hypothetical(?) GPL problem

Marc Eberhard m.a.eberhard at aston.ac.uk
Thu Jun 28 09:06:29 UTC 2001


On Thu, Jun 28, 2001 at 12:45:50AM +0200, Xavi Drudis Ferran wrote:
> You see?. I loose my nerves too quick. They know their stuff. And many 
> of them even know what to attach to a message, but some do not. It is 
> just that I get easily angry when I get an MS Office format attachment

Patience is indeed very important.

> That's what I do at home, but I don't think I can do it at my job.

Why not? If they don't care about the format of documents sent to you, why
should you care for them to be able to read it? By the way: One secretary
told me, that mime type text/tex is not readable, because Eudora doesn't
recognize this format and refuses to display it, so it can't be plain text.
It was really a big surprise for her, when I asked her to save the file to
the disk and just open it with any editor... it was simple ASCII text... at
least she believes me more now then Eudora. :-)

> Well in fact I don't send them TeX files at home, I try to give example 
> and use formats that are both open and widespread enough for the recipient 
> to be likely to have a viewer, instead of taking vengeance. But maybe
> your strategy is better.

If you try to find a suitable format for them, they will never start to
think about the whole problem. Only when they receive a format, they can't
cope with, they will start to think. So it's not a matter of vengeance, it's
just a measure to make them start thinking about the whole issue.

> Mmmm... You may be right in part, and I may be wrong in another part.
> I think that frozen code becomes obsolete over time, but the code is not 
> usually frozen. It evolves gradually. And the GPL guarantees that this 
> evolution does not result in the code being propietary. The BSD style license
> (if I'm not mistaken) does not guarantee that a company (or an individual)
> won't take over and evolve the code fast enough that the original 
> freely available version becomes obsolete and nobody updates it because 
> they can still use the binary only proprietary version. This way what
> was originally free is at least partially lost.

Do you have something like the Mosaic -> Netscape (before the release of the
source code) thing in mind? Yes, this is a real danger. How often has this
happened in the past? Anyone knows more examples?

> You can argue that the original code is still there and anybody can 
> bring it up to date if he or she wants to. But I think that is less 
> likely to happen in BSD than in GPL, because in GPL that is the only 
> way to evolve the software (other than keeping the updated version 
> private). The benefits of having an up to date version usually outweight
> the benefits (if any) of the rest of the world not having it, so there
> is an incentive to take what is free and give back the update.

Or keep the code completely free of GPL'ed stuff, because the GPL is seen as
a danger. This is a bit of a worry for me, it might keep companies from
using free software entirely. But maybe it can be overcome by appropriate
informations from the free software world.

> I don't want to win "against" companies. I want to win "with" them, 
> or without them, or not to win. I don't even know what to "win" means.

I didn't mean to win against companies in a sense of some kind of a
struggle, but to win companies to use and produce free software. Or in other
words to encourage them and convince them, that free software is a good
thing for them too.

> Does it mean to do what one thinks is right?. Does it mean to see what 

Well, yes, I do think, that it is right, what I do.

> one uses or makes used by most people?. Does it mean to "destroy the enemy"?.

No, there is no enemy. We are talking about religions here. About ideas of a
better world. There is no enemy. There are only people, who have not yet
seen the light. :-)

> I don't see that the fact that companies can use BSD software in 
> more ways than GPL software really helps to win anything, if winning 
> means getting more freedom for all. 

I was more thinking of the difference between the GPL and the LGPL. I do
think too, that the BSD licence might be to free.

> I don't know. I have nothing against people (or companies) contributing 
> free software under BSD licenses. They can do what they please. But I 
> don't think I'll use a BSD license if I ever make something worth 
> sharing.

Same for me. But I'm still not sure, if I would use the LGPL or the GPL. I
did use the GPL, but that piece of software wasn't a library, so the choice
was clear. Maybe it's a good idea to use the GPL and to add a remark, that
other licences can be discussed, if someone sees a need for it. Then you can
always try to convince the company asking, to publish their sources too. :-)
I'm of course only referring to libraries here, because the LGPL doesn't
apply to programs, so only the GPL is really useful.

> Yes. But the question is also what of the two licenses' balance 
> of freedoms sustains itself better? 

I fully agree and that's what a huge part of this thread was about.

> It's not easy, but I think the FSF position is reasonable, it is a 
> matter of strategy.

I don't know. I would really like to hear more arguments from the FSF(E)
about their reasoning for this recommendation.


email: marc at greenie.net
email: m.a.eberhard at aston.ac.uk, web: http://www.aston.ac.uk/~eberhama/

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