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The GPL: A Technology Of Trust

michael posted more than 13 years ago | from the key-escrow-not-included dept.

Editorial 232

Chip Salzenberg writes "Microsoft's attacks on the GNU General Public License (GPL) prompted me to analyze its technical merits, using insights from the book 'Nonzero' by Richard Wright. Since I'm a fan of Open Source for its pragmatic benefits, my own conclusions surprised the heck out of me." This is an interesting article promoting the GPL, the quintessential Free Software license, coming from a member of the Open Source Initiative.

The GPL: A Technology Of Trust

Society is built on exchange. One particular form of exchange that we're genetically wired for is reciprocal altruism: speculative generosity with expectation of future payoff.

Open Source is a textbook example of reciprocal altruism. But this leaves the Open Source community vulnerable to parasitism. (This term comes from game theory; I'm not trying to insult anyone.) In a small group, trust comes from repeated interactions, and personal experience is adequate to recognize parasites and avoid them. But in a large group, interactions between any two people are often indirect and/or infrequent. Something more than experience is needed to engender trust between people who don't know each other, and who may never even meet.

Therefore, any large group must evolve a technology of trust. If it doesn't do so, it will fall victim to rampant parasitism, which will cause inefficiency, which will eventually bring stagnation and failure to compete -- that is, death.

The GPL is a technology of trust. Contributors to GPL'd projects trust that the GPL -- which depends on law, itself a technology of trust -- will prevent parasitism. They trust that if they contribute to a project, they will have access to the valuable goods built on their own work. So, while GPL'd projects can have forks, they can't have proprietary forks. And that makes all the difference.

This analysis may seem simple or even obvious. But its implications are far-reaching.

1. The GPL will eventually dominate Open Source (if it doesn't already). Both analysis and observation point to the GPL, or something like it, as the destiny of Open Source. More than any other current license, the GPL discourages parasitism; thus it enhances efficiency; thus it helps a culture outcompete rivals whose technologies of trust are less advanced. By making its host culture successful, the GPL -- or some future license built on it -- will finally win out.

2. We must preserve the GPL, for the sake of the community. When Microsoft attacks the GPL, it would be tempting for those of us who don't identify with ``Free Software'' to use as our primary reply that ``Open Source is more than the GPL.'' That would be a mistake. The GPL's peculiar strengths are crucial in the Open Source community's competition with other cultures who would love to see Open Source, let alone Free Software, gone and forgotten.

3. The GPL is good for business. Companies that use the GPL are neither foolish nor stupid. They simply want to trust that other companies won't be able to take unfair advantage of them, and the GPL gives them that immediate security while simultaneously allowing open cooperation. And in the general case, the GPL is a friend of business because it makes new and better efficiencies possible, and economies thrive on new and better efficiencies.

(On the other hand, we can agree with Microsoft that the GPL is bad for their current business. We can then proceed to use Microsoft's favorite word as we reply: Innovation won't stop just because you're not ready for it. The printing press was a good thing, after all, even though it forced professional scribes to change their business model. Adapt or die.)

In summary: We in the Open Source community need to stand with the FSF and defend the GPL against all comers -- not merely as a tactical move, but because the GPL is a valuable technology of trust. To outcompete other cultures, we must adopt technologies that work. And the GPL works.

-- Chip Salzenberg <chip@pobox.com>, member of the board of the Open Source Initiative

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GPL good for corporations? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#147231)

Really that surprises me.

We all know that the GPL prevents against linking between GPL code and proprietary code. How is that usefull for a corporation if they have to release for free a product they planned to sell?

Ok sure, maybe it is good for internal applications, businees applications and the like they don't make money on but really.

I don't beleive the theory that the money would be made off support. If that is so, no one will be developping the software.

Really, as usuall, there is a little lack of reality in this speach...
Not all computing can be under the GPL.

The Death of Free Software (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#147236)

a non-interactive text adventure in multiple parts

PART ONE: the end of an icon

You are walking along a old cobbled road, carefully stepping over mounds of decaying horse shit and avoiding what appears to be puddles of rat piss. To your left is a row of Tudor type houses, one being a shop. To the right is a sea wall, and beyond that is the frothing ocean.
Rainwater gushes through guttering and spills out onto the street, running into streams and slowly diluting the budweiser pools.
You can see a glinting object in a pool of piss.
A scruffy man is shuffling away from you.

>get object
You shudder as you plunge your left hand (the one you rarely masturbate with) into the piss pool and retrieve the object. It is a gold sovreign.
You are now rich.
The scruffy man has moved further away.

>enter shop
Pausing only to shake the piss from your hand you stride purposefully into the shop.
Peering through the murk you determine that this shop in an apocethary, many strange object line the shelves and pungent vapors permeate through the air.
A snoring dwarf is leaning against a table that seems to be serving as a counter.

>cough politely
The dwarf awakes with a start, then eyes you suspiciously. Still looking drowsy, he demands to know what it is you want. After some discourse, you discover that this shop sells nothing but cakes of soap. Being hungry, you decide that any cake will do, and purchase as much as your coinage will allow.
You are poor.
You are encumbered.

>sell soap
You inform the dwarf that you wish to trade some soap back.
The still bleary-eyed dwarf offers you a good price, which you readily accept.
You are rich again.
You are no longer encumbered.

>leave shop
You exit the shop.

>look
You are standing outside a soap shop, munching on a cake of lavender flavored soap. There is a scruffy man shuffling down the street, away from you.

>pursue man
You set off after the man, catching the filthy sod within microseconds. Wheezing and oozing pus from many abrasions and untreated cuts, the man turns to face you. You swallow in order to control your natural vomit reaction. Clearly this man needs soap rather more than you do.

>give man soap
You can't give that to that!

>wash man
I don't know how to do that!

>vhsdjvjksd vshdjkvsdhjkfsd
What?

>stupid parser crap ftyjtfgy
I don't understand stupid.

>give soap man
You give the man the largest block of soap. He looks at it as through he has never seen soap before. Carelessly, he allows it to drop to the ground where it begins to forms suds in the streams of rainwater and piss.

>again
You offer the scruffy man another cake of soap. He ignores you and turns to walk away. As he turns, he slips on the soap suds and falls face first into a particularly large piss puddle. Slowly some grime washes away from his visage, enough to allow you to recognise the man. It is Richard GNU/Stallman - patron saint of the unwashed and the geeky.
Thinking quickly, you boot Stallman in the face as he attempts to rise. Next you dump all the soap you carry onto him and roll him over and over in the puddle.
Years of filth falls away while Stallman panics at the water. Soon, his attempts of extricate himself provide enough motion for the cleaning action so you step back and allow the process to continue.

>wait
Time passes. Stallman is getting cleaner, though slowly.

>wait wait wait wait wait wait
Hours pass. Finally you decide that Stallman must be clean by now and move to help him up.
Alas, the powerful soap cocktail not only removed the grime, it also dissolved the Stallman. No doubt his untouched-by-soap skin was unable to withstand the cleaning process and he simply fizzed away.


Congratulations! You have successfully assasinated Richard Stallman. Your score is currently ONE from a possible FOUR. To continue, press [SPACE].





That's five miutes you'll never get back, fool.

Re:Microsoft wants GPL'ed code (1)

jbrw (520) | more than 13 years ago | (#147237)

I would think that if there were any (major) violations within Microsoft of the GPL that there would have been some whistleblowers by now.

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (1)

demon (1039) | more than 13 years ago | (#147238)

How does it stop anyone from using the fruits of their _own_ labor? If they're using GPL'd code in the first place, they're taking advantage of the fruits of someone ELSE'S labor to base their code on. If the code is their own... well, they CAN dual-license it (like the new orinoco_cs driver in the 2.4 kernel, for example - it's GPL/MPL dual licensed). The GPL does not, and AFAIK cannot, stop someone from doing this.

You never answered the question of the previous poster - what's so terrible about saying "You may make use of the code I've written, so long as you do as I have done"? Reuse is great, but what about companies that sell component software, like many commercial companies (including Microsoft) license for rote jobs like spellcheck? You think that someone wouldn't take them to court if they violated the terms of THAT license? Why should it be any different with open source? It's still licensed - only the license says "This software is available to everyone - if you want to modify it, you must reciprocate". (A slight oversimplification, but I hope you see my point.)
_____

Sam: "That was needlessly cryptic."

Gift economies (2)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 13 years ago | (#147241)

Gift economies only works when the gifts are predominately given to people who are part of the gift economy.

I agree that the BSDL is a wonderful and altrustic way to make a gift to everybody, however, as a sustainable economy, I have more faith in the GPL. Than again, even if the BSDL fails to create a sustainable gift economy of its own, it hasn't failed. It wasn't the goal of the license.

Sharing at gunpoint (4)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 13 years ago | (#147244)

RMS: Howdy neighbor, how about I letting you borrow my lawn mover, and you letting me borrow your hedge cutter? It is up to you.

Jay: That is not true sharing! That is sharing at gunpoint! It is theft! It is a virus! You must let me use your lawn mover with no conditions attached, you radical leftist!

Sigh.

Anyway, Hercules is under the QPL, another copyleft (i.e. "viral") license. Jay doesn't care about the issues, he is just carrying an old grudge towards RMS for targetting GNU towards 32 bit platforms with at least 1 MB of flat memmory, at a time where most people (including Jay) could only afford PC AT class machines (80286, segmented memory).

Re:the GPL does more than prevent parasitism... (1)

pedro (1613) | more than 13 years ago | (#147246)

Hear, hear!
The GPL is ultimately valuable for its' darwinistic aspects, in addition to all the aforementioned virtues. It creates the MOST dog-eat-dog software development model that I'm personally aware of.
Code well, and your code (think DNA) survives and evolves. Code badly, and your code (DNA) dwindles and dies.
We can thusly conclude that all that oppose the GPL are weenies that don't 'trust' natural evolutionary forces, and demand protection from them.
Or something like that 8P

Hypocrisy (2)

jonabbey (2498) | more than 13 years ago | (#147250)

So why on earth is it that your photograph on your home page shows that you use so much GPL'ed software, then? If you feel moral compunctions about free software sharing, then step up to the plate and stop using it.


