Open Source License Question

Dan Perl danperl at
Fri Oct 29 22:11:18 CEST 2004

"Joachim Bowman" <usenet.0.lho at> wrote in message 
news:2ue65gF28i9f7U1 at
> Hi,
> Dan Perl wrote:
>> "Michael Foord" <fuzzyman at> wrote in message 
>> news:6f402501.0410271123.5a7e68d9 at
>>>A lot of people use python as part of their job and are active
>>>participants in teh python community. A lot of what I write are
>>>library modules to do a particular job. Using the GPL means someone is
>>>unable to use your work in a business setting. i don't expect other
>>>people to sell products containing my work - but neither do I want to
>>>prevent them from being able to use it.
>> Fair enough.  LGPL, X, or BSD should allow you to do that.
> So does the GNU GPL.  Freedom/Open Source and commercial use are two 
> orthogonal concepts.  The two don't interfere in any way.

I beg to differ.  Let's take a possible scenario.  Let's say that my company 
has a complex software product that sells for $1M a piece.  And let's also 
say that I need some encryption for the product.  I find an encryption 
library that is free and is GPL licensed.  What happens if I use it? 
Correct me if I'm wrong in any part (and I genuinely admit that I may be 
wrong).  I have to release my entire product under a GPL license and I have 
to publish the entire code (I assume that the use of the encryption library 
is not isolated to only one part of the product).  Would my company want to 
do something like that?  I don't think so.  Sure, we are still entitled to 
try to sell the product but who would pay $1M when with a little effort they 
can put the entire product together from the code and any support that we 
could sell is never going to be worth the money we are asking for?

Red Hat can make money from selling their Linux distribution, but apart from 
companies that have deeper pockets and for whom getting the support and 
warranties that Red Hat offers are worth a relatively small fee, how many 
small consumers buy the commercial distribution when they can just download 
the same thing for free?  No wonder that Red Hat also sells things like mugs 
and T-shirts.

So getting back to my scenario, leaving theory and "orthogonality" aside, 
practical reasons will stop many companies from using GPL licensed code in a 
commercial product.  I think that constitutes interference.


> You can have Free Software (under the GPL) that is used and distributed 
> commercially, Free Software that is used and distributed in a non 
> commercial way (Python), proprietary software that is used and distributed 
> commercially (think about MS Word), and proprietary software that is used 
> and distributed free of charge and without a commercial background 
> (sometimes called freeware).
> J 

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