Re: [unrev-II] More on the GPL License

From: Jack Park (
Date: Tue Oct 02 2001 - 08:29:12 PDT

  • Next message: Peter Jones: "Re: Rethinking Unrev (was Re: [unrev-II] Arundhati Roy's commentary on Sept 11 atrocity)"

    Here is what GNU has to say about the Netscape open source license, now
    known as MPL

    "The Netscape Public License, or NPL, as it was ultimately designed in
    1998, is a free software license--but it has three major flaws. One flaw
    sends a bad philosophical message, another puts the free software community
    in a weak position, while the third creates a major practical problem
    within the free software community. Two of the flaws apply to the Mozilla
    Public License as well. Because of these flaws, we urge that you not use
    the NPL or the MPL for your free software. "

    Here is the major complaint:
    "The most serious practical problem in the NPL is that it is incompatible
    with the GNU GPL. It is impossible to combine NPL-covered code and GNU
    GPL-covered code together in one program, not even by linking separate
    object files or libraries; no matter how this is done, it has to violate
    one license or the other.
    This conflict occurs because the GPL is serious about copyleft: it was
    designed to ensure that all changes and extensions to a free program must
    be free. So it does not leave a loophole for making changes proprietary by
    putting them into a separate file. To close this loophole, the GPL does not
    allow linking the copylefted program with code that has other restrictions
    or conditions--such as the NPL.
    Being incompatible with the GPL does not make a program non-free; it does
    not raise a fundamental ethical issue. But it is likely to create a serious
    problem for the free software community, dividing the code base into two
    collections that cannot be mixed. As a practical matter, this problem is
    very important.
    Solving this by changing the GPL is possible, but that would entail
    abandoning copyleft--which would do more harm than good. But it is possible
    to solve this problem with a small change in the NPL. (See below for a
    specific way of doing this.) "

    If I recall rightly, Mozilla recently dual-licensed their software. This,
    it seems to me, allows programmers to decide if they want their stuff to
    work with GPL (whoops! GNU GPL) and thus give up any proprietary claims on
    their work, or, to not work with GNU GPL and retain the opportunity to have
    closed source extensions to some other software (read: software other than
    that licensed under GNU GPL).

    This whole area of licensing gets interesting. Surf the web for software
    and you will routinely find whole projects that, when downloaded as a
    package, include chunks of software licensed under most all licenses,
    including GPL. But, the GPL license seems to forbid such combinations.

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