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The Linux Foundation: Not a Friend of Desktop Linux, the GPL, or Openness (fossforce.com)
158 points by zulrah on Apr 4, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 221 comments



My, how the tides have changed.

Those of us old enough to remember, the landscape looked a lot different 15 years ago. There was optimism, there was a desire to install Linux on everything possible, and the GPL was the default license for most new free software that was getting written.

It was not without strife. Since 1998, people like esr have been saying how the GPL is passé and is no longer needed because open source won, because open source was superior, because companies would naturally want to share their source code. Nobody needed anymore to be coerced into respecting user freedoms. Then the corporations started to take note and through their clout, they have convinced their employees that nothing is worse than keeping code free. Only unimportant scraps of code can be free, but the real code must remain secret, restricted, proprietary. AGPL is the ultimate evil to be avoided at all costs.

I don't like this shift. I miss the Slashdot days. I miss the jokes about installing Linux on dead badgers. I wish we had a collective desire to do something about the most widely deployed proprietary software controlling our lives in the pocket computers so many of us carry around with us. We haven't won. The code is locked up, the spying is worse than ever, and the corporations are winning. They even influence the direction of Linux, actively trying to subvert GPL compliance efforts such as the VMWare GPL lawsuit by pulling Conservancy's funding.

The GPL is a much-needed defence. Software controls ever more things of the internet. We need to bring back the rebellious attitude of the late 90s and early 00s. Linux needs to be installed on all of your phone, down to the radio firmware (and the dead badger).


As someone near the beginning of their career, the corporate attitude surrounding open source terrifies me. I spent a year with a company that made random weatherproof devices and developed a desktop interface for copying data off. It communicated over a simple bluetooth or serial interface using a pre-defined set of commands. We started to get requests to open source the desktop app because people wanted to add some features to it (data export, etc) but when we approached management about doing so, they were horrified and said that it was all proprietary. How on earth is a few thousand lines of Qt code with no algorithmic complexity at all considered proprietary? It couldn't do anything to the device or dump firmware or anything, just receive data. Nobody seemed to understand that if we let the community do some of the work, that was, in essence, free engineering time and the employees could stop wasting their time and work on the device firmware instead.

Edit: The best part was that we were using some of the libraries in a way that there was ambiguity over whether we needed to open source the application so instead, they paid the Qt foundation $5k for the enterprise licence instead of the GPL version...


what is the name of the company?


I'd rather not say. They weren't a bad place to work, they just had bad upper management.


I don't miss the fact that nothing actually worked back in the days when Linux and open source was mostly irrelevant to the wider it Industry.

I really don't get where your coming from, having been a Linux user since the late 90ies i have seen nothing but progress for the desktop since the arrival of the commercial interest.

Yes the community lost some of it's cohesion but thats the consequence of going mainstream and achieving pretty much everything we were hoping for back then.

Listening to the FSF people today you often get the same paradise lost sense you get from old hippies who have forgotten exactly how bad the world outside of their bubbles were back then and how much have changed for the better in the meantime.


What happened is that the marketing departments from a bunch of proprietary companies realized what was going on and amped up the bullshit. This is a good thing, it means they feel threatened by the concept of free software, which they should. They have been threatening us, the users, with ridiculous licenses for long enough anyway.

The fact that these companies fear the AGPL so much is probably reason to start using it more. They won't respond to anything less at this point, they need to be dragged into it kicking and screaming. They have made it clear by now, there is no other way that they will even consider the concept of respecting users' freedoms. This will continue to be the case even with organizations like the Linux Foundation, which, if you look at who their biggest sponsors are, it becomes pretty clear which agenda they are going to be expected to push.


Let me just take one point:

Only unimportant scraps of code can be free, but the real code must remain secret, restricted, proprietary.

Clearly Microsoft missed this as they are open sourcing most (all?) of .Net?


Yeah, the real thing is "The only code that must remain secret is one that concerns the business logic".

Ie. Facebook has open sourced React, Cassandra, HHVM... but they will never open source the code that powers the newsfeed or the friend list.


Whether you call it "business logic" or "the real code", the fact remains that the real, sneaky, controlling code; the one that manipulates users emotions[1], must remain secret and restricted.

I don't think companies that do this have a true commitment to respecting their users, and their rhetoric about the evils of copyleft always make me think, "what are you trying to hide or control?"

---

[1] http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/internet/facebook-manipulates-em...


Oh really?

I don't care for the way the my Microsoft Windows computer changes focus between windows. I'm sure a quick change to DWM.exe (Desktop Window Manager) would make me much happier as a user. I'll even do the work myself.

Can you tell me where I can go grab the latest source code for DWM, so I can make those changes?

I don't think it's possible for a home user. And I think it's important. (If I'm wrong, I'd love to be corrected.)


DWM.exe is not a part of .NET, it's part of Windows. The .NET team has been making strives towards open source, but the Windows team has not.


Can you point to all the things you have modified in programs where you do have source access?

I don't find the argument that users will go around making changes and testing them on OS level code to be a credible reason for open-sourcing anything. If you want to say, that having the code helps in other ways for development, or debugging then sure..


I will not provide an exhaustive list, but I will give a single example.

I also wish I had the source code to the controller software to a large motorized rock climbing wall that was produced back in 2002. The "Assent fun rock".

Alas, I don't. So... I've reverse engineered the protocol between the device and the native computer controller and implemented my own controller stack from the ground up on linux.

Why? because I wanted to add an algorithm that lets the speed of the device respond to the reading on my heart rate monitor.

Here's a photo of me on the thing, courtesy of my friend. https://www.instagram.com/p/48WVcbkT6x/


>> Can you point to all the things you have modified in programs where you do have source access?

Good question. Just ask it respectfully because..

> Alas, I don't. So... I've reverse engineered the protocol between the device and the native computer controller and implemented my own controller stack from the ground up on linux.

... it gets better everytime it actually is a hacker on the other end.

Have my upvote!


Why have you assumed it was not respectful?


Mostly poor wording from my side I hope; I mean generally when asking that question it should be done respectfully.

That said:

Can you point to all the things you have modified in programs where you do have source access?

Can easily be interpreted as slightly disrespectful.


I think that example blurs the lines between open source, and adding functionality to a piece of hardware, and having an open data protocol. People are not purchasing the hardware and software without integration. This is less about open source, and more in the hardware hacking category. Otherwise, since every piece of modern electronics has some kind of firmware/microcontroller in them, that would make anything at all to do with them, about 'open source'.

I think its fair to say you obviously understood the spirit of my question since the context was open source operating systems. So, let me ask again, what have you changed about the OS at a system level?


You and I have very different working definitions of the phrase "open source", and the philosophy behind it. I'd be curious, If I asked you to pinpoint the start of the open source movement - the exact moment - what you'd choose. If asked the same question, I'd offer up Stallman's "printer parable".

http://www.oreilly.com/openbook/freedom/ch01.html

I chose my "climbing wall" example because IMO it's the closest a story of my own comes to Richard's experience (granted there are differences). To me, that makes it very much an "open source" example.

Between both Richard's printer, and my climbing wall both of us are basically happy with a hardware/software combo. We just want to make a tiny change. But - we can't.

(Unlike Richard, I feel absolutely no righteous anger, but like Richard, I did roll up my sleeves and get to work and now - Yay! the thing I wanted exists in this world!) ---

If you still would rather I give a different example that might be better in line with your expectations and personal definitions... fine. When I was a teen, I got a copy of Gary Nutt's book: "Kernel Projects for Linux", using the book, I modified the ext2 file system to allow for "tagging" of file entries (As much as it pains me to say it: think hashtags). I would tag source code with the project name it belonged to.

I used that file system for years and years. I enjoyed this minor feature and found a lot of joy in having done it myself.


I don't want to advocate for a more "pure" definition of open source. You can widen or shrink the scope of anything at any time. I am perfectly OK with a vague definition of open source that encompasses hardware too. But that is not an opensource definition that I personally (and I would argue most) care about all that much. Few people, if any, are interested in modifying the firmware inside their microwave or refrigerator. Sure, at some point such firmware could become burdensome (e.g. coffee maker with DRM'ed k-cups) to the point where opensourcing the firmware would be something I could get behind. For you that tipping point is different.

Now coming back to the example, that is a great example. I think we can learn a lot from that. One thing is that 'open' is a large cafeteria. You would agree that simply opening the source is not sufficient in most cases. If the spec for EXT2 changed after every minor update to the kernel that would make your addition pointless. Same thing with the API at the I/O level. If that changed all the time, it would make your addition brittle and prone to breakage. So what is it that's really beneficial here? I'd argue that the source is the least important here. Open protocols, open data formats, defined interface boundaries, and the like are _much_ more valuable, really, several orders of magnitude than simply dumping several million lines of code onto someone.

Also.. its funny that you mention RMS since he is so vehemently opposed to using the term open source :P


Oh, don't worry. It's quite credible.

"Users" empowered by the source code do not just simply make changes, they write complete replacements for parts of the system.

For example:

On an open system you have plenty of choice in WMs (all written by the "users").

On Windows you are stuck with DWM.exe.


You're conflating modular design, open communication protocols, and open source operating systems.


So are you saying that Microsoft releases the necessary API specifications for writing a replacement for DWM.exe?

My point was that when the source code is available, the users will even write complete replacements, instead of just adding small patches.


The point you missed is that OS-component-level replacements have more to do with interfaces inside the OS than the inner workings of the entire product.

On Windows, for example, as an user you are free to replace and rewrite drivers for any piece of hardware even if you don't have the source for the OS. Another feature of Windows, a defined ABI, allows Wine to continue running Windows code, even when the internals of Windows change. Another feature of Windows, the modular I/O system, lets you to modify behavior the file system through filters (without worrying about how I/O works internally). You can basically write your own file system, or even extend NTFS, using this, all without knowing how Windows works internally.

The Linux kernel, historically since it was based on UNIX was not modular. Now it has some of the things NT has, and also some cool stuff that NT doesn't.


I think there are dwm.exe replacements for Windows. See bblean[0].

