Licensing Open Source in General

Bernhard Rosenkraenzer bero at
Tue Feb 19 03:03:46 CST 2002

On Mon, 18 Feb 2002, Roland wrote:

> I think one of the main reason for the xGPL is that developers have the 
> fear that their project might be hijacked and their work used to make 
> profit by some companies. As Brett Glass pointed out, this is not a fair 
> point of view. After all if a companies adds value to a project by creating 
> new features why shouldn't it be allowed to sell it and make money out of 
> it?

It *IS* a fair point of view - if someone just adds a bit of value, why 
should they be able to make loads of cash of the much bigger original work 
without giving anything back?

Selling a proprietary fork of an open source application is much more like 
stealing a car, giving it a new paint, and then selling it.
The thief added value (the new paint), so by your argumentation, he 
should be able to make money of it and what he's doing is perfectly ok.

> The GPL prevents this from happening but where is the advantage in 
> that?

Forcing everyone to contribute, preventing this type of theft.

There are of course some sane compromises:
- The Qt way of doing things - GPL the library, but sell different 
  licensing. Forces everyone to contribute, if not through code, through
  paying those who do.
- A GPLish license with an addition allowing for delays ("You must release
  the source to any modified version you make after 3 months") allows them
  to get the advantage of being the first on the market while making them
  contribute, sort of permitting what Transgaming does.
  The problem with this is that in 3 months, a lot can happen and chances
  are most patches won't apply anymore.

> I think the GPL retricts software development because many good 
> projects cannot be done by companies because they are not allowed to use 
> any GPL code as basis of their products.

They are, if they choose to go by sane licenses.
Releasing products as Open Source certainly hasn't hurt companies that 
aren't scared of doing it.

On the contrary: Stronghold used to be proprietary before Red Hat bought 
the company making it. Now it's open source and the moment that happened, 
the sales numbers actually went UP (and the price is still roughly the 

The problem is that many companies refuse to even consider sane licenses, 
not that they couldn't do it.

> Personally I keep wondering if it would be that bad if we had a company 
> producing a better version of WINE than the free one. Why should this be 
> bad?

- it would take users (and therefore potential developers) away from the 
  real version.
- why should someone who made just a couple of changes make lots of profit
  from (mostly) someone else's work without giving anything back to that
  someone else? It's certainly not fair.

> Apple based his OS X on lots of free software and contributed back a lot:
> This wouldn't be possible with Linux I think.

See, and for some counterexamples.

I dare to claim that Linux distributors have done a lot more for Linux 
than Apple has done for the BSDs, partially because licenses forced them 
to give back rather than just keeping things closed.
Apple still refuses to release their UI code - would you like to run a 
proprietary KDE or GNOME on your machine? That's what we might have if the 
licenses were BSD, and I know I'd hate it.


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