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Linguistic Problems of GPL Advocacy

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the shouting-across-the-divide dept.

GNU is Not Unix 633

Reader Chemisor advances a theory in his journal that a linguistic misunderstanding is at the root of many disagreements over different licensing philosophies, in particular BSD vs. GPL. The argument is that GPL adherents desire the freedom of their code, while those on the BSD side want freedom for their projects. "It is difficult to spend a week on Slashdot without colliding with a GPL advocate. Eager to spread their philosophy, they proselytize to anyone willing to listen, and to many who are not. When they collide with a BSD advocate, such as myself, a heated flamewar usually erupts with each side repeating the same arguments over and over, failing to understand how the other party can be so stupid as to not see the points that appear so obvious and right. These disagreements, as I wish to show in this article, are as much linguistic as they are philosophical, and while the latter side can not be reconciled, the former certainly can, hopefully resulting in a more civil and logical discourse over the matter." Click below for Chemisor's analysis of the linguistic chasm.

The first disagreement I wish to address concerns the statement "BSD projects are free, but GPL projects stay free." GPL advocates cannot understand why the BSD advocates are not getting this point, and BSD advocates make accusations of Communism, which are then argued to death by both parties. The problem with the statement above is the different interpretation of the word "project." I, and I suspect many other BSD advocates, generally separate the concept of "project" from "code." While code is what projects are made of, I do not see it as valuable as the useful product a project provides. When I write a program, be it a site scraper, or a todo program, or a UI framework, I think of my project as the entity that matters. The fact that I may have copied some code from one to another is of no concern to me.

A GPL advocate sees an entirely different situation. To him, it is the code that comes first, and the applications built from that code are a secondary consideration. Even a single line of code is precious, whether it contains a complex spline formula or i += 2;. As an aside, I would expect this mindset to be more prone to reusing other people's code instead of reimplementing it. Where I would scoff at a piece of code, call it utter garbage, and rewrite the damn thing from scratch, a GPL advocate would probably wrap the garbage in another API that he finds more palatable. In my opinion, this leads to bloat from wrappers, instability from the garbage that is still there, and loss of skills. What programmer from the current generation is up to the challenge of reimplementing libjpeg? But, I digress. I am here to explain, not bash, so please excuse this little rant.

The two different viewpoints outlined above lead to different interpretation of the expression "stay free." To a BSD advocate, his project will always "stay free," and to assert otherwise is ridiculous. Once it is published, what could possibly make it go away? I have projects that I wrote fifteen years ago which are still hosted on ibiblio.org FTP site and mirrored around the world. I no longer maintain them and think them useless, but they'll persist forever, and anyone at all who wants to download them still can download them. The fact that some company can take it, write a little bit on top of it, and sell it, does not in any way affect my project.

To a GPL advocate, the project is not important; the code is important. So he looks not just at the project distributions he has made, but also of other projects that may incorporate any line of code he ever wrote. In his mind there is no distinction between his original work and its encapsulation in a derived work. He still thinks of both as "his code," and as an entity that must stay free. Naturally, any non-free derived work will anger him, because his code in it will no longer be free, even though his own copy of that code and his entire project will still be free.

The code/project distinction also leads to a different view of what it means to "use" a project, although this point is seldom argued explicitly. A GPL advocate makes a rather arbitrary and vague distinction between a human using his code and a computer using his code. Consider a situation where a user has a GPL-licensed program that converts a JPEG image to a GIF image and his own program (which he sells, or distributes under some other incompatible license) that can only view GIF images. It is legal for him and his customers to call the GPL program from the command line to convert JPEG images and then view them with his program. Suppose he gets fed up with this sequence and writes a shell script to do both operations in sequence. Is this legal? Probably. But what if he cuts out the conversion part of the GPL program and embeds it in his viewer? That would make his viewer a derived work, and so illegal to distribute under anything but GPL.

From the GPL advocate's view, this is perfectly logical. It is his code, and he wants all instances of his code to be free. The instance can not be free if it is embedded in another executable that is not free, since it can not be easily modified, which was Stallman's gripe and the reason for the GPL's existence. From the BSD advocate's view, the situation is absurd. His project is still free, and he does not really care how a user wants to use it. A shell script calling the converter is no different than a closed source program embedding it. They are simply different ways for a human to use the program. Whether the object code for the project stays hackable is also irrelevant, since the human's use of the project through a derived work project is just another way of use.

These different views of derived works are another bitter point of contention. GPL code can only be legally embedded in GPL projects, and if a non-GPL project wants to use GPL code, it must either not do that, or become a GPL project. This is why BSD advocates call the license viral, and thus elicit vehement denials from GPL advocates, who retort that nobody is forced to use GPL code, which lead to useless arguments over the meaning of "forced" or "viral" with no meaningful result. It must be reiterated that the GPL advocates look at code, while the BSD advocates look at projects, and the "viral" debate can only be resolved by examining both viewpoints. A GPL advocate sees a derived work as "his code" combined with some "other code" in a package, and his concern is that the package always be openable. "His code" always remains his code, and he sees any use or distribution of the whole package as a kind of use or distribution of his code. As a result, he feels justified in placing restrictions on how a user may use or distribute the derived work, even though he "owns" only a small part of the whole package. This is following the philosophy of copyright and intellectual property, which, curiously, is a favorite target of derision of these same people. A copyrighted work can never be wholly owned by the user, it is only rented, and so subject to control by the original creator.

A BSD advocate sees a derived work as his project being used by another project. The derived project is wholly owned by whoever wrote it, even if it uses other people's code. This is similar to the property laws of the real world. For example, suppose I sit on the curb and give away free lemons. A kid next door might get the bright idea to get my lemons, make lemonade, and sell it. The lemonade is clearly a "derived work," since it is made from my lemons, but it is absurd to suggest I have any right to tell him what price to put on his lemonade or how much sugar he can use in it. By the laws of private property in the real world, my ownership was relinquished at the time when I handed him my lemons. Just as I do not own his lemonade, neither do I own the derived works he makes from my BSD-licensed software.

These distinctive views of ownership combine with considerations of money, and GPL's anti-business mindset, resulting in accusations of Communism, and worse. But I'll save explaining that for another article. For now I will simply suggest that GPL advocates should change their language a bit, to make themselves more easily understood by people who do not subscribe to their philosophy. Specifically:

"BSD code is free, but GPL code stays free."

