ExtJS licencing

Sam Liddicott sam at liddicott.com
Thu Nov 12 11:39:51 UTC 2009

* Simon Morris wrote, On 12/11/09 07:51:
> Hello,
> I'm looking at ExtJS as a Javascript library for building UIs. It is
> dual licenced under GPL and a commerical licence.
> http://www.extjs.com/products/license.php
> Doing some research I came across one blog that suggests that the
> licencing model is harmful to Free Software
> http://pablotron.org/?cid=1556
> What is the lists opinion on this? Is ExtJS using the licence fairly and
> is it considered ethical to use the library based on the blogs
> criticisms?

(Trying to head-off a flame war) the simpler question might be to find 
who considers it ethical and who considers it un-ethical - FSF members 
and fans tend to agree on a small set of ethical principles, and a 
smaller set of means to achieve or maintain them.

We may also consider where and when and it what ways it is harmful to 
free software and where and when and it what ways it is beneficial to 
free software - for such answers are not fixed against such a varying scope.

Some FSF fans an members will have broad or long views, and others will 
have short term or pragmatic (a very inflammatory word) views; there are 
many ways from A to B - some are preferred for their holiness and some 
are preferred for being actually traversable within certain constraints.

The answers to these points depend to a great degree on whose interests 
are being represented by the answerer. Sometimes it may be the interests 
of a real set of software users, sometimes it may be in the interests of 
an abstract composite software user. Sometimes it may be in the 
interests of getting a commercial body to make a single step towards 
software freedom.

My own short view is that those who buy such licenses support some 
development of free software, and that such a situation also restricts 
collaboration from those who don't want their contributions locked away 
like that.

I think it does not directly harm free software (only by effectively 
withholding deeper co-operation) but it may be seen to adjust the 
balance of the software eco-system affecting the decisions of others; 
i.e. such dual licenses present a "dangerous" middle-ground that is more 
attractive (making it all the more "dangerous").

As a harm, I think it is indirect - as a consequence of not directly 
supporting free software aims, and I think it can't be said to be more 
harmful that fully closed source although the pain may be felt more 
deeply through being inflicted by those who "are supposed to be friends".

I prefer to think of the author as offering a free-software version of 
an otherwise closed product and so consider it a net benefit, but 
perhaps it makes an only-free version less worth developing.

In short, if you want a decision to be formally "blessed" you will be 
better to either decide who you want to do the blessing or what it is 
you want to be blessed.


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