Subject Re: [IBDI] GPL
Author David K. Trudgett
See, people, all you have to do to let a few demons out to play is
bandy about the words "GPL" and "Richard Stallman" :-)))

Hi Helen, thanks for your lengthy post. Unfortunately, I don't have
time for anything but a cursory reply, which will hopefully be
adequate... (later... oh, well, I actually spent more time than I
should have...)

(By the way, is there any way to configure Eudora to break long lines
at 72 chars? Many people's quoting mechanisms don't work properly with
such long lines. Sorry if I shouldn't be asking the moderator such
things... ;-))

On Tuesday 2002-02-19 at 15:00:35 +1100, Helen Borrie wrote:

> RedHat DID start out by getting funded to develop value-add for GPL
> software.

I'm not an expert on Red Hat history, by any means, so I won't

> Sure, you can download RedHat for nothing - but the
> RedHat distros, rpm, etc. would not have come into existence without
> the expectation of the investors that they would make money from
> sales of "free + value-add".

Of course.

> >The subject is not limited to "independent developers" (which, I
> >assume, is a nice way to say "one man bands" -- or is that "one person
> >bands" these days?? ;-) )
> As an "independent developer" I interpret the term to mean
> one-person operators who earn their income from contracting with
> organisations to provide specialised services. In our context here,
> we fund our own R & D (be it open-source contributions or better
> mousetraps) from personal income and/or personal debt. The "sting"
> is that, in the absence of provision for return on R & D, we have to
> live with working for love on products that others are free to
> exploit.

Sounds like you're not happy about that. That doesn't have to be the
case. If a developer chooses to license something under the GPL, it is
just because he _wants_ others to "exploit" his work. The GPL just
makes sure that they exploit it in a fair way, by ensuring that those
who wish to build upon the software do so by contributing back to it.
In that way, the body of free software grows and improves, instead of
being consumed by unfree software (software that controls users
instead of giving them the choices they should have).

> In the current climate, our users take this right to
> profit from the unpaid work of others for granted. It's the classic
> story of "The Little Red Hen" - "Who will help me plant this corn?"

Sorry, I never read that in Kindy! Also, those whose first language is
not English probably won't understand it either. Perhaps you could sit
us down and tell us the story? ... :-)

> >Furthermore, nowhere was it suggested that anyone (not even IBM)
> >should base their business plan on what IBM does, or thinks they're
> >going to do.
> IBM does it, Borland does it over and over. Whether they *should*
> hasn't been tested. They do it. In the IBM case (at least
> ostensibly) there is an undertaking (contract? promise?) to pay for
> what they take.

Sorry, I don't understand that.

> Borland grew JBuilder on freeloading

Don't know about that, either. Do I know anything? :-) But this is not
a philosophy list...

> and nothing in
> recent times suggests it's a practice from which they plan to
> desist. Open source licences really don't protect anything. They
> rely on "good behaviour". As we well know, good behaviour is not
> regarded by all companies as a precondition for continuing to
> conduct their businesses.

Well, the GPL does exactly what it is supposed to do, using the legal
framework of copyright. So, I suppose one could say that the GPL
doesn't work in those countries that don't honour copyright.

> >On the other hand, it is not impossible to make money and give away
> >all your software. Richard Stallman does it, for instance. (And no,
> >I'm not saying that anyone could or should do what RS does! He is just
> >an easy example to illustrate that something is indeed possible.)
> A faulty example altogether. Stallman makes his money from
> preaching his dogma, not from selling software.

It's not a faulty example at all. RMS both makes money and gives away
all his software. He just doesn't make money _by_ giving away all his
software. In other words, the example shows that, in the extreme case,
a software developer doesn't have to make any money at all out of
developing software. There are other ways to make money.

As I said, though ("I'm not saying that anyone could or should..."),
just because you _can_ doesn't automatically make it a _should_.

> It's not possible for most open source developers to develop a
> business/career plan around the assumption that we can look forward
> to future as professional speakers or authors with a blank cheque
> for the next book.

Indeed. That wasn't the point, of course.

> >Don't forget that not everyone wants to be mega-rich (meaning that not
> >everyone wants to do what it takes, and make the sacrifices that are
> >necessary, in order to get rich).
> I don't think "getting rich" would be seen as a main objective.

