GPL not encouraging new technology

Niall Douglas ned at
Fri Nov 29 15:00:47 UTC 2002

I'd be interested in what the list thinks regarding whether the GPL 
is good or bad for new advances in technology eg; startups.

I'll firstly offer my own position on this: the big problem I see 
with the GPL is that it does not make any money for vendors *except* 
when the product is already well-established and mature. If I were to 
come along with some radical completely new way of looking at 
computer software, my sole option under the GPL would be to do most 
of the initial work myself, then get volunteers onboard (difficult - 
there are not many programmers capable of thinking radically outside 
the box), and then after many years and a lot of hard work you'd have 
a product you possibly could provide support for and thus make your 
living out of it. Until that point, you'd probably have to work to 
support yourself and do the radical project in your own limited free 

Hence, I would feel that the GPL is bad for blue-sky technology 
startups. The GPL is excellent for developing a better version of 
already existing technology which cannot be stolen by others, but no 
use for creating new technology.

To prove this last probably contentious point, look at GNU/Linux. I 
personally cannot see anywhere in the entire system any completely 
unique technology. It's merely an improved version of existing know-
how. There's no real innovation in there AFAICS, not say like Plan 9 
or EROS is a reconception from the ground up.

Now I personally am not a free software advocate, never have been and 
probably never will (I come from an Acorn background) but I do see 
its utility against the shoddy practices of large multinationals. I 
personally have always supported the notion that you buy, not licence 
software and a binary alone isn't software - it comes with source. I 
also support a fair deal more freedom of use of a bought product but 
not so far as reselling it - so long as I get my cut of resales, I 
would be happy with whatever its end use.

So, hopefully you don't think me a troll. I am genuinely interested 
in what all your thoughts are.

Niall Douglas

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