[0]: http://bb4win.sourceforge.net/bblean/


I have no idea what bblean is, but my goal is now to have it up and running on my home windows box by the end of the weekend. Thanks duck2!


You might also like https://github.com/NathanCastle/BootShellCredentialProvider

"""BootShellCredentialProvider - Bringing Linux DEs to Windows

BSCP lets you boot Windows directly into a Linux desktop experience, using Windows' native Logon UI and a combination of Xming & WSL upon login."""


> The GPL is a much-needed defence. [...] We need to bring back the rebellious attitude of the late 90s and early 00s.

Open Source has been commodified into free-as-in-beer stuff to build the next product - that will spy on us.


The shift happened when people became less ideological and more practical/expedient/impatient. As someone whose been using Linux since the 0.9x days, Linux was always about ideology, not technology. It helped that the kernel at some point became 'good enough' , but that was never the point of installing Linux on everything. Its hard to maintain that kind of intensity as a single individual, much less as a collective. At some point, people burn out or lose their drive. But I'm optimistic that it will be back.


> At some point, people burn out or lose their drive.

Or grow older.

I started playing with Linux around 1995 - first distro I tried was "Monkey Linux" (ugh!). Eventually moved on to Turbo Linux 2.0, then Redhat 4.2 (IIRC), then SuSE...

Anyhow - maybe not since the beginning, but long enough. I was a lot younger then, and perhaps more idealistic than today. But I do agree with the OP that we need to return to our roots on this, and get that drive back.

...and I agree with you that it will be back. Maybe it should start with us first.


With the shift to SaaS, more companies are open sourcing their stuff then ever before.

AGPL is unpopular because the lawyers are afraid of it :(


> Only unimportant scraps of code can be free, but the real code must remain secret, restricted, proprietary.

That just seems like entitlement. "Home Depot released a really awesome free toolbox that has everything you need to build a house, but they didn't release the blueprints for Home Depot brand houses, boo hoo"


Home Depot doesn't release software that controls how my computer which I own works, without my knowledge or consent (for example, radio firmware).

Proprietary software is about control and ownership. Those peddling make it sound like it's an inevitable aspect of business. Since businesses exist that don't rely on proprietary software at all, we know it isn't actually inevitable.


I was talking more about companies like Facebook releasing React (toolbox) without releasing their actual project source (house).

Giving power to the users can be costly and so often software is proprietary if only to mitigate risk. For example, I work for a satellite ISP. If the software running on the modems were completely open down to the radio firmware, normal customers could bring down the entire network by commanding the radio to setup a continuous wave that interferes with other people in the same satellite beam. Or a competitor could look at our source and see which TCP optimizations we have made for the satellite link and copy them (depending on your stance on software patents, this would be hard to protect).

So yes, you can "buy" and "own" one of our modems, but solving the aforementioned issues would take a lot of thought, a lot of money, and probably a lot of (hardware) cryptography to prevent malicious radio usage if the software were completely free as in freedom.


I miss those days too. Computing was a lot more fun.

But the way things were back then depended on peoples' attitudes, and those have all changed, for the worse. You might as well give up; those days are over. People don't care about FOSS, GPL, Linux, etc., except as a means to an end (more profits). The corporations have won, and we might as well get used to constant spying.

Also worth mentioning is that this is part of a bigger problem in society. Everything in western (particularly American) society is going downhill, and has been for the last 16 years. We just need to realize that this is inevitable and unavoidable: all societies collapse and fail at some point. The Roman Empire didn't last forever, nor did the British Empire. Internal stresses, corruption, etc. eventually take their toll and it becomes impossible to reverse course. Every big society has collapsed at some point, or at least turned into a has-been, and it's our turn next.


> You might as well give up; those days are over...we might as well get used to constant spying.

I find it disheartening to see these statements on a site called "Hacker News"; the only way I'd be disappointed further is if I read such a defeatist missive within the editorial pages of 2600 Magazine.

Remember - they only win if we give up and let them win.


Wrong. People constantly lose despite pouring all their best efforts into something. I'm sure some amateur military historian can give you plenty of examples where some army lost simply because they were defeated by overwhelming opposing force.

Surely you've heard the saying "pick your battles carefully". Sometimes it makes a lot more sense to just give up and look for greener pastures.


People don't care about FOSS -> society is going to collapse.

I would argue that if "western" society collapses, it's pretty much the end of humanity. I don't think the Roman Empire was responsible for half the world's GDP and at least half the world's nuclear arsenal... Also, the British are still around. They just gave up trying to control the whole world in an era before speed of light communication.


I never said that people not caring about FOSS was going to lead to societal collapse, I said that it was a symptom of a much larger problem in society that will lead to collapse.

As for the British, they're completely irrelevant these days, and becoming even less so with Brexit.


Realistically, the colonial era and Brexit were symptoms of two totally different issues. The greater British empire disintegrated in much the same way as those belonging to the Dutch, French, and Spanish. Brexit was the result of the EU being very dependent financially on England (and Germany etc) but it wasn't an issue of England disintegrating, it was the EU falling apart (and if you like a little conspiracy for breakfast, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundations_of_Geopolitics).


>I would argue that if "western" society collapses, it's pretty much the end of humanity.

I think humanity would be just fine without "western" society.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9d/1_AD_to_...


I'd really like to know where they came up with those numbers. For instance, the graph shows the USA near zero until a few centuries ago, but still non-zero, particularly around 1000CE where it goes up a little before going back down until it begins its steady climb just after 1700. There was no "USA" in 1000CE.

And seriously, how they they possible come close to quantifying relative GDPs in ancient times, or even as early as the 1700s or 1800s?



People don't care about FOSS, GPL, Linux, etc., except as a means to an end (more profits).

I see lots and lots of code, created and shared by volunteers.

I'd argue it is even more than before only now everyone is trying to get javascript, node and react into everything instead of Linux. (Possibly because running Linux in anything doesn't give any braggung rights today?)


Here's the full quote by Greg Olson that was supposedly so offensive:

  The most permissive licenses present little risk and few
  compliance requirements. These licenses include BSD and
  MIT, and others, that have minimal requirements, all the
  way to Apache and the Eclipse Public License, which are
  more elaborate in addressing contributions, patents, and
  indemnification.

  In the middle of the spectrum are the so-called ‘weak
  viral licenses’ which require sharing source code to any
  changes made to the originally licensed code, but not
  sharing of other source code linked or otherwise bound to
  the original open source code in question. The most
  popular and frequently encountered licenses in this
  category are the Mozilla Public License and the Common
  Public Attribution License.

  Restrictive Licenses present the most legal risk and
  complexity for companies that re-distribute or distribute
  software. These licenses are often termed ‘viral’ because
  software combined and distributed with this licensed
  software must be provided in source code format under the
  terms of those licenses. These requirements present
  serious risks to the preservation of proprietary software
  rights. The GNU General Public License is the archetype of
  this category, and is, in fact, the most widely used open
  source license in the world.
It is beyond me how this analysis, which appears to be as objective as can possibly be, can be taken as an insult at all, let alone lead one to conclude that the " Linux Foundation has no respect for FOSS".


I agree that it is a fair assessment, the problem is the perspective. They want to facilitate integration of Open Source code into proprietary code, not the other way around. I would interpret these statements to be read as "Linux Foundation has no respect for FOSS." Because apparently they don't accept what "free" stands for in "Free and Open Source Software"

> These requirements present serious risks to the preservation of proprietary software rights.

Which is why the GPL can be called "more free" than the BSD licenses. Code licensed under it is not "appropriable". In my view, that's a feature. In their view, that's a "restriction". I don't see how I should want other people applying their proprietary (read: way more restrictive than the GPL) licenses or not share the code at all. They want to, I don't want them to. Different perspective.

It is clear to me that the GNU/Linux world would be very fragmented, if it existed at all, were it not for the GPL.


The way I have always viewed the GPL is this:

I write some code, and I want to share it with the world. But I don't want to just "give it away" - if that were the case, I'd make it "public domain". Instead, I license it as "GPL".

My price to you, someone else who wants to use the code? Simple and cheap:

If you make any changes to the code, and distribute it (binary or otherwise) publicly, you must give those changes back to the community, the public, and me the author, so that the code can continue to grow.

Don't like that? Then don't use and change the code. Or don't distribute (sell or give away) the code.

Basically, I consider it a way of paying for the code - by "paying it forward". Corporations should consider it a low price to pay, not a hindrance to business.


Perhaps some people think "the preservation of proprietary software rights" is a good thing. I have pointed out numerous times the only restriction the GPL imposes on developers is on the "right" to deny others the freedoms the developer enjoys.


That's not quite right. Non-copyleft licenses say "I will not sue you"; a sort of first-level copyleft license says "I will not sue you unless you potentially threaten to sue other people"... but the GPL is fully recursive: "I will not sue you unless you threaten to sue others in the ways that I don't like or do not threaten to sue others in the ways that I do like (namely, this sentence)."

As a concrete example of how this imposes real restrictions, the proprietary macOS got ZFS and DTrace starting, oh, ten years ago or so; Ubuntu got ZFS last year and there are still people who are pissed about it, wanting Ubuntu users to be forced to jump through the Purity Hoops that they already have to use for their proprietary drivers. Ubuntu's decision to ship ZFS cannot possibly be read as an attempt "to deny others the freedoms that Ubuntu enjoys." There is no freedom which Ubuntu enjoys which it is trying to deny others by shipping ZFS.

You still need to jump through the Purity Hoops to run DTrace: the "official channels" way is to not run DTrace (they recommend that you install systemtap and use a GPL application named `dtrace` which makes systemtap take DTrace-like input and produce DTrace-like output), and if you actually want to run DTrace you have to grab the `dtrace4linux` project off of GitHub and modify only your own system with it and then every time you load the thing your syslog will remind you that "module license 'CDDL' taints kernel, disabling lock debugging due to kernel taint," so I don't know what lock debugging is but I hope you don't need it.


> Ubuntu's decision to ship ZFS cannot possibly be read as an attempt "to deny others the freedoms that Ubuntu enjoys.