- jon

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (4)

jonabbey (2498) | more than 13 years ago | (#147253)

Nonsense. The GPL doesn't deny anyone the ability to profit from the fruits of their labor, unless they choose to labor on GPL'ed software that they do not hold the copyright for. Believe me, no commercial software company will allow you to incorporate their code to create a derived work and then sell it, either. Not unless you pay them for the privilege, right?.

The presence of the GPL and code written under the GPL does not in any way prevent you from finding such a commercial vendor and offering them hundreds of thousands of dollars to allow you to base derived works on their products, if you like. The presence of the GPL and code written under the GPL does not prevent you from writing your own code from scratch, and profiting thereby.

I'm mystified at this kind of confusion that people have over the GPL. The people who complain about the GPL tend not to complain about the BSD license, when in fact they are complaining that they are not being allowed to profit adequately from someone else's work. Is that model more in keeping with your notion of capitalism? Take my work for free, and make money on it? If you are so concerned about the integrity of the capitalist system, pay cash on the barrel head for your software libraries, and be done with it.

Complaining that you're having to pay more than people who are willing to abide by the GPL is laughable for someone so concerned about Communism.


- jon

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (1)

johnw (3725) | more than 13 years ago | (#147254)

You've made some remarkable assertions about the GPL but you've failed to substantiate them in any way. Do you have any arguments to back up what you say or should you just be ignored?

Re:GNU/Linux (1)

johnw (3725) | more than 13 years ago | (#147255)

> How many people here USE Linux for more than
> a firewall or the kewlness factor?

I use Linux for everything and run my business on it. Web server, firewall, in-house server, desktops. It does everything we need and does it with far less hassle than the obvious alternative.

> I used to, but Windows is easier

Funny - that's precisely the opposite of the reason I use Linux. Windows is just *so* much harder to get things done on. You spend all your time fighting the system where with Linux you tell it what you want done and it does it.

Of course, it helps if you can speak the language.

John

Re:It's ROBERT, not RICHARD Wright (2)

Jonathan (5011) | more than 13 years ago | (#147257)

Great stuff? Ehh -- what's with the public and sociobiology anyway? The original "Sociobiology" was written in desperation by Wilson, as an attempt to rekindle interest in his sort of behaviorial research at the time when molecular biology was making traditional observational biology rather passe. Twenty-five years later, mainstream biology *is* molecular biology.

There are interesting questions to be sure in the genetics of behavior, but experiment, combined with molecular evolutionary studies, are the way they are being addressed today (for example, this paper [nih.gov] ), rather than by just-so stories. Look at all the recent sociobiology proponents -- Pinker, Wright, Dennet -- and you'll notice that they aren't biologists.

Whups! (2)

John Whitley (6067) | more than 13 years ago | (#147259)

...real problem is that non-GPL developers...

Sorry folks, "non-GPL developers" should've been "GPL developers" in that sentence. And I even previewed. :-P

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (5)

John Whitley (6067) | more than 13 years ago | (#147260)

The problem with the GPV is that it is not a true form of sharing, but a coercive one.
Let's examine this 'coercion' you speak of. You clearly mean it in a personally invasive (and trollish, IMO) manner:
Sharing at gunpoint isn't sharing, it's theft.
Precisely how is the GPL 'coercive' in this manner? Did RMS beat you up in grade school or something? I fail to see how a developer would ever be forced to use the GPL if not utilizing GPL'ed code for a project. Oh wait! I get it: you're a greedy fscker who wants to be able to take from developers who have authored GPL'ed code without honoring their request as is their right as authors under copyright law that you reciprocate if you use their work.

So next question: Seriously, how do you feel about commercial software? Some authors require that you pay for their work, and don't even get source. Are you also angry about this choice of distribution terms?

As near as I can tell (and this is your fault, for ranting without explaining), your real problem is that non-GPL developers aren't producing source code that you (or others) can use for non-reciprocal gains (e.g. proprietary extension, etc.). You are whining because the 'cost' by your philosophy, is too high. I'm sorry, but if it's that important to you, you'll just have to write it all non-GPL. Then we can put Chip's hypothesis to the test!

Why the GPL is good (4)

Laxitive (10360) | more than 13 years ago | (#147265)


Wow, the opponents of the GPL are becoming extremely vocal.

This is my view of what the GPL does, and why it does it, and why that is good:

The GPL is constructed on one basic principle: all software should be Free (note capital F). Now, I dont necessarily agree with that principle, but that is RMS's view of software - the view from which he designed the GPL. This is, in some ways, the 'natural state' of software. If there were no software copyright laws, then when a person bought a piece of software, they would be able to freely modify and redistribute it. However, in the current capitalist state, that is not possible - because software copyright laws restrict people from doing what they would be able to do quite naturally.

The GPL, then, is designed to create an island of software that obeys the rule of the 'natural state' inside the current system by using copyright laws. And the GPL is designed such that this island of software will always remain free, and never grow smaller.

Regardless of wether you disagree with RMS's ideal of a natural state of software or not, you can still agree with the GPL - if you beleive that free software should remain free. This is what the GPL ensures. If someone has taken their time and produced a useful software work and released it under the GPL, then they can be assured that their work, and modifications to their work, will remain free, and that it will continue to benefit the free software community.

Other licenses (such as BSD) allow software that was free, to be used and extended in ways that in no way benefits (and perhaps even harms) the free software community. Others can use the BSD works, without giving anything to free software in return. In essence, it allows greedy individuals to stand on the shoulders of free software, pick the high-hanging fruit, and walk away with it, whistling blithely. I dont like that.

-Laxitive

Re:good for business? (1)

Fyndo (11748) | more than 13 years ago | (#147266)

Cygnus pretty much did.

They had some proprietary add-ons, but as I gather, most of their revenue was from support contracts, and programming contracts (make GCC work on our new computer).

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (1)

Buddy (11994) | more than 13 years ago | (#147269)

Sorry, Jay. I don't buy it.

One of the reasons I'm heavily involved with the Hercules IBM mainframe emulator is that it's not licensed under the GPV
Hercules runs on Windows or Linux. To compile it, you must use egcs. If you're this violently opposed to the GPL and the FSF, why is this so? Hercules is distributed under the QPL [conmicro.cx] , which appears to me to be only marginally less restrictive than the GPL (and more like the LGPL), including some language that looks very much like a 'coercive form of sharing' (with the "maintainer", at least). Why isn't Hercules available under a BSD-ish license?
There's room in the Open Source movement for lots of different licenses.
This I agree with. I don't think Chip disagrees, either.

You arguments against the GPL have much in common with Microsoft's; including that they are mostly FUD. This helps Microsoft, not Open Source.

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (1)

sholden (12227) | more than 13 years ago | (#147271)

The problem with the GPV is that it is not a true form of sharing, but a coercive one. Sharing at gunpoint isn't sharing, it's theft.

When was sharing mentioned?

To stupid to even read a dozen paragraphs are you? Just spouting off the usual garbage without bothering to check what was being claimed...

They already did... (1)

sterno (16320) | more than 13 years ago | (#147280)

Have you read the DMCA lately?

---

How the economics works... (2)

sterno (16320) | more than 13 years ago | (#147281)

Ok sure, maybe it is good for internal applications, businees applications and the like they don't make money on but really.


I don't beleive the theory that the money would be made off support. If that is so, no one will be developping the software.


Here's why people will develop the software. If you are supporting the software you have knowledge about where the bugs are which makes it much easier for you to fix them. Furthermore, the more solid the product you are offering, the more likely you can sell it and related support contracts. So it is definitely in your vested interest to contribute to the code.


Furthermore, if you contribute to the code, you'll have a far more intimate knowledge about it, making it much easier for you to diagnose and solve problems in the future. This means reduced time that you have to spend on support calls which means greater efficiency and revenue. It's also much easier to sell your services when you can say, "we've got 10 guys on staff who wrote most of the code so we know how to support it."


---

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (3)

sterno (16320) | more than 13 years ago | (#147282)

The GPL is a form of sharing that assumes some people out there might not want to share in return. So perhaps its assumptions about human nature are not as optimistic as other licenses, but you have to admit that the evidence overwhelmingly supports their assumptions.

Personally I feel most comfortable contributing to the GPL because I know that nobody is going to come along and lock away my work in their own proporietary software. Wouldn't it piss you off slightly if you put years of hard work into a projet and the Microsoft came along and hacked your code to be subtly incompatible and then released it without source code? You can try to argue that if your product is better it will win, but then your product may not be bundled with every computer sold to the public

---

Re:Gift, not exchange (1)

thefallen (16891) | more than 13 years ago | (#147283)

[And mediocre repetitive comments continue... yet when I read this article, no comment mentioned this]
When I give you a copy of free software that I've written, I lost nothing. Nobody takes anything from me, and parasites do not damage or weaken the host in any way.

Event A causes loss of value iff total value is lower in the world where A happened compared to world that is otherwise identical except that A didn't happen. And so pirating is loss, and so BSD parasites do cause loss through inhibition of growth. Saying that "since you didn't *absolutely* lose, you didn't lose at all when someone parasited your code" is like saying "software pirates don't hurt the industry" is like saying "you won in lottery, a bus full of money was driving to give them to you but I raided the bus before you even know you won".

OK, so my analogues are weird. Whatever.

Re:good for business? (1)

thefallen (16891) | more than 13 years ago | (#147284)

Yes, you're right. Which is why we need a better incentive than money to motivate coding. I wonder why nobody has ever managed to create a non-authoritarian socialism (www.politicalcampass.org) ...

