wxPython Licence vs GPL

Steven D'Aprano steve at REMOVETHIScyber.com.au
Sun Nov 27 05:34:39 CET 2005

On Sat, 26 Nov 2005 18:18:44 -0500, Mike Meyer wrote:

> The GPL is *not* such a license - it places
> restrictions on the redistribution. Which is what I said in the first
> place.

If you want me to agree that the GPL puts more conditions on distribution
than the MIT/BSD licence, then I'll happily agree. If you want me to
describe that as a "restrictive licence", then I refuse.

Look: would you agree that the BSD licence is a restrictive licence? You
can't get much more liberal than the BSD licence -- in fact some people
argue that if you are going to use a BSD licence, you might as well just
put the work in the public domain. I can respect the argument for putting
works in the public domain.

But *technically* the BSD licence does restrict the distributor, because
they must give attribution. But there is a difference between the
existence of a "restriction" and the licence being "restrictive". If you
can see that difference, you will understand why I do not agree to
describe the GPL as "restrictive" -- and if you can't see that difference,
then you must also describe the BSD licence as restrictive.


> So that's the basis of the disagreement. I'm using "restriction" with
> the intent of communicating it's normal english meaning, 

Your meaning is about as far from the plain English sense of "restrictive"
as it is possible to get without actually contradicting the dictionary
meaning. And that's the reason for my vehement disagreement with the
suggestion that the GPL is "restrictive". 

We've already had one suggestion that if you ask 100 ordinary people what
free software means, 99 will say "free of cost" rather than free like
speech. (Thanks to Ed for that thought-experiment.)

I suggest that you if told 100 ordinary people that there is software that
allowed you to make as many copies as you liked, to give them away for
free or sell them for as much money as you wanted, to install it on as
many computers you liked, and that they didn't have to pay a single cent
for that software if they didn't want to, and that to be allowed to do
that all you had to do was to pass those rights on to those you give
the software to, then asked them if those conditions were "restrictive", I
think all 100 of them would look at you like you came from another planet.

If you want to use "restrictive" in the hair-splitting, pedantic,
non-plain English sense of "containing any restriction no matter how
infinitesimal", then please have the honesty to describe the BSD licence
as restrictive too. Then we can all agree that all software licences are
restrictive and that moral rights are restrictive ("but what if I *want*
to plagiarise the author of this public domain work?").

I think that your usage of the word is about as useful as plutonium
underwear, but if you are going to use it in that way, at least be


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