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[A bit rambling] Open source licensing being questioned byanti-copyright types

 
 
ClassCastException
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      05-28-2010
In dealing with Java, OpenJDK, and Clojure stuff in recent months I'd
come to suspect that open source licensing is itself a source of trouble.
Notably, Clojure's license is incompatible with the GPL, under which
large chunks of other open source software is licensed. It seemed to me
that a measure intended to free up software so anyone could develop it
and contribute to it, as long as their contributions in turn became
available to others, had somehow gotten itself tangled in knots that
actually hindered this purpose.

So I decided to do a little reading on copyright in general. Why does it
even exist? The nominal purpose, it turns out, is to "promote the
progress of science and the useful arts" by providing a way for the
creators of any popular or important work to ensure remuneration,
basically. Which smells suspiciously like a grant of monopoly -- which,
barring the notion of "fair use", it basically is. Furthermore there are
a LOT of blogs out there expressing serious criticism of copyright,
pointing out that fair use is not in most cases a workable defense even
when it should be, and that copyright has been twisted away from its
original purpose by corporations seeking to extend and tighten their
control over lucrative media and software properties.

It thus seems that copyright was twisted away from its original purpose,
to which it might have been poorly suited to begin with, and open source
licenses try to twist it back toward that purpose. Double twist. Is it
any wonder it's getting tangled in knots?

Here's something even weirder though: my blog-surfing led me eventually
to http://www.againstmonopoly.org/index...56000000003021 where
there is mention of open source licenses being not without problems. And
I saw something familiar out the corner of my eye: [insult deleted] in
the "most recent comments" thing at the right. Curious, I clicked on "My
Growing Library of Banned Books" and wouldn't you know it, it is indeed
Twisted, flaming some poor pro-copyright person who showed up at the blog
to criticise it. Talk about sticking your head in the lion's den,
especially when one of the lions is Twisted!

Upshot: I think I'll use BSD-type licenses for now. They're compatible
with almost anything, license-wise, including the GPL and Clojure's
license, and have a decent level of respect in the open source world. I
don't think I can go far wrong if I use the two-clause BSD license on my
code.

If anyone knows differently, or has any other insights on the licensing/
how-to-make-money/copyrights-are-they-good-or-evil issue as they apply to
Java/JVM developers, I wouldn't mind knowing what they have to say.
Please do try not to turn this into a useless anti-Twisted flamefest
though; this newsgroup has gone a good long time without one of those and
I for one like it just fine that way.
 
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Mike Schilling
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      05-28-2010
ClassCastException wrote:
> Upshot: I think I'll use BSD-type licenses for now. They're compatible
> with almost anything, license-wise, including the GPL and Clojure's
> license, and have a decent level of respect in the open source world.
> I don't think I can go far wrong if I use the two-clause BSD license
> on my code.


The main difference between BSD and GPL is that BSD doesn't preclude use in
for-profit software. If that's your intent, it's a good choice.


 
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Nigel Wade
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      05-28-2010
On Thu, 27 May 2010 23:21:16 -0700, Mike Schilling wrote:

> ClassCastException wrote:
>> Upshot: I think I'll use BSD-type licenses for now. They're compatible
>> with almost anything, license-wise, including the GPL and Clojure's
>> license, and have a decent level of respect in the open source world. I
>> don't think I can go far wrong if I use the two-clause BSD license on
>> my code.

>
> The main difference between BSD and GPL is that BSD doesn't preclude use
> in for-profit software. If that's your intent, it's a good choice.


The GPL makes no such exclusion. I presume that you've been reading the
FUD rather than the GPL.

This comes direct from the GPL FAQ:

"If I use a piece of software that has been obtained under the GNU GPL,
am I allowed to modify the original code into a new program, then
distribute and sell that new program commercially?

You are allowed to sell copies of the modified program commercially,
but only under the terms of the GNU GPL. Thus, for instance, you must
make the source code available to the users of the program as described
in the GPL, and they must be allowed to redistribute and modify it as
described in the GPL.

These requirements are the condition for including the GPL-covered
code you received in a program of your own. "

--
Nigel Wade
 
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David Lamb
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      05-28-2010
On 28/05/2010 4:19 AM, Nigel Wade wrote:
> On Thu, 27 May 2010 23:21:16 -0700, Mike Schilling wrote:
>> The main difference between BSD and GPL is that BSD doesn't preclude use
>> in for-profit software. If that's your intent, it's a good choice.

>
> The GPL makes no such exclusion. I presume that you've been reading the
> FUD rather than the GPL.
>
> This comes direct from the GPL FAQ:
>
> "If I use a piece of software that has been obtained under the GNU GPL,
> am I allowed to modify the original code into a new program, then
> distribute and sell that new program commercially?
>
> You are allowed to sell copies of the modified program commercially,
> but only under the terms of the GNU GPL. Thus, for instance, you must
> make the source code available to the users of the program as described
> in the GPL, and they must be allowed to redistribute and modify it as
> described in the GPL.
>
> These requirements are the condition for including the GPL-covered
> code you received in a program of your own. "


I'd really like to understand the various FOSS licence issues better, so
please forgive the question if it's a diversion:

Does this quote mean that, although one can legally sell modified code,
there is little incentive for anyone to pay for it, since they can
obtain, use, modify, and redistribute for free?



