Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd Jan 2012 19:12 UTC
GNU, GPL, Open Source Late last year, president Obama signed a law that makes it possible to indefinitely detain terrorist suspects without any form of trial or due process. Peaceful protesters in Occupy movements all over the world have been labelled as terrorists by the authorities. Initiatives like SOPA promote diligent monitoring of communication channels. Thirty years ago, when Richard Stallman launched the GNU project, and during the three decades that followed, his sometimes extreme views and peculiar antics were ridiculed and disregarded as paranoia - but here we are, 2012, and his once paranoid what-ifs have become reality.
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tanishaj
Member since:
2010-12-22


The GPL is completely moot when a user uses a GPL based work. It comes into effect ONLY when the work is about to be distributed and hence you are no longer talking of users but of distributors when discussing GPL restrictions. users != distributors, this is an important distinction to make.


You and I seem to have a completely different understanding of the Open Source and Free Software movements. I think a huge part of it is about giving all users the power to be distributors. I would expect Richard Stallman to agree with me on that point.

From the FSF website:

"Free software is software that gives you the USER the freedom to SHARE, study and modify it. We call this free software because the user is free." (emphasis mine)

Perhaps more importantly, your assertion that the GPL does not impact users is quite false. If you cannot distribute software to me then I cannot use it. As a "user", I do not see software like Lego pieces; I may not want to or be able to combine software from different sources myself.

Just like a proprietary license, the GPL restricts how software from different sources can be combined. You are correct that as a "user" I can combine them on my own machine for my own use. Of course, to realistically do that I have to be a developer. If I am a developer, I am probably a "distributor" of software and not just a "user".

Another class of "user" is somebody that is using software as part of their business. The business does not have to be software-oriented to still want to "distribute" software.

For example, I wrote an employee benefits management package a few years ago for an insurance broker that used some GPL software in a few places. Some of this system was available to his clients via a website. Some clients wanted to be able to run the software off a CD locally to support remote staff (Alaska) or workers in the field (away from the office). This was not possible because he would have become a "distributor".

From my client's point of view, the software that I had provided restricted the use of that software in his business quite significantly. Also, the clients could not "use" the software the way they wanted because he could not "distribute" it to them in this way. The software generated PDF documents and populated a database that took the place of hand-written forms and faxed documents. The business was not charging any money for the software. The clients had no need for the software other than as a component of the non-technology service (insurance and benefits management) that he provided to them.

It could well be that the GPL is the best model. I am not arguing for or against it. I have two points:

- The license terms certainly do impact users. Whether or not that impact is worth it or not is a different debate.

- A string distinction between "users" and "distributors" seems contrary to the goals of the Free Software movement. The GPL creates this distinction more than many Open Source licenses

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