You got it backwards. The CDDL does not ensure the same rights Sun gives to whoever receives ZFS source can be passed further down to other users who didn't get ZFS from Sun. Therefore, it's not compatible with GPL. You enjoy rights Sun gives you but others can't enjoy the same rights unless given by Sun.


Let me force you to be concrete. What right are you even talking about?


My understanding is that the CDDL allows one to include code under a non-free license into a binary and only make the CDDL part of the code available.


"Any Covered Software that You distribute or otherwise make available in Executable form must also be made available in Source Code form and that Source Code form must be distributed only under the terms of this License. You must include a copy of this License with every copy of the Source Code form of the Covered Software You distribute or otherwise make available. You must inform recipients of any such Covered Software in Executable form as to how they can obtain such Covered Software in Source Code form in a reasonable manner on or through a medium customarily used for software exchange."


If all freedoms granted by the GPL are ensured downstream by the CDDL, why is it considered incompatible?


Because (a) it does not let you relicense as GPL, which is the only thing GPL compatibility means ("Can you be press-ganged into our army later? Great: you're compatible. We just haven't assimilated you yet."), and (b) the FSF is under the impression that strong copyleft exists, which is practically not true (there have always been Purity Hoops that you can jump through to make the two interoperate) and may be legally not true (Ubuntu's stand in including ZFS is precisely that all copyleft is weak copyleft, and the only difference is if your walls are implicit and poorly defined as in the GPL or explicit and well defined as in the MPL and CDDL). So it's in their ideological interests to consider things as incompatible even if they grant the Core Software Freedoms plus the Copyleft they like so much. Like, license incompatibility is the core selling point of GPL. The actual legalese of the license is really rather confusing and long by comparison.


Incompatibility of copyleft licenses is indeed a PITA.

This being said, your examples are rather unfortunate because

1. to avoid this exact trouble, RMS&FSF designed the GPL as one copyleft to rule them all and encouraged all copyleft supporters to standardize on it

2. rumor has it that Sun execs and lawyers deliberately used incompatible license to keep ZFS and DTrace from Linux vendors competing with Solaris and in any case they probably could have used GPL instead.


I mean, (1) has nothing to do with the Sun examples, it's not something unfortunate about CDDL but unfortunate about the GPL. If one thinks of it in national terms: there is a GPL Nation holding its land against a bunch of proprietary city-states; a huge swath of land is occupied by the neutral space of MIT and BSD, people who have no real national identity and GPL is fine with them, "Can you be press-ganged into our army? Yes? Great!". And then there's these strange lands MPL and CDDL which lie close to GPL; they culturally agree with GPL in many ways; they like copyleft and want their works to remain free... but they intentionally have a separate national identity because of practical and historical reasons (at some point they had trade deals with some proprietary city-states). And it's just unfortunate that the GPL does not allow for any collaboration anymore, because "if you have any national identity, that is against our nation's constitution and we cannot work together with you." Meanwhile all of these little nations can work with each other just fine, can work with the proprietary city-states just fine.

Regarding (2), the history is a bit murky. Danese Cooper wrote the CDDL and has said that GPL incompatibility was intentional; but several others have come forth (both at the talk that he said that, like Phipps, and since then, like Cantrill) to say that it was not a design goal at all, it was in fact a compromise between engineers who wanted an MIT/BSD license and management who wanted a GPL license.

The true story seems to be: Engineers were very firm about "if you force people to jump through the Purity Hoops to install proprietary drivers you are increasing the total quotient of worldsuck for generations to come and frankly, why the hell are we opening this system if we're going to make the world suck more." Meanwhile management was very firm about "we worked so unbelievably hard to open this thing up, we don't want some big player like IBM to just fork off a proprietary version, spend a big budget to become the big player in the Solaris game, and then all of our work open-sourcing this damn thing was for nothing." The CDDL was a clean-up of the Mozilla Public License which sensitively addresses both issues, it deliberately contains a big honking wall which is (and everything inside of it is) copyleft open-source, but the license has no problem being distributed with proprietary add-ons as long as the interfaces they use, baked into the copyleft open-source wall as they are, follow the copyleft open-source license of the wall and everything therein.


> "if you have any national identity, that is against our nation's constitution and we cannot work together with you."

Well, exactly it's "if you have any national identity, feel free to adopt ours and work together" ;)

And yes, I should have said "strong copyleft". The thing is, even if GPL replaced "all derived works are GPL" with "all derived works must respect user's freedom", any derived work would have to be licensed so similarly to GPL to be barely distinguishable. Say, if GPL work A was incorporated into a free-but-not-GPL work B, you still wouldn't be able to incorporate B into proprietary software because of the A part, even if B developers don't mind.

MPL/CDDL avoid "virality" only by being weak copyleft, which GPL is supposed to be not.


I mean, if I am just contributing to the community or using a technology in a non-linking way, I don't see a problem with GPL.

However, from a business standpoint, can you explain to me how linking in GPL code wouldn't just cause my customers to grab the source for free and consume my work without paying? I'm not afraid of using LGPL or GPL with library exceptions, but linking in pure GPLv3 scares me because in my mind it says "Why would customers pay you to use your product when they can just do a git clone and use your product for free?"


So don't link with GPL code, find a work-around, a different library or write your own code, if the original author has the copyright you could buy a better license for your need. Again GPL protects the user of the code not the developers that want to remove the user freedom.


> So don't link with GPL code, find a work-around, a different library or write your own code

That's what I do. Hello MIT/BSD

> Again GPL protects the user of the code not the developers that want to remove the user freedom.

Right, which is why I'm always surprised when people are upset that developers don't use GPL more


> That's what I do. Hello MIT/BSD

But what if you write a library or something that becomes popular, very popular or very useful, and your users and others (maybe yourself) want to add a great feature, but it is something that is very difficult to do, or would require more than a single developer to do - in short, it would take a while to do, if possible at all...

...then company B comes along, sees how well you're doing, and says to themselves "you know, this would be great to have that market - and oh, look - the BSD license...perfect!"

So they take your code, add in the changes the users are clamoring for (because they have the resources to do so), then make it all proprietary (perhaps - if you're lucky - with a message buried in 4pt font somewhere that say's a "thank you" and "copyright, etc" to your efforts, as required by the BSD license) - then they market the hell out of it to your users.

Your users see it all - and the flock to it, leaving your efforts to wither and die. You won't be able to catch up, and those extra features they added will keep your old users happy. Perhaps they release an API to allow others to use it, but never the source code.

They've now locked it up, and all your hard work is for nothing. But hey, you used the BSD license, and all's good, right?

/...and this is why OSX is more popular than BSD...


I agree that GPL is good for some things, but not every thing. Linux would probably not be as good as it is without GPL. On the other hand if I have to open up my entire product just because I want to use one utility function in a GPL'd library, heck no I'm not doing that. I'll gladly use GPL'd code with linking exceptions. It's only fair - if I improve the GPL'd code I have to release the improvements. But why should I have to release my entire unrelated code base? Seems unreasonable.


Exactly, slavery is bad for some(probably most people) but is good for the slave owners(until for some reasons the slave gets sold into slavery and he will change his mind). The point is GPL is always good for users and is bad for developers that want to control the users, I understand that you don't want to open your code because you need to make money to live but even if you are a developer that must write non free code you should understand that users not having the freedoms is bad and hope that we as a society can find a solution to this issue(say you have a goal for your software and when you reach your goal the source becomes GPL)


Just wondering if this philosophy extends to all aspects of life (not just software). For example, should restaurants make all of their dishes free as in freedom (providing a copy of the recipe?) Should all companies make all of their products free as in freedom?


The point is if you use BSD like licenses over GPL like then you do not care about user freedom and only care about developer freedom, so it is normal that people that care about free software and not open source are upset, especially when dirty tactics are used to hide the true meaning of free and freedom when using words like viral/tainting/restricting. You can use the license you want my only hope is that you don't miss represent user freedom vs developer freedom, that is all.


The answer is in "want to remove the user freedom".

Those are often freeloader companies and the decision usually lies in management.


I think some individual developers hate on GPL because they would like to use a library maybe add some things to it but don't want to respect the license.


> Why would customers pay you to use your product when they can just do a git clone and use your product for free?

Support? Consulting? Hosting?


In other words, tech savvy customers will not be paying for my product since they will just host locally and use community support forums. And if my product is marketed to tech savvy people, that's a huge hit to my market.


That's not entirely true. There are services I pay for that I don't want to run at home. Sometimes the convenience is worth it. Look at tarsnap. It's basically just encrypting files and sending it to S3, entirely open source, and he's still able to charge. I'm sure he's not living the high life off of it, but most people aren't off single products anyway.


Exactly, the GPL focuses on the rights of the user, not the rights of the developer.


I would say rather that the GPL treats "the user" and "the developer" as one and the same, and while this is often not true in practice it is an important principle; without it, the user can never become the developer. And only a tiny fraction of users need to become developers for every user to benefit.

(A distinction not unique to software, and under threat in other places as well: "no user servicable parts inside". Many might be helpless, but who could argue that enforced helplessness is a good thing?)


The essence of the UNIX philosophy is not "make small utilities that can be fitted together with pipes" but to assume that at any moment, a user might decide to be a developer or a sysadmin and should have the tools to do that.

The problems of UNIX generally come from assuming either that users are never devs and sysadmins, or that all users are devs and sysadmins.


Those rights mean nothing if the user is not someone versed enough to modify the code. So in practice the rights are the rights of the developer.


Incorrect, you've mistakenly conflated "in practice the rights are the rights of the original developer" with what the GPL aims to ensure, which is "in practice the rights are the rights of any developer". A user (which could be a user or an entire organization) need not possess any development skills themselves in order to hire somebody else with developer skills. I don't have a moral problem with proprietary software and think it has strengths, but the part of the core value of open source (or even simple available source, given the appropriate contractual terms[1]) could be defined as "potential for interchangeability" with respects to devs. If the original devs go in a direction that isn't desirable or for that matter got hit by a bus, there is at least the option for an individual, organization, or community sufficiently dependent or seeing sufficient value to take up the torch. Whether they have the skills directly to do it themselves is as irrelevant as whether they have the skills to maintain hardware or do building engineering or construction or whatever themselves. The ability to have a flexible and redundant market around maintaining foundational infrastructure and tooling isn't without value.