It would be better instead to say:

"BSD code is free, but the GPL ensures all derived works are also free."

or

"The GPL ensures your code will never be used by a closed-source application."

These alternatives clarify that you are talking about derived works, rather than the original project, which, of course, will always stay free anyhow. Also, do keep in mind the other points brought up in this article and make at least some effort to ensure you are speaking the same language before becoming too upset. I will never agree with your philosophy, but at least you'll know you were understood.

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633 comments

GPL is nice LGPL is better. (1, Troll)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 5 years ago | (#24111891)

Maybe you like stuff to be open sourced, well not everyone shares your opinion. Sometimes closed source is better for many reasons. GPL is like trying to force your philosophy of open source on everyone. LGPL gives people the liberty to choose if they want to open source or close source what they build on your code.

Re:GPL is nice LGPL is better. (5, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 5 years ago | (#24111933)

No one is forced to use your code. If they don't want to abide by the license they can write their own code.

Re:GPL is nice LGPL is better. (1)

RCL (891376) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112091)

Sometimes it's impractical. Try to code your own mplayer. Or GCC.

Re:GPL is nice LGPL is better. (4, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112227)

Then don't use it, and deal with it. It is also impractical for me to build a Ferrari, I don't steal them.

Re:GPL is nice LGPL is better. (1)

RCL (891376) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112403)

Imagine that you wanted to start your car making business... and then you find out, that unless you are able to build a Ferrari, you'll fail: the market is filled with crude and unsafe (but extremely cheap) Chineese cars, which you can't compete with on price.

That is the situation where GPL leads us to. Inability for small companies to profit from mplayer code means that only large companies like Microsoft or Apple will be able to sell closed source video players.

Re:GPL is nice LGPL is better. (3, Informative)

Drantin (569921) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112503)

However, small companies can take, modify and sell media players based on mplayer if they like, the only stipulation being that they have to follow the terms of the GPL when doing so...

Re:GPL is nice LGPL is better. (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112429)

You mean like the people who coded those tools specifically so they could have their own versions to do with as they pleased?

I've heard that somewhere else. . . (2, Funny)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112509)

That sounds remarkably similar to the argument the RIAA uses to go after file sharers. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Re:GPL is nice LGPL is better. (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112233)

Based on the description of the article, I dear say it has increased my liking of GPL over BSD. Before I didn't have any significant preference other than that my OS of choice utilized the former. But if the GPL "ensures all derived works are also free." Seems that it is the ideal choice (for me) for any free work that I do. If I am paid to do open source of course, the payer gets to decide. But to address the parent, I can no more force someone to open source an app, than I can force them to use my code.

Re:GPL is nice LGPL is better. (2, Informative)

MoHaG (1002926) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112357)

The LGPL still has conditions to use of the code. You may, for example, not forbid disassembly of code linked to LGPL code... The "GPL with linking exception [wikipedia.org]" is better if you want no restrictions on code linking to your code.

There is substance to the disagreement. (5, Interesting)

PaulGaskin (913658) | more than 5 years ago | (#24111901)

It's not just semantics. GPL-advocates such as myself recognize the value of more permissive licenses such as the BSD license and the LGPL. BSD-advocates often fail to understand why the GPL is so successful.

Re:There is substance to the disagreement. (4, Interesting)

SerpentMage (13390) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112113)

>BSD-advocates often fail to understand why the GPL is so successful.

Maybe because most successful open source projects aren't GPL!

Sure Linux, and MySQL are GPL, but from a success perspective Apache, Python, PHP, Perl, Mozilla, etc are actually amazingly successful.

Personally I prefer the BSD licenses or Mozilla type licenses.

Re:There is substance to the disagreement. (5, Interesting)

setagllib (753300) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112165)

I think what people really forget about the GPL is that it has a unique potential for dual licensing. Trolltech use this extremely well with Qt.

If you want to write a non-free application based on Qt, you need to purchase a commercial license. Presumably you're making money off your application, so the cost of a Qt license is a perfectly acceptable cost. And if you're just writing a nice open source application, in one of Qt's accepted open source licenses (including, yes, BSDL), you're totally welcome to use the GPL Qt.

It ensures the developing company gets a slice of the money made off their product, while leaving the code open and free for use in free software. It's a very solid model and it's done wonders for Qt so far, even while GTK+ is LGPL and 100% free for commercial use, just because the Qt technological offering is strong enough to excuse the tougher license.

Re:There is substance to the disagreement. (1)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112517)

Dual licensing is the way to go for any commercial software house. BSD doesn't really require dual licensing, because if you select BSD you can make a commercial derivative regardless, and if the creator were to restrict their BSD license in a way that would restrict commercial derivatives, then you would end up with a GPL type license anyway.

Re:There is substance to the disagreement. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112223)

Microsoft uses some previously BSD licensed code in every version of Windows since Windows 95, so I'd say that BSD code lives on in the most pervasive operating system on the planet. BSD licensors want their stuff to be used in any possible way, but want a bit of credit so they don't public domain it.

Don't be an advocate (3, Insightful)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#24111909)

Face it, this is the internet. Everyone has read your arguments, the counter arguments to you arguments and the counter counter arguments and so on ad infinitum. They've made a decision about this stuff and advocacy won't change that.

If people disagree with you, the correct course of action is to troll them for the lulz.

Re:Don't be an advocate (1, Offtopic)

setagllib (753300) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112185)

Regards to sig: What problem are you having with plain old text? I've been using plain old text mode for years, and it was perfectly preserved even in this latest Slashdot. Check that it's set properly in Options and maybe double-check it in your user options as well.

Re:Don't be an advocate (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112539)

Regards to sig: What problem are you having with plain old text? I've been using plain old text mode for years, and it was perfectly preserved even in this latest Slashdot. Check that it's set properly in Options and maybe double-check it in your user options as well.

Ok, it's really wierd. Sometimes I enter a bunch of paragraphs and they all get jumbled together when I post, so I have to add <p> and </p> tags to get the spacing back.

And sometimes it works. Like, for some reason this time. Maybe it's because I'm using Opera - it seemed to start at the same time the New Discusion format - the Web 2.0 monstrosity where clicking Reply pops up a text box rather than taking you to a new page - became mandatory.

bollocks ... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24111929)

A shell script calling the converter is no different than a closed source program embedding it. They are simply different ways for a human to use the program. Whether the object code for the project stays hackable is also irrelevant, since the human's use of the project through a derived work project is just another way of use.

