April 22, 2019

The Many Faces of Wine: Realities of Open Source and Business - page 4

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  • May 15, 2002
  • By Dee-Ann LeBlanc

Not all is roses and perfume in the Wine project, however, any more than it is behind proprietary closed doors. TransGaming Technologies got themselves into a bit of a bind with other members of the Wine community by withholding both the initial code that made the Windows InstallShield program run properly with Wine and the DirectX components. The problem here is that Wine moved from the X11 licensing scheme to the LGPL, which is more restrictive.

While it's easy to get mad at the company for this, let's look at some of the issues. TransGaming's WineX is designed to work properly with the copy protection that comes built into the games it supports. This means that their code must know how to interact with the game's copy protection scheme, and it means that if they release that code to the public, they're basically handing out a free ticket for everyone to copy and play the game without buying it. Not only is this unethical but it's a violation of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which could get key members of the company thrown into prison.

TransGaming's reluctance in becoming a legal test cases is certainly understandable, especially since the first test case is still underway and there haven't been even any small victory parties yet. There are other, smaller issues that most would consider more open for debate. The LGPL, according to Gavriel State, the TransGaming Technologies CEO and CTO, "would also lock TransGaming into the long-term support of Wine even in a situation where our subscription objectives are not fulfilled."

TransGaming is now supporting an effort to take most of the Wine code and place it back under the X11 license, making a new project called ReWind (http://rewind.sourceforge.net/). While TransGaming and CodeWeavers don't see eye to eye on this issue and so are not participating in both trees, many Wine developers are offering their additions to Wine (since it moved to the LGPL) to be made available under the X11 license as well.

How this situation will shake out, only time will tell. Developers and managers interested in all of the details and discussions, can find more information at the WineHQ site and others in a column by State on the TransGaming site.

CodeWeavers' Jeremy White's reflections on the issue come as a set of advice to other open source projects, whether commercial entities are involved or not:

  • "Have a well understood process for making project wide changes
  • "Have a moderated discussion list where only project contributors are permitted to post (with, of course, a parallel open discussion list)."

White's concern is that the people who added the most heat and flames to the discussion were in fact folks who had never contributed to the Wine project and that in fact all of the vitriol may have prevented better discussion from occurring in the end. If this is the case, then perhaps there is indeed hope that everyone involved can come to some kind of agreement.

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