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

I don't think so, you contribute to GPL because you are forced or get sued by the FSF, to the BSD you contribute because you want to, not forced.

Some may contribute to the GPL by will also, but is better not to be obligated.


I think you missed the main point of my post - that many companies use the GPL knowingly and therefore are willing contributors. They weren't forced to use GPL code, they chose to use it because they were willing to release their changes.

Nobody can force somebody to contribute to GPL projects if they haven't used GPL code in the first place. If companies aren't willing contributors to upstream then they shouldn't integrate GPLed code, since it's not best for them or the community.

The point was that companies need to make a choice up front about contributing back to GPL code, since if they don't want to contribute they should not use it at all. With BSD they can decide later on. The BSD way is less effort for the company but doesn't mean they GPL forced them into doing anything, it just requires them to plan ahead if they want to use it.

Plenty of companies are aware of this choice and are happy to make it - they are not being forced into anything if they knew the consequences of working with GPL code in the first place.

Reply Parent Score: 5

Hiev Member since:
2005-09-27

I think you don't understand mine, the fact that the companies are aware of the GPL before contributing, doesn't mean they do it pleasently, they may be doing it because they have to, not because they entirely agree.

Reply Parent Score: 1

Mark Williamson Member since:
2005-07-06

I think you don't understand mine, the fact that the companies are aware of the GPL before contributing, doesn't mean they do it pleasently, they may be doing it because they have to, not because they entirely agree.


Yeah, OK. I don't think we are really saying different things, so much as coming from different points of view.

The thing I really disagreed with was the word "force", which makes it sound like companies have no choice but to contribute source code. They do have a choice because they can decide upfront whether to get involved with GPLed stuff or to use a proprietary or BSD-licensed alternative, so they're not really being forced into anything.

But they are required to participate in a relatively "expensive" form of "payback" for their use of the code, whereas in the case of BSD-licensed stuff any contributions are more of a "donation". If they want to use the source code but "pay" the minimal amount of community contributions in return then it's usually a wasted effort - the random GPLed vendor code that usually gets thrown over the wall in these cases often seems to have very little use to the community.

I would imagine that when companies contribute to a BSD-licensed upstream it would more often be a good faith attempt to engage with the community, which is an advantage. I can't see it ever being worth a company's time to just throw some BSD licensed code out and then run away. But the GPL does have other advantages which - to certain companies - may encourage willing good-faith contributions which they wouldn't have made otherwise. Both licenses have a place, I think.

Reply Parent Score: 3

ralsina Member since:
2007-08-14

That's like saying you are forced to use condoms with prostitutes "at gunpoint" because you will get a STD if you don't.

You (the company) decide to sleep with a prostitute (use GPL code) knowing the license requirements (condom usage) and the consequences for failing to fulfill them: a lawsuit (STD) or license refusal (no happy ending).

If knowing that you still decided to use the prostitute's services, then that's your own problem, and noone is forcing you to do anything, much less at gunpoint.

Reply Parent Score: 1