Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 2nd Sep 2009 12:41 UTC, submitted by nitsudima
GNU, GPL, Open Source David Chisnall casts a critical eye over the GNU General Public License and asks whether it's done more harm than good for the Free Software movement. "Looking back, has the GPL been a help, or a hindrance? And will it continue to be a help or hindrance in the future?"
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Comment by CrLf
by CrLf on Thu 3rd Sep 2009 17:31 UTC
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The author doesn't like the GPL, but fails to give convincing real world arguments as to why. Instead, he:

- confuses technological limitations with licensing issues. Ex: Apple is moving to clang not because of GPL issues but because it can be used as a library whereas modifying gcc would be very painful. On top of this they want LLVM because of the possibility of compiling to intermediate code and producing machine code on demand on the users' computers (think OpenCL);

- assumes companies are willing to publish changes when that doesn't contibute to their bottom line. They may run away from using GPLed code, but they also take BSD code into their products without giving any credit to the original project whatsoever. In many cases, this credit is more important that actual code;

- talks about how GPL can be circumvented which is totally beside the point. Just because it has flaws, that doesn't mean we have to choose the alternative (making those flaws the rule);

- confuses the FSF's agenda for the GPL with the actual reasoning of the developers for using it. These are completely different views, as proven by the utter failure of the GPLv3.

I don't think the GPL is the end-all be-all of the free software licenses. In fact, I mostly choose the MIT license (an even more permissive license than the BSD) for the code I publish. If it's something small, I don't care much about what people do with it. But if it is something bigger (i.e. something in which I spent more than a couple of hours), I don't want people to go around distributing modified versions without giving me credit and/or letting me see what those changes are (and use them, if I find them useful).

The more permissive licenses give freedom to the code, the GPL protects the developers' rights over their code (while giving mere users all the rights to do whatever they want with it). That's why the GPL is *very* popular, and why there wouldn't be any open source movement if it didn't exist.

Now, did I mention that the GPLv3 doesn't fit this scenario and that's why it is a failure? ;)

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