1. I personally think available source, even if only escrowed, should be flat out requirement for copyright period but that's a different discussion.


Entirely false.

First, if the user is someone who can modify the code, then the rights aren't just those of the original developer.

Second, if the user is someone who can't, it provides them with the ability to hire someone who is, or to learn themselves. This is especially important when the original developer cannot or chooses to not support the software (at all or on a specific platform.)

Take the coming y2038. For many things, the changes aren't immense, but the original developer could die in 2027 and never make them.

Access to the source is crucial, even if the user doesn't think they'll need it or be able to use it themselves.


No, the GPL focusses on the rights of the user downstream of the developer, regardless of whether or not they are versed enough to be a developer, or just a tinkerer, or a kid just starting to learn about computers, or someone that can figure out enough to make that one tweak to something that's annoyed them or a user that pays a developer or...

The point is the person who makes a few tweaks and distributes has to pass on that privilege.


> the user is not someone versed enough to modify the code.

A good book can solve that.


I think "These requirements present risks to the preservation of proprietary software rights." (an objective fact, like you said), is being read as "Proprietary software rights MUST be preserved!"


Please don't quote with code blocks. Use italics or greater than symbols instead. Scrolling horizontally to read the quote on my phone is a PITA. Thanks.


The use of the term 'viral' is only appropriate if you assume you have the right to redistribute any software you get your hands on.

The fourth category is proprietary licenses, which do not allow you to distribute or redistribute software combined with software under these licenses at all. But weirdly, these are never described as 'viral'.


Proprietary licenses are not viral, in that they don't spread. They'd be better described as poisonous, since distribution stops completely.

(I have no issues with proprietary licenses, just trying to abuse the analogy.)


I don't know enough about this to take sides but I do think that the author of this piece is being a bit misleading on at least one point. This piece says:

> ... Greg Olson [referred] to the GPL and other copyleft licenses as “Restrictive Licenses” and “viral.”

The original article, which he then quoted, reads:

> These licenses are often termed ‘viral’ because ...

So, while Mr. Olson did use the term "viral" in his piece, he didn't specifically call them "viral". Instead, he said, quite literally, that "these licenses are often termed 'viral'" (and they are).

Anyways, the open source world has been having this argument forever -- often in the form of whether the BSD v. GPL is more "free" -- and it all depends on whose point of view you're looking at it from (the developer's or the user's).


> it all depends on whose point of view you're looking at it from (the developer's or the user's).

Myself, I like to see it with respect to what is protected by the license in terms of freedom.

- "Permissive" licenses (BSD-like) protect a single snapshot of the code, as it exists the day it is released. That version can be used freely by anyone, but the possibility to impose additional restrictions means that you won't necessarily be free to use the versions derived from that snapshot.

- "Protective" licenses (i.e. Copyleft) protect the whole project in the long term, whether it is the snapshot released under the license or any later modification of it. You are guaranteed access to any version that someone releases of that code, under the same terms that give you the freedom to use code.


There's a dichotomy here. What you term "protective" here (GPL-style copyleft licenses) actually impose a greater number of restrictions on the person who obtains code under them: specifically, they lose the ability to distribute modified versions under a different license.

So while one could argue that they are "protective" because they protect the rights of future users, one could also argue they are "restrictive" because they remove the right to add restrictions - which is, itself, a right!

BSD-style licenses give a greater number of freedoms to the user who initially receives the software than GPL-style licenses. This has been used to argue that they are overly free, and used to argue that they are insufficiently free. But I think it's important to point out that there's a valid point of view in which "the ability to prevent someone else from doing something with my work as I choose" is considered a freedom that some licenses take away.


> So while one could argue that they are "protective" because they protect the rights of future users, one could also argue they are "restrictive" because they remove the right to add restrictions - which is, itself, a right!

While true from a local perspective (how many actions can you perform over this snapshot of the code), you're missing the systemic point of view.

Every time someone adds an additional constraint over their released copy of the project, they're killing off every possible action that downstream users would have made starting from it.

Imagine for a minute that Webkit had been licensed as BSD or MIT rather than with the protective LGPL, and Apple had released Safari with a fully proprietary relicense. In that case, neither Chrome would exist nor any of the other modern non-Firefox, non-Trident browsers (which depend on the cleanup performed by Apple over KHTML). The share-alike clauses of the LGPL guaranteed that Apple didn't have the option to restrict use of the software, creating a whole world of possibilities for anyone starting from their improved version, that wouldn't exist otherwise.

I'm not saying that a project under a share-alike license will always have more actions available overall; it depends on how the project is adopted by their community of users. But counting only the restrictions imposed on any particular snapshot of the software misses the forest for the trees.


> While true from a local perspective (how many actions can you perform over this snapshot of the code), you're missing the systemic point of view. > Every time someone adds an additional constraint over their released copy of the project, they're killing off every possible action that downstream users would have made starting from it.

Preventing someone downstream from adding constraints is, in itself, adding a constraint. The argument you make about other possible actions also applies to the-action-of-closing-the-thing-off; the butterfly flaps its wings just as hard for commercial software.

I'm not "missing the systemic point of view", I'm just pointing out that what we've got here is a group that is arguing in favor of restrictions of a certain type because they say that restrictions are, in themselves, wrong. That would be more palatable if it were framed as a "lesser of two evils" situation, but instead it's presented as being 100% undiluted moral right.

I wish that people who zealously supported BSD-style licenses would take a moment to understand why it's important to others that software remain free-in-whichever-sense. I wish that people who zealously supported GPL-style licenses would acknowledge that they are taking away a certain set of otherwise-available rights concerning what others are allowed to do with their software - NOT maximizing possibilities, but instead restricting them to a certain set they find agreeable.


> Preventing someone downstream from adding constraints is, in itself, adding a constraint.

Yes, it is. As in one (1).

> The argument you make about other possible actions also applies to the-action-of-closing-the-thing-off

Uh? How many actions are made possible by a company closing access to a version of a free project? Even if this closing-the-thing-off creates some possibilities, those will be limited to the company that keeps the version to themselves. How can the amount of these actions be larger than those actions available to all the other people, who are now unable to use that version?

> I'm just pointing out that what we've got here is a group that is arguing in favor of restrictions of a certain type because they say that restrictions are, in themselves, wrong.

This is not how I see it, and I'm an advocate of Free Software (including and preferring the GPL share-alike version), so you may be attacking a straw man there. In fact, I'd say that the people defending BSD-like licenses are more prone to making the "restrictions are wrong" argument.

> I wish that people who zealously supported GPL-style licenses would acknowledge that they are taking away a certain set of otherwise-available rights concerning what others are allowed to do with their software - NOT maximizing possibilities, but instead restricting them to a certain set they find agreeable.

I do acknowledge that share-alike is restricting some actions that are possible with BSD-like, but overall I believe that this constraint DOES maximize possibilities when seeing the big picture.

As I've argued above, the idea of those constraints is that the constrained environment should have more total possible actions in the aggregate, even if every individual player has one less action available on paper. If you don't acknowledge this possibility, you are not getting the point why the constraint was added to this kind of license.


Using ""restrictive" because they remove the right to add restrictions" is like thinking the law is restrictive when it removes my freedom to kill people.

You can use that word with that meaning, but then I won't see any negative connotation with it, and will be happy we are restrained!


The thing is how does one end the dichotomy ? Basically : "you can use my code for whatever reason, but don't harm me in any way"...


I'm not sure those are quite true, and certainly aren't the whole story.

- Permissive licences often don't guarantee anything to the end user. Nobody is under any obligation to make any source available to you at all, original or derived versions.

- Copyleft licenses, by contrast, guarantee the end user gets access to the code that's running on their system.


Thanks for stating both cases charitably


The argument from the permissive licensing side:

The reason some programmers hold GPL in contempt isn't due to picking a sports team. It's really annoying to have to explain to a true believer (of GPL) that it potentially taints codebases it mixes with.

It's also a license that's complex and hasn't been tested in across jurisdictions. So arguing about what happens on a message board isn't fruitful since there is no case law. You may be recommended to "see a lawyer". I've spoken to a few people who have, ultimately the lawyer throws their hands in the air and say we don't have answers to the "What if's"; there isn't case law. And at that, the consensus of a random person on the internet isn't going to hold weight if you're accused of violating the terms of the license.

It's hard to pick GPL on the merits. Permissively licensed projects don't seem to be having reciprocity issues. Can't remember the last time I heard these thriving BSD, MIT, Apache2, ISC licensed projects complaining about freeloaders.

By the way, really happy Nintendo Switch picked up FreeBSD recently. Looking forward to upstream patches, even knowing it's entirely voluntary for them to give back.

Why? Because the potential reciprocity from a big player is better than having a license that obligates reciprocity strictly, even punitively. Which could cause them to look elsewhere, to a proprietary solution. No entity wants to risk their hard work to become a derivative of a smaller project they pull in.


The GPL does not taint anything. People like to use pejorative terms like that, or "viral", to make the GPL seem like something that spreads on its own. It is a software license like any other, and every developer can make the decision of whether or not they want to use software available under those terms.

The rest of your reply reiterates the usual developer focused "open source" viewpoint while mistakenly suggesting that it's also the focus of free software. The goal of free software has always been user freedom. Source code in the hands of users. It's not about upstream contributions. Having a free library used in a proprietary program does not advance user freedom, though it may lead to a developer improving the library. All the upstream contributions in the world simply do not matter if the user is not entitled to the complete source code of the programs that they use.


> The GPL does not taint anything. People like to use pejorative terms like that, or "viral", to make the GPL seem like something that spreads on its own. It is a software license like any other, and every developer can make the decision of whether or not they want to use software available under those terms.

You greatly overestimate the skill and interest a lot of developers have in the niceties of source code licensing. I've had to remind colleagues more than once that the code they want to appropriate can't be used in our code base because of license incompatibilities.