Complete bollocks. Is the freedom to modify code not the entire point of GPL licenced software?

Re:bollocks ... (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112215)

No, the entire point of the GPL is to prevent others from modifying your code and then distributing it without also providing those modifications.

Your car is BSD licensed (so to speak). You have the whole thing in its entirety and can do to it what you wish. You can add 5hp by placing the appropriate stickers on the windows, you can increase traction by adding a large spoiler, you can even improve your gasoline consumption by putting additives in the tank. What's more, you can sell it later without having to divulge what you've improved on the car.

Re:bollocks ... (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112251)

> Is the freedom to modify code not the entire point of GPL licenced software?

Well, not exactly. The freedom to modify your own code is the entire point of LGPL licensed software. This obviously means that the GPL, which is a more restrictive license, is giving you more freedom --- the freedom to modify other people's code which uses yours.

From RMS's philosophical standpoint, it is perfectly reasonable to want to have the freedom to modify all code, no matter who wrote it, and the difference between the LGPL and the GPL is an echo of his desire for that (ultimate) freedom.

Re:bollocks ... (2, Insightful)

dgun (1056422) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112305)

Right. But the point he makes a couple of times is that the original code is still available.

Another thing I would point out is that the OP makes all of his comments about the GPL assuming distribution. My understanding is that GPL code can be mixed and mingled with closed source code as long as the derived work is not distributed. Which may seem trivial, but I'm sure this happens plenty.

Mandatory first clause (4, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#24111941)

This clause should be included in any contract, license or law:

1. Thou shalt not over-analyze the fucking wording of the contract!

Re:Mandatory first clause (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112421)

You'll never get that past the lawyers.

Re:Mandatory first clause (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112501)

Of course, the meaning of that clause is entirely dependent on whether or not 'fucking' is used as a verb or an adjective. BIG difference there.

Re:Mandatory first clause (2, Funny)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112593)

NOTICE: This software product (together with it's accompanying documentation, the "product") is the property of ALLIED REAL SOFTWARE ENTERPRISES (ARSE). The product is made available to you, the reader, subject to the following license agreement ("LICENSE"). Please read this license carefully before doing anything else. No future copy of this license will be available to you in any form as it will be unnecessary.

By reading or understanding this license agreement, you agree to be bound by it in perpetuity.

1. Ownership
ARSE owns you. You will do what you are told by ARSE or appointed officers of ARSE without question. End of Story.

2. Grant of license and scope of use.
2.1 Grant of License.
You are permitted to read this agreement once. You are not permitted to re-read this agreement in case you attempt to over-analyse the terms of this agreement, contrary to the terms of this agreement. You are reminded that by reading this agreement, you agree with it. That's why it's called an agreement, sucker.

2.2 Other conditions.
Thou shalt not over-analyse the fucking wording of the contract! You have already agreed! Shut the fuck up. Get me my dinner.

3. Exceptions.

There is a reason (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#24111969)

There is a reason that GPL proponents don't agree with the BSD guys (and girls), even understanding this argument. The idea is that in the long term, having your code GPL'd WILL cause it to be put into more products. It's great that BSD made it into apple and all, but since all the improvements made in Linux get put back into Linux, it will just get better and better, and eventually even Apple will not be able to avoid using Linux, because it will be THAT GOOD. May take some time, but hey, we're patient folk.

Whether this is true or not is up for debate. Only time will tell, the whole software industry is still young. Always good to have linguistic clarity though, I appreciate the post.

Re:There is a reason (1, Interesting)

rm999 (775449) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112135)

"it will just get better and better, and eventually even Apple will not be able to avoid using Linux, because it will be THAT GOOD"

I don't know much about the open source OS community, but it seems to me that this isn't true. While the open source community spends 100s of man hours improving Linux, Apple can study its source code and implement what they want into their own kernel in much less time; meanwhile, they can afford to hire programmers to improve on top of all this. Therefore, I think the steady-state is for OSX to always be a step ahead of Linux; the second Linux is improved, I am sure someone at Apple is reading through the code changes.

Re:There is a reason (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112187)

Watch what happens next time Apple changes hardware platforms. Watch how LONG it takes them.

Re:There is a reason (5, Informative)

walshy007 (906710) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112313)

you'd think that, maybe, but copying and improving the improvements to linux to the os x kernel is no trivial task, take a look at the exec proc bench on this http://www.anandtech.com/mac/showdoc.aspx?i=2436&p=8 [anandtech.com]

mac os x took on average a bit over four times as long to create new processes, if os x were always ahead of linux shouldn't they be at least equal, if not slightly more efficient?

as much resources as apple has, there is no way they'd have collectively as much resources going into kernel development as the linux kernel would have in total, and the quality is reflected in that.

Re:There is a reason (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112607)

Linux has it's strengths, but it seems that Linux programmers tend to focus on the inner workings of the software, and implement the UI as almost an afterthought. I always thought this approach was backward. I think the UI is really the heart of any piece of software (since it is the interface between the user and the computer). Most people would agree that Linux is rather lacking in the UI department.

Re:There is a reason (0)

SerpentMage (13390) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112153)

>it will just get better and better, and eventually even Apple will not be able to avoid using Linux

ROTFL... Ok... Please raise this argument with Steve Jobs, ok?

Sorry, comparing Steve and Apple to Linux is like comparing a highly tuned sexy car with all of the gimmicks to an Otto car.

http://www.ausbcomp.com/~bbott/cars/carhist.htm [ausbcomp.com]

As long as Steve Jobs is in the helm Linux will NEVER, I repeat NEVER get to the quality of Apple. I don't use Apple, but I respect Apple for what it has done and is capable of.

Re:There is a reason (2, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112231)

This is silly. Why are you saying Steve Jobs wouldn't use Linux? They are happy enough using GCC. They are already using a lot of BSD stuff. Are you thinking I meant Apple would be using Red Hat or something? I was referring to the Linux kernel itself, and there is little to keep them from switching over. Am I to assume that if it is in the best economic interest of Apple to switch to Linux, that they won't do so?

Re:There is a reason (1, Interesting)

SerpentMage (13390) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112369)

Yeah this is silly because you are implying something that will never happen.

In your comment you said, "and eventually even Apple will not be able to avoid using Linux"

My answer is yes Apple will be able to avoid using Linux because they will always be ahead of Linux.

