hypothetical(?) GPL problem

Alessandro Rubini rubini at gnu.org
Wed Jun 20 14:04:04 UTC 2001

> Seems that tactics and politics are more important then the original idea of
> freedom for software...

Well, I don't see it as negatively. This kind of reasoning (at least
as you express it above) reminds me of the "BSD is better because you
are free not to release source of your derivative work: you have more
freedom than with a GPL package".

The idea has always been more in the lines of "do ut des": I give my
software if you give me back yours (that uses mine, otherwise I have
no say in your licensing policies). And it seems a fair game to me.

> I trust RMS having thought about this for quite a
> while, before suggesting to go along this way.

Yes, I think so.  And it works for me.  My experience with libbarcode
(my only GNU package, very small as well) is that a customer asked me
if he could include the libraray in his proprietary program. While he
can do that for internal use (and this links with the original
question), if he publishes the result he can't, and a (GPL) wrapper is
needed.  The wrapper, in this case, is not a huge technical problem,
but it gives advantage to free software programs over a proprietary
ones. Proprietary programs must be kept separate from the library, and
this is something that hopefully will reach a few of the end users.
Some libraries are less wrappable, some are more. All in all, i think
it's a fair game.

And this stuff leads directly to the issue of ASP (application service
providers). I see this kind of "service" a threat to both free
software (which can get proprietarized) and to people freedom.

Company P can use my free library inside their web server to deliver
.png barcode images to the end user. The end user will never know that
it's produced by a modified free package. Still worse, a company can
filter user data very transparenltly (the user runs a client that
sends data to be filtered to the company), and ask payment each time
the service is used.  Think for example of a "compiling service"
for cpu-driven devices. What if the compiler is a modified GCC?

I think *this* is an issue. Hope the GPLv3 will address it, but I
really can't think how it can (very-restrictive licenses are not
unilateral: the user must agree to the license. Do you remember
about http://www.freeworldlicence.org/ , (passed here in December).

And yes, the more I think about the original question, the more I'm
convinced it can be done. Well, companies are already distributing
binary stuff that the user must link with the Linux kernel (like the
disk-on-chip driver: I used it, no thanks).


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