 
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Lew
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      05-28-2010
Nigel Wade wrote:
>> This comes direct from the GPL FAQ:
>>
>> "If I use a piece of software that has been obtained under the GNU GPL,
>> am I allowed to modify the original code into a new program, then
>> distribute and sell that new program commercially?
>>
>> You are allowed to sell copies of the modified program commercially,
>> but only under the terms of the GNU GPL. Thus, for instance, you must
>> make the source code available to the users of the program as described
>> in the GPL, and they must be allowed to redistribute and modify it as
>> described in the GPL.
>>
>> These requirements are the condition for including the GPL-covered
>> code you received in a program of your own. "


David Lamb wrote:
> Does this quote mean that, although one can legally sell modified code,
> there is little incentive for anyone to pay for it, since they can
> obtain, use, modify, and redistribute for free?


The quote does not mean that.

You might choose to conclude that based on other data, but it's not what the
quote means.

The tendency to blame the license for the conclusions that one draws about it
causes misunderstanding and misuse or abuse of open-source licenses and FUD
among potential users of the software they cover.

The GPL as cited only says you have to provide the source code. It does not
preclude incentives to pay for it. For example, source code is really only
useful if you have a developer handy. Users that don't have one handy will
have to pay to have one handy in order to use the source code. They can pay a
third party to provide the GPLed code and make it work, or they can hire an
employee to do so. Either way, they're paying for the software.

And why would they redistribute it? It's open source; there's no onus on them
to distribute what any user can obtain on their own. So that provides no
disincentive to purchase the software.

Sure, they can obtain it for free, and theoretically even use it for free.
But what if they want more than the minimum functionality? Someone still has
to apply expertise to the use of the software, expertise that must be
purchased regardless of licensing fees.

Modify for free is no disincentive either - who wants to modify the code
rather than just use it without trouble?

So the only disincentives are the cost to obtain the software, which is always
rolled into the purchase cost even in non-open-source software, and - and -
that's it. The cost to use the software is roughly the same, and most
customers have no interest in the source code at all.

Being the one to provide what does interest them is where you make money. GPL
does not stand in the way of that at all.

--
Lew
 
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Joshua Cranmer
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      05-28-2010
On 05/28/2010 02:21 AM, Mike Schilling wrote:
> The main difference between BSD and GPL is that BSD doesn't preclude use in
> for-profit software. If that's your intent, it's a good choice.


A better way of phrasing it is that GPL code begets only GPL code,
whereas BSD code can be used more widely. GPL is actually rather crappy
for many libraries, since you can't use GPL code in many major open
source projects.

--
Beware of bugs in the above code; I have only proved it correct, not
tried it. -- Donald E. Knuth
 
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Arne Vajhj
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      05-29-2010
On 28-05-2010 02:21, Mike Schilling wrote:
> ClassCastException wrote:
>> Upshot: I think I'll use BSD-type licenses for now. They're compatible
>> with almost anything, license-wise, including the GPL and Clojure's
>> license, and have a decent level of respect in the open source world.
>> I don't think I can go far wrong if I use the two-clause BSD license
>> on my code.

>
> The main difference between BSD and GPL is that BSD doesn't preclude use in
> for-profit software. If that's your intent, it's a good choice.


The GPL license does not preclude that.

But the terms of the GPL license combined with cost minimizing
users makes certain business models not working.

Arne
 
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Arne Vajhøj
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      05-29-2010
On 28-05-2010 16:09, David Lamb wrote:
> On 28/05/2010 4:19 AM, Nigel Wade wrote:
>> On Thu, 27 May 2010 23:21:16 -0700, Mike Schilling wrote:
>>> The main difference between BSD and GPL is that BSD doesn't preclude use
>>> in for-profit software. If that's your intent, it's a good choice.

>>
>> The GPL makes no such exclusion. I presume that you've been reading the
>> FUD rather than the GPL.
>>
>> This comes direct from the GPL FAQ:
>>
>> "If I use a piece of software that has been obtained under the GNU GPL,
>> am I allowed to modify the original code into a new program, then
>> distribute and sell that new program commercially?
>>
>> You are allowed to sell copies of the modified program commercially,
>> but only under the terms of the GNU GPL. Thus, for instance, you must
>> make the source code available to the users of the program as described
>> in the GPL, and they must be allowed to redistribute and modify it as
>> described in the GPL.
>>
>> These requirements are the condition for including the GPL-covered
>> code you received in a program of your own. "

>
> I'd really like to understand the various FOSS licence issues better, so
> please forgive the question if it's a diversion:
>
> Does this quote mean that, although one can legally sell modified code,
> there is little incentive for anyone to pay for it, since they can
> obtain, use, modify, and redistribute for free?


For a traditional software sale model "here is a CD with the software
and a valid license key - if you want support then you have to
pay extra", then YES.

There are several companies selling GPL software and making money
using different business models.