Saying that they are using BSD and hence could use Linux is missing the point of Steve Jobs. I would argue that the BSD kernel is inferior to the Linux kernel. Yet he chose BSD! Why because I am thinking in his mind a kernel is just a kernel and he has other things on his mind. And in his mind he sees control more important, hence the choosing of the BSD kernel.

>Am I to assume that if it is in the best economic interest of Apple to switch to Linux, that they won't do so?

Yes that is exactly what I am saying because Linux will never be in the best economic interest of Apple. Apple makes money hands over fist by selling a premium product. Linux is free and can't even get out of the starting gate. Of course I am referring to the client side, not the server side.

Re:There is a reason (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112565)

It's just a kernel, man. With the 2.6 kernel and the advent of NPTL threads, and a number of other improvements, Linux has really become very impressive. It is beyond 'out of the starting gate.' The Darwin kernel could be replaced in an instant, and Apple would still make money hands over fist by selling a premium product.

Re:There is a reason (3, Insightful)

Santana (103744) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112191)

Microsoft: we want to make _our_ software better, and _all_ software ours
  GNU/Linux: we want to make _all_ software free as in GNU
  BSD: we want to make _all_ software better

In Theory. . . (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112577)

That's a nice theory, but since Apple sells a product, they can always pay programmers to make up the difference. It's hard to measure "goodness" but I don't think there's any reason to believe that Linux is getting better any faster than OSX.

Re:There is a reason (1)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112615)

having your code GPL'd WILL cause it to be put into more products

I would think this should read "... into more GPL products." Unfortunately, "GPL products" is an oxymoron as they are scarcely ever "products" as product implies they are commercial.

If you were to count market share and contributions to the economy as important factors for a license, I would have to say BSD won hands down with the impact they made through Apple.

I think the question is this. If you don't plan on making any money to begin with, would you rather have Apple or Sun reuse your project, or would you rather see some free offspring popup on sourceforge?

Both are great, and either way it is up to you. And being what they are, I doubt either is better since they clearly reflect different goals.

Just thought I'd drop in to advocate the GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24111973)

It is difficult to spend a week on Slashdot without colliding with a GPL advocate.

Yeah, use GPL you bitches!

Deep Differences (4, Insightful)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 5 years ago | (#24111979)

I think the differences between the two camps go far deeper than simple semantics. I don't think you can sum up the conflict as a Mars-Venus miscommunication thing. There are some deep philosophical differences between the two camps. GPL guys are more evangelistic than BSD guys. BSD guys are more Laissez-faire about codes than GPL guys.

There's really no direct political comparison, but the closest example to BSD vs. GPL in that context is a Libertarian vs. Social Democrat example. BSD guys know that someone can take the code, not give back anything; the principle of real freedom, as they see it, is more important than whether or not anything is "given back". The public good is an indirect benefit, in their view. GPL guys, however, take somewhat more of a socialist-lite view, with the public good of "giving back" of more importance than total freedom to use the code however the end user sees fit.

Basically, both camps have some very different definitions of what "freedom" is... just like any other kind of politics.

Re:Deep Differences (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112077)

GPL is like a fruit with a seed that the animal has to swallow whole.
BSD is like a fruit with a seed that the animal can choose to chew and destroy.

Let those fruits compete. Evolution will sort out the winner.

Re:Deep Differences (1)

PakProtector (115173) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112199)

GPL is like a fruit with a seed that the animal has to swallow whole. BSD is like a fruit with a seed that the animal can choose to chew and destroy. Let those fruits compete. Evolution will sort out the winner.

Ever heard of seedless grapes?

Re:Deep Differences (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112527)

That rely on cloning like seedless bannanas? Yeah, a fruit that cannot reproduce at all is really gonna win the envolutionary race.

Re:Deep Differences (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112543)

You BSD guys are so full of it sometimes. I mean i respect the license and I even use it in a lot of my code but c'mon. No one is forcing you to use GPL code. You guys act as if the GPL says you have to use their code. If you don't agree with the license then just keep your code away from it and do one of the following:

1) Request and possibly purcahse a BSD version of whatever code you want to use
2) Find a BSD alternative (look at a number of OpenBSD projects)
3) Code your own

I mean the BSD guys' arguments against the GPL is like the GNU guys complaining that they HAVE to use microsoft proprietary software. The GPL basically says in exchange for all this code i've written, any modifications need to be made available. If you are not up to that task do the following 3 things i mentioned. Why is the GPL inferior because those guys have a different goal.

Same thing with you GNU folks, the people who prefer BSD licensing aren't inherently evil and aren't looking to subvert your efforts. I mean BSD code allows code to be adopted end of story. In the case of OpenSSH and a lot of the other omnipresent BSD software floating around, giving code back isn't the point, it's that the code has been used rather than someone having to reinvent the wheel and most likely create something buggy (good programmer or bad it happens).

I am sick of hearing BSD folks saying the GPL is a prison license. The terms are clear and you have your options. On the otherside the BSD camp is not selling out to big business. If anything it ensures that big business has secure code so that some obviously stupid security flaw doesn't occur. So what if Big Company (tm) takes the code and doesn't give anything back. The original code is still there. It really isn't like Adobe, Verizon, or Microsoft has taken (as in theft) the code and no one has it anymore. FreeBSD and OpenBSD is still well and alive (cue netcraft jokes).

The big problem is just FUD being slung around by both side. Cut the bullshit and use what you like. GPL these days seems to be akin to a fanatical religion while BSD seems to be like fanatical atheism.

Re:Deep Differences (1)

PakProtector (115173) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112159)

Good God. Had I a functioning female reproductive system, I would have your children.

I am so fucking glad someone understands.

As a BSD license user and a libertarian, it all makes sense now.

Re:Deep Differences (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112323)

Those 'deep differences' are exactly the same as the 'semantics'. GPL vs. BSD is, after all, a battle over what it means to be 'free'. Linguistic, philosophical...it's all the same battle.

Re:Deep Differences (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112525)

The fundamental difference is that the Stallman philosophy says that certain restrictions on software are immoral. As such, the GPL prohibits placing these restrictions on the software.

The BSD license doesn't.

That's it.

Probably Not (5, Insightful)

dcollins (135727) | more than 5 years ago | (#24111989)

Without being a full-time developer, or terribly invested one way or the other in the licensing issues (I've put the GPL on a couple pieces of code, I bet they've never been used by another person), the first thing I think of when I hear these licenses is something like this:

- BSD ensures freedom of the *producer* of the code to do what they want.
- GPL ensures freedom of the *recipient* of the code to do what they want.