Are engineers in other fields so completely clueless about the copyright, trademark, and patent laws that apply to their work? Big software companies confuse the issue for others by openwashing (many do not know that "open source" is a well defined term), "intellectual property", etc.


> Are engineers in other fields so completely clueless about the copyright, trademark, and patent laws that apply to their work?

Sorry but I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. In other engineering fields, there's no equivalent to copyleft licenses (at least that I know of) for designs/processes so it's not an issue.


The GPL does not taint anything.

What do you prefer to call what it does to anything it is compiled with?


A choice made by the developer to fulfill the terms of the license for code those chose to include in their project because it brought more value than other options or them writing it.


Taint is shorter.

BTW: I think you answered a different question than the one I asked.


Taint is pejorative. Why must you choose negative terms to describe copyleft? Words matter, and words like "taint" and "viral" have been chosen for the purpose of harming copyleft's reputation.


> Why must you choose negative terms to describe copyleft?

Because there's an unfortunate kernel of truth to it?

From the standpoint of people using any other license, copyleft code (intentionally) causes an undesirable side effect of attaching its license terms to your code base if the slightest bit of it is merged in, whether through a developer's carelessness, ignorance, or otherwise. And the effects may not be noticed for quite some time. It takes vigilance and developer education to prevent this from happening. One struggles to think of a term that doesn't have pejorative connotations to describe this effect. I have yet to see anyone suggest a credible alternative.

(And please don't suggest "protective"; that's so transparently doublespeak that it's surprising that it ever took off. Things that are protective don't just reach out and latch onto other things they are accidentally brought into contact with.)

EDIT: minor rewording for clarity


You make it sound like the code does this itself!

It doesn't reach out, it grants you a ton of rights in exchange for you preserving those rights downstrea. in projects you use it in.

If that is not a good tradeoff for you, don't use it.

You make it sound like an active, infectious agent.


You do bring up a good point and I've adjusted the wording to reflect that active agency (i.e. a developer) is involved. Nevertheless, as I pointed out in an earlier post, quite a number of developers are not educated in the specifics of open source licenses or IP law or even simply don't care and this can cause problems in codebases that aren't copyleft licensed.


Yes, this is something I've seen around quite a lot.

There's some just don't know, some take the attitude "it's on the net so I can use it" and then I've encountered people who are scared into going to the other extreme - linux is GPL therefore we have to release our software product on BSD if we don't want to open source the whole thing!

Some of the big corporates are quite hot on education in this area, but their actual FOSS-related proceses can be byzantine and weird.


Kind of agree. But what do you call it that describes it in a non-pejorative way?

I am thankful for GPL and GPL-ed sw. I just find some of the advocacy for it a bit annoying.


I think I answered the asked question. By using the GPL the developer is choosing to have the rest of their application abide by the GPL, just like the LGPL or MIT/BSD licenses. The later examples require fewer changes, however, but in principle you're still abiding by the license.


I asked what you call the thing that GPL-ed software do - not whose choice it was etc.

Basically: "if you compile GPL-licensed sw with your code the GPL-ed code <something something> so your code becomes GPL-licensed as well."


Not true, your code does not "become" GPL.

IF you release your code it will be in violation of the GPL and you can: unpublish the release, or switch to a different non-GPL codebase, or reimplement the GPL part, or ask the authors to give you a dispensation or switch your code to GPL.

IF you don't release it and use the code internally you are fine.

It's at least 6 options, only one of which requires licensing your code as GPL.


I doesn't do anything. By including a GPL-licensed work into your software, you promise not to place any additional restrictions on the result.

And it's really just that. It doesn't force any license on your code. You can still release your individual contributions under a BSD-style license[1]. The one thing you can't do is placing additional restrictions onto your peers.

[1] The combined work may be effectively distributable only under GPL-like terms, of course.


The GPL enforces users' freedom. The BSD/MIT licenses allow for users' freedom. Proprietary restrictive licenses prevent users' freedom.


Right, so why is everyone surprised that businesses don't like GPL? More power to the user = less power to the company. Companies don't like to give power to the user - they like to be in full control of UX.


I think a lot of modern tech companies are quite comfortable with the GPL. For the simple reasons that none of the restrictions affect them because they don't distribute binaries: their software all resides on servers (excluding the limited amount of javascript they serve to users).

The AGPL on the other hand, now that really is a hated licence: https://opensource.google.com/docs/using/agpl-policy/

>WARNING: Code licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL) MAY NOT be used at Google.

>Using AGPL software requires that anything it links to must also be licensed under the AGPL. Even if you think you aren’t linking to anything important, it still presents a huge risk to Google because of how integrated much of our code is. The risks heavily outweigh the benefits.

>Do not attempt to check AGPL-licensed code into google3 or use it in a Google product in any way.

>Do not install AGPL-licensed programs on your workstation, Google-issued laptop, or Google-issued phone without explicit authorization from the Open Source Programs Office.


You are confusing companies that produce Open Source software (many of them are actually happy with the GPL) and those who want to consume Open Source, use it in closed products or services and give back little.


It would be unwelcome for BSD projects to complain about freeloaders given "freeloading" is explicitly authorized.

You can take a quick look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_products_based_on_Free... for a non exhaustive list of products based on FreeBSD. Some of them are doing some contributions, maybe some of them are 100% open source (I don't know), but clearly some are not open sourcing their most added value stuff, even when it is a clear derivative of BSD code.


BSD projects sometimes do complain about their code getting put into GPLed code (usually Linux).

It's bizarre. They'd rather have their code locked up into someone else's codebase than having it always free in someone else's codebase.


If I remember correctly, they complained when people replaced the BSD license with GPL, which was a license violation (you don't get to arbitrarily relicense the code). That seems strictly worse than the code being used following the original license terms (a copy of the license in the manual, not publishing the source).

Also, I thought that was resolved by putting the license back in the file, causing it to be licensed under the intersection of BSD and GPL.


Taking BSD or MIT code and making it GPL IMO is to make it less usable for no good reason.


The BSD/MIT licensed code is still available. Your statement is meaningless.


Proprietary codebase does not deprive original project from potential contributors. Gpl'd fork might


On the contrary, closed products very often compete against open ones.

Potential contributors often never hear about the Open Source projects used behind their television, phone, routers, editors, games...


Heaven forbid that developers have a choice in what they contribute to!


When it is in a proprietary codebase it can potentially be contributed back. Once it is in GPL it is tainted and while similarly to a corporate codebase the original contributer could give a BSD licenced patch back to the BSD project, it diverts other open source contributors away from the original project.

Look at OpenOffice compared to LibreOffice, for an example of this. If there wasn't a GPL version the community would have rallied around the Apache version.


OpenOffice was a dying project. Sun had been fairly unresponsive to the community and unwilling to fold in community changes. When Oracle bought them it got worse still. Projects like Go-OO started up, which wasn't so much a fork as a patch-set. OpenOffice was looking sad and it looked a lot like the best known FOSS suite was doomed to splinter and die.

Then LibreOffice was started to sort this all out. A real fork, a new name, it folded in Go-OO and other community improvements and committed to proper governance, addressing technical debt etc.

A year or so later, Oracle 'gifted' the stunted and now somewhat left behind OO.o to the Apache project. A few corporates got behind it, but it had no community traction, and any small improvements that did get rolled in were very quickly adopted by LO, where flow the other way was almost non-existant.

This is not really a story of licensing as much as it is community mismanagement by Sun, and active hostility from Oracle.


> Look at OpenOffice compared to LibreOffice, for an example of this. If there wasn't a GPL version the community would have rallied around the Apache version.

OpenOffice not working at all is not due to the license, at all. OpenOffice didn't work for a long time. Distributions have always added a huge patch to make it work nicely for them. There's been calls for ages to change things and not much was done with it.

Eventually they started LibreOffice and focussed on making it easy to contribute.

In above, nothing is about the license!!


OpenOffice removed a bunch of GPLed code. As a result, it just does less than LibreOffice. Why work on a less functional codebase?

I don't know if that's the reason why it didn't pick up, but generally I think of code that goes to the Apache Foundation as going there to die. The foundation seems to receive abandoned code that nobody wants to maintain.


Sorry if I'm wrong, but wasn't libre office partially started because OpenOffice stagnated?


The first release of Apache Open Office was 2012, almost a year after LibreOffice. Open Office itself stagnated while still dual licensed under Suns proprietary license and LGPL. I think one of the complaints was that they took too long to merge patches by contributors.


And? If FreeBSD had a more restrictive license, the developers of those products would have simply chosen another similar project, or used proprietary software.


The OpenBSD people complain all the time with OpenSSH and the like.


The nintendo switch doesn't use FreeBSD[0]. They supposedly only use the FreeBSD network stack, which also happen to be used in a great deal of other devices (It's so popular that it was ported into a userland library, see libuinet[1]).

[0]: https://reswitched.tech/software/os (Reswitched is the switch RE project) [1]: https://github.com/pkelsey/libuinet


> The reason some programmers hold GPL in contempt [....is] that it potentially taints codebases it mixes with.

These programmers, for consistency, should hate proprietary software even more, because it permits no mixing at all.

And yet, they tend to be the ones writing it.

People who use the GPL want an alternate ecosystem, away from that. Microsoft builds theirs, Oracle buys theirs, Google builds theirs; why should a band of programmers not organized under a brand name not have theirs?

Bluntly, don't like the GPL? That's totally fine; go build your own ecosystem with whatever terms you like.


I am one of those programmers which even built a tool to avoid having a GPL dependency down the line[1] and I can assure you that I like proprietary software less than GPL. If three levels down the dependency chain a developer was sloppy enough to incorrectly use a GPL dependency and license their project as MIT, then the whole project would automatically become GPL. That is what @git-pull meant by taint (though I do not have a negative opinion about it so I avoid pejorative terms such as taint or virus).

The reason is simple and I see it akin my opinion on religion: it's okay to have your own believes, but don't force them on others. While I believe that we should all be doing Open Source for the benefit of humanity, I also understand that there are many companies who do proprietary software for different reasons. And not everyone can afford to do work exclusively on open source.

