Subject Re: [IBDI] GPL
Author Pavel Cisar
Hi all,

If I would have a dime every time I saw a discussion like this :)

Well, as someone who's "been there, doing that" for last few years in many
ways, I had a chance to watch or participate in many discussions like this.
Arguments were always the same, all valid from POV of each speaker. So
where is the problem ?

As I see it, the basic problem is in antagonism in software itself (from economic
POV). It's expensive to write and maintain it, but after its creation, it's an
"unlimited resource". There are two different approaches to this problem, each
focus to a solution to different aspect of the problem. The traditional "software
as merchandise" and "software as service".

First use traditional free market process for material goods with focus to ensure
return on investment, with a potential to get an "inadequate" earnings. This
approach also depend on market regulation to create an artificial scarcity of
software, that leads to market distortion and later to complete failure of free
market. Anyway, it works well in case of small market, but really hurts when
market gets bigger. We don't have right economic and legal tools yet to fix this
problem seamlessly. Sum it up with corporate world of last years with
"anonymous" megabucks that run down the feel of responsibility for actions
with huge impacts, and you have a "nice" living environment with "riots" on the
streets, like FSF :)

Second approach resigns completely on direct market value and focus only on
use value of software. Just realize that majority of all software is created for it's
use value (in house development, part of service or device), not for direct sale.
Software, that would be created regardless its direct sell potential is a good
candidate to be Open Sourced with great success. Unfortunately, there is a
vast amount of software that don't fall to this category, including software "in
transition" from first model. Well, one can utilize the Open Source bazaar
development model to run down the expenses and thus get to the margins of
economic efficiency. But this also doesn't work for all kind of software, and
Firebird is one of them (there is a big entry barrier to become an engine
developer, so demands on time and devotion of current developers is _very_
high, thus all core development is _very_ expensive for them. And I don't count
other areas like QA, documentation etc.). Event very "business friendly" Open
Source licences like MPL doesn't help much here (but GPL would be a real
disaster, just take into account that whole Classic server runs inside address
space of client application when local connection is used, so you'll have to
release your application code!). Another _very big_ problem is one that Helen
pointed out, the problem of free riders. Free Software and Open Source doesn't
even try to solve that, saying that services and size of the final market can
solve this (one from ten thousands is kind enough to pay a dime to you). It's not
true, at least not for vast majority of software.

So, what we need for these not very rare cases ? Something that would
stimulate or oblige users to pay back a dime, while don't tie them up in what
they can do with the product. Donation is a no way, so some kind of material or
legal "token" is needed with "right" price set (not too small and not too high,
depends on customer's sense of low and high). Well, a low price Firebird distro
CD is a good start, even the special "Firebird supporter" logo or sticker invented
in parallel thread (even it's not enough on itself, thought). But the best would be
a some sort of legal obligation, like the Trustware Licence is. If you don't know
what I write about, take a look at IBO ( or FIBPlus licence.

Personally, when I first saw the Trustware licence years ago, I thought that this
can't work at all, that it's not any better than shareware, Open Source, whatever
tried before. Friends, how I was mistaken :) Later I realized that this is _the
right_ tool for cases like this (but not for others, just this). Users are (morally
more than legally) obliged to _share_ a little only in case that they have a
success and make money thanks to the product. This is in many cases
enough to narrow down the free riders problem that was unsolvable before, and
to throw the whole development close to or straight to the black numbers.

But is Trustware applicable to Firebird ? Well, it is :-) It's possible to use any
licence including Trustware for Executable versions of Firebird, while Source
Code is still delivered under IPL. Here is the relevant part of IPL.

3.6. Distribution of Executable Versions.

You may distribute Covered Code in Executable form only if the requirements of
Section 3.1-3.5 have been met for that Covered Code, and if You include a
notice stating that the Source Code version of the Covered Code is available
under the terms of this License, including a description of how and where You
have fulfilled the obligations of Section 3.2. The notice must be conspicuously
included in any notice in an Executable version, related documentation or
collateral in which You describe recipients' rights relating to the Covered Code. -
--HERE IT IS ---> You may distribute the Executable version of Covered Code or
ownership rights under a license of Your choice, which may contain terms
different from this License, provided that You are in compliance with the terms
of this License and that the license for the Executable version does not attempt
to limit or alter the recipient's rights in the Source Code version from the rights
set forth in this License. If You distribute the Executable version under a
different license You must make it absolutely clear that any terms which differ
from this License are offered by You alone, not by the Initial Developer or any
Contributor. You hereby agree to indemnify the Initial Developer and every
Contributor for any liability incurred by the Initial Developer or such Contributor
as a result of any such terms You offer.

Hell, where I end in this letter, it was not my intention :-) Anyway, I would like
to know your opinion about this idea. Would you object to be bound to
Trustware licence (with a price tag acceptable to you) when you'll get
Executables from Firebird project ? Of course, Source Code would be still
under IPL (we can't change that, and I'm sure that all involved would never do
that even if they would be able to do so), so you can make your own Trestware-
free version or someone can make available such version for all (but then you'll
_know_ that you're cheating).

Best regards
Pavel Cisar

There is nothing wrong with InterBase
that Firebird can't fix for you