Re:Probably Not (2, Informative)

setagllib (753300) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112263)

Wait, what? Isn't that completely backwards? GPL limits redistribution of aggregated and derivative works, which are things that a recipient would be doing.

Re:Probably Not (1)

AdamTheBastard (532937) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112561)

In the case of the GPL, the 'end user' is the recipient. Anyone that gets the binary built from GPL derived code must also (be able to) get the full source under the GPL. The *recipient* of the GPL derived work gets the freedoms provided by the GPL.

In the case of the BSD license, the end user of derived code may or may not get the source from the third party. The *producer* of the BSD derived work has the freedom to decide if the end user gets the source.

Re:Probably Not (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112291)

I am not "free" to take a GPL library, say Readline, and incorporate it into my closed-source commercial application unless I am willing to open source my entire application. I'm not giving away my livelihood for the sake of a command line library.

That's not freedom of the recipient at all. In this case, I am the recipient. If by recipient you mean _my_ end customer, then that's frankly none of your damn business.

Re:Probably Not (1)

infinityxi (266865) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112603)

Then write your own Readline, find a BSD version, or go pay the author of Readline to grant you a more permissive license. Is it really that hard? There is more code out there than GPL code.

Also I am aware of your point and I *think* the poster meant user of the program as recipient because that makes more sense. Under a GPL license the user has access to the source code of the program they are currently using while a user of a program that is BSD licensed may not have access to that source code if it has been modified and incorporated into a proprietary work. One isn't better than the other. It is just like programming languages, best tool for the job, best license fo the situation. Also you may not think it is anyone's business what terms you give to your user but if you're going to use GPL code it really is. That is the point.

Er, I think you got that reversed (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112293)

If you had licensed your post with either of the the two licenses, I could have fixed it directly using the Slashdot edit fun...

Never mind!

Re:Probably Not (1)

schickb (629869) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112317)

- BSD ensures freedom of the *producer* of the code to do what they want.
- GPL ensures freedom of the *recipient* of the code to do what they want.

You are implying that licensing under the GPL somehow limits your options as the producer (aka copyright holder), which is not correct. If you are the copyright holder, you are free to re-license at any time. You may not be able to revoke a license that you granted others on an irrevocable basis, but you can certainly apply any number of separate licenses.

For a project that has multiple copyright holders the overall situation is more complex, but you still have the freedom to do what you want with the parts that you created.

Re:Probably Not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112361)

Without being a full-time developer, or terribly invested one way or the other in the licensing issues (I've put the GPL on a couple pieces of code, I bet they've never been used by another person), the first thing I think of when I hear these licenses is something like this:

- BSD ensures freedom of the *producer* of the code to do what they want.
- GPL ensures freedom of the *recipient* of the code to do what they want.

Actually, the BSD license grants more freedom to the recipient of the code to do what they want (they don't have to release their own code under the same license) than the GPL does. Your summation is thus, incorrect.

Re:Probably Not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112427)

His summation is correct, all recipients of GPL code have the freedoms granted by the GPL. The freedoms granted by the BSD can be removed by downstream developers so that the final recipient may only get a binary copy of the code.

Re:Probably Not (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112541)

His summation is correct, all recipients of GPL code have the freedoms granted by the GPL.

Which is not the freedom "to do what they want"; thus his summation is NOT correct, because the recipient can NOT do what he wants.

However, the reverse is also not true, for the reason you give.

If I had to give a quick summary like that, I would say the following:
- BSD ensures *direct recipients* have the freedom to do what they want (just about)
- GPL ensures *all eventual recipients* have the fundamental freedoms to view and modify the source

I tend to say that the BSD license is more free than the GPL, but the GPL ensures that your code stays free.

Re:Probably Not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112441)

Without being a full-time developer, or terribly invested one way or the other in the licensing issues (I've put the GPL on a couple pieces of code, I bet they've never been used by another person), the first thing I think of when I hear these licenses is something like this:

- BSD ensures freedom of the *producer* of the code to do what they want.
- GPL ensures freedom of the *recipient* of the code to do what they want.

It would be the other way around.

Thank you (3, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#24111997)

Would have been better if you removed your bias, but you did well resisting it in any case.

It is true that GPL advocates consider it important that the user of the software be able to modify the software and redistribute the results.. and that includes the copies of the software the are embedded in some other software.

if this article is serious, it's a failure (5, Insightful)

jdbo (35629) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112007)

While I agree with some of the author's points regarding linguistic disagreements obscuring philosophical disagreements, and sympathize with the stated desire to bring clarity to this ongoing flamewar, the actual article spends as much time pettily denigrating the pro-GPL position as it does clarifying the disagreement, thereby undermining the substantive aspects of the argument in favor of partisan score-making.

Or, in short: good job, you've obscured any actual insight with smug self-righteousness.

Re:if this article is serious, it's a failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112303)

It really would have been nice if he hadn't spent a decent chunk of the article bashing on the GPL crowd while stating he isn't bashing the GPL crowd. He may have had a few points worth stating but I don't believe the arguments are all over some stupid semantics.

Personally I've always liked the GPL for more selfish reasons. I've always thought of it as a "I'll show you mine if you show me yours when your done with mine" license.

The "little rant" detracted a bit. (4, Insightful)

nhaines (622289) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112031)

In what purported to be a rational theory, the rant about GPL-advocates being too lazy to rewrite poorly-written routines and instead simply wrappping APIs around them in the effort to dogmatically reuse code seemed out of place and detracted from what had been up to then a rather promising start.

I'm sorry that Chemisor seems to misunderstand the purpose of the GPL and the culture it grew out of.

The GPL is not communist. It is not anti-business. The GPL simply prevents someone from taking shared code and no longer sharing. If you use GPL-licensed code in your product, you have an obligation to give others the same freedoms you received when you redistribute the work.

This is an up-front permission, however. Nothing prevents someone from looking at a GPL'ed application or library and then doing the work themselves to implement the same functionality, nor contacting the copyright holders of the code and negotiating a custom licensing agreement.

BSD is also a very valuable license, but with different goals in mind. There is no reason for the antagonism between proponents of both licenses.

