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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Mark Williamson
Member since:
2005-07-06

Some of the stuff about the history of the GPL is interesting. But it's all wrapped up in the premise of asserting that because the GPL doesn't do certain things well, or makes some corporate lawyers unhappy it is therefore lacking. The BSD license (and others) are cited as alternatives.

The guy isn't necessarily asserting that the GPL is a failure *overall* but that it fails at certain things he believes are important. Unfortunately the article mostly concentrates on these things, which does make it sound like he's suggesting the GPL is something of a failure overall.

But really, it's more complicated than that. A number of the failures he cites seem more like failures of the FSF's sometimes baffling political positions than of the GPL license itself. Much as I like the FSF in some ways, they are infuriating in others. The definition of failure is a bit hazy here, presumably the FSF regarded the prevention of what they saw as infringement by NeXT as being a success, regardless of how useful the code they obtained was.

To a certain extent the end part of the article seemed a bit like another salvo in the spurious license wars. Perhaps the intent was just to point out that the GPL isn't the be all and end all, which is true. Or that the BSD license might have oft-overlooked contributions to make to encouraging upstream contributions - also true. But, really, I wish people would just accept the the Free licenses are a spectrum of possibilities. None of the popular licenses are "fully free" - they just preserve the freedoms that the author thought most important. Any use that complies with the license is a use that the author implicitly allowed with when they chose it. All of the licenses have advantages and disadvantages for both commercial contributors and private users.

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