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Re: GPL & Possible Derivative Work

On Sat, Jun 18, 2005 at 09:49:44PM -0700, Michael K. Edwards wrote:
> > I've seen a whole lot of GPL'd code.  It's awfully hard to make money
> > writing GPL'd code.  Should I be looking for a new career?
> It's not so hard to make money writing code for a specialized purpose
> (such as a scalability test harness for a telecoms company's product)
> and offering GPL terms as a "square deal" between consultant (who can

It's possible to make money writing GPL'd code--it's just harder.  (That's
just a simple practical matter: it can be hard to get a job writing code
at all, much less one that allows you to use the GPL; it's hard to make
money selling software, much less with the GPL's restrictions.)  Much of
my own work is released under the MIT license; it's clearly possible.

The point was simply that if, after looking at huge reams of GPL code (which
many free software programmers do, over the course of time), you couldn't
write anything closely related to what you'd seen except under the GPL,
you'd have a pretty serious problem.  I just don't think that's the case;
I don't claim to know exactly where the boundary is for a "derived work" in
these cases, but I don't think someone who's worked on the Linux kernel
is branded for life, forbidden from working on a non-GPL kernel.

> reuse the code elsewhere) and client (who can hire someone else for
> the next proposal cycle).  It's not even that hard to wear a "free
> software" face for PR purposes and still monopolize the market for
> tech support, customization services, and license to embed within a
> more complex product.  What looks hard from where I'm sitting is to
> make the former scale beyond three guys in a garage, or to retain your
> soul in the course of the latter.

Most of that is hard to do freely.  In practice, it's possible to forbid
embedding in certain environments, since many embedded environments are
practically GPL-incompatible.

(Well, "embed in a more complex product" can be done with patch clauses,
which can make code reuse next to impossible.  Incidentally, that's one
place where I disagree with the DFSG; I just don't believe patch clauses
are free.)

Glenn Maynard

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