Re:The "little rant" detracted a bit. (4, Insightful)

stinerman (812158) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112209)

The GPL is not communist.

Of course it is. It's not about the abolishment of private property, but about collective work toward a common goal. You know, the good part of communism.

It is not anti-business.

That's true, except when your business relies on selling copies of software. Free/open source software will eliminate that business model given enough time, just as the automobile eliminated the horse and buggy.

Re:The "little rant" detracted a bit. (3, Insightful)

nhaines (622289) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112345)

Yes, but you could hardly argue that the automobile was anti-business. Instead, the business opportunities changed. New opportunites opened up that were far more lucrative and--ultimately--successful.

Free Software is powerful because it allows others to build up services and products. In many cases, you can start off much further ahead than if you started from nothing. My router is a MIPS processor running Linux and a bunch of commodity daemons, and I know it was not significant work for Linksys to design the firmware. It was all some configuration and Web-based configuration interface glue. The source code is available, others have improved it, and Linksys sold these routers quite successfully.

Meanwhile, I knew the router wasn't doing anything too strange and I know I can continue to use my router and manage updates on my own or with others, no matter what Linksys now does. It was peace of mind for me and well worth the $70 I spent at the time.

Re:The "little rant" detracted a bit. (3, Insightful)

stinerman (812158) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112585)

After I posted, I thought a bit more about the question and decided to throw in a different analogy.

A energy-matter conversion device (a replicator in Star Trek terms) would be incredibly anti-business, but they'd be a great invention. If one assumes a nearly infinite supply of energy, the price of quite a few goods would be zero.

When proprietary software vendors speak of FOSS being anti-business what they are really doing is asserting the broken window fallacy [wikipedia.org]. That is to say proprietary software costs money, which is a business transaction while FOSS (usually) costs nothing which isn't a business transaction.

Re:The "little rant" detracted a bit. (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112273)

Agreed. I haven't really seen much of a flame war of BSD vs. GPL on Slashdot either, maybe I just browser at to high a level.

Re:The "little rant" detracted a bit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112435)

Nothing prevents someone from looking at a GPL'ed application or library and then doing the work themselves to implement the same functionality

And that does not seem like a stupid idea to you?

Its like letting someone copy your essay, but instead of giving them the document you make them read it off the screen and type it back in so its 'theirs'.
It is no better than businesses that lock up their code and interfaces so people have to reverse engineer and re-implement them from scratch.

It does nothing but create wasted effort on both sides of it.
Business can not use useful existing and tested code, and users/open source can not benefit from improvements by the business because they would have to open up all of their code to share it.

WINE (5, Interesting)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112071)

While this doesn't concern the BSD license in itself, we can analyze WINE and the spinoff project Cedega.

In the beginnings, Wine was X11 licensed, and it meant the derived code could be closed. And that's what happened with WineX, now called Cedega. While the WineX guys promised they would return the code (specifically the DirectX code), DirectX development in Wine froze. Years later, Cedega still hasn't returned the code, and Wine just barely came out from it.

This is the kind of issues that the GPL addresses.

Now let's analyze the other side of the coin: MySQL. It was designed as LGPL, and it was used in a wide variety of projects. Later, the MySQL guys decided to move from LGPL to GPL, demanding huge amounts of money from anyone who used MySQL for commercial purposes. So people now are switching from MySQL to PostgreSQL - which is BSD licensed.

(now I wish there was some alternative version of the LGPL that forced derivative work to REMAIN in that license so that people could use it in proprietary products - but still giving back any changes to the library itself - so we could avoid bad moves like the MySQL one. Best of both worlds, eh?)

So, what does PostgreSQL do to remain free? It's the complexity. No one in his 5 senses would fork the Postgre code and make it private. The project is mature and complicated enough so that it remains free. (But then again, so is Freebsd, and look at what happened with Apple Mac OS X).

Both the GPL and BSD licenses have their weaknesses - but if I'm starting a new end-user project and want all the community to benefit from it, I'd chose the GPL license without thinking it twice.

errata (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112119)

According to wikipedia [wikipedia.org], Wine was MIT licensed, not X11 licensed. Sorry.

Re:errata (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112281)

According to the same Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], the MIT license is also known as the X11 license.

Re:WINE (1)

Snocone (158524) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112279)

DirectX development in Wine froze. Years later, Cedega still hasn't returned the code, and Wine just barely came out from it.
This is the kind of issues that the GPL addresses.

You mean, the issue that users get functionality years earlier than they would have if the project had been GPL? By making sure that users get stuff more slowly? Hmmmm ... from a user point of view that's just plain not a winner. I'm kinda not seeing how it's a win for the GPL in any fashion, actually.

Or are you claiming that it made absolutely not one whit of difference to Cedega's decision that the source was not GPL -- that they would have invested the exact same amount of effort if the source code had, actually, been GPL?

Well, if you assert that ... then no need to respond, as you are clearly so out of touch with reality that your opinion is worthless.

If you don't assert that ... then you seem to have proven here that the GPL is, in fact, not in the best interests of users. Good job!

Re:WINE (2, Insightful)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112335)

DirectX development in Wine froze. Years later, Cedega still hasn't returned the code, and Wine just barely came out from it.
This is the kind of issues that the GPL addresses.

You mean, the issue that users get functionality years earlier than they would have if the project had been GPL?

Only users who PAY. And that ain't true freedom.

Re:WINE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112285)

What happened to MySQL is that everyone signed their contributions to MySQL instead of keeping their copyrights, so MySQL could unilaterally relicense. This is why it's a terrible idea to sign copyrights away.

Hey, now! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112073)

It is difficult to spend a week on Slashdot without colliding with a GPL advocate. Eager to spread their philosophy, they proselytize to anyone willing to listen, and to many who are not. When they collide with a BSD advocate, such as myself, a heated flamewar usually erupts with each side repeating the same arguments over and over, failing to understand how the other party can be so stupid as to not see the points that appear so obvious and right.

Give a little credit to the Apple-worshipers.

Misstating the GPL argument I think (4, Insightful)

JanneM (7445) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112083)

For my part (and only for my part. of course) my rationale for GPL is simple: I give you permission to use what I've made. You effectively pay for that right by giving identical permissions to use your related code back to me, and by extension to anybody else. It is a quid pro quo.

I don't dislike the BSD license at all. Anybody want to use it is fine by me. But there is no "I used the BSD license so you must too" requirement - the defining part of the BSD licence compared to GPL is that there is no such requirement. So don't get mad if your BSD code ends up as part of a GPL'ed project. It's what you chose to allow after all.