[1] https://github.com/franciscop/legally


It sounds to me like you're doing it right; I don't think we disagree. Don't know why you're trying to explain 'taint' to me - the 'viral' nature is of course the primary moving part in the GPL.

I also fully understand that not everyone/thing can be GPL. I'm not religious about it. I've contributed to open source under several licenses, and to proprietary applications.

But the fact remains, if you don't like the posted rules, don't play in the sandbox, just like any other license, even if you really like the toys.

And really, asking people to comply with a license is nothing like attempting to force beliefs on people. It is asking them to follow a legal agreement. Or do you think I am endorsing Larry Ellison's political views because I'm covered by a licensing agreement with his firm?


I see it akin to "if you want to be in this country you have to follow our religion". Some people will choose other countries, some people will convert to your religion, and some people will move and keep their religion in an illegal way.

With GPL it is similar in the way that it doesn't matter the license that you want to use but you have to use GPL. You can sometimes just not use GPL, but other times your only real options are to be forced to change your project license or to break the rules (neither of which is good IMO). Of course you have to follow the rules for any license, but other licenses are more permisive in the way that you can use the software with whatever license you want.


> I see it akin to "if you want to be in this country you have to follow our religion".

But that is every license, aside from a few experimental/performance art ones. If you want to use others' code, you have to go through the motions of code's license's religion.

I find it noteworthy that people only use the word 'religious' about the GPL. Not Microsoft's terms, which are massively more restrictive and not the weird ones that actually do get slightly religious (Artistic License).

Something about heathens and heretics, I guess.


Well those licenses would be more in the ambit of a cult than of a religion if we go with this analogy (;

With MIT for example it's more like "you can come to our country and keep your religion, just don't say our religion doesn't exist (keep the original notice intact)".

About religion, it's just one random topic and it probably was a bad idea to use it as a comparison since it does have a negative connotation for some people. I didn't mean at all like the negative side of religion and apologize if it sounded like that.


How many times has that thrice-removed GPL dependency affected one of your projects? In those cases, did you give up? Did you remove the dependency? If so, how long did that take?


Luckily no one has sued me (and I hope no one is planing to) so it hasn't really affected me AFAIK, but I try to follow the law/licenses. Also when I do some proprietary work for some company and I am the one picking up the dependencies I double-check this.

In JS-world most libraries are MIT-licensed, so there was only a couple of times where I had to remove minor dependencies which didn't really affect me.


> These programmers, for consistency, should hate proprietary software even more, because it permits no mixing at all.

I think tainting is worse than not using at all. I don't have a problem using gpl software as a user, but if it is at all programmer oriented (library / API / etc) I avoid it like the plague. I license software I write for personal projects in BSD, but I don't start with restrictions. This was a known problem with GPL, and they the LGPL was supposed to address it. Pointing out obvious concerns of programmers considering GPL shouldn't give anyone the vapors.

I consider GPL to be better than proprietary, because at least you can still see the code. Although it is just a slight step above proprietary in terms of restrictiveness.


I have to wonder what kind of developers tend to fall in each camp. The GPL-ers seem very worried about other people 'taking code and not giving it back', whereas BSD-ers seem more concerned about giving and receiving code without strings attached. Maybe GPL-ers typically tend to pick an existing codebase and work on it incrementally, whereas BSD-ers tend more towards developing their own applications and then open-sourcing them when they're done?


The BSD license is developer-centered. It's awesome for developers, mostly avoiding any licensing headache.

The GPL is user-centered. It's not designed to be nice to developers, but to protect the user's freedoms.

So to a first approximation I expect that developers that think more of developer's freedoms favor the BSD license, while developers that think more of user freedoms favor the GPL.


> The GPL is user-centered. It's not designed to be nice to developers, but to protect the user's freedoms. *

* Unless those users are developers.

I still haven't figured out the distancing and discouraging of LGPL. A lot of software doesn't have much distinction between user and programmer. GPL is one of the worst licenses for a library.


I get the feeling that a lot of GPL-ers really want to tell somebody big to back off. I'm partial to permissive licenses because I don't want to spend any time on enforcement. I honestly think some GPL supporters hope for the day that they get to send a nasty email to a company telling them that they have to comply with some term of the license.


It's not about upstreaming patches, it's about an exchange.

Your project respects user freedom? Okay, we're working under a common cause. Take my code (and my axe!).

You want to exploit my software for private profit? Fine, that's the reality of the capitalist society we live in. But you'll have to pay me. By demanding a "permissive" license, you're valuing my labor at zero while valuing your own above that.


MIT, BSD, etc are good for libraries and modules. But you basically give away your rights, and your users rights, and make it possible for others to steal your program/project and user-base, and make it proprietary. The GPL protects you from that.


Something I've seen often:

GPL is evil, it's a virus.

We are so much better, we use BSD.

All we care is that people use good code, our code is good, we make it BSD so everybody can use it.

X Million servers out there are using our code, only 12 people give us any money, the world is a horrible place.


>The GPL protects you from that.

No it doesn't.

I can "steal" your GPL code, make lots of private modifications to it and make lots of money from it without violating the licence. All I have to do is run the GPL software on a server rather than distributing a binary to end users. That also happens to be the more common way to release software these days.

If GPL developers really cared about their work being stolen or the rights of end users they wouldn't be using the GPL, they would use the AGPL.


> and your users rights

How are you giving away your users rights? The permissive licenses don't impose any restrictions on your users. They can do as they see fit.


Downstream users can get the shaft though.


> it potentially taints codebases it mixes with.

I prefer to say it potentially frees the codebases it mixes with.

> a license that obligates reciprocity strictly, even punitively.

I cannot follow this argument. You got a whole codebase for free. Reciprocity would be if you gave your patches upstream. The GPL, while it doesn't enforce that, forces patches to be available downstream, where they can be taken back upstream. The GPL forces developers to be honest. Permissive licenses allow them to be honest, if they are so inclined.


How much case law is there behind the Apache, Mozilla, or Eclipse licenses? There is a good deal behind the BSD license because people were making craploads of money taking BSD proprietary and wanted to prevent 386BSD from being released openly.

GPLv2 is older than most of the other licenses listed. It is clear, simple, and the reason lawyers throw up their hands is because, if you want to do something sketchy with GPL'ed code, you will lose. There are no easy ways to attack it.

"No entity wants to risk their hard work to become a derivative of a smaller project they pull in."

But they are a derivative of any project they pull in.


GPL doesn't "taint" codebases. It is deliberately applied to code by the people who write it, knowing what it is. It's not an inferior version of a BSD license. It's a different license.

If you don't want your hard work to be swallowed up into some company which profits from it, doesn't make its changes available and ultimately develops a competitor that the original cannot legally use improvements from, a BSD license won't help you with that. If you don't care, then there are any number of choices.

Other licenses you mention are also complex and haven't been tested. Licenses in general, not just GPL, are harder than people think. When it comes to lawyers, you get what you pay for.

It's revealing at the end that you say "no one wants their hard work to become a derivative of a smaller project they pull in." The size of the project doesn't give it special entitlements. Why are you pulling in someone else's code if you don't intend to respect the license set by the person who wrote that code? That sense of entitlement to exploit other people's work without reciprocation (because you're bigger?) is the problem creators use the GPL to address.

If you want to build a community that isn't based on the crumbs that some company (like Nintendo) allows to fall, and you don't want that to be subverted by free riders who use your code to compete with you without letting you use theirs, GPL is a better choice.

But if and only if it is your code, it is your choice what license you use. Note that in the real world, people are constantly attacking GPL and harassing people who apply GPL to their own work, but the other way is not happening. We should respect the licenses applied by creators to what they create.


Yes, the GPL doesn't play friendly with anything -- even itself (GPL2 vs GPL3). I have several developer friends who, reasonably, didn't want to make a GPLv2 project "or later versions", as they didn't know what those later versions would be, the FSF could produce almost anything. Now we can't link to GPL3 code.


>I have several developer friends who, reasonably, didn't want to make a GPLv2 project "or later versions", as they didn't know what those later versions would be, the FSF could produce almost anything.

The GPL license text explicitly addresses this concern. The FSF cannot make a GPLv4 that removes one of the 4 freedoms, for example.


Which is unfortunate because it means it's impossible to create a future version of the GPL that actually protects the rights of users in the modern world.

GPLv4 should really be based on the AGPL, but that would violate freedom zero. The restrictions in the GPL are becoming increasingly pointless. For a large section of the computing industry the GPL is functionally identical to the liberal BSD style licences because the program will never be "distributed", only made available over a network.


The FSF has spent decades now promising that future versions of the GPL and related licenses would be in the same spirit as existing versions. But that promise depends on their definition of "in the same spirit," which is nebulous.


>But that promise depends on their definition of "in the same spirit," which is nebulous.

Yes, very famously Linus Torvalds felt that GPLv3 was not in the same spirit as GPLv2. He described it as "a violation of everything version 2 stood for".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaKIZ7gJlRU


Why you need this license to be tested in the court of law? I mean if you obey the license then why worry, don't use GPL code if you are trying to work around the license and the problem is solved.

About tainting, if I use some source available but not free code in my code is that tainting my code? I used the code against the license and I may have to pay damages,same as GPL you violate it then you may have to pay. Maybe some companies are afraid the developers will use GPL code, you need to train your developers on what licenses are allowed. It is easy don't use GPL mixed in your code, you can link to LGPL. My last point is that the terms viral and taint are negative but better words would be protective,freedom and not words created by MS.


The GPL an unpleasant side-effect: it encourages companies to pay lip service to community involvement and to be seen as "community leaders".

If you go to any major conference now, you can't have a beer in peace without someone from one of these super-open companies trying to tell you how super-excited they are to drive innovation as part of a thriving community or whatever other cliche is popular nowadays. In the meantime, though...

Most companies that don't give a shit about community and openness can keep their BSD code tucked away. For most companies that try to make money out of GPL software, not giving a shit about community and openness is usually a bad PR move, so there's a great incentive for pushing as much of what you do as far upstream as possible.