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (3)

rking (32070) | more than 13 years ago | (#147302)

The FSF disagree with you.
They say, and I qoute: "at least one application program is free software today specifically because that was necessary for using Readline."


Which is completely irrelevant to the discussion. The question was whether or not people were being forced to do anything. Your quote relates to someone wanting to use Readline. There's simply no connection.

You might as well say "people are forced at gunpoint to pay Lotus money, it's simply theft" and then support it by quoting Lotus as saying that people who wanted to use their software had to pay. There is no force, there is no gun, it is not theft, not even by analogy.

Gift, not exchange (5)

PapaZit (33585) | more than 13 years ago | (#147304)

This article ignores one of the findamental differences between software and other types of products: it can be copied at no cost. When I give you a copy of free software that I've written, I lost nothing. Nobody takes anything from me, and parasites do not damage or weaken the host in any way. These arguments are often repeated by software pirates, but that doesn't make them any less true.

When I write and release software, trust doesn't enter into it. It's my gift to the world. Eric Raymond's comparison of free software to other gift economies is very accurate for me. Take what I've made and use it. Make the world a better place. If it has to be proprietary, so be it.

This sort of unconditional gift isn't possible with the GPL, so I use the BSD license. As long as there are a few others doing the same, we can keep it up forever. This isn't a competition. We can all win.


--

The other side of trust (4)

coyote-san (38515) | more than 13 years ago | (#147306)

While I don't want to dismiss this line of reasoning too casually, I think it overlooks a far more important form of trust.

The reason I trust that my neighbor will not murder me in my sleep is that I trust society at large to enact retribution (prison time) on my behalf. The state has absolutely no obligation to protect me (despite what the "we must think of the children!" crowd thinks), but it does have an obligation to enforce its laws. One of those laws requires a reasonable effort to find my killer, and that is what keeps me safe.

But this trust is semi-optional - if I am fearful for my safety, I can take actions on my own. I can obtain a guard dog, or study a martial art. In many parts of the US I can even keep a gun in the nightstand.

What does this have to do with software?

UCITA. To a lesser extent, the DMCA. The apparent inability or unwillingless of the government to deal with a proven predatory monopolist.

In social terms, software (and other media) rights are arguably closer to a feudal model than a democratic one. We are asked to trust that Lord Bill, who can literally do no wrong, will not harm us. If he does, we have no rights.

This trust is mandatory - we must trust our software providers, and are legally unable to act to reduce our perceived risk.

For instance, we have to trust that UCITA, the DMCA, and a mandatory subscription model won't result in a situation where our critical data is held in a proprietary format that we can no longer access because the product was discontinued (and technical self-help caused the software to self-destruct), and no tools are available to extract the data in other forms because of the DMCA and anti-reverse-engineering provisions.

In contrast, the open licenses make this trust optional again. I can trust that 'gcc' will always be available... or I can keep backup copies of the source, and the source for everything needed to compile it, on hand.

I think most people will be concerned with this form of trust, not the "gift culture" that motivates developers.

Re:Anyone remember WHY Stallman developed the GPL? (5)

Tuck (41529) | more than 13 years ago | (#147308)

One of the examples (quoted in one of the FSF philosophy [fsf.org] essays) is that Xerox wouldn't give them the source code to fix some problems they were having with their printer.

I always found it funny that, in a backhanded way, the GNU project is just one more thing Xerox [tuxedo.org] invented.

--

Gift AND exchange (5)

interiot (50685) | more than 13 years ago | (#147311)

For users, GPL'd code is a gift.

For authors, GPL'd code is an exchange.
--

Re: Why the GPL is good (2)

1010011010 (53039) | more than 13 years ago | (#147312)

I would say the GPL is an example of enlightened selfishness, and the BSDL is an example of altruism. GPL is based on trade; an author gives his code to anyone who wants it, in exchange for any enhancements or other work that uses his code. It's payment in kind. the BSDL is altruism; the author did all that work, and expects nothing in return.

I prefer the GPL. Altruism is a moral dead end, and doesn't promote, protect or respect freedom or people's effort and lives at all. The GPL inherently respects people's effort and right to be compensated for their labor. The compensation is more likely to come inthe form of more software rather then money, but it's still compensation.

- - - - -

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (1)

Jay Maynard (54798) | more than 13 years ago | (#147318)

Hercules runs on Windows or Linux. To compile it, you must use egcs.

Actually, this is largely due to the fact that Hercules was originally written on Linux, and the original developer didn't worry too much about other OSes. One of my ongoing tasks is to make Hercules pure ANSI C to remove the dependency on egcs; this is not so much for philosophical reasons as it is for portability reasons. Hercules doesn't run only on Linux or Windows, BTW; it's in the FreeBSD and NetBSD packages collections, and has been reported to run on AIX with minor modifications.


Hercules is distributed under the QPL, which appears to me to be only marginally less restrictive than the GPL (and more like the LGPL), including some language that looks very much like a 'coercive form of sharing' (with the "maintainer", at least).

The QPL is the license that most closely matches the original author's desires on licensing while still being an OSD-compliant license. The original author is even more hard over than I am about the GPV, BTW. (Bet you didn't know that was possible...) When I write code by myself to share with others, I do use a BSDish license.


I don't think Chip disagrees, either.

I do...else why would he say " it would be tempting for those of us who don't identify with ``Free Software'' to use as our primary reply that ``Open Source is more than the GPL.'' That would be a mistake."?


You arguments against the GPL have much in common with Microsoft's; including that they are mostly FUD. This helps Microsoft, not Open Source.

"There is no idea so good that you will not find a fool who supports it." -- Larry Niven

Not even Microsoft is wrong 100% of the time. As for FUD, if raisiing real issues with something is FUD, then it's a lot more prevalent than you would otherwise think.
--

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

Jay Maynard (54798) | more than 13 years ago | (#147319)

So why on earth is it that your photograph on your home page shows that you use so much GPL'ed software, then? If you feel moral compunctions about free software sharing, then step up to the plate and stop using it.
Well, let's see...Of the systems currently in the machine room (I should update that picture), there are:
  • Three Linux full-time systems: one firewall, one net server, one Hercules development box.
  • One Windows NT machine.
  • One Windows 2000 machine.
  • One AS/400.
  • One SGI Irix system.
  • One NetBSD box.
  • One Alpha running Tru64 Unix.
  • One AIX box, with a P/390 coprocessor running various IBM OSes.
  • One laptop that runs either Windows 2000 or Linux, depending on the disk I've got in the machine.

Each system runs what it does to meet a specific requirement. In some cases, it's because it's the only OS that hardware will run; in others, it's because it's needed to perform a specific function (the Hercules development system is a case in point). In a couple of cases, the OS could be replaced; both of those cases are Linux boxes. I haven't done so mainly because I haven't wanted to subject those who use my systems to the extended service outage doing so would require. (And no, that's not just me.)


Finally, I don't see any inherent hypocrisy here...because I don't do significant development on GPVed software. The folks who put GPVed software out there do so in the expectation that others will use it, and I see nothing wrong with that. It's the idea that I can only work on it on their terms that I have a problem with.
--

Re:good for business? (1)

Jay Maynard (54798) | more than 13 years ago | (#147320)

Getting a lawyer to sue RMS? Fuck you.


Not in my plans. Neither is getting sued by the FSF, should it ever decide that they need to actually sue someone instead of just blustering.


Misquote and misunderstand RMS, and sttempting to drag his name through mud. Fuck you.

I do not believe I'm either misquoting or misunderstanding him; I'm merely taking his ideas to their conclusion, and raising what I believe to be legitimate objections to that conclusion.


Further, RMS has made himself a public figure, and having his name dragged through the mud (though I do not agree that that's what I'm doing) comes with the territory. This objection is typically raised by cultists about the leader of their cult; is that the image you really wish to portray?
--

Re:What? Where is the analysis? (1)

Jay Maynard (54798) | more than 13 years ago | (#147321)

What if you're selling software? The GPL prevents other companies from using the old "embrace and extend" trick.

Not even a little bit. There's nothing to prevent a M$ from implementing their own version of a program and using that as the basis for an e&e tactic. The most commonly cited example of this, Kerberos, isn't even an example: not only could M$ have done so if their other choice was to use a GPVed implementation, but the premise is a fallacy...since the field they used to implement their extension was put in the Kerberos spec SPECIFICALLY for that purpose!
--

Re:the GPL does more than prevent parasitism... (1)

Jay Maynard (54798) | more than 13 years ago | (#147322)

The GPL is ultimately valuable for its' darwinistic aspects, in addition to all the aforementioned virtues. It creates the MOST dog-eat-dog software development model that I'm personally aware of.
Code well, and your code (think DNA) survives and evolves. Code badly, and your code (DNA) dwindles and dies.


This is true of any open source software package, not just those licensed with the GPV.


We can thusly conclude that all that oppose the GPL are weenies that don't 'trust' natural evolutionary forces, and demand protection from them.

This is true of those who oppose open source software; it is nto true of those, like me, who oppose the GPV but support the larger concept of open source.

--

It's not at gunpoint (1)

HiroProtagonist (56728) | more than 13 years ago | (#147323)

Unless you're being literal.

You have a CHOICE of whether you contribute.

The GPL sets the rules for that contribution.

If you don't agree, don't contribute!

It's just that simple folks!

Re:good for business? (2)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 13 years ago | (#147324)

... GPL explicitly denies the software itself as a source of revenue ...

No, it doesn't. You can sell GPLed software. You just can't do so EXCLUSIVELY - somebody else could start selling it, or giving it away, once they have a copy.

That doesn't mean they WILL. And it doesn't mean that, if they do, your market will dry up entirely. Think: Did you buy the distribution of Linux you last loaded, or did you download it from the net?

Yes the financial model pays you for the service you provide rather than the software itself. But even with proprietary software a very large component of the price is for the service rather than the underlying code. People buy software for what it will do, not what it is, and when they pay they expect support.