Re:Misstating the GPL argument I think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112257)

Why would you think someone who BSD licenses code get annoyed if it were included in GPL projects? Do you think no one who uses BSD understands it?

Re:Misstating the GPL argument I think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112497)

I use the BSD license whenever possible. While very little of it has gone into other projects, I couldn't imagine being mad about someone having a use for it in a gpl'd project. After all, I choose it because I wanted people to be able to use it without obligations getting in the way of productivity.
 
And in some non-probable situation that a company takes my code and makes a billion or 6 on it, well good for them for marketing it in a way I didn't think up. If they want to give a little back to the programmer, awesome. If not, that's cool too.

But that's the 2 cents from a programmer with a terminally type B personality.

Semantics of free (1, Redundant)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112097)

Under the GPL, the freedom and the protection largely belongs to the end-user; developers burden themselves in order to try to guarantee this.

Under a BSD license, the freedom largely belongs to the developer.

Really, this is not difficult concept to understand.

Free Software versus Open Source (4, Insightful)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112111)

While there is a large overlap between the approved Free Software Licenses [gnu.org] and the approved Open Source Licenses [opensource.org], the fact that a project has a license that is in both lists doesn't make it both Open Source and Free Software.

Consider the GPL - it's approved by both. But Red Hat doesn't publish Free Software, it publishes Open Source - and software written by Richard Stallman isn't Open Source - it's Free Software, and RMS is happy to explain the difference [fsf.org].

I'm squarely in Stallman's camp; my audio project Ogg Frog is definitely Free Software, not Open Source [oggfrog.com].

You see, the distinction isn't the license - it's the purpose behind making the project either Open or Free.

As Stallman explains, Open Source is about efficiency - volunteer coders, and "many eyeballs" finding and correcting bugs and security holes. Free Software is about creating a community - Stallman has made it very clear he hopes to get back to the way things were back in the day, when source was shared openly with no non-disclosure agreements, copyrights or licenses.

Unfortunately, the English language has a problem: Free can mean "as in Freedom", or "without cost". When I speak of my Free Software project to non-techie people, they think I'm just not going to charge money for it, and question my sanity. They have no clue about the meaning behind Free Software.

Spanish doesn't have that problem: Free as in Freedom is "Libre", free as in beer is "gratis". But those words don't make sense to English speakers.

I have developed a convention, but it's too subtle for most to take notice. Perhaps they will if you join me: I capitalize the "F" if it's "Free as in Freedom", but use lowercase for "free as in beer". I think that emphasizes the difference, and maybe if we all wrote it that way, more people would understand.

Stallman is a great man, IMHO, but he has a marketing and image problem: very few non-technical people have the first clue as to what Free Software means. Most think it means "freeware".

But Open Source doesn't have that problem; many who don't know source code from Shinola do understand what Open Source is all about.

Thus I long ago gave up trying to describe Ogg Frog as Free Software in casual conversation. I only say that when speaking to others who will likely understand. Most of the time I describe it as Open Source, but feel guilty in doing so. I feel like Matthew in these verses:

Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice. -- John 13, 37-38

(BTW - there's no Ogg Frog to download yet, not even CVS or Subversion. Out of consideration for my non-technical target market, I'm not releasing anything until it reaches it's planned 1.0 feature set, and is reasonably bug free. At least for non-technical users, I feel The Cathedral is better than The Bazaar.

another interpretation (4, Interesting)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112129)

Here's a simpler interpretation: both GPL and BSD advocates want to be associated with the word "free", which rhetorically implies the moral high ground. That's why they're constantly bickering about who's more free, and they'll never stop bickering because there are two projects, and only one word.

But these are just word games, like when Microsoft wants to be known as innovative, or Google want to be known as the opposite of evil. In reality, people and companies still have to read the license terms in detail, and choose what works best for them based on the fine print.

Did he miss the main difference? (4, Insightful)

Artraze (600366) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112131)

Maybe it's just late and I glazed over something, but it seems like he missed the primary difference between the two licenses: WHO the license is free for. With BSD code, it's the developer; developers can do just about anything they want with your code. For the GPL, it's the end user; they are guaranteed to be able to modify/update/fix any incarnation of your code*.

Certainly there will always be the (rather pointless) philosophical question of which is more 'free', but what's the point? They're both pretty darn free, but take their freedom in different directions. Why not just choose the one that fits your vision of your project best, and understand that other licenses have their merits too?

*For those keeping track, this was the primary purpose of the GPL3. It ensures that GPLed software on protected devices can be updated.

Re:Did he miss the main difference? (1)

bedroll (806612) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112461)

I agree, that's the primary difference. I think his assertion that GPL advocates only care about code and not projects is a fallacy. He sets up this straw man where GPL-ers worship code so much that they won't go in and change each others' code. Is this really a problem? I always noticed a lot of good coding flowing backwards on GPL projects, how could the two scenarios coexist? Anyway, in talking a lot about how GPL advocates care so much about the code he cites an example of how an entire project would be consumed by another project. So, does that mean that if a project is used in another project it's no longer a project? Instead it's reduced to meaningless code that only GPL advocates care about?

Re:Did he miss the main difference? (1)

arotenbe (1203922) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112475)

With BSD code, it's the developer; developers can do just about anything they want with your code. For the GPL, it's the end user; they are guaranteed to be able to modify/update/fix any incarnation of your code

If they can do that, they are, for all intents and purposes, a developer. Sure, they may not contribute the code back to the main project, or fork the code and start their own project, but that's not a requirement of either license, is it?

GPL anti-business? (2, Insightful)

AceofSpades19 (1107875) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112145)

> and GPL's anti-business mindset, resulting in accusations of Communism, and worse.

Can someone explain how does the GPL have an anti-business mindset?

Re:GPL anti-business? (1)

maglor_83 (856254) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112399)

Indirectly you could say so. Since most businesses (development businesses anyway) want their software to be closed. Obviously the term is a stretch, and could similarly be stretched to say that BSD is anti-end user.

