Subject GPL
Author David K. Trudgett
Hi, Paul,

On Thursday 2002-02-14 at 12:50:50 -0500, Paul Schmidt wrote:

> On 14 Feb 2002, at 16:12, David K. Trudgett wrote:
> >
> > >
> > > The GPL is a restrictive license.
> >
> > The GPL is a free license, designed to promote freedom. Not everyone
> > wants freedom, of course, such as people trying to sell their
> > applications according to the normal commercial model. That's fine.
> > These people shouldn't use the GPL. Nor should they expect a free ride
> > by incorporating GPL'd software into their binaries. Share and share
> > alike is what it's about. As for it being "viral", that's a load of
> > poppycock. Use the public API of GPL'd software and don't link it into
> > your executables (statically or dynamically) and you're quite safe.
> >
> The GPL is the most restrictive licence around,

A moment's thought should show that to be a false statement. Typical
licenses, for instance, from all the big names in commercial software
-- Oracle, Sun, IBM, Borland, Microsoft -- are far, far more
restrictive than the GPL could ever dream of being. As a minute
example, when one licenses an Oracle product, you are contractually
bound to refrain from publishing comparison information with other
database technologies. Items like that little gem are quite apart from
the obvious lack of freedoms that everyone knows about: no freedom to
modify the software to suit your requirements, no freedom to view the
source to better write your own programs that intereract with the
software, no freedom to fix bugs in the software, no freedom to share
it with your friends, no freedom to audit the software for security
holes and back doors, and no freedom to use it in any manner you wish
(such as not being able to use a commercial compiler to compile
another compiler you have written yourself).

Many people find the lack of freedom of most commercial licenses to be
quite obnoxious and some believe it is damaging to society as a whole.
There is some truth to these opinions. In any case, some individuals,
notably Richard Stallman as the founder of the Free Software movement,
decided that there needs to be an alternative, that having no choice
but to accept the restrictions of commercial licenses was totally
unacceptable. Others agreed with him to varying degrees, though there
remains a difference in the values held by the Free Software and the
Open Source advocates. Both groups believe in Open Source, but differ
only in their reasons.

To conclude, I would have to say, without being nasty in any way, that
it is absurd to claim the GPL is a restrictive license, when in actual
fact the only reason for its existence is to ensure that software
licensed under its conditions will remain free for everyone for all
time. Those programmers or companies who do not wish to "restrict"
their software to freedom simply do not use the GPL. There is nothing
wrong with that after all, is there? It is all about choice, which is
what freedom is all about. The freedom to choose.

> you are effectively
> limited to producing "free" software with it, because anybody else
> can re-distribute that software for free, your hopes of actually
> making money, are slim to none.

This shows a number of misconceptions. First, you are using the word
"free" to mean "free of charge". That is not what this subject is
about. Anyone is free to charge as much as they like for GPL'd
software. It's just that they're unlikely to make much money doing so
(Red Hat's doing all right selling their official "boxed sets", though,
I notice -- so it's not impossible).

Second, you assume that "selling" software is the only way to make
money from it. This is indeed not the case. Value added services have
a big future ahead. Even IBM understands this: they intend to make a
lot of money out of the GPL'd Linux.

Third, you assume that third parties distributing your software at no
cost to you is a bad thing. A moment's contemplation should show that,
on the contrary, it could be a huge advantage.

> In some cases you don't have a
> choice, if the library you want to use is GPL

You always have a choice, as you even indicate yourself by using the
word "want" instead of "need". You can't have your cake and eat it
too. Not to put too fine a point on it, what your statement really
means when you analyse it, is that it is very frustrating when you
really want to steal some very neat software for your own purposes,
but find that you can't unless you also contribute to it for the
common benefit. When said outright like that, you might not agree, but
the fact remains that that is the implication of your statement.

> then you can't make
> money off your work, and that isn't always a good thing. This is
> why there are so many variants of the GPL like the MPL, IPL, etc.

The MPL, IPL etc having nothing to do with the GPL. What gave you that

> The problem with MySQLs commercial licence, is that it's too
> expensive for a lot of stuff that MySQL would be good for.

They are, of course, free to charge whatever they like for their
product. They can also license it under any terms they wish. Their
actual problem is that they are confused about licensing.

> What it really comes down to, is we need to ask the question, who
> is the typical Interbase commercial customer, and who is the
> typical Firebird customer (forget the IB/OE, it's a non-starter)?
> Then determine what are the alternate choices for those
> customers, and how do we get them to use IB or FB.

As a matter of interest, why do you want people to use IB or FB? I'm
not being clever, it's a serious, straight-forward question.


David Trudgett