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Re: GPL v LGPL for libraries

On Tue, Dec 15, 1998 at 05:24:56PM +0100, J.H.M. Dassen wrote:
> On Tue, Dec 15, 1998 at 10:54:38 -0500, Dale Scheetz wrote:
> > The move to LGPL increases the freedom of software because it allows
> > non-GPL software (which is still free under another license) to
> > "incorporate" such libraries without incorporating the GPL as the license.
> That's just one side of the story. The other side is that having libraries
> GPLed rather than LGPLed can help non-free software becoming GPLed. Readline
> being GPL-ed rather then LGPL-ed made ncftp free.


The GPL and LGPL are both completely sound from the standpoint of free
software ethics.  Which one an author uses is completely up to him or
her, and they shouldn't receive any static for picking either one.

Some folks will want to GPL their libraries because they don't want
closed-source software to use them.  With LGPL'ed libraries, Ty Coon
from the Yoyodyne Corporation might start selling something like, oh,
an office suite to Linux enthusiasts under a shareware or "free for
non-commercial use license".  One consequence of that is that it may
help to choke development of free competitors.  After all, if you've
got a user base that says, "well, I don't want to pay much/anything
for my underlying operating system and libraries, but I don't mind
shelling out bucks for games/word processors/spread sheets/big iron
DBMS's/transaction processors/etc.", then you've got a much-reduced
testing/debugging/assistance pool for any fledgling free projects of
those types.

Most free software non-puritans are willing to compromise on at
least one of the above categories.  While I won't be so negative
as to say that this presents a permanent barrier to development of
free alternatives, I think it's safe to say that it does present an
impediment and a slowing effect.

The LGPL is good for folks who perhaps come from a more BSD-type
mentality.  They want it out there, they don't care who uses it or links
against it, and that's cool.

But we shouldn't be harassing or trying to marginalize authors who
write a library and GPL it.  They're doing more for the free software
community in the long run.

Finally, before I get flamed, I'd like to acknowledge that the author of
any original piece of software has the right to license it however he
pleases.  As a libertarian, I adopt a laissez-faire attitude.  However,
within the smaller context of "the free software phenomenon", one can
make finer distinctions.  We can't really be taken to task for calling
MS's characterization of Internet Explorer as "free" a crock.  It's
most certainly not free.  For this reason the "branding" of Open Source
is important because it will (hopefully) discourage false advertising
now that free software is the cool new kid on the computer industry's
block.  By the same token, it's not in any way hyprocritical or wrong
to point out when a particular software license is not really promoting
the ideals of free software.  This is particularly important when said
software is designed to work with free software or presented in that

If Red Hat is actually guilty of trying to purge GPL'ed software (of
any kind) from their distribution, or of harrassing the authors of such
to change their license to something they consider more compatible with
their capacity to generate profit, then they deserve the sternest of
criticism, and perhaps we're the people to issue a statement to that

G. Branden Robinson              |
Debian GNU/Linux                 |        "Bother," said Pooh, as he was
branden@ecn.purdue.edu           |        assimilated by the Borg.
cartoon.ecn.purdue.edu/~branden/ |

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