Microsoft wants the GPLed ALGORITHM, not the code. (5)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 13 years ago | (#147325)

Microsoft wants to (or already does) use GPL'ed code but does not want to release what they did with it.

If so, I'd bet it was incorporated by low-level workers, in violation of the company's policies and the wishes of the upper management. Too much of Microsoft's business model is built on keeping the source to themselves for an exec to risk having to give it all away for a few extra features - or even a lot of very powerful features.

Especially since the GPL doesn't stop you from reverse-engineering the code and writing your own equivalent to create the feature! It even allows a single person to do this - though a large company would want to "clean-room" it, with one team doing the analysis and another the coding, to avoid risk of conatmination with enough code snippets to cross the boundary between a genre member with fair-use quotes and a derived work.

GPL and the other open-source licenses are built on copyright - which protects an expression - not on patent - which protects an idea. (Despite the way some companies are trying to stretch copyright into a super-patent.)

And the open-source social contract (not to be confused with the Social Contract license B-) ) is this:
- Here's what I did. Some nice ideas, and a lot of drudgework to make it run.
- You like it? Use it.
- You tweak it and keep it to yourself? That's fine.
- You tweak it and sell it, or give it away?
- Don't keep the tweaks to yourself,
- don't keep ME from using your tweaks, and
- make sure everybody else who gets it does the same.
- (You want to take the ideas and do your OWN drudgework to make another version run? And sell that? And NOT share the guts? I can't stop you. Just don't use the fruit of MY drudgework in YOUR version.)

Re:The other side of trust (1)

sparty (63226) | more than 13 years ago | (#147326)

The reason I trust that my neighbor will not murder me in my sleep is that I trust society at large to enact retribution (prison time) on my behalf. The state has absolutely no obligation to protect me (despite what the "we must think of the children!" crowd thinks), but it does have an obligation to enforce its laws. One of those laws requires a reasonable effort to find my killer, and that is what keeps me safe.

Okay, first: the state does have an obligation to protect your rights to life, liberty, and property from infringement by other people or the state itself. That is the sole purpose of the state, according to the natural rights theory upon which the US was founded. It does not have an obligation to protect you from yourself (e.g. motorcycle lid laws, "vice" taxes, etc).

Second, I actually feel safe not because I trust the government but because I trust those who live around me. If I didn't, I'd probably lock my house at night and have a loaded shotgun around (better than a pistol for in-home defense, IMO, because you're more likely to knock down an assailant wearing armor with a 12-gauge than with a small pistol, and you're less likely to have a ruond richochet and go through a wall...but I digress).

In genernal, though, I think you made some pretty good points about being forced to trust Bill G & co.

Where are the proofs? (2)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 13 years ago | (#147330)

I can only see that the author makes certain claimes.

Numbered from 1. to 3.

But where are the proofs?

e.g.:

3. The GPL is good for business. Companies that use the GPL are neither foolish nor stupid.
They simply want to trust that other companies won't be able to take unfair advantage of them,
and the GPL gives them that immediate security while simultaneously allowing open cooperation. And in the general case, the GPL is a friend of business because it makes new and better efficiencies possible, and economies thrive on new and better efficiencies.


If I where a core programmer working on the linux kernel in my spare time, I would consider companies which make linux distributions as parasits, taking an unfair advantage from my work (not giving me any refundings).

Unfortunatly there are only few companies comming up to my mind releasing GPLed code *NOT* working on linux distributions.

So where are the companies the author is talking about? Giving away GPLed code?
What code is that (kind of applications)?
How do they make their money? (What is the service they offer?)

Frankly: the only way I like to live is making code and sell it.
I have no clue how to make a living with GPLed code (I make mey living as consultant, and make nearly no code, all companies which I programmed for filed bancruptcy. Now I founded my own one, but I still rely on SELLING the code!)

Unfortunalty, the standard litarature from RMS and ESR do not cover how a smal team, of lets say 10 programemrs can lvie from GPLed code, not to talk about living from not gPLed code.

Everybody only makes claims and abstract conclusins from the claims, but no proofs.

BTW: a decent linux installation costs 3 times from a decent Win2k installation .... At that front it is clear how to make money: claim a GPL code mine, make distributions for the stuff you mine and sell them .... that heavyly sounds like a standard proprietary business.

Regards,
angel'o'sphere

Re:Gift, not exchange (1)

Amokscience (86909) | more than 13 years ago | (#147333)

You've hit the nail on the head.

This is not a zero-sum game.

MS would like it to be, GPL fanatics would also like it to be.

The BSD (and like) licenses are true licenses of 'trust'. The GPL doesn't trust you; that's why it forces it to remain open.

(disclaimer: I've release GPL code. It suited the situation better)

You're missing the point (3)

BierGuzzl (92635) | more than 13 years ago | (#147338)

If I where a core programmer working on the linux kernel in my spare time, I would consider companies which make linux distributions as parasits, taking an unfair advantage from my work (not giving me any refundings).

If you were a core programmer working on the linux kernel, you'd already have an appreciation for the fact that no one needs to prove their right to redistribute code that you wrote and they either did or did not modify. No one has to ask your permission, because you already gave it openly. If you feel that they are parasites, don't license it under the GPL.

If you don't want to give stuff away, then don't. Just remember that the rest of the world gives to us far more than we can ever give back.

Using pejoratives weakens your argument (1)

Tom7 (102298) | more than 13 years ago | (#147339)

Go ahead and make arguments, but saying stuff like "GPV" and making overzealous analogies makes you sound like the kind of person who writes "Micro$oft"; that is, not very convincing.

What? Where is the analysis? (5)

Tom7 (102298) | more than 13 years ago | (#147341)


There's are several big leaps here, but very little insight. How did you come to these conclusions?

The most glaring omission in my eyes is the fact that you don't reconcile the difference between altruisim with traditional goods (ones that have physical identitity and which "go away" when you give them to somebody) and the kind of sharing we do in the "open source" community. Here, "parasites" making copies of our work doesn't reduce our ability to use our own copies. (This is one of the founding principles of the GPL, in fact.) Therefore, parasites aren't much like parasites at all.

I think the GPL is great, personally, but I don't think I follow your argument.

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (1)

oli_freyr (105995) | more than 13 years ago | (#147344)

I've been reading this thread as it emerges and I simply cannot hold back any longer.

Because it adopts that favorite tactic of Communists, denying someone the ability to profit from the fruits of one's own labor. The viral nature of the GPV prevents someone from profiting from his own work.

You just don't seem to get it. It's not about denying someone the ability to profit from their own labor. It's about denying someone else the ability to profit from your labor.

Go release your own code under a different license and let others release their code under the GPL. That's what freedom of choice is about.

Your use of Microsoft FUD on the GPL makes me laugh. You don't seem to get the fact that the so called "viral" property of the GPL is a good thing. It's just being called a bad name in the hope that something bad will rub off on it.

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (2)

nels_tomlinson (106413) | more than 13 years ago | (#147346)

The problem with the GPV is that it is not a true form of sharing, but a coercive one. Sharing at gunpoint isn't sharing, it's theft.


Right. There is no element of force in the GPL. If you don't want to share your work with the world, don't use GPL'd code in your work. That seems pretty simple to me.
If you want MS or Apple to make monopoly profits from your efforts, then use something like the BSD license for your work. That seems pretty simple too.

Use whatever license you please for your own work. Don't whine when others don't see it your way, and use some other license for their work.

There's room in the Open Source movement for lots of different licenses.


There is lots of room in the opensource movement for different licenses, but some of us want more than just opensource. The people who don't like liberty don't have to have it. The rest of us will continue to lean towards the GPL.

Re:Gift, not exchange (3)

nels_tomlinson (106413) | more than 13 years ago | (#147347)

When I give you a copy of free software that I've written, I lost nothing. SNIP When I write and release software, trust doesn't enter into it. It's my gift to the world. SNIP This sort of unconditional gift isn't possible with the GPL, so I use the BSD license.

Very true: that's why I won't use BSD and will use GPL, if any of the little things I'm working on grow up to get released. I wouldn't want to make an unconditional gift to the world. I want any gift I make to carry the condition that it can only be used in programs which offer the same sort of liberty to the user that I have enjoyed with programs like R and Maxima.
One of the reasons that I like to use these packages is that the code is freely available to all, and that will always be true. That gives me some extra assurance that any investment of time I make in these programs will always be open, to me and everyone else.


Nobody takes anything from me, and parasites do not damage or weaken the host in any way.


This is again true, as far as it goes. The reason that we have come to different conclusions about which license to use may lie around here. Yes, if someone uses my work in a closed program, I haven't been harmed directly. But what if that's part of an "embrace and extend and extinguish" strategy?

Furthermore, there may be some serious problems with allowing someone to incorporate your work in a closed system. Could a company with deep pockets use your work in a closed program, then use some of the recent laws (think DCMA), or laws yet to be passed, to lock you out of using your own work in libre programs? Things like the DMCA are so new that none of this has been tested in court, so we can't say it's impossible. Remember, they don't have to win, they just have to sue and sue and sue... That scenario seems unlikely, but it seems that the risk must be smaller if we use the GPL.

Finally, I have no objection to someone making a profit from my work. I would have a strong objection to seeing someone making monopoly profits from work that I did. Remember, the reason behind allowing copyright and patent holders a monopoly is to encourage them to work. Letting someone else have a monopoly on my work seems a real perversion of that.


By all means use whatever license you like for your work. I'll use the GPL if I give such a gift to the world, because I think that will make the gift more valuable in the long run.

Re:good for business? (2)

heikkile (111814) | more than 13 years ago | (#147348)

Has any pure software company ever made money by releasing all its software under GPL? (and selling support?)

I don't know if my place of work qualifies, but it is getting close. We have a small handful of products. Some have always been free (mostly on BSD-style licences). We have just decided to drop commercial licences for our last product, and go with GPL. We sell support for the stuff, and also custom development. We may still sell licences of the big product for customers who rather pay us than accept GPL, although I expect that to be a rare thing.

