wxPython Licence vs GPL

Steven D'Aprano steve at REMOVETHIScyber.com.au
Wed Nov 23 23:31:25 CET 2005

On Wed, 23 Nov 2005 15:34:49 +0000, Ed Jensen wrote:

> Try this little experiment: Walk up, at random, to 100 people on the
> street.  Show them a software CD-ROM -- a game, a word processor,
> whatever.  Tell them it's free.  Then ask them what they think that
> means.
> 99 times out of 100, they'll think it means it's free-as-in-beer.

Oh no!!! Are you telling me that people's first thought when you hand
them a physical object and say it is free is to think that you mean
free of cost??? Say it isn't so!!!

> They *won't* think it means they'll get the source code, and the right
> to tweak that source code.  They *won't* think it means they have the
> right to infinitely redistribute it.

So what? You just tell them, and then they *will* think that they have the
right to infinitely redistribute it, because they've just be told.

If you tell them "This FREE software that I am giving you for FREE, you
are FREE to make copies for all your friends for FREE" and they still
don't get it, then they are an idiot.

> At best, the GPL/FSF engaged in what I consider false advertising.
> Free Software (note the capital 'F' and 'S') *isn't*, by the most
> widely understood and assumed definition of "free".

Really? So when I take my GPLed software, and legally install it on
100 PCs without paying one single cent for licence fees, it isn't free of

You a living in a strange and mysterious world, where things that cost
nothing aren't free.

Of course, any particular vendor is FREE (there's that word again) to try
to charge me as much money as they like for the FREE software that I can
get for FREE from another vendor. If they can convince me that they are
offering enough added value to justify paying money for something I can
get for FREE from one of their competitors, I may even pay for that added

> They should have
> called it "liberated software" or "share and share alike software" or
> "free as in herpes" software.  

As in Open Source Software perhaps?

> Free Software is certainly not free
> software, since it comes heavily encumbered by licensing issues.

Firstly, you contradict yourself.

You argue that "free as in speech" doesn't count for squat because 99 in
100 people think *first* of "free as in beer". Fine -- you've laid the
ground rules, you live by them. If that's the only definition of "free"
that you'll accept, then stick with it: "heavily encumbered by licensing
issues" is irrelevant. What counts is cost. Then by this restrictive
definition of "free", Free and Open Source Software *is* free, because I
am FREE to redistribute it for FREE.

Secondly, you are either guilty of rhetorical exaggeration, or you are
exceedingly ignorant of what the various licenses out in the real world
*actually* say. To describe the GPL and similar as "heavily encumbered"
is, quite frankly, idiotic.

Have you ever bothered to read proprietary software licences? They are the
heavily encumbered licences, with restrictions on when, where and how you
can you the software, how many copies you can make, whether and how many
backup copies you can create, whether or not you can transfer the licence
to somebody else, and whatever other restrictions they think they can get
away with. Microsoft, for example, frequently restricts your legal ability
to publish benchmarks for their software.

No, software under the GPL is not in the public domain. I make no
apologies for that. GPLed software is copyrighted, and supplied under a
licence where the software users are FREE (there's the word that you think
people don't understand) to use the software any way they like, FREE to
redistribute it, FREE to publish benchmarks, FREE to copy it, FREE
to create derivative works, and FREE to give it away for FREE, so long as
the user lives by a simple rule: whatever freedoms the GPL licence gives
you, you may not take away from the people you distribute the software too.

> The success of things like Python -- which is not GPL licensed, afaik
> -- pretty much proves the GPL is unnecessary for the success of free
> projects.  The GPL is just some bizarre social agenda being pushed by
> some crazies, and a lot of programmers (who are not lawyers) fell for
> the hippie nonsense.

Ah, I see -- trolling. All that commie pinko nonsense about Free
Speech by the Founding Fathers, all just hippie crap, right?

> So, you may like to bandy around the mildly offensive "free as in
> freeloading", but then that gives me the right to refer to GPL'd
> software as "free as in pushing my personal social agenda".

Of course you are FREE to do so, and I won't even charge you. That doesn't
make what you say meaningful.

Is the Python licence not "pushing my personal social agenda" too? What
about proprietary licences that prohibit making backup copies? Doesn't
that push a social agenda too, an agenda to make it expected that every
time your software needs to be reinstalled you have to go out a buy a new


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