The Industry choice

Steve Holden steve at
Thu Jan 6 15:27:49 CET 2005

Bulba! wrote:

> On 04 Jan 2005 19:25:12 -0800, Paul Rubin
> <> wrote:
>>"Rob Emmons" <rmemmons at> writes:
>>>Me personally, I believe in free software, but always talk about open
>>>source.  My answer regarding forcing people to share -- I like the GPL 
>>>-- and I am perfectly happy to have anyone who does not like the GPL 
>>>not to use any GPLed software.  I don't feel compelled to share.
>>I'd go further.  It's not possible to force anyone to share, but the
>>GPL aims to remove software from a system that instead aims to force
>>people NOT to share.
> Nope. IMHO, GPL attempts to achieve the vendor lock-in. For different
> purposes than another well-known vendor, but it still does.
Well you are entitled to your opinion. But *my* opinion is that the GPL 
attempts to ensure that if you re-use code by an author who so desires, 
then redistribution of your code is only possible by making your own 
extensions to it available on the same terms. This gives you a clear choice.

To put it another way, it allows an author to specify that their code 
can't be hijacked for proprietary purposes *in distributed programs*. I 
will specifically point out that there is *nothing* in the GPL that 
requires you to reveal the source of program you write but do not 
distribute, even when such programs incorporate tons of GPL'd code.

> It's actually even worse: the only thing you can't share  on a
> well-known vendor's platform is the software written by that
> well-known vendor -- you can choose to share or choose not to 
> share whatever you or other people write on this platform. 
Well that's way over-simplified. And if you mean Microsoft, *say*( 
Microsoft. And you certainly can't share GPL'd code on Windows without 
doing so under the terms required by the GPL.

> If GPL folks had their way, it would not be possible not to "share"
> _anything_ you create. It is widely acknowledged that GPL
> license has the "viral" aspect of extending itself on your 
> software - can you point to closed-source licenses that would 
> have this aspect? None of the licenses I've read except GPL has 
> this aspect.  LGPL is still a different story, though.
The GPL folks are quite happy to have you "share" anything that *you* 
create. Their simply-stated and elegantly-achieved intent is that you 
don't "share" anything that *they* create except on the terms they have 
required for their creations.

So, it seems to me, you are whining because the authors of GPL'd code 
don't want you to release *their* code except under the GPL. What gives 
*you* the right to dictate to them? How would you like it if Richard 
Stallman insisted that you release your code under the GPL? Which, of 
course, he doesn't.
>> As the MPAA knows, people do want to share, and
>>forcing them not to do so is impossible without turning the world into
>>a police state. 
Socialism is unpopular for many reasons, and many of them are indeed to 
do with maintaining the separation between individuals and thereby 
retaining the ability to treat them as separate economic units. But we 
aren't going to change that by insisting on particular software 
licenses. Realize this is a very small part of a very large debate.
> What's the cost of copying music files vs cost of combining 
> some programs together, even in the form of e.g. using an
> external library?
>>Maybe if Python were GPL, then Bulba wouldn't use it,
>>but since it's not GPL, some people find themselves much less willing
>>to contribute to it than if it were GPL.  
And that is their choice. They should realize, however, that some 
licenses (including the more recent Python licenses) are cleared as 
"GPL-compatible". I believe this means that if I receive software 
licensed under a GPL-compatible license, I am at liberty to distribute 
it under the GPL.

I suspect that this point is far too infrequently stressed.
> Personally, I have precisely opposite impression: the OSS licensed
> with BSD/MIT/Artistic/Python-like license gets contributed to a lot
> simply because people like to use it and they are not afraid of
> licensing issues. 
This merely goes to show that different people can form different 
impressions when discussing the same sets of facts, and therefore how 
useless impressions are as the basis for rational discussion.

> When people share:
> _it is not because this or that license of software used by them says
> so, but because they want to for reasons orthogonal to licensing
> issues_.
Absolutely not. Some people want to share under very specific 
conditions, hence the proliferation of licenses in the open source world.

>>(I myself contribute bug
>>reports and maybe small patches, but resist larger projects since
>>there are GPL'd things that I can do instead).  So catering to the
>>wishes of Bulba and Microsoft may actually be impeding Python
>>development.  Yes, there are some people selfless enough to do long
>>and difficult unpaid software tasks so that Bulba and Bill G can get
>>richer by stopping people from sharing it, but others of us only want
>>to do unpaid programming if we can make sure that the results stay
>>available for sharing.
> Actually, I get the impression that GPL-ed software is written by
> programmers for programmers, not really for end users. 
Not at all. It's written to be redistributed under specific terms, and 
anyone who doesn't like those terms has the option of redeveloping the 
functionality for themselves.

You can't insist that people give you their intellectual property on 
*your* terms. That would be like insisting that the music industry bring 
down the price of their clearly-overpriced products, or that the 
Baltimore Orioles stop the concession stands from charging $4.50 for a 
one-dollar beer. If you want a vote in such situations then your feet 
are the appropriate instrument. Walk away, and stop whining :-). 
Insisting will do you no good.

> GPL folks just insulate themselves in their ghetto from the rest 
> of the world. More and more of the successful OSS projects have
> non-GPLed  licenses: Apache, Postgres, Perl, Mozilla, Python. Do you
> _really_ see few contributions made to those?
More and more? Can we see some numbers to support this "impression"?
> --
> It's a man's life in a Python Programming Association.

Since I'm taking issue with you, I will end by gently pointing out that 
there's a substantial minority (? - my impression) of people who might 
find your tag line (which I am sure is intended to be supportive of 
Python and the ethic, such as we might agree exists), 
gender-biased and therefore just as unacceptable to them as the GPL 
appears to be to you.

Steve Holden     
Python Web Programming
Holden Web LLC      +1 703 861 4237  +1 800 494 3119

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