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Re: It's time to talk about Free Software

>>>>> Vincent Murphy writes:

 VM>  what is certain (IMHO) is that the GPL doesn't suit all
 VM> software.  depending on who the author is, different levels of
 VM> legal protection are needed.  should we meet them halfway, and
 VM> create a reasonable license which they can all use, without
 VM> exceptions?  that way perhaps they won't have any excuses to make
 VM> their software anything other than completely free in the future.

I believe that no new license is needed.

All that needs to happen is for the company to require copyright
assignment contracts before they'll accept larger contributions.
Depending on the terms of the contract, they can ask you to give them
the right to relicense your code in whatever way they choose.
Including as proprietary software.

[The FSF requires this, but the assignment binds them always to
release your code as free software.]

I believe that's what Netscape actually wanted for Mozilla, but they
were too lazy to require legal paperwork, so they couched their
intentions in a license (the NPL/MPL) which sucks because we now we
can't mix their code with GPLed software and redistribute. :(

If, on the other hand, they licensed Mozilla as GPL, but said ``if you
want to get larger contributions into our archive, you have to assign
their ownership to us,'' everything would be peachy.

It's that implicit consent in the NPL that really turns me off.  I
wouldn't ever adopt Mozilla as my primary project.  The same goes for
anything that isn't GPL.  Call me a selfish bastard if you want, but I
like the idea of destroying companies that rely on non-disclosure to
make their profit.

The basic fact of the matter is that the GPL is the lowest-energy
license in existance that preserves the freedom of the software
(freedom as defined by the FSF), no matter how it is derived.  Any
other license either has more restrictions than the GPL does, or else
doesn't preserve the software's freedom.  I'd say that the GPL is both
``necessary'' and ``sufficient'' for total software freedom.

You know that when a binary includes GPL-licensed code, it's either
free software or the distributor has violated copyright law.  If it's
illegal, it's pretty easy to threaten the distributor into making it
free software.  I don't think that TrollTech actually *wanted* to make
Qt into ``real'' free software, but they had to choose between making
KDE legally questionable (because parts of it were pure GPLed, not
written by the KDE authors who could add special exceptions to their
license) or making Qt free.

Fortunately for all of us, they made Qt free.  I think if the
situation had persisted, and people got mad enough, the KDE folks
would be sitting with a couple of lawsuits on their hands from
upstream authors who didn't want to relicense their GPL code as ``GPL,
but you can link it against Qt if you want''.  That'd be bad press for
free software, and I'm glad TrollTech helped the KDE folks avoid it
(even if they both caused the situation in the first place).

I'm also happy about this because just a few months ago, MindTerm (a
Java implementation of the SSH protocol, http://www.mindbright.se/)
was under a lame not-for-commercial-use license, but then the author
wanted to use a GPLed Java class, so it was quickly relicensed as GPL.
Viral.  Effective.  I like it.

The LGPL is a close second, but it requires more energy, because when
a program includes LGPL-licensed code, you aren't guaranteed that it's
actually free software.  If the above Java class had been under LGPL,
I'm sure MindTerm would still be not-for-commercial to this day.

 VM>  i'd love to hear other peoples opinions on this, particularly if
 VM> you are from the FSF.  i'm probably totally off the mark about
 VM> this, in which case you should feel free to shoot me down in a
 VM> crimson streak of flame.  :)

I guess I'm from the FSF, but please don't take my opinion as
representing anybody but me.  RMS and I have enough disagreements as
it is without people misquoting me. ;)

 Gordon Matzigkeit <gord@fig.org> //\ I'm a FIG (http://www.fig.org/)
    Lovers of freedom, unite!     \// I use GNU (http://www.gnu.org/)
[Unfortunately, www.fig.org is broken.  Please stay tuned for details.]

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