You'd think really bad patches would get rejected (and more often than not I guess they do), but in many cases, the project leader(s) work for the same company as the guys sending the shitty pages, and of course they get integrated, because $company $qualifier Linux $latest_version + 1 needs to ship this June and the feature has already been announced. Whole projects, or at least major modules/sub-project, are effectively a one-company show or an internal playground.

This isn't bad because companies are scary, it's bad because, while the code is out in the open, the agenda and the planning processes aren't, and it fractures the community a lot. It's a good part of how projects like PulseAudio and systemd ended up with a bad name: everyone can agree that they at least offer some useful features (some people would go as far as to say they're "much-needed improvements", but that's far more debatable than whether per-application volume setting is useful), but they were pushed way, way before they were ready for production, and everyone saw this as Red Hat's attempt to enroll everyone into their beta testing program.

In many other cases, commercial involvement in GPL projects is pretty much of no value. They publish the changes because they're required to, but most of the code is so brain-damaged it can't be used upstream, or is just a GPL-licensed interface over a proprietary library, a la nVidia. I'm guilty of having written both types of code, on several occasions, so it's not like I'm really just a BSD user for whom the grapes are too sour.

There's also the fun crowd that's using outdated, unsupported stuff on their rootfs because the project switched to GPLv3 six years ago. They really, really like not having to pay money for 99% of the software on their device, but they really, really REALLY like making sure you can't flash their devices with your own firmware, so they can't do GPLv3. Of course, the old branch no longer gets bugfixes or security updates, so their flashy gadget will fall flat on its head as soon as it's exposed to an Internet, but that's ok, you'll buy a new one next year anyway.

20 years ago I was really, really happy when I heard that some company was licensing something under GPL, or contributing to a GPL project. Nowadays, frankly, I'm more scared than happy. There have been success stories, but they're getting fewer and fewer.


> It's really annoying to have to explain to a true believer (of GPL) that it potentially taints codebases it mixes with.

The GPL doesn't "taint" anything. You're complaining about how Free Software supporters argue but you don't seem to understand what those arguments are. You would have the same problem if you mixed proprietary software into you codebase, because copyright "taints" derivative works.

> Can't remember the last time I heard ... complaining about freeloaders.

Why do you feel entitled to free (as in beer) code?

> No entity wants to risk their hard work to become a derivative of a smaller project they pull in.

Yes, including GPL licensed projects. If you don't like the price of distribution license, you can always ask about licensing the code under other terms.

> Which could cause them to look elsewhere

Yes, that's the goal. Using community code is very inexpensive when you accept the GPL's terms, but the low price requires a payment where you are required pay back to the community in a similar way to what you took from the community. This is a protection against freeloading. If you don't want to participate, that's fine, but you get to pay the financial, legal, and social costs of using a proprietary solution.

> Nintendo

> the potential reciprocity from a big player

Good luck getting much out of Nintendo. They are famous for their iron first attitude regarding copyright. A current example is their abuse[1] of YouTube's contentID system. While there have been occasional exceptions, it is incredibly naive to expect voluntary altruism - which almost always has some costs and little profit potential - from profit-focused corporations.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlzEr10NY3M


I'm sorry, I'm not seeing it. One person involved with the Linux Foundation wrote an article that used some terms this author and some others didn't like, and after some outcry the Linux Foundation removed it. Somehow this makes the entire organization a non-friend of Desktop Linux and the GPL?

It's just such a massive leap of logic. The GPL is in the most restrictive class of open-source licenses for companies, and it is viral by nature. Should those terms be sugar-coated? I didn't read an ounce of contempt in the quoted section.


> One person involved with the Linux Foundation

...there are a lot of people involved with the Linux Foundation, what didn't help in this case is that the one person involved with the Linux Foundation who came up with this piece of Ballmer-era nostalgia is the Linux Foundation's Senior Director of Open Source Consulting.

It's a pretty major PR blunder. It rubs people the wrong way because it basically repeats the anti-Linux arguments which used to be promoted by a lot of companies that were heavily-invested in proprietary software -- some of which are Linux Foundation members today.

The terms aren't exactly innovative. 20 years ago or so they were used liberally (and, I think, coined) by a particularly disliked company from Redmond, and their marketing material (thinly-veiled as whitepapers, sometimes from partner companies) read pretty much like this guy's piece.

This is basically a blast from the past, except 20 years ago we'd see it on Microsoft's website under some Get the Facts stamp, not on the Linux Foundation's website.


I apologize for the late reply, I have been out of state making a pitch, and enjoying the scenery after it was accepted.

I can see your viewpoint. I do remember the anti-linux Microsoft days, and I did not enjoy them as a company back then. However, I do think viral is an apt description of the license, despite the objections in this thread. As I mentioned before I left, I think viral is a good description of GPL. Viral is a feature, not a consequence. If you choose GPL, it's because you want that viral nature. If you're a company, you'll have to weigh that license against your business concerns.

Zealots may say something like "every piece of code should be open source in all circumstances", but pragmatists will realize that some code just doesn't make sense as open source, and making all derivatives of that open source.

So, long story short, someone who is in charge of open source consulting should understand better than anyone else that the GPL isn't appropriate for all companies. If the changed code is patented, GPL isn't appropriate in any circumstance, like it or not.


If you want to combine viral open-source code with toxic proprietary code, sure. Proprietary code is toxic by nature, so why should we not use that term?

> I didn't read an ounce of contempt

I disagree. Calling a grant of permissions "restrictive", or calling it "viral" has as much contempt as calling a offering of proprietary licensed software toxic. Its insult flinging, plain and simple.


I'm not sure I want to wade into this religious war, but you can surely agree that the GPL is more restrictive (as in, it adds restrictions) than say the BSD or MIT licenses.


When you use the word restrictive without any other context to describe copyleft licenses, as you just have, it only serves to intentionally make the license look bad/unappealing, which is disingenuous at best. It's only restrictive in the sense that it restricts others from profiting off the hard work of the author without having to contribute anything back in return. For the author, the word restrictive is about the last thing I'd call it.

All I hear when I see people describing copyleft licenses as restrictive or viral is self-entitled whining that people can't do what they want with other people's work.

Edit: To be clear, I think the parent made their point in good faith and this is not meant as an attack on them.


When you rent a hotel room you get permission to enter and sleep there, but are also restricted to not destroy the room. However the restriction already existed before you paid, so the change between the owner and you only exist in added permission. No one is allowed to destroy property of someone else so those restrictions are not additional part of the transaction.

GPL do not add restrictions. It is purely permissions given over what already exist. In theory one could rewrite the GPL license text to be lines of "I grant you permission to do X", and it would still have the same effect.


So, to bridge the analogy, what would be the "before paying" state of a GPL'd work? The GPL does not, to my knowledge, clearly define this, and there's disagreement among the experts.


> what would be the "before paying" state of a GPL'd work

Whatever the law is for copyrighted but unlicensed code.


What I'm asking is, at what time is someone bound by the terms of the GPL? See for example the IPC loophole, dynamic linking, etc.


Let me give an example of how to rewrite part of the copyleft concepts as pure permission rather then term and conditions.

"I here grant permission to distribute source code of the unmodified complete work"

"I also grant permission to distribute a binary version together with the corresponding preferred source code of the unmodified complete work"

"I also grant permission to distribute a compilation of a modified version of the source code with the source code of all dynamic linked software that it depends on"

Of course, to match a license like GPL you would need to make precise wording to get the permission to mean exactly one and only exactly one permitted action (lawyers, interpretation and loopholes), but they are just plain permissions. You can use one, two, or ignore any number of them and mix and match. Since they are isolated permission they hold no state and there is no "I agree to all terms".

This is also the main argument behind the concept of software license not being contracts. A contract goes beyond permissions and binds two parties together in one document, while permissions just exist regardless if anyone accepts it.


You are bound mostly when you distribute GPL covered works or derivative works. The licence is a-priori unconcerned whether such derivative work involve IPC or dynamic linking or anything else. There is no trivial relationship between the technical kind of SW interaction and if it constitutes a derivative work or not. Sometimes projects clarify their interpretation, e.g. Linux telling (with much reason!) that merely using standard syscalls does not per-se constitute a derivative work - (and note that this is a quite stronger form of interaction than most IPC, however this does not intrinsically prevents some IPC usages to be considered as derivative, maybe especially if such IPC are added after the fact in a vain attempt to circumvent the GPL with a meaningless technical trick)


Any time that you want to use the software and you're not the copyright owner. The terms of the GPL grant you permission to use it under some circumstances that you wouldn't have otherwise.

It is true that sometimes it is not clear when you are satisfying the conditions in the GPL that allow you to use the software, since there is no case law. But the constraints that forbid you to use the code all come from copyright law, not the GPL itself.


The preferred term nowadays is "protective". You are given some constraints, but those are intended to protect the ability of people to keep using software from the project in the long term for any purpose.

If the net effect is to increase the overall freedom that people have for using the project, that is not necessarily more restrictive, other than in a local way. Metaphorically speaking, being able to sell yourself into slavery is not something that increases your freedom, and forbidding it isn't "more restrictive".


The GPL protects freedoms of users by placing restrictions on those that would do harm---developers (by ensuring that the code remains free) and distributors (by ensuring that the user has access to the source code).

If someone is hostile to restrictions on those two groups, then copyleft is undesirable, at the expense of the user, who has fewer guarantees of freedom.


GPL offers protections for the users, so it prevents developers restricting the users freedom, GPL prevents restricting users so ONLY developers that want to restrict users freedom feel restricted. It is like in society where your freedoms are limited to prevent removing the freedom from others, like you are not free to kill people because you teke the freedom to live from them. So killing is illegal is protecting freedom not removing freedom.


It's it less restrictive in some ways, and more restrictive in others.


> If you want to combine viral open-source code with toxic proprietary code, sure.

Even the Linux kernel qualifies as toxic proprietary code for the simple reason that GPLv3 is not backwards compatible. If anything the GPL is toxic to any other open source license including itself. Others at least try to play well with each other.


