2006-03-18

GPL vs. the world

After having participated in a debate around GPL, I decided that it's about the time to change licensing on two of my SW projects: hashed text utilities, and secure password generator. I have changed it from the GPL to the MIT/X license. I can't change licensing of the Raster Alchemy project since it was GPL'd to begin with.

I don't agree with the concept of "freedom" that GPL advocates are spreading around. There is no freedom where exists a must. (I'm referring to the viral nature of the GPL). An interesting view on the matter is this article.

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4 comments:

ipozgaj said...

Well, no one was forcing all those developers to release their projects under the GPL. When they did that, they accepted "must" as freedom :)

zvrba said...

You missed the point: to the original developers, the source is always free. Rather, they force upon all users of the software Stallman's idea of freedom.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the idea that "there is no freedom where there's a must". After all, every license carries some obligations, and MIT/X is no exception. The only license without a must is public domain, and it's questionnable that such a licence even exists.

Brooks Moses said...

The article makes one fundamental error: The GPL does not prohibit commercial sale. It merely requires that commercial sale, like any other distribution, include the source and the right to modify and freely redistribute. There are plenty of companies that sell GPL-licensed software.

Now, I recognize and agree that this is a limitation that few commercial entities are willing to agree with, because they only wish to sell software that they can keep as proprietary, but that's not quite the same issue, and I think the article is being misleading by confusing the two issues.

(In particular, I think that that confusion causes them to reach a false conclusion with regards to their "what if the author of a GPL-licensed program decided to take it commercial?" scenario. Or, at least, it contributes to the false conclusion; I honestly think that scenario is a bit far-fetched in general.)

Also, I think the article errs in claiming that one cannot combine software released under the X/MIT license with software released under the GPL. One of the freedoms that the X/MIT license (implicitly) allows is the freedom to re-distribute the software under the GPL, just as it allows the freedom to re-distribute the software as a proprietary program. And thus one can combine the code into a GPL-licensed program.

However, I do agree that the overall argument is sound, though: The GPL is designed to only allow redistribution of the software by people who agree with -- or at least are willing to work with -- Stallman's position that all distributed software should include the source code and freedom to change it. Most other Open Source licenses aren't. And I agree with the conclusion that one should choose the license that agrees with one's philosophy in that regard.