Maybe not for you... or for me... but others may see things

> "Paying the rent" tends to be, for most people without the privilege
> of independent income. Establishing a realistic return on effort is
> a really difficult thing to achieve if one is spending 8 or more
> hours a day developing software products that nobody is going to pay
> for. To most of us, earning a living equates to covering living
> expenses, funding the unpaid time everyone needs occasionally and
> putting something by for our old age.

This seems to assume that if you dare to GPL any of your software for
any reason, that you will henceforth be unable to put food on the
table, or retire sometime this century... It seems to assume that
making any sort of contribution to the common good at any point in
one's life, excludes the possibility of putting clothes on the backs
of one's children... I don't see the connection there.

It also assumes that "While others, like Zope Corporation, might be
able to GPL huge amounts of software and still make lots of money,
I'll never be able to do it." That's certainly true if you believe it
to be. (Which is not the same as saying it's false if you don't
believe it to be.)

> >Yes, it's very hard, but once again, not impossible. The O'Reilly
> >Camel Book (Programming Perl) makes a lot of money, for instance.
> So do books about Microsoft products. So do many other books that
> are commissioned on the basis of a market that the publishers regard
> as fruitful. You can make generalisations about "name" products
> that are totally invalid for Firebird and InterBase. What is your
> experience of submitting book proposals re InterBase? What is your
> experience of even trying to get funding for such a book - or indeed
> for open source software development - from the developer/user
> community?

None at all (though I know what you've told us about _your_
experience). Documentation is not where I'd choose to make money.
Others have so chosen, however, and some have even succeeded.

> Ann H had written:
> >For me, glory is even better when combined with the chance of making
> >a filthy amount of money. I also like working for entrepreneurial, self-funded,
> >product-oriented small companies and want to see[m] Firebird help them succeed.
> My own perspective is that I'd like to make a living out of helping
> people use Firebird. I'd like to make that my career plan (insofar
> as I plan for the future in any discernible way). Now, whether that
> involves making Firebird better by working on the source code,
> making it more usable by writing a book or a better piece of
> supporting software or helping people at the implementation-coalface
> (all things I can do) isn't important. The bottom line is what
> matters - can I count on a realistic income by committing to these
> things?

Let's just say that I reckon you've chosen a hard path. I certainly
can't answer the question for you...

> Open source licences don't give me that guarantee.

Well, you've chosen a bad beast (Firebird) to work with, in that

> One (GPL) virtually guarantees that I can't get such a guarantee.
> It's said to be "less restrictive" inasmuch as no end user of either
> the source code or the binary products has any obligation to me.
> But, as someone desiring to use that code to develop my own products
> and market them in order to earn a living - that is, get recompense
> for my time - it is much more restrictive, because GPL requires me
> to give away every scrap of my own source code and anyone else's
> source code that was compiled with my product, even if I didn't
> change a single line of the original GPL code.

There's some stuff in there that's not right, or at least clear, such
as your use of the word "compile". It also seems to assume that there
is "someone" out there saying you "should" GPL your code (OK, RMS
might be -- but's he's not around here right now...) You should only
GPL your code if it makes sense to do so. There's no sense claiming
the GPL is "restrictive" or anything else just because it doesn't make
sense in terms of what you want to do or achieve.

> Where I think current open source licences hurt the developer is in
> their lack of any power to require end-users who contribute nothing
> to the development of the licensed code

Nothing can do that, including unfree licences. Human nature won't
change just because of some new whiz-bang licensing scheme. :-)

> (that's most of them, in the
> case of Firebird)

It's most of them in the case of everything.

> I think that open source software's survival as anything other than
> a hobby activity is going to depend on one or two (maybe more) new

Open source and Free Software are here to stay. They never were and
never will be just "a hobby activity". That is my considered opinion
based on lengthy, in-depth consideration at various times over the
period of the last three years or more.

Anyone who thinks Open Source and Free Software are a flash-in-the-pan
is in for some eye opening.

> I feel no urge to kiss the hem of Stallman's cloak.

Nightmare material... :-)

David Trudgett