> Even the Linux kernel qualifies as toxic proprietary code for the simple reason that GPLv3 is not backwards compatible.

That is not true. Being "GPL compatible" is not the golden rule by which software is considered Free Software; granting the "4 user freedoms" is.[1] Since the GPLv2 grants those freedoms, it is Free Software.

[1] https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html.en


Now mix GPLv3 code with the Linux kernel without violating an FSF license. Of course that you cannot release the result just means that there are also zero users, so the freedoms of those zero users are preserved.

Edit: I am not arguing from an ideological standpoint, just from the resulting compatibility and usability issues. The GPL 2 and 3 were both written to protect the four freedoms, that they are incompatible and that we now have to invest time and effort work around that even for free software is just ugly.


Yes, but that's also true for any non-GPL compatible license, not just the GPLv3. And it's a result of Linus Torwalds not using the GPLv2 as intended by removing the "any later version" clause.


What is the point of GPLv3 if it is not allowed to have any difference from GPLv2?


That would be my question? It introduces an incompatible split with existing code that cannot be re-licensed by hand wave of the FSF for purely dogmatic reasons.


Well to be fair to the author the writer of the article has the job title:

Sr. Director Open Source Consulting Services

And they're posting on the Linux Foundation's site so that's a bit more than just some random person writing an article for the site.

Also the term "viral" comes off as an insult to the licence, I think the term GNU Public Virus used to be a common descriptor.

I think that's why the term Copyleft was introduced.


I don't see 'viral' as an insult, I see it as a feature. I'm certainly pro-GPL, but I don't use it in too many of my projects. When I do use it, it's because I want that viral nature. When I don't, it's because I want people to have the freedom to modify it on their terms. However, pretending that every project should be licensed under copyleft licenses or that there's no room for criticism of the GPL smacks of zealotry.

As for the author, I don't have the full article, but he isn't listed on the 'Board Member', 'Leadership', or 'Technical Advisory Board' sections on the Linux Foundation webpage. Everyone there seems to have pretty damn fancy titles. I have no idea of his actual position in the hierarchy.


It has a history of being used pejoratively. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viral_license


Many terms do. Socialists and communists still call themselves those terms despite McCarthyism and the red scare, the term queer is still used despite the fact that it was used as an insult for a very long time, the n-word's reappropriation despite its horrible history, and too many other examples for me to list.

Perhaps it's time for the FSF and its ilk to wear 'viral' as a badge of honor, instead of playing the semantics game.


Using the term "viral" is a pejorative term used explicitly to make the GPL seem dangerous. It's propaganda by the anti-copyleft crowd. Asking a representative of a foundation that represents the most important copylefted software project in history to stop using anti-copyleft propaganda terms isn't asking them to "sugar coat" their words.


Nonsense. It is an adjective that correctly describes the behaviour. If you want a non-viral GPL, then use the MPL2. It is exactly like the GPL, except it has a file-level firewall so that other files that it interacts with don't need to have the same licence, something the GPL is intolerant of. In every other sense the MPL2 provides all the protections the GPL does, it just doesn't consume the rest of the project you integrate it with.


It DOESN'T "consume" the rest of your project. Your code does not have to use the GPL as its license!


Unless the GPL code matches the Compiler or OS exceptions, yes, you do have to relicense as GPL. This is what GPL detractors refer to when they use the word "viral".


You don't have to relicense your code as GPL. You are confusing the copyright applied to your own code vs. distribution of the whole program.


Technically you are correct, and I guess that's the best kind of correct. However the GPL does apply to non-GPL code in the case of distribution, which is what I was referring to.

Perhaps with the advent of cloud computing and fast networks the more sticky problems of GPL code in proprietary systems become less of an issue. That said, I've already seen an uptick in AGPL code in some of the fields I'm interested in.


If you're going to say that the GPL is viral because it applies to derivative works, then almost any license is viral because the license of any work follows it around. That is the nature of licenses.

Anyone who expects to copy-paste other people's code into their own code and change the license is just fighting the legal system. You're still going to have to follow the terms of the license, whether that means sharing changes or including attributions.


The problem is that the GPL considers adding a single GPL method to a large non-GPL project as being a derivative work of the GPL method.

Moreover, it considers the interactions between the method and other code a derivative of the GPL, even if only the implementation was under GPL but the header/API was provided under a more liberal licence.


No. Copyright makes adding a single method to a large project a derivative work of the method.


FOSS != GPL.

Saying the linux foundation is "[n]ot a Friend of Desktop Linux, the GPL, or Openness" because they published a piece that is negative about the GPL is sensationalist and absurd.

There's a legitimate debate to be had about copyleft vs. less restrictive licenses, but articles like this aren't helping matters for GPL - all they do is strengthen the image of copyleft advocates as being extremists who are detached from reality.


I'm no LF fanboy, but the tone of this article doesn't really help any cause. I think the key question would be to ask what percentage of the funds LF receives are effectively used for FOSS purposes. If it turns out some of those funds are being wasted on having FOSS conferences in exotic places, followed by karaoke in Seoul with "Linux partners" then it'd be good to expose things like that. A cursory observation indicates most of LF's management aren't coders so that makes me worry whether this is a management-heavy "charity".


And here we go with the politics again.

It's GPL vs all the other open source licenses. That's the way it's always been, and that's the way it always will be.

Those who think it'll stifle innovation by locking up novelty in proprietary code will chose GPL.

Those who think it'll stifle innovation by holding back adoption in the free market will chose one of the others.

And the two will NEVER meet. This is a religious war, and neither side will concede even an inch.

Meanwhile, the world goes on, people make things and money, and virtually nobody gives a shit about your arguments.


I think it sad that so many people are to hostile toward the GPL and the FSF, especially GPLv3 my license of choice.

I love the GPLv3 because it ensures user freedom all the way and I think people who claim that is not "open" because of that totally miss the point. It makes sure the software stays open for the users. But of course the big companies who want to close down their stuff, abuse open source to use in in their proprietary stuff they make just for profit maximization (debatable if this even makes a difference)

I see all the red Flags and I am totally with the articles author on this one. I mean Microsoft is part of the Linux foundation and all this huge companies. They are in there to push their agenda and its obviously not freedom and transparency for the user. I think its sad how many people here in the comment section are really fail to see it or intentionally side with this cooperations because they are somehow involved and actually put themselves over the users freedoms.

I wish Richard Stallman would be the same person as Linus Torvalds. I wish Linux would switch over to GPLv3 and a Linux Foundation would be headed by organizations like the EFF, FSF ... not some corrupt cooperations that are up to corrupting this great thing.

I think people should really learn to read between the lines, the signs are clear this is not good. Why would M$ have any interest in Linux or the desktop? Even the companies who use Linux heavy in their servers have actually years of investment into their software for the users that is often still only windows and macOS so why would they want to maintain/rewrite their stuff for Linux desktops? They care about their server farms not about how free their users are.

When big money is involved chances are that its not used for good but rather to gatekeep, protect and maximize.


I've always used licensing for indemnity and nothing more. Copyright enforcement is a pretty costly pursuit, and it's fairly unlikely anything that we develop would be worth that litigation, and the assumption that at no point we ourselves were not culprit of some other infringements allowing for counter-suit. so for just not being held responsible if someone uses something of ours that blows up in their face (possibly literally) I just stick with good old bsd.


I'd note that the Linux foundation is in charge of more then just Linux, and some of the other projects (i.e. Node.js or RethinkDB) use permissive licenses.


Corporations want to include code other people wrote, for free, and without any legal obligations or liability.

That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.


Not true - they wouldn't contribute if they thought everyone else would just take their code and not put something back themselves... that's why the GPL works!


What if Microsoft was secretly working on the next Windows incarnation as a proprietary GUI on top of a Unix like kernel much like as Google did with Android and to a lesser extent Apple did with MacOS? This way they could profit from the work of the community (device drivers, low level security etc) lowering their development and maintenance costs.

Being a big player in the Linux Foundation it could then make sense if they and others acted against any support of OSS Linux on the desktop.


I really wish the GNU folks would stop playing committee politics every chance they get, but then again thats what you get when an organization loosing all of it's real world power despite being on the winning side of an argument.


>> an organization loosing all of it's real world power

Could you elaborate on that ?


30 years ago the FSF was the dominant organization in an obscure open source movement, today they are a footnote in the history of an successful open source movement that have gone completely mainstream.

This process have left FSF without the resources to do anything but create drama inside the open source movement and predictably they have become the PETA of OpenSource concerned more with proving their own purity and commitment then anything else.


I'd say they prove their purity because that's what distinguishes them from the rest. Now, if you talk in terms of projects successfully backed/run by the FSF, you may be right, there are not as popular as they were.

But as guardians of the GPL ethos/politics, I'd say they do a good job (considering that this ethos hardly translates to money)


Follow the money; You'll know the truth;


The GPL and openness are incompatible.


This article is an insane rant. She didn't even spell the ED's name right - it's Zemlin. Did the author even ask the LF for a statement?


The tone of the article is very disturbing. I would think not supporting the GPL is a deadly sin if I did not know about open source licenses.

Furthermore, as it is mentioned, one person's article does not automatically determine the foundation's stance, especially if they "quietly removed" it.

Are there FSF snipers waiting around for anyone pointing out that their license is viral and restrictive?


I don't think anybody disputes that the GPL is viral and restrictive. The debate is about whether or not that's a bad thing.


Or maybe we disagree with using those particular terms, because of their negative connotations, even though we agree that the effect that they describe exist.


The GPL is a political statement, i.e. a matter of opinion and choice. Moreover, it didn't kill anybody so far, so it's not exactly questionable on that side. Therefore, it can't be good or bad. The question is simply does one agree with it or not...


I dispute both of those things. The GPL is neither viral nor restrictive.


The code might be Free™, but the developers who want to use it are very much restricted in what they can use the code for.

I guess it depends on if you think code, like corporations, should have personhood.


They can use it for whatever the hell they like.

It's distribution that comes with responsibilities as well as rights.


>I guess it depends on if you think code, like corporations, should have personhood.

I don't get this analogy.




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