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Re: GNU licenses

From: Stefaan A Eeckels
Subject: Re: GNU licenses
Date: Mon, 4 Sep 2006 10:40:50 +0200

On 3 Sep 2006 19:00:48 -0700 wrote:

> David Kastrup wrote:
> > writes:
> >
> > > Wei Mingzhi wrote:
> > >> If you don't allow me using your code, then I don't allow you
> > >> using our code too. That's just fair.
> > >
> > > I don't know. To me it seems like a way to slowly strip owners of
> > > their rights to their original works.
> >
> > There is nothing "slow" involved here.  If you use any copyrightable
> > part of GPL licensed software without negotiating a different
> > license, you are bound by the full GPL.  As with any other license.
> >
> As more code becomes GPL then the amount of non-GPL code shrinks,

No - it remains the same. 

> and since the agreement requires one to make all original works
> containing GPL code GPL, it goes up fast. Of course it depends on
> how many people use the GPL code, though.

That is incorrect. The GPL only requires derivative works to be
distributed under the GPL. It cannot, and does not, determine the
license under which the original work is released. The only person who
can determine how an original work is licensed is the author. 

As such, the author of the GPLed work has the right to require all
works that contain the GPLed work, or are derivative works of the GPLed
work, to be either not distributed, or distributed under the GPL. 

But under no circumstances does force a license on original works. 

> > > Your code is your ORIGINAL WORK, and I don't see why I have to
> > > have you make it free to me.
> >
> > You are free to license your _own_ software under any license you
> > want, including giving them into the Public Domain.
> But *why* do you (or whoever came up with this GNU thing or whatever)
> want to tell people to do things with _their_ code if they use _your_
> (GNU) code?

Because under copyright law you have _no_ right to use my code. Where
commercial closed code asks for money, GPLed code can be used only if
derivative works are distributed under the GPL.

> > But it sounds like you are rather whining that you can't license
> > your own code under more restrictive terms, so this is just a bunch
> > of crocodile's tears, apparently.
> I know I can, and that's why I don't like GNU, because using the GNU
> code "forces" you "automatically" (note the quotes -- if you defy the
> "force", ie. the terms, you are breaking the law, it's your choice
> to use the code so it's not automatic in the sense you might think
> I'm using) to make your originals  that use it GNU. I just don't
> understand why it's made that way!

Because the guy who wrote the GPL thinks that all software should come
with source code, and that people should have the right to modify the
code they use, and pass it on (in original or modified form) to whom
they please. And he's used the rights granted to software authors by
the current copyright statutes to control the duplication and
distribution of their work to achieve that purpose. 

Others just wanted to write software that would be used by as many
people (programmers and end-users) as possible, and licensed their code
under the BSD license. Or the Artistic License. Or made it Public
Domain where such a concept exists.

Others wanted to maintain the control over a project while still
inviting and encouraging others to participate in its development, and
invented the MPL. 

And there are more of these licenses, each with a particular objective.

Variety is the spice of life.

Obviously, there's a lot of GPL code that is useful (and a lot just
plain stinks :), and programmers who see that code wouldn't mind using
it (laziness being a virtue :). But GPLed code is like expensive Closed
Source Software - the price might be out of your reach. If you do not
want to release the combined work under the GPL, you cannot use GPLed
software. Similarly, when the license fee for a Closed Source library
is out of your reach, you cannot use it - no matter how attractive it
is, and how much time it would save you, and how much you need the

You make the choice to use GPLed software with or in your original
work. You would like to exercise the rights given to you by the
copyright statutes, meaning that you have to grant the same rights to
the author of the GPLed software - to determine under which conditions
his code can be used. That you do not like these conditions, or that
they make the code useless for your purposes is neither here nor there.

Don't use GPLed software if it doesn't meet your needs. It's as simple
as that. If many people like the GPL, there will be lots of GPLed code.
That is not a problem.

Similarly, if many people eat at McDonalds, there will be less money
going to classy restaurants (you can only spend the same buck once),
but that doesn't give the owners of classy restaurants the right to
stop McDonalds from peddling its wares - no matter how much they might
like to argue that one should only be allowed to sell food if it's
served on genuine crockery with genuine cutlery. 

The privilege of choice is with the customer. Still. 

Take care,

Stefaan A Eeckels
Q: If ignorance is bliss, why aren't there more happy people in the
world? A: Because they don't know they're ignorant.

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