asking us on how you can profit from other people's voluntary work? :rofl:

    I am certainly not going to help you in any way or shape on this deplorable venture of yours, and I hope other members will have the same stance on this.
    Last edited: May 12, 2007
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