This company, Index Data, has survived with this business model for 5 years now, and grown from 2 people to 8. Not big enough to rival Microsoft, but a well established company in its own right.

Re:Gift, not exchange (3)

bfree (113420) | more than 13 years ago | (#147349)

So you lose nothing?

You miss the point of the article yourself! As someone who is happy to use a BSD licence for their own code you state that you want nothing back from your code, not even the reciprocating benefits. GPL allows that when you release your code you are guaranteed never to face the scenario that the only way to extract the best from your own code is to buy someones product. I the Free Software/Open Source community gathered around the BSD licence, we would be dead the day we bacame a threat to MS, embrace, extend and eradicate, it is the security of the GPL that means that companies are willing to invest time into Gnu/Linux, without it many companies would see it as a way of funding software development houses around the planet, with it they see themselves as part of the largest software development house on the planet. The GPL is leech free in a way BSD deliberately is not, if you are ok with seeing your code leeched any which way stay as you are, but as the article suggests, the winners in this battle will be the side with an insurance policy.

Re:What Do You Mean By Efficiency? (2)

(void*) (113680) | more than 13 years ago | (#147350)

To say that closed source programs have less duplication of effort s to ignore the mountains of duplication out there.

A simple exmaple: How many Palm-OS units conversion software are there out there that charge money? I remember searching for this a while a ago and I turned up AT LEAST 10 of them.

Open Source is not meant to solve that type of inefficiency. For reasons of ego and pride, such things will always exist.

Re:good for business? (2)

(void*) (113680) | more than 13 years ago | (#147351)

We cannot in good conscience, deprive buggy-whip manufacturers of their revenue. To do so would be IMMORAL and UNECONOMIC.

Re:good for business? (2)

(void*) (113680) | more than 13 years ago | (#147352)

Not giving him the printer source to solve his printing problems also caused RMS misery.

Re:Gift, not exchange (2)

(void*) (113680) | more than 13 years ago | (#147353)

The GPL is both a gift and an exchange. It is up to you how to want to view it.

Unlike the BSD, which can only be said to be a gift, never an exchange.

Re:good for business? (2)

(void*) (113680) | more than 13 years ago | (#147354)

I think you have your priorities reversed. When we sell someone a printer, we are supposed to make his life easier. To do this, you provide printer drivers, and disclose all you about the printer, so that the customer does not have to keep coming to you for a fix. This is the rght thing to do, and for doing this, you deserve the job, and the money that goes with it.

Economics should be put into service of people, not the other way around.

If economics was all that important, all males should be pimps, and all women prostitues. You can make an economy work that way (there are some details that need to be worked out). Then everyone can have a job and be gainfully employed. That will work too.

Re:good for business? (2)

(void*) (113680) | more than 13 years ago | (#147355)

That depends on what "not taking it lying down" means.

If you decide to learn a new skill and get out of that market, more power to you.

If you decide to change your business model and cater to a different type of client, good.

If you decide to think hard and come out with a better license than the GPL that gives you what you want, and also caters to your customers needs, excellent!

Getting a lawyer to sue RMS? Fuck you.

Misquote and misunderstand RMS, and sttempting to drag his name through mud. Fuck you.

Complaining and griping on slashdot? Ha. Let us laugh at you.

Re:Where are the proofs? (3)

(void*) (113680) | more than 13 years ago | (#147356)

If I where a core programmer working on the linux kernel in my spare time, I would consider companies which make linux distributions as parasits, taking an unfair advantage from my work (not giving me any refundings).

Linus himself does not think of it this way. For example, while he likes to hack the kernel, he doesn't want care about other user utilities like gcc, ls, rm, mv, etc that he depends upon. To do this, he relies on the efforts the Debian maintainers to provide him with a coherent distribution.

There was one time in which he revealed that he was using the kernel.org achives as a backup, should he lose the sources. Thus everyone contributions, and everyone has something to gain, even if it is not code.

Re:Microsoft wants GPL'ed code (1)

Fractal Law (122229) | more than 13 years ago | (#147359)

I'm not really sure about that. It seems to me that the person or people most likely to know that there was a violation of the GPL would be the person or people who used GPL'd code in their project.

Whistleblowers tend to be people who discover wrongdoing, not people who commit the wrongdoing. It's a nontrivial task to indentify some code as being part of another product, especially if any steps were taken to mask its origin.

Trust? (2)

aozilla (133143) | more than 13 years ago | (#147364)

I didn't realize using legal threats was trust. To call the law a technology of trust is grossly stretching the meaning of the term.

Actually (3)

Srin Tuar (147269) | more than 13 years ago | (#147368)

The "always cooperate never defect" strategy is more like the BSD license. (If you share fine, if you dont fine)

The GPL is more of a Tit-for-Tat strategy: if you defect (close our source) we'll defect too (sue your ass).

If our world was an optimal maxima system (no copyright restrictions for software?), then the BSD and GPL licenses would be effectivly identical.

But that isnt our world, so in a sense, the GPL is a concession to reality.

Stacking (3)

Srin Tuar (147269) | more than 13 years ago | (#147369)

If you were to take code from 20 different programs under the "Caucho.com" license and combine them, you would have an enormous amount of difficulty trying to sell copies of that software. If anyone wanted to pay you, then you would have to charge enough to cover all those 20 other companies. If any of those 20 companies decides to set an unreasonable price, then your product is dead. (If a company was threatened by your product they could buy one of them and take you off the market)

If you take code from 20 different GPL programs, and combine them, the resultant license would be just as simply as if you had written it all yourself.

Having licenses which stack up makes it more difficult for people to derive from your work. This works against people who are hoping for someone to return the favor.

This is why the "free for non commercial" type of license is effectivly a proprietary license.

Re:Gift, not exchange (2)

PeterP (149736) | more than 13 years ago | (#147372)

This article ignores one of the findamental differences between software and other types of products: it can be copied at no cost. When I give you a copy of free software that I've written, I lost nothing.

It depends. If you write software and expect to charge for it, your loss is equivalent to what you would have charged for it. In the case of free software, this is moot, but in a for profit endeavour, this is money that you need to pay your rent with.

The "software pirates" are attempting to find a moral justification for their actions, instead of just admiting, that, like everybody else, they're sticking it to the man. Its a Robin Hood view of things.

The GPL is an excellent license if one doesnt wish to charge for their code. Me, id rather not run a "support" company. Im not really interested in helping the world by releasing my code, and indeed it would be incredibly arrogant of me to suggest that a couple thousand lines of code will somehow benifit all but a tiny subset of humanity.

Frankly, I want to be the next Bill Gates. I want to write a wildly succesful piece of software, and charge a lot for it. And the only way I can see to do that does not involve the GPL, or the BSD license. Course, i could be wrong.

Re: Readline (2)

Spoing (152917) | more than 13 years ago | (#147374)

The FSF is clear on how Readline was handled. (I'd like to hear other views, so if you know any...)

[Paraphrase] In the case of Readline, there was no force it was a choice by the user based on the quality of Readline and the work involved in someone attempting to duplicate what it does.

Anyone can write thier own code for any task they wish. There can be compelling reasons to use code that happens to be licenced under the GPL (or some other licence).

If anyone wants to use someone else's code as an integrated part of what they write, and that other code happens to be licenced under the GPL, they have to abide by the GPL. Any other licence would have it's own restrictions but usually not as many benifits as the GPL.

In the cases of GPL violations, the resolution has consistantly been either;

  1. Remove the GPLed code
  2. Keep the GPLed code and licence the appropriate new parts under the GPL also

The main alternatives -- BSD, commercial, and artistic -- have thier own benifits and drawbacks. You're free to choose any of them for your own work. Being critical of the GPL for something it doesn't do is a bit harsh.

Re:good for business? (2)

gilroy (155262) | more than 13 years ago | (#147375)

Blockquoth the poster:
This is hardly in the same class as being unemployed and unemployable in one's chosen field of work.
No one has a "right" to earn a living at their "chosen field of work". If you can, hey, great... that way lies happiness. But don't tell me that I should make my economic decisions based on keeping you employed in a way maximizing your self-satisfaction. I have no such obligation.

Re:good for business? (2)

gilroy (155262) | more than 13 years ago | (#147376)

Blockquoth the poster:
This exactly illustrates my contention that the goal of the so-called "free software" movement is the destruction of the software industry as we know it today.
I'm not a FSFer, but I suspect they would not quibble with this. They view current practices of the software industry as wrong, so of course they'd want to end it.

I don't believe that the error -- or even negative economic impact -- of this belief is self-evident, as some would like to claim. Or to put it this way, backers of the status quo need to actively defend it, not just attack the alternatives.

Re:Sharing at gunpoint (1)

itarget (168249) | more than 13 years ago | (#147380)

If I had mod points I'd give you one for that metaphor. =)

users' rights (2)

G Neric (176742) | more than 13 years ago | (#147382)

This sort of unconditional gift isn't possible with the GPL, so I use the BSD license.

You're right, it is about gifts. The gift that the GPL gives is that users of GPL software and of deriviatives of the software always have the right to see the source. This gift is not possible with the BSD license. That's why users prefer the more magnanimous gift of GPL software.

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (2)

G Neric (176742) | more than 13 years ago | (#147383)

actually, you have it wrong too. It is not about profit. It is about granting users the right to see the source, the right to modify, and the right to redistribute their improvements.

any effect on profit is a side-effect of the main goal, to guarantee users these rights.

Microsoft wants GPL'ed code (1)

skybird0 (176892) | more than 13 years ago | (#147384)

All this is about is that Microsoft wants to (or already does) use GPL'ed code but does not want to release what they did with it. Their lawyers are afraid that they might have to release all their code.

They need better lawyers.

