Wine license change: it's about time!

Dimitrie O. Paun dimi at
Thu Feb 7 09:00:08 CST 2002

On Thu, 7 Feb 2002, Dan Kegel wrote:

> It's about time.  Putting Wine under the xGPL is the best way
> I can think of to ensure its future.  The xGPL makes it possible
> for competitors to cooperate for their common good - which is pretty amazing.

This is a fundamental point which we haven't had a chance of discussing
last time as we argued over silly future (unlikely) possible changes in
copyright law.

One important argument was that building a thriving economic environment
around Wine is essential for its success.

Everybody agreed on this premise, IIRC.

The argument followed that BSD license is better for creating such an
environment, and hence better for Wine, since more business will
contribute more code back.

This, I'm afraid, is entirely false.

I argue that in fact, the BSD license is a STRONG DETERANT for businesses
to contribute code back, while the LGPL provides an INCENTIVE.

Note that I do not care, for the purpose of this discussion, about
businesses which don't intend to contribute code back. They are of no help
to Wine, and thus irrelevant (if not a little harmful, for reasons so
eloquently explained by Alexandre).

A BSD license is a STRONG DETERANT for a business to contribute code
back. The reason for this is that they have no guarantee that another
business will not improve a little the code, and thus get a competitive
advantage. Or that other companies will not use that code on top of the
code they wrote but not released, and thus again, get that edge. This is a
fantastic _deterant_ for releasing code back. In fact, Gav validated
exactly this point when he tried to argue for the BSD license last time:

  <talking about the DCOM work>
  But there are companies out there who will benefit significantly 
  from commercial use of this code, and who can afford to sponsor a 
  portion of the development cost.  Until such a sponsorship happens, 
  we cannot apply the WineHQ license to that code.  

In other words, they needed that code. They invested some money do get
it. They are happy with the results. Why not release the code? They have
what they needed in the first place? The reason is clear -- it cost them
to get there, they can not aford to bring everybody there for free. I can
100% understand that. But if the code was under the LGPL, it would not
matter, because even if they brought everybody there, other companies
could not step ahead of them, since if they did, they themselves could
have used that code.

In other words, TG could have kept Direct3D proprietary, released
everything else back under LGPL, and they could have _known_ they still
have the competitive edge in the D3D work! This is why the LGPL is in fact
an _incentive_ for such colaboration.

Bottom line is clear: as the project matures and becomes more useful, the
deterant of contributing code back from a business perspective is going to
greatly increase, while at the same time, the incentive under the LGPL
would have also increased.

In economic terms, for Wine, one spells death, the other, life.


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