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I worked at an open source startup once. I was -shocked- to repeatedly run into the misconception that because the code was open source, anything -using- the code was open source.

I saw several potential sales get tanked because the customer had an advisor who believed that if they used open source to develop their website, they would no longer own the content. For example, a furniture company thought they would lose control of their pictures of the furniture. Another blog style site thought they would lose control of the blog posts they wrote. Literally, I am not making this up. It's like believing that Microsoft owns your document because you wrote it in Word.

No amount of discussion, examples, or logic would dissuade them. I can't imagine how this idea survives, but I saw it as recently as a month ago in a comment here on HN (which of course I can't find right now), so it's not completely isolated.

I'm not sure open source was a net win for the startup I worked at. Due to complicating some sales and assisting a few competitors, it wasn't a clean slam dunk.




Dollars to donuts, I bet its because of the GPL license. People hear about it and then extrapolate. If you're not GPL then you need to make it clear that you're not a copyleft license. If you are GPL then its trickier because you have to call out what sorts of assets and distribution mechanisms are covered.


You're contributing to the misinformation with a blatantly false statement like this. I'm not going to argue with you (again) on your misstatements about the GPL, but I did want to call it out as being obviously wrong, lest anyone read your comment and take it as somehow sensible.

The GPL provides more freedom to the end user than any commercial license, and it is deeply disingenuous to keep spreading FUD that indicates otherwise.


Tell me a single lie stated in that post.


"If you are GPL then its trickier because you have to call out what sorts of assets and distribution mechanisms are covered."

This is a straight up lie. We were discussing assets like pictures, blog posts, etc. None of these assets, distributed in any way, would ever be affected by the license of the software used to build the website on which they appear. Just like the text you edit in Word is not owned by Microsoft and the photo you edit with Photoshop is not owned by Adobe.

There is nothing tricky about the GPL (or any other Open Source license) in this context (or really in any other, since the license is extremely well-documented), and it is FUD to suggest otherwise.


This is a straight up lie. We were discussing assets like pictures, blog posts, etc. None of these assets, distributed in any way, would ever be affected by the license of the software used to build the website on which they appear.

I didn't say they were. I said you'd have to explain it. You'd have to make a distinction about code, non-code, services, shipping code, etc...

Otherwise this same company says, we can use this same code to compile with this fancy new HTML5/Javascript compiler and deploy on iPhone. The nice sales guy said that we don't need to be concerned with the GPL license. Uh oh. If only he would have spent five minutes telling us how the GPL worked. (That said, I'm not really sure what the OP's product provided, to know what other assets would be effected, if any. So this scenario is purely speculative)

My point, you do need to explain the GPL in more detail than many other open source licenses. The OP made this clear in the real world from the fact that potential customers didn't undertand it.

But I think this is the problem with the GPL movement. They're in such disbelief that people may not understand they flame anyone who takes the time to explain it.


Otherwise this same company says, we can use this same code to compile with this fancy new HTML5/Javascript compiler and deploy on iPhone. The nice sales guy said that we don't need to be concerned with the GPL license. Uh oh. If only he would have spent five minutes telling us how the GPL worked.

None of those are rights you would have with commercial software. You can't redistribute Word or Photoshop or Camtasia, and you can't bundle them up with a new UI and call it your own work and sell it on the iPhone. The GPL just happens to give you some ways to go about doing so that would have been illegal under commercial licenses. The end user has more rights under the GPL than they would under commercial licenses, generally speaking, and it is disingenuous to keep repeating FUD that says otherwise.

My point, you do need to explain the GPL in more detail than many other open source licenses. If you disagree, I say you're the liar.

We are discussing content like blog posts and photo assets. There are no discussions to be had about the license of the software used to distribute them, as it has no affect on them.

So, yes, I disagree with you, and I don't understand how you can come to your conclusions. They simply do not make sense in this context. You're making outlandish claims about the GPL that simply are not true, and defending them against all reason.

This is why I really didn't want to discuss this with you, again. You clearly have a bone to pick with the GPL that makes no sense to me, and you repeatedly spread FUD about its power to control end users, with no regard for facts.


So, yes, I disagree with you, and I don't understand how you can come to your conclusions. They simply do not make sense in this context.

Read the OP and the fact that his customers were having this confusion. You seem to think the confusion doesn't exist.

And I don't have a bone to pick with the GPL. It's a great license for some stuff. With that said if I'm selling product using the GPL and a customer comes to me with a question about it, I'll explain it. I won't yell at them, or call them idiots, or say, "how dare you question getting more freedom, you liar!"


Read the OP and the fact that his customers were having this confusion. You seem to think the confusion doesn't exist.

No, I think that comments like the one you made contribute to this confusion. I think the confusion exists because of comments like yours (as he also mentioned, there are even people here at HN that are actually confused, and not intentionally spreading FUD). I don't believe that you, specifically, are responsible for all of the confusion about the GPL, but I believe that enough people making false statements about the scope and power of the GPL can add up to real problems for users and developers. That this was one of the FUD tactics of Microsoft regarding the GPL for a number of years makes me perhaps even more sensitive about it. At one point in time, not too far past, that kind of claim was part of the FUD war Microsoft (and other proprietary vendors) waged against Free software.