Anyone remember WHY Stallman developed the GPL? (5)

satch89450 (186046) | more than 13 years ago | (#147392)

I'm a little surprised and a lot concerned that people seem to have forgotten the main reason Stallman holds the views he does. Check some of his earliest stuff and you will see it.

Stallman wants to be able to fix the software he is using when it breaks, and add things the original author missed.

Simple, isn't it?

Next level: how much software have you had to abandon because the author(s) and publisher (a) went out of business and (b) the source wasn't made available? You then had to move on to something else, go through another learning curve, maybe even spend a lot of time converting old data to the new format. That takes time, brothers and sisters, and time is money. And that's where the word "trust" really comes in: are you willing to bet your livelihood that WhizPublisher and BowToProgrammer will be around in the future?

Then there is the other aspect of "trust," that the publisher and the author(s) will continue to maintain the software, fix the bugs you find, and extend the functionality in ways that are useful to you. A couple of examples will serve to illustrate my point:

EXAMPLE 1: Remember troff, the typesetting program developed for Unix? It was a great piece of work, and did things incredibly well. Unfortunately the author died, so much of the incredible work had to be scrapped because no one else could begin to understand the code (not even typesetter manufacturers -- I watched one guy at Varityper try). Now, if the source had been released widely (fat chance, being a bastard child of a utility regulated by the FCC) there might have been enough of a brain trust developed to fully understand the workings of the original program. Instead, some people wrote a work-alike that serves us today, but loses some really nifty code.

EXAMPLE 2: Microsoft WORD has an interesting history, being the first massed-marketed pieces of software whose beta was bound into a mass-market magazine. (PC World, for those who care about such trivia.) Since that time it has become a definition of bloat, yet there are features professional writers have requested of Microsoft that have not been included. Because Microsoft does not make the source available, there is no way for the technically-minded professional writer to add any of those features that would REALLY make life easier. One of those features, a phrase dictionary, is one reason the legal profession sticks with WordPerfect.

We trust vendors to "do the right thing" but they are under no obligation to do so. Those who say "if you don't like it, go write your own" should be aware that the entry cost for writing a word-processor package is very, very high. Indeed, one reason for the Open Source Movement in general and the GNU Public License (not Virus) in particular is to lower the cost of entry by building a collaborative effort to accomplish a task. Divide and Succeed.

And so we now get to the bottom of why Microsoft and Stallman are at odds. Microsoft wants to hold your productivity hostage, so that THEY can release stuff under THEIR terms and to THEIR schedule. Microsoft has no significant competition in a number of markets, so competition won't keep them in line. (Remember the anti-trust suit?) The ONLY significant competition currently in place is GPLed software, because Microsoft can't "embrace and innovate" something that requires they show their cards for all to see.

The BSD and similar licenses are flawed in that Microsoft can "embrace and innovate" to the point that the original code is lost in the jungle of proprietary extensions that Microsoft would add.

By the way, Microsoft isn't the only company that plays the grab-and-obfuscate game, only the most obvious one.

What Microsoft fears most is that other corporations are beginning to "get it," that the large proprietary corporate model is not the only model for ensuring viable support for software products. The distributed development model, specifically OSS protected by the GPL, provides the same advantages as the corporate (or centralized) development model without the "bottleneck effect" of corporate management prejudice and the cost of "buying" 30,000 programmers.

And what about all those programmers? Banished to the bread lines? Guess again. Some of the most lucrative programming is in applications for specific industries. Corporations are looking to combine off-the-shelf components in ways that improve corporate productivity, and are willing to spend the bucks to make that happen. Look at the insurance industry. Look at the food-supply industry. Banking. Finance. Even waste management.

Want to work on something a little more generic? Try embedded-systems programming. There are still microwave oven controllers to be programmed, not to mention metal-forming presses and the like. Who do you think programs the firewall appliances we use on our cable and DSL feeds? Who do you think creates the new gambling machines now showing up in Vegas and Atlantic City? Even my furnace has a microprocessor in it.

And not to worry, e-commerce isn't dead, it was just overblown. There are lots of jobs there.

So stop crying about loss of jobs for programmers with the GPL. If anything, it will increase the number of programming jobs because the tools will be cheap enough to lower the barrier of cost of entry.

THAT is the blessing of the GPL: it lowers the cost of entry into computing for a number of industries.

Putting "trust" in italics still wont make it work (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 13 years ago | (#147393)

I would like to trust other businesses to fuck me at every opportunity, but in dealing with them I know that they will unless I have tall walls, miles of barbed wire, loud dogs, barking lawyers, "access" to key politicians, and my own private military.

Trust me (5)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 13 years ago | (#147394)

PHB: This GPL is broken.

Dilbert: What's wrong with it?

PHB: People keep ripping off our code.

Dilbert: Impressive. You know the word "code".

PHB: I took a 1-day seminar on technology so that I could "interface" with you "techies" better.

Dilbert: So what do you think we should do to prevent the competition from stealing our code?

PHB: Well, I thought if we rewrote the GPL somewhat...

Dilbert: I'll humor you. What did you have in mind?

PHB: Well, the GPL is based on trust.

Dilbert: I can see how that would be a problem.

PHB: So I was thinking we need to emphasize this point on trust more. Can you try capitalizing it?

Dilbert: Sure. It's a computer related thing, so do you want me to capitalize the sEcond letter, or the last letteR?

PHB: Hmm, that might be getting too technical. Could you just, I don't know, italicize it?

Dilbert: [click] [click] Done. You want fries with that?

PHB: Ah, no. This should do it, I think.

Two weeks go by

PHB: Dilbert, I thought you fixed that GPL problem.

Dilbert: I did what you thought would fix it. Strange that it didn't work.

PHB: Yeah, I know... I was thinking... Maybe we need to do something more radical. Could you maybe boldface it? No, no, no wait I have a better idea. A bigger font! That should do it!

Differently Cynical (2)

i0lanthe (198512) | more than 13 years ago | (#147397)

if most of the softwares written were released through the GPL, it would pay a lot for a single programmer to released it through a private license.

Are we talking about a piece of software for consumption by a normal user? I'm not sure how it would pay a lot. A normal user, outside the world of game theory, does not sit around and say "Before the Revolution, I spent $400 a year to buy the 10 best computer games of the year, which cost around $40 apiece and were equally good. These days, 9 of the 10 best games each year are nearly free, and the 10th, which is equally good, costs $400. This is within my budget, therefore I will buy it." In reality the 10th Game Company would be lucky to move stock for $20 apiece once people are no longer used to shelling out the dough, unless it is really amazing software, in which case it will immediately become warez.

About your post... (5)

abe ferlman (205607) | more than 13 years ago | (#147398)

Frequency: Uncommon
No. Appearing: 1-12
Armor Class: 4
Move: 12"
Hit Dice: 6+6
% in lair: 40%
Treasure Type: D
No. of Attacks: 3
Damage/Attack: 5-8/5-8/2-12
Special Attacks: See Below
Special Defenses: Regeneration
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Size: L (9' + tall)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

Trolls are horrid carnivores found in nearly every clime. They are feared by most creatures, as a troll knows no fear and attacks unceasingly. Their sense of smell is very acute, their infravision is superior, (90'), and their strength is very great.

A troll attacks with its clawed forelimbs and its great teeth. A troll is able to fight 3 different opponents at once. 3 melee rounds after being damaged, a troll will begin to regenerate. Regeneration repairs damage at 3 hit points per round; this regenerationincludes the rebonding of severed members. The loathsome members of a troll have the ability to fight even if severed from the body; a hand can claw or strangle, the head bite, etc. Total dismemberment will not slay a troll, for its parts will slither and scuttle together, rejoin, and the troll will arise whole and ready to continue combat. To kill a troll, the monster must be burned or immersed in acid, any separate pieces being treated in the same fashion or they create a whole again in 3-18 melee rounds.

Description: Troll hide is a nauseating moss green, mottled greed and gray, or putrid gray. The writhing hair-like growth upon a troll's head is greenish black or iron gray. The eyes of a troll are dull black.

Re:Gift, not exchange (1)

spectatorion (209877) | more than 13 years ago | (#147400)

Well, the logic in saying that there is a loss in giving away software is that people who would ordinarily pay for the software can get it for no money, and thus the developer of the software does not get the (monetary) compensation he would get under a closed model. Sure, there will be donations, and some people will buy the software prepackaged, even though it is free ($), but there will also be many people who will just take. Even if a company decides to sell GPL software rather than give it away, all it takes is one person to buy it, who can distribute it freely as he sees fit. Many software ventures are purely (or at least in large part) profit-motivated, so the GPL is not good for them, because although it is a sustainable model, it is not optimal if profits are the primary concern. For projects like GNU, where the aim is to better computing, GPL is an excellent model, because anyone can contribute, etc. But it is easy to see why business ventures are afraid that GPL will ruin their profit models.

The real reason why Windows can never be GPLed (3)

evocate (209951) | more than 13 years ago | (#147402)

... is because Bill Gates fears that his nickname in this community would forever be "Free Willy".

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (1)

King of the World (212739) | more than 13 years ago | (#147403)

So they got into something they didn't understand and suffered. Either that or they knew what they had agreed to and wanted to break the rules.

Yeah - marvelous argument you have there. No has to use the GPL - if you don't read the fine print you should expect to be surprised.

Quoting some parts of GPL goals while leaving others out... predictable. One goal is to allow the reuse of software. Another goal is to hold any code built upon GPL'd software open to ensure the benefits of open source in the future. Vague goals (as you describe) will always have interpretations that conflict - and this is supposed to be worth saying?

The GPL doesn't apply to any work building upon a GPL'd library. It's only for those that want to play within that software. You can even sell binary patches to the GPL code without opening it.

If you don't like it you have no right to other people's work. It's not communist as there is a choice. It's freedom to be able to distribute your code in a way that you see fit - not to have it called "communist" and your wishes disregarded.

