Licensing Open Source in General

Roland roland at
Tue Feb 19 10:49:26 CST 2002

At 10:03 AM 2/19/02 +0100, Bernhard Rosenkraenzer wrote:

>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?

No one will make loads of cash by just adding a bit of value. Why? Simply 
because no one would pay them much for that. It would be simpler to add 
that bit of value yourself or hire a programmer to do that in a weekend. 
People would only pay for big improvements, like Lindows, they invested 
around 5 million AFAIK.

>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.
First of all, you cannot steal something that is already free. But lets 
apply the rest of your analogy:
Suppose the car is under a BSD license, which means everyone can get one 
for free. Now, someone gets the car, gives it a new paint and sells that 
product. How much would you pay him? Of course, since you can get that very 
same car for free also, you would only pay him the amount equivalent for 
the paint + the work involved in painting. If he wanted to charge you 
10.000 for the painted car, you would laugh on his face, get that car for 
free and paint it yourself over the weekend(or pay someone else to do 
that). But if he charged you 40 $, you would probably pay him, since he as 
a professional would do a better job and you wouldn't have to make your 
hands dirty. In effect that 40 would probably be cheaper than the money it 
would cost you to do the job yourself, if you also count the time 
investment necessary on your side.
So I think this business model is perfectly ok!
This is the great advantage of the BSD license. It enables business. With 
the BSD license applied to your analogy we soon would have lots of 
businesses created to enhance the car: Painting, Putting sound equipment to 
the car, increasing the engine power, etc...Customers interested in one 
enhancement or the other would be willing to pay for it. Eventually one 
enhancement would be so popular that a group of volunteers would integrate 
it into the original car.

What would be the GPL equivalent in your analogy: you can have the car for 
free, but any enhancements you make have to be given back at 0 cost also. 
Now suppose a guy wants to make the paint job. He will have to make it for 
free! So no one would do that of course. The result of this would be that 
if you want to paint the car you will have to do it yourself. Or you have 
to wait till someone else wants to do it and give it back for free 
afterwards. The GPL discourages business...
Of course there are still business models possible, though restricted, for 
example: you hire the guy for painting the car as you wish. But that means 
you pay him in advance. And if this has been done one else has to 
pay for it again...

> > The GPL prevents this from happening but where is the advantage in
> > that?
>Forcing everyone to contribute, preventing this type of theft.
As I said, you cannot steal what is already free.

>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.

Hmm, that might be true in some cases, especially where the software 
requires some kind of specialized support, where you pay more for the 
support than the software itself.

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

I don't consider the xGPL to be that sane anymore.

> > 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.

If that was true no one would be making Mozilla, OpenOffice, even Linux. 
When Linux started the proprietary Unix was MUCH better.
History showed, that the opensource Linux was capable of catching up with 
UNIX and even become better.

>- 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.

Read above again. If you want to make big money you will have to invest 
MUCH. It is fair to get a corresponding return for that.

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.

I wonder how profitable the Linux distributions are...and will be in the 
long run...


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