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Re: OSD && DFSG - different purposes - constructive suggestion!

Glenn Maynard <g_deb@zewt.org> writes:

> On Mon, Mar 10, 2003 at 03:46:57PM -0500, Brian T. Sniffen wrote:
>> As I said: existing mechanisms of licensing Free Software (e.g. GNU
>> GPL and MIT/X11) provide an impetus for improvement.  A
>> compulsory-sharing license, as might bring us closer to BrinWorld,
>> removes much of the financial incentive for such improvement.  In such
>> a world, the changes made, used, and later released by IBM, Red Hat,
>> Akamai, Apple... all wouldn't have been made, and our software
>> technology would be that much more primitive.
> "The GPL removes much of the financial incentive for such
> improvement."  After all, you have to provide source and you can't
> restrict people you sell copies to from giving it away for free, so
> the entire sales model of selling individual programs on the shelf,
> and licensing software per-seat, goes completely out the window.
> I disagree with this argument, of course (as everyone here probably
> does: it's true that the same sales model doesn't work, but it
> certainly hasn't stopped innovation), but your argument seems to be
> exactly the same.  Why is this argument valid for web applications
> where it's clearly wrong for other software?

Two reasons: First, because the argument about web applications is a
reduction in the marginal use value of a software improvement, not in
its sale value.  Second, this can be taken out of the realm of theory:
in practice, private companies make improvements to software they have
under the GPL, keep some of those improvements secret, and release
others.  Those same companies pass up the opportunity to improve
software where they do not have the option of keeping their
improvements secret.

(Admittedly, I've seen short-sighted companies scrambling for
profitability start rewriting their code so they could sell licenses,
excising all the GPL'd bits).

> (To be clear, I'm firmly against forced-sharing; the GPL goes far enough.  I
> just don't think this particular argument is valid.)
> -- 
> Glenn Maynard

Brian T. Sniffen                                        bts@alum.mit.edu

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