The GPL isn't a monopoly and yet it plays by fair rules. No one's forcing you to play with the GPL. Read the licence and decide for yourself - but you'll need a response that doesn't pick and choose passages from the GPL and misnome that a convincing argument.

Re:Analysis (1)

krazo (220290) | more than 13 years ago | (#147409)

From the article: prompted me to analyze its technical merits, using insights from the book 'Nonzero' by Richard Wright

He said he was using work from this book, which is an excellent text analyzing human progress using game theory. The book has all the groundwork you are looking for, including examples, etc. I think that if you read it, the basis for his argument becomes much more apparent. In fact I suggest everyone read it, because it presents an interesting means of analyzing almost any social situation, and it is very relevant to current goings on in the software community.

Check it out at FatBrain [fatbrain.com]

Re:good for business? (1)

graystar (223824) | more than 13 years ago | (#147413)

How about IT oursourcers? Currently they produce nothing except support. They set up large corporations Windows boxes, administer them etc. Wouldnt it be feasible for a establised outsourcer to write GPL software cos they earn so much in support? Currently most of the oursourcers are contractally in bed with M$ anyhow, but once a few start using GPL software to cut costs and increase profit. These people have an incentive to use GPL software, and thus as an industry the outsourcers will collaborate on commodity type sofware.

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (2)

kyz (225372) | more than 13 years ago | (#147414)

I have no interest in "stealing" GPVed code. I argue against the GPV, as I have done for a decade now, because I believe it's an insidious deception worked on the public whose ultimate goal is the destruction of the software industry.

Oh for fuck's sake.

I work for a telecom's equipment vendor. I write software to keep their lovely hardware stable and featureful. I get paid to do that. There is absolutely no chance this work would be released under the GPL.

I then arrive at home and write compression software. I do this for pleasure. I want everyone to be able to use it. I release it under the GPL. With the GPL, everyone can use it. There are no restrictions on usage, or unmodified copying. I also like the idea that I play in a field of like-minded people who will openly share their work. It's a nice inducement, but I'd still be writing my free software anyway.

Now, if there were some commercial interests in my home written software, I'd like to be able to negotiate my position. I'm greedy and self-centred. If you don't like that, tough. With a ultra-free license like BSD, I've already given away all the crown jewels. Companies who want my code have choices
  1. They can just use my code as a standalone executable (because there's no usage or unmodified copying restrictions)
  2. They can clone the functionality of my code with their own programming staff (I'm not patenting it or anything)
  3. They can give away whatever they want to use my code in to the free software community (which would be cool, but it's not likely to happen)
  4. They can pay me off (cool!)

The GPL is as likely to bring down the software industry as home brewing is to bring down the brewing industry.

Re:What? Where is the analysis? (2)

kyz (225372) | more than 13 years ago | (#147415)

Here, "parasites" making copies of our work doesn't reduce our ability to use our own copies. (This is one of the founding principles of the GPL, in fact.) Therefore, parasites aren't much like parasites at all.

Well, I think one description of a 'parasite' would be someone who takes without giving something back. In this respect, I think that open source (not just the GPL) help by increasing the common user's exposure to the internal workings of software development, thereby increasing the potential for them to become programmers themselves, or even send in coherent bug reports... also, the idea that there is a software community rather than a vendor suggests that users and developers can become friendly, rather than have to take an antagonistic supplier/consumer relationship. What do you think?

the GPL does more than prevent parasitism... (5)

hillct (230132) | more than 13 years ago | (#147416)

The forced openness that the GPL (and other OSS licenses) establishes creates a culture and social order where as an open-source developer you are meatured by the quality of your work on a daily basis by a vast comunity of your peers. In many companies there are 'Code Reviews' where a developer goes into a conference room with a few of his coligues who then proceed to critique his code. In the end, only they know how good or bad it actually is. In the OSS comunity, that group of people critiquing the code is far move vast and generally quite knowlegable. Reputations are built on OSS projects and you're only as good as your most recent release. It's a competitive enviroment that retains a sense of comroderie,, unique to OSS development.

Imagine for a moment of microsoft has the Windows Source Code peer-reviewed in this fashion... There would be riots in the street...

Developers have the opportunity to build great creadibility, and to earn the respect of their coligues in a non-business enviroment, while working to develop truly valuable products for the business and non-business user alike.

The same thing applies with regard to fixes, and patches. Only yesterday, the OpenBSD Project was Chastised [slashdot.org] for not producing a patch in less than 6 days. Show me one instance where, first the user comunity of closed-source software could creadibly do tat, or is even made aware in a reasonably timely fashion, by corporations, of bugs in their software. Open source is conducive both to discovery of bugs and (tue essentially to a type of peer pressure) the timely patching of those bugs. Again, in the OSS comunity you live and die by the quality of your code.

The GPL goes far beyond game theory. It creates a social structure that facilitates it's successful use. I'd love to hear from some sociologists with regard to the operational characteristics of Open Source Development. I'm sure it would make a fascinating paper...

--CTH


---

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (1)

Lonath (249354) | more than 13 years ago | (#147421)

...because I believe it's an insidious deception worked on the public...

Let me see if I can encapsulate your argument:

a) You _really_ understand the GPL.

b) Other people don't _really_ understand the GPL.

It's not a good idea to base your argument on the assumption that other people really don't know what they're doing. For users who never develop software, the GPL provides more rights than any proprietary software EULA I have ever seen.

If someone is capable of writing software that's worthy of any sort of protection, they are smart enough to understand the GPL. If they use someone else's work as a base, they must abide by the license. Also, what's the chance of someone coming from a proprietary background into the world of open source/free software without being bombarded by explanations and discussions of the various licenses? If I had never seen this idea of sharing before and I was used to the types of restrictions in proprietary software, I know that I would check things out first to make sure it wasn't a trick.

If someone develops his own work from scratch, then he's free to close his work if he realizes that using the GPL is a mistake. I submit that by the time his program gets to the point that it's worth something, he will have figured out the extreme complexity of the real meaning of the GPL.


Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (1)

Bat_Masterson (250306) | more than 13 years ago | (#147422)

You just don't seem to get it. It's not about denying someone the ability to profit from their own labor. It's about denying someone else the ability to profit from your labor.

No, you don't seem to get it. As has been shown time and time again, the GPL prevents people from profitting from their development under the simple principle of "why should I pay you for it when I can copy it for free from him?". Also, denying someone else the ability to profit from your labor is exactly the same thing as denying yourself the ability to profit from your labor.

Let's imagine a world where the GPL had a few more clauses that might make it more palatable to those wishing to profit from the software:

  • GPLed code may only be distributed by the original distributor of the code unless ...
  • The original distributor decides to allow anyone to distribute his version of the code or ...
  • The original GPLed code is modified in which case the modified distribution may only be distributed by the modifier (ie. he is now the original distributor of the modified version).

There are probably holes in these clauses (I haven't done a lot of thinking about it), but the goal is to leave the code "open" and, yet, control how the code is distributed (so that the distributor may profit from the distribution if he so chooses). In this manner, the goal of the GPL is preserved in that code can be shared and modified as the "customer" chooses. The obvious problem, though, is how to physically control the distribution of the code (its the same problem that proprietary software faces).

Would this more appropriately address both sides of the argument?

Re:What? Where is the analysis? (1)

rfsayre (255559) | more than 13 years ago | (#147426)

Here, "parasites" making copies of our work doesn't reduce our ability to use our own copies. (This is one of the founding principles of the GPL, in fact.) Therefore, parasites aren't much like parasites at all.

What if you're selling software? The GPL prevents other companies from using the old "embrace and extend" trick.

More generally, by allowing others to incorporate your work into closed source products, you make market conditions more difficult in the exact area of your experrtise. However, your competitors aren't competing really, they're parasites.

Art At Home [artathome.org]

Re:GPL is parasitic - wrong (2)

DoubleTake (257889) | more than 13 years ago | (#147428)

GPL is no more or less parasitic than the average commercial license.

Your whole argument is based on the idea that software is necessarily a scarce commodity and that it must be sold by a commercial company. Wrong. Think statistics.

All it takes is one programmer out of millions with both the means and motivation to write some piece of Free software and suddenly many millions have a new piece of software. It might be a teenager showing how hot they are, young programmer wanting some experience in a new area, an experienced programmer looking for an interesting project to work on, a university research project, a company loss leader and who knows what else. No "business model" needed.

One in a million. And as the world's population gets bigger those odds only get better.

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (2)

Ayende Rahien (309542) | more than 13 years ago | (#147429)

The FSF disagree with you.
They say, and I qoute: "at least one application program is free software today specifically because that was necessary for using Readline."

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/why-not-lgpl.html


--
Two witches watch two watches.

What Do You Mean By Efficiency? (1)

robbyjo (315601) | more than 13 years ago | (#147432)

I don't want to argue, but first you have to clarify the terms "efficiency" here. AFAIK, there are a lot of inefficiencies in open source programs in the sense that there are lots of different programs that do the same thing, for example: How many CD burner programs out there? Or the more classical one: How many windows managers are there? If we can unite those efforts, we would bring more efficiency. The closed source counterparts tend to create fewer variations (I suppose)....

...the GPL gives them that immediate security while simultaneously allowing open cooperation....

Well, to me this is not strong enough. As I perceive, businesses are aiming for profit. In software industry, they try to keep any lines of their codes shut in a safe box. They don't want any other covet it and "plagiarize" it. So, they won't leer into GPL code as GPL requires them to open their "secrets" if they incorporate GPL solution. Therefore, where is the sense of "open cooperation".

In the other hand, if the software is not quintessential to their business, they might like to do this (i.e. cooperation with Open Source guys). For example: IBM, HP, of which they have other businesses than software. If the company whose life and death are in the revenue of software sales, they will strongly oppose open source movement (example: Microsoft, Adobe, etc).

Just my two cents....