The only thing... (2, Insightful)

argux (568146) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112147)

Pretty good analysis you've got there. That's speaking as someone who is not a coder, and takes no part in these discussions, but I have watched them several times, never coming to a definite conclusion. That is, I don't favor one side over the other. It would make me pretty angry and sad to find out that Microsoft were making tons of cash from a piece of code that was originally GPL or BSD or whatever. Only because I see it as the big guy profiting from the little guy's work. But I also love the BSD way of thinking, which is absolute freedom. Here, I wrote this. Do whatever you want with it. I don't care. Whatever. I suppose that my political tendencies cause me to lean more towards BSD licensing.

That said, I only found one thing I don't agree with: the lemons analogy. I don't think GPL coders tell other people how to use their code, only that it should be GPL. You could create a bomb with my code, for all I care, as long as the end result is also GPL. That's because (I assume) GPL coders believe that if what you're writing builds upon their previous work, you should give it away with as much freedom as you received it.

So, the analogy would be more like, you give out lemons for free, with the sole restriction that whatever product is made from these lemons should be given away for free, as well. So if these lemons were GPL, the kid would have to... like give the lemonade away? Or sell the lemonade and give away the recipe he used to prepare the lemonade to whomever asks for it. Also, you would be forced by the GPL to divulge the source of your lemons, if anyone asks, because they didn't come out of yourself, so you didn't create them. You're just the distributor, kind of like ibiblio. So that would be like you have to point to the tree you got them from... or the store you bought them at... or something like that.

That was far too polite (0, Troll)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112157)

Every person who complains about the GPL is a fscking moron.

Listen, you dumbasses, no one puts a gun to your head forces you to use it. If you don't like the license, don't use the code. Live in your little BSD ghetto and let the GNU'tards live in theirs. Stop the stupid "it's not really free" whining, because it's dishonest semantic bullshit, you know it is so, and yet you keep repeating it ad nauseam anyway. You just want to take without giving back, and it pisses you off that there are legal means to stop you.

Re:That was far too polite (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112453)

You just want to take without giving back

I do? Is that why I license my code under BSD?

The GPL isn't really free. I've licensed code under the LGPL before (never the GPL; I consider it entirely heinous) because I want a quid-pro-quo arrangement, but when I license my code as BSD it's most certainly not because I "want to take without giving back."

Great job being clueless.

Fuck your body and subject. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112171)

Why is the BSD license even necessary those. Why not just release your code into the public domain? GPL is an attempt to convince people to provide code by dangling the carrot that such code will not end up in closed up systems. But BSD seems little better than the public domain. If you don't care who uses your code, why not just put it in the public domain? You can't get much more free than that.

Runtime GPL (3, Informative)

bazald (886779) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112201)

I just want to mention a variant of the GPL that is often used and rarely noticed. All those standard header files included when compiling with GCC are Runtime GPL. If you take the point of view that the GPL is viral, you can think of the Runtime GPL as the completely non-viral GPL.

Using some variants of the GPL linking exception, it becomes possible to release code that must stay Free (as in Libre) in derived works without requiring every last bit of the derived work to be Free.

It as close as you can get to a compromise between the BSD and GPL licenses as far as I am aware. The biggest downside is that neither side believes the license to be trustworthy. It is too GPL for the BSD folks, and not GPL enough for the GPL advocates.

It's the point of view (2, Interesting)

coobird (960609) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112221)

I really think the GPL vs. BSD license debate really comes down to the differences in the point of view of who or what is actually "free".

In the case of the GPL, it is the code that is free; it is born free and stays free. And modifications will still keep it free. For BSD, it is the person who obtains the code that is free; the person can more or less do whatever he/she sees fit with the code.

So, I think there is a fundamental philosophical difference of which entity the freedom is assigned to.

Re:It's the point of view (0, Flamebait)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112471)

I would agree with you. RMS and his cohorts have long valued the freedom of code over the freedom of people. (RMS, at least, seems to think it's an absolute sin that people dare to make money off software; his essays are frightening things.)

Re:It's the point of view (1)

azgard (461476) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112553)

Yes. I would go even further - there is a rational decision behind your choice of license.

If you plan to (or think that you will want to) make a closed product from the software you write today, you would use BSD license, so it wouldn't prevent you in doing it. That's why I think a lot of university projects are under BSD license, so that the students or universities wouldn't close the doors to get commercial profit on that.

On the other hand, if you don't plan or don't want to release a commercial version, you will probably opt for GPL license, because it will increase contributions from people who would otherwise use it in closed software. So it's an advantage.

So there really is nothing "magical" or "philosophical" about the GPL vs. BSD argument, just rational decisions.

GPL is a way to stagnation (1, Troll)

RCL (891376) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112259)

As someone said: "people paint for free. People do not tend to clean toilets for free". That's why open source projects often lack the style and visual appeal of closed source - because it's boring to code!

BSD allows us to "paint", leaving closed source firms (Apple?) to "clean the toilet", making the project more appealing to user. With GPL, you have to "clean the toilet" yourself, as software company is not likely to build upon your project (not everything can be sold for "support" - think about game development for example).

Linguistic Issues... (4, Funny)

ruinevil (852677) | more than 5 years ago | (#24112367)

They should make the Latin translation of GPL and BSD licenses the standard. It's a nice old language that no one really adds words or meanings to. I think that'll fix the gratis/libre issue. If it worked for the Catholic Church, it should work for the rms...

GPL is free trade agreement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24112511)

BSD is like free goods. GPL is like free trade. Like aid to a foreign nation, the BSD code is open to those who need it most has few strings attached. We write BSD code because we want people to be free to take what we have done and do anything with it.

GPL and LGPL are like differently-scoped free trade agreements between organisations. You can take my code but you can't release your changes without also making them available back to me.

I see greater certainty in the GPL/LGPL model: A company can invest in a GPL project knowing that although its contribution may benefits its competitors, its competitor's contributions are also a general benefit. I contribute to a project that reduces my cost base but does not produce what I would consider a strategic advantage over my competitors. My competitors may view the project in a similar light.

I know I am going to suffer up-front costs associated with contributing, however I am likely starting from a better base point than if I had re-implemented the project from scratch on my own. I also have the tantalising prospect of not having to pay maintenance costs over the lifetime of the project. If there is enough critical mass these costs will be spread thinly between contributors, or concentrated in a few individuals that hopefully work for someone else ;)

As we each contribute we achieve a better outcome for our customers, and are able to concentrate more of our efforts on points of difference than in re-inventing point of similarity between organisations.

I see BSD as closed-source friendly and "freer". However, I see GPL as genuinely more business-friendly.

Benjamin.

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