In short, I believe that people who make statements like yours confuse people into thinking the GPL is something that it is not, and I would like it if people like you, who presumably actually know better, would stop making misleading statements like the one you made. I don't want people to be confused.

So, if you'll simply stop trying to confuse people with misstatements about the GPL, I won't feel compelled to keep arguing with you about it.

And I don't have a bone to pick with the GPL.

A brief review of your comment history when the GPL comes up seems to indicate otherwise.


It might help your case if you didn't call people liars so eagerly, since in the end the "lie" turns out to be merely a "confusing" statement. Especially if the confusing statement was essentially the GPL is confusing to people, and if you're going to use it be prepared to explain it well, which seems to be a statement that you actually agree with.

Don't be super sensitive and interpret everything as an attack on your religion. That's going to scare people away from the GPL. Businesses want competitive advantages, not a religion to subscribe to.


The statement was "confusing" because it was a "lie". As in, people could be confused by what kenjackson said, because the words he wrote were not true.

I'm not interpreting it as an attack. It is an attack, and relatively common type of attack regularly employed by folks who dislike the GPL (as I mentioned, Microsoft once used it with regularity, but they aren't the only ones, and they've been off that particular horse for a while, I think). I'm merely calling it out. I've been involved in Open Source software long enough to have seen a lot of FUD from a lot of different angles. Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is obvious. This one is an old dead horse that's been beaten to a pulp, but folks still like to trot it out now and then (or roll it out in a wheelbarrow, or something).


> I don't believe that you, specifically, are responsible for all of the confusion about the GPL, but I believe that enough people making false statements about the scope and power of the GPL can add up to real problems for users and developers

People make incorrect statements about the scope and power of GPL because it is the most complex of the free/open licenses, and it is not well drafted. Even Stallman has made incorrect statements about the scope and power of GPL on occasion (mainly be forgetting that if a proposed use of some GPL software would not be a copyright violation absent a license, then GPL does not apply to that proposed use). If he can't get it right all the time, it's not reasonable to expect people who weren't intimately involved in its design and drafting to do so.


I haven't made a single misleading statement. How about this, when someone does come to me with a statement about the GPL I'll just say, "It's too confusing for me apparently. GPL advocates have asked me to remain silent on the issue, so I can offer no advice." That will be my new official stance, on HN at least.

"And I don't have a bone to pick with the GPL.

A brief review of your comment history when the GPL comes up seems to indicate otherwise."

I've only spoken the truth. I realize that freedom for you means others not having the right to speak, so I'll cease my conversation on it for this thread to appease your desire for all-encompassing freedom.


All I've ever asked of you is that you not say untrue things about Open Source software and the GPL license, because I believe it harms users and developers. You're trying to play the martyr here, but what you've said about the GPL here, and in other threads, is simply and demonstrably untrue. Those mistruths spread the confusion you claim to want to alleviate.


I don't think he said anything untrue.

He said people can be confused by it. By definition, all he needs to do is find one person who is confused and what he says isn't untrue.


If I wrote a GPL'ed Javascript library that included a Base64 encoded image, would that image be GPL'ed? Why is that different if the person uploads an image which is then Base64 encoded?

I know the answer, I guess you know the answer, and I suspect most people here know the answer.

But it does need explaining, and to raise the complexity as an issue isn't a "straight-up lie".


Why? The license commercial software uses gives you no rights to do much of anything, yet nobody thinks Adobe owns photos edited in Photoshop. Why should granting more rights change that? It makes no sense to me.

Edit: And GPL already calls out what is covered. Source code. It's incredibly clear.


Why you ask?

The license commercial software uses gives you no rights to do much of anything, yet nobody thinks Adobe owns photos edited in Photoshop.

Exactly. No one thinks that with Adobe. Yet as the original poster pointed out, people do have confusion with open source licenses.

Why should granting more rights change that? It makes no sense to me.

Rights granted with GPL aren't strictly more to the person deploying the GPL code.

And GPL already calls out what is covered. Source code. It's incredibly clear.

The GPL definition of source code is the following:

The "source code" for a work means the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it.

Honestly, I'm not sure exactly what that means. I have a good idea, but if deploying with it, I'd certainly get a lawyer involved.


Because of propaganda. Developers and managers at commercial software companies contribute to it. They call the GPL viral or infectious. The FSF needs to up its own propaganda game to counter this non-sense :/


It looks like the propaganada of calling the GPL "infectious" and "cancerous" has worked. It's sad that some programmers continue to call the GPL viral because it gives an overly negative connotation. I understand if you dislike the license, but attacking it is basically attacking open source licenses in general.


Surely this would be easy to counter? Where would you even begin creating, say, a website without using any OSS?




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