Analysis (5)

OpenSourced (323149) | more than 13 years ago | (#147434)

This analysis may seem simple or even obvious.

It does. But more than that seems shallow. The author jumps from premises to conclusions without any groundwork. Please, some examples of cultures of trust demolished by parasites. Please, some cause-effect data. Even some detailled argumentation would be welcome.

I give him credit for an interesting idea (i.e. the GPL has a "genetical" advantage on other free software licenses and will ultimately prevail), but I think that conclusion should be more grounded, not simply stated.

--

Re:good for business? (1)

s20451 (410424) | more than 13 years ago | (#147436)

How about IT oursourcers? Currently they produce nothing except support.

Currently, IT outsourcers can make money off someone else's software. You suggest that they should write their own software (for which they pay the authors, but gain no additional revenue) and provide support for it - hence lowering their margins. Not the best business model.

good for business? (3)

s20451 (410424) | more than 13 years ago | (#147438)

It's nice to think that business can be based solely on trust (as in point #3 above), and it's not hard to see that a company that has other interests (like hardware, internet assets, etc.) could release its software under GPL without expecting compensation.

However, it costs money to produce software, if only to feed the authors, and GPL explicitly denies the software itself as a source of revenue. Has any pure software company ever made money by releasing all its software under GPL? (and selling support?)

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (2)

ctid (449118) | more than 13 years ago | (#147442)

They weren't forced to use the GPL. They chose to use readline, which is GPLed software. If they didn't want to GPL their product, they could have implemented their own readline(), or used some other approach. In the end they clearly were willing to use the GPL, because they released their product under that license. That isn't "at gunpoint", they made a choice.

Andrew

Failure is its own reward.

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (4)

ctid (449118) | more than 13 years ago | (#147443)

I hate to encourage flamebait, but here goes:

Nobody in the history of the world has ever been forced to use GPLed software. A person may choose to incorporate GPLed software into their own software. But nobody has ever been forced to use GPLed software. So anyone who shares their software under the GPL is doing because they want to. If they didn't want to share their software under the GPL, they would have chosen to re-write the GPLed portions that they included. You simply cannot justify your "sharing at gunpoint" remark. It's just hyperbole.

Your "radical leftist politics" remark seems meaningless to me. If I say that "you can use my software so long as you let others use the software you derive from my software", how is that a left or a right wing position? Andrew Williams

Altruism (1)

hyehye (451759) | more than 13 years ago | (#147444)

I disagree with the usage of the word 'altruism' - and with the concept. My small contributions to opensource, while gpl'd, have nothing at all to do with 'altruism'. I view altruism as one of the cardinal sins, as a giving-up of one's values with no guarantee of a return of value. One's life and work must be held as the highest values, because they are what can achieve the ultimate value - happiness. My reasons for contributing to opensource are as simple as 'giving back to those who have already given to me' - I'm paying back a debt, not trying to get others to repay my un-requested effort.

As for the value of the GPL - I absolutely LOVE the GPL.... although I prefer the BSD-style licensing in some cases. I like the idea of "if you're at home, use it for free - if you're at work, trying to use it in your money-making activities, pay me please because my effort helped you get paid". Generosity is fine, charity is not. I'll help someone change a flat tire for free, but I won't help them run their business for free.

Re:Anyone remember WHY Stallman developed the GPL? (2)

nicodaemos (454358) | more than 13 years ago | (#147445)

Some good points. Here are a couple of details which help add perspective:

  • All GPL'd software is open source
  • Not all open source software is GPL'd
  • The original author was arguing why GPL should become the poster child (and defacto standard) for open source software
  • From an access to source code perspective, Microsoft and other closed source developers are at odds with GPL and other open source developers
  • From a payoff perspective [slashdot.org] , Microsoft is in bed with GPL, while both are at odds with BSD

Makes you go mmm .... (5)

nicodaemos (454358) | more than 13 years ago | (#147446)

Society is built on exchange. One particular form of exchange that we're genetically wired for is reciprocal altruism: speculative generosity with expectation of future payoff.

Your comments have made clear to me a fundamental difference between GPL and proprietary software. The difference rests in what the developer of the software expects in terms of a future payoff. Microsoft (or any major software company) develops software will the expectation of monetary revenues. GPL developers write code in the expectation of future software they can use for free. Is it just me or are these two options the extremes of possibility? Isn't there some middle ground where the future payoff could feed the developers stomach, as well as his head?

I much prefer the licensing [caucho.com] that Caucho.com has put on Resin. In it, you're only required to pay for the product if you're going to make money off of it. On the other hand, if you're some university lifer who hacks together a great technical document repository, you don't have to pay.

In this scenario, Caucho has decided that their future payoff, either money or free software/services, is determined by their customers. This, I'll call it payoff based licensing (PBL), seems much more pragmatic than the extremist options presented by either Microsoft or GPL. Users of Caucho's software can decide if they want to use it independent of the ideological dogma of the software developer.

Microsoft and GPL are simply sharing opposite ends of the same bed. If you want true altruism, then look towards BSD style licenses that don't impose any restrictions on how you use the software. If you have no restrictions in the license, then you have nothing to enforce. Microsoft and GPL on the other hand, have to be concerned about parasitism (piracy and illegal use) since they are concerned about a future payoff.

Therefore, any large group must evolve a technology of trust. If it doesn't do so, it will fall victim to rampant parasitism, which will cause inefficiency, which will eventually bring stagnation and failure to compete -- that is, death.

The trust you speak of is between the software developer and his/her customer. The developer trusts that in giving the software to the customer, (s)he will receive a future payoff in return. Microsoft and GPL have the same issue in terms of depending on trust and hoping they will see the future payoff. Of course, they diverge some in how they might go enforcing their licenses should the need arise, but the concept is the same nonetheless.

The GPL is similar to proprietary software licensing except that it demands a different future payoff. This and other systems in which the future payoff is rigid and fixed, IMHO, will have a disadvantage to PBL schemes that allow the customer to dynamically determine the payoff based on use. I wouldn't expect any of these systems to die off, but I would expect PBL systems to gain much more market share in the coming years.

Re:Sorry, Chip...I don't buy it. (1)

SPOC (455611) | more than 13 years ago | (#147451)

totaly false ...

who forces you to work on GPL code ?
People who chose to release their code under GPL want to be sure that no one ELSE can sell their work.

If they want to make money out of their work they won't use GPL.

Generalization (1)

4thAce (456825) | more than 13 years ago | (#147455)

Therefore, any large group must evolve a technology of trust. If it doesn't do so, it will fall victim to rampant parasitism, which will cause inefficiency, which will eventually bring stagnation and failure to compete -- that is, death.

Do you really believe this is the only logical outcome? I think that, yes, it will lead to inefficiency, which will lead to ... well, just inefficiency. It depends on what kind of competition it is up against.

I personally prefer to view the argument for the social contract of the GPL in ethical terms, rather than economic terms. Does the author of a work have the moral right to tell the users of that work that they are obliged to give back to the community, or not?

It's ROBERT, not RICHARD Wright (2)

enlightened skeptic (458616) | more than 13 years ago | (#147456)

The author's name is ROBERT Wright, not Richard. And all /.'ers should read his other important work, The Moral Animal, too. Great stuff.

Altruism the standard? (1)

shoe555 (460596) | more than 13 years ago | (#147458)

For a movement such as "open source" to in one breath claim the true path of freedom is one of open exchange of ideas, and then use a term like altruism to help define this, seems contradictory. Free exchange presuposes that what is being exchanged is being done under consent of the owner, which implies property, which implies property rights - which cannot exist in a socio/politico/economic culture that uses altruism as a standard for defining ethical interaction between trading partners. Wouldn't it be more accurate to define the free exchange as an environment where owners of property share said property because they believe it is in their self-interest to do so? This would bring with it the condition that when it is no longer in their interests, they will cease to share. I'm not disputing the conclusions of this post, but I would be interested in a discussion of open source that keeps in mind the necessity of property rights in maintaining freedom.

Re:good for business? (1)

Artana Niveus Corvum (460604) | more than 13 years ago | (#147459)

You may think it foolish of me to say this, but I will say it anyway... I am a programmer by profession and have been for several years and for several different companies (some of which I know that all of you have heard of). During that time I have met perhaps five people who chose to program because they like to program rather than because it is a fairly lucrative field. Among the second group there have been accountants, tax preparers, real estate agents, et cetera. It isn't that they couldn't make money (even a lot of money) elsewhere, it is that they decided that it would be quicker if they could program (I personally envy some of them their training in other areas... I love to program but I would love to make the kind of money that a CPA does). I suppose my point is that out of work programmers largely would not be "unemployable" in their "chosen field", but instead may be unemployable only in one of several.

GPL and game theory (2)

ZouPrime (460611) | more than 13 years ago | (#147460)

I'm not a Certified Game Theorist, but I find the author's conclusions difficult to accept.

If we take the entire software industry as a zero-sum system, we can say that the GPL shoots for an optimal maximum. If we take the Prisoner's dilemma as an analogy, it would be like saying that the optimal strategy is to never defect (always cooperate). And he's right: it IS the optimal strategy on the long run.

But like every game theorists know, optimals maxima are almost never reached on complex systems, particularly in those made of "selfish entities", in this case humans. Why? Simply because there is way too much to gain in defecting. The more the system approach its optimal maximum, the more it pays for a single individual to "not follow the group" and play for its own personal good. For example, if most of the softwares written were released through the GPL, it would pay a lot for a single programmer to released it through a private license. Sure, it would be a short relative gain for him (and a short loss for the system as whole), but in real life most people lives in short term (for obvious reasons).

I'm not saying that the GPL or the open source movement is bad. On the contrary, it seeks the best for the community, and you just can't be against that. But it is also illusory to believe that the kind of Holy Grail that the author's suggest could ever be reached. There's plenty of similar systems in our society, working more or less the same way, and none (AFAIK) as ever reached its optimal strategy.
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