[unrev-II] More on the GPL License

From: Jack Park (jackpark@thinkalong.com)
Date: Thu Sep 27 2001 - 07:29:38 PDT

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    This is a reasoned (no chest thumping) explanation of why these folks chose
    GPL. A worth read.


    "The GPL requires that all software derived from or even dynamically linked
    to a GPL'd Java class also be either GPL'd. Exceptions:
    ∑ if you never re-distribute the derived workófor instance, if you
    are an IT department developer for a corporation developing in-house
    software, you may use GPL'd code either through dynamic linking or by
    deriving new code from it
    ∑ we have a short rider to the GPL that also allow dynamic linking to
    other ∑ Open Source-licensed packages, such as the tools from the
    Apache ∑ Jakarta and ∑ XML projectsóbut you may not derive a new,
    non-GPL but open sourced code from any of our GPL'd code (no cut-and-paste

    For a small consulting and software company, the GPL suits us very well. It
    means we are free to offer our code to our clients doing in-house
    development, and it means competing software companies cannot fold our
    long-developed code into their commercial offerings. We put a great deal of
    effort into our code, and we do not want to put it into the public domain.
    However, we also want to make sure other open source projectsóeven non-GPL
    onesócan benefit, and thus the rider allowing runtime linking to our library.

    We considered and rejected a "shared source" type license that would allow
    our customers to see the source code but not redistribute any
    modifications. We strongly believe the open source Java community needs a
    solid, commercial-grade Java class library and tools, and so we did not
    want to hobble anyone's contributions. In the balance, we felt the GPL
    served all involved much better.

    We are not here to evangelize the GPL, nor have we done this in the service
    of some grand political end. It simply serves our needs, the needs of our
    customers, and (we hope) the needs of the community."

    Notice that tye claim to have appended a "short rider" to GPL to allow
    dynamic linking to nonGPL licensed products. Folks I have written to who
    already do this without any "rider" get awfully huffy when I ask them how
    they are able to do so.

    The reasons stated above are worthy reasons for using GPL. I, for one,
    agree with their attitude and approach. But, that attitude and approach in
    no way reflects the understanding I have of what the OHS/DKR project is
    about. OHS/DKR is, as I understand Doug, intended to be a stand-along,
    fully free, fully available software package the sole intent of which is to
    foster facilitated evolution of ever more powerful tools in the service of
    humanity. GPL simply stands in the way of such a vision.

    To those who would suggest that GPL is the best license alternative, I
    would ask that they articulate their vision, goals, and business models at
    least as well as the folks I have cited above.


    PS: what is extremely worrysome about the folks cited above is that they
    offer a GPL'd library of 750 Java classes to serve as foundations for
    client-server applications. I confess that my understanding of algorithms
    and software is limited, but it does strike me that it would be awfully
    hard for someone to write some code for, say, a ServerSocket routine
    sitting inside a threaded environment and NOT nearly duplicate the code
    these folks offer. Imagine the time we would all spend in court if the GNU
    folks ever began to audit the code we write. As a practical matter, I tend
    to suspect that GPL is, for most purposes, not worth the effort, and, in
    most cases -- again, as a practical matter -- not enforceable.

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