Arne
 
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Arne Vajhøj
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      05-29-2010
On 27-05-2010 22:58, ClassCastException wrote:
> In dealing with Java, OpenJDK, and Clojure stuff in recent months I'd
> come to suspect that open source licensing is itself a source of trouble.
> Notably, Clojure's license is incompatible with the GPL, under which
> large chunks of other open source software is licensed.


And so what?

This means that you can not modify the Clojure compiler using
GPL code.

Very few libraries are GPL. LGPL and GPL with linking exception
was invented for libraries.

And it has no impact on people writing apps in Clojure.

> So I decided to do a little reading on copyright in general. Why does it
> even exist? The nominal purpose, it turns out, is to "promote the
> progress of science and the useful arts" by providing a way for the
> creators of any popular or important work to ensure remuneration,
> basically. Which smells suspiciously like a grant of monopoly -- which,
> barring the notion of "fair use", it basically is.


If everybody could copy software exactly as they wanted then
I am pretty sure that the software industry would be in a very
poor shape.

> Furthermore there are
> a LOT of blogs out there expressing serious criticism of copyright,
> pointing out that fair use is not in most cases a workable defense even
> when it should be, and that copyright has been twisted away from its
> original purpose by corporations seeking to extend and tighten their
> control over lucrative media and software properties.


Sounds like blogs from teenagers that wants to be able to download
everything for free and have parents to pay the bills.

> It thus seems that copyright was twisted away from its original purpose,
> to which it might have been poorly suited to begin with, and open source
> licenses try to twist it back toward that purpose.


Not really.

Open source use copyright the exact same way as closed source. The
only way.

Open source has different license terms than closed source, but that
does not change the copyright as such.

> Upshot: I think I'll use BSD-type licenses for now. They're compatible
> with almost anything, license-wise, including the GPL and Clojure's
> license, and have a decent level of respect in the open source world. I
> don't think I can go far wrong if I use the two-clause BSD license on my
> code.


When you have copyright for the code, then you decide on the
license.

I think that you can generally divide in:
- strong copyleft (GPL)
- weak copyleft (LGPL etc.)
- permissive (Apache, BSD etc.)

Due to Apache's strong involvement in Java technologies, then I
think there are more Java code under Apache than BSD license.

Arne
 
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ClassCastException
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      05-29-2010
On Fri, 28 May 2010 16:09:36 -0400, David Lamb wrote:
> Does this quote mean that, although one can legally sell modified code,
> there is little incentive for anyone to pay for it, since they can
> obtain, use, modify, and redistribute for free?


Red Hat makes quite a bit of money selling copies of GPL'd software on
physical media.

This might have something to do with the fact that Aquafina makes quite a
bit of money bottling and selling stuff that pretty much all of their
potential customers can get out of a faucet for free.

It might also have something to do with the fact that the entertainment
industry is not, contrary to popular belief, losing revenues to piracy.
Declining sales of things like DVDs and recorded music have a complex web
of causes, in which the effects of online piracy are not reliably
different from zero according to the statistical studies.

It *is* possible to compete with free, generally by segmenting the market
and taking the high end somehow. Image, branding, convenience, or some
other thing can differentiate you from the free competition. For example,
bottled water comes complete with a new, clean bottle to carry it in and
can be an image thing. Red Hat sold on a CD is as simple to get and
install as buy in store, stick in disk drive, run, similar to other store-
bought software, without having to do anything special like download gigs
of .iso possibly over a shoddy line and then figure out how to turn
a .iso file into a working bootable install disc and etc., so there it's
convenience. If you have the money, buying a DVD is probably more
convenient than trying to find a good, non-foreign-language rip on
BitTorrent and buying a Blu-Ray is almost certainly more convenient than
trying to find a good, non-foreign-language HIGH-DEF rip on BT. CDs are
pretty much toast but a 99 cent iTunes download is more convenient for
anyone who owns a credit card than an attempt to find and download a good
rip on LimeWire.

The moral of the story: the GPL absolutely is NOT incompatible with
profiting from selling software, NOT EVEN if you restrict your business
model to selling copies. When you broaden that to include selling support
and ancillary merchandising of various kinds, it's even more possible.

Someone suggested game content, but that's also ultimately copyable --
unless it resides server-side. An MMORPG could be entirely GPL'd,
including the server code, and even without any copyright enforcement on
the game content, and still be easily profitable. First, you run servers
time and bandwidth on which are scarce and charge for this. Competitors
can duplicate your service and, with some effort, duplicate your content
more-or-less, but any such competitor can be kept ahead of by developing
fresh content (necessary anyway to hang onto long-time players). On top
of that if your game gets popular enough you can make a sideline selling
plush toys, action figures, or whatnot of game characters, potentially.
If these are not trademarked or otherwise "protected" you'll have
competition there too, but there's plenty of competition selling, say,
chicken nuggets or chairs, but plenty of money to be made in the chicken
nugget and chair industries too, and your game's popularity will grow the
market for this merchandise and, with it, your slice of the merchandising
pie for those characters, even if that slice is not the whole pie.
Indeed, almost anything you or your competitors do will grow the overall
market and cause all of you to sell more of everything.

A strange game -- the only losing move is not to play.
 
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