[svlug] SW Licensing was:(RANT: Ubuntu is Evil)

Chris Miller lordsauronthegreat at gmail.com
Tue Jan 19 01:00:50 PST 2010

On Mon, Jan 18, 2010 at 7:06 PM, Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> wrote:
> Quoting Chris Miller (lordsauronthegreat at gmail.com):
>> OK.  Where we last left off on the last bit that was at least
>> comprehensible to me was whether or not GPL libraries can be used in
>> proprietary software.
> Use it in any way such that you're not creating a derivative work of
> that library.

Even then you're still required to provide a copy of the [L]GPL with
the application, and means of obtaining the library.

If you modify the library, by distributing your application (product)
you are required to make available your modifications.

As in the case of the LGPL, if you use an LGPL library, you cannot
make it such that your application will fail if an
interface-compatible version of the library is substituted by the
user.  Many, many games explicitly fail when their files fail checksum
as an anti-cheating countermeasure.  In this specific case, the LGPL
seems to enable cheating!

After re-reading both the GPL and the LGPL (several times) I concede
that I can find nothing that would indicate that by using a [L]GPL
library that your application would need to be GPL as well.  The FAQ
appears to be wrong.

> See previous reference to the ruling court decisions CAI v. Altai and
> Gates Rubber v. Bando Chemical.  You may find this plain-English
> explanation helpful: http://www.xpde.com/docs/Windows_Linux_Lookalikes_v02.pdf

I fail to see where it addresses library compatibility, though it is
very interesting to see that "look and feel" copying is generally
permissible (assuming you have the money to fund lawyers capable of
defending you long enough from the big boys).

>> Now for a moment consider Scott.  He's just a programmer, not a lawyer.
> Then, he's _really_ going to hate -=proprietary software=-.  At last open

Kind of ironic, seeing as how he writes it.

He has several closed-source iPhone games.

>> Overall I think it's Really Important that there are ways to
>> commercialize software.
> Once again, I call bullshit on the propaganda.  You mean proprietise.
> So, when you mean proprietise, _say that_.

Fine, _proprietise_.

> Don't try to con us into thinking that proprietising is synonymous with
> commerce.  It's not.  As has already been pointed out to you, the

I'm honestly not going for con so much as picking different words to
avoid repetition in the cadence of the text.  Sorry to introduce an
error in the pursuit of elegance.

>> Are there alternate models?  To me licensing and software business
>> models are almost inextricably intertwined, as one serves the other.
> There are myriad way of using open source software in business,
> including the software business.  You claim you can't figure out how to
> do that.  Sounds like a personal problem.

Best idea I could come up with is using some kind of client-server
model to lock people in to some kind of fee while letting the software
remain free.  It didn't leave me with a particularly good feeling
("vendor lock-in" is something I eschew, and am not keen to emulate -
nevermind that it completely eliminates the use of the GPL).
Pragmatically, the business sense in that model is frustrated because
someone who specializes in servers could walk off with my software and
undercut my business, simply by being able to go to market for less
money.  Obviously I could partner with the fellow, but what's stopping
him from hiring some cheaper coders from India?  I'm good friends with
a lot of Indian coders, and their code is excellent!  What do I have
that they don't?  I'm in the USA and I can participate in rapid
development cycles in close contact with the stakeholders.  If I could
be so easily undercut, moved to India, or downright replaced, what is
my incentive to spend my time in building something that is worth
paying for?  I could make the server proprietary, but then I loose the
benefits of open-source for that part of the project.  Someone could
always analyze the protocols between the client and server, hire
someone to build a redundant server, and undercut me all over again.

The other truly interesting model I heard of was that people who want
to see some software (or a new version of software, etc) pool their
money together and contract someone (or a group of someones) to write
said software, which would either be open-source or else (this was
coming from an anti-copyright libertarian fellow) there would be no
copyright.  I personally doubt that there is the inclination among
users to commit money to something they won't see for potentially many
years.  As an example, I really doubt that people who play video games
will commit money up-front to a new version of Battlefield which they
won't see for three years.  Granted there are a few die-hard fans who
will, and perhaps a few who will commit gratuitous sums of money to
the endeavor.  My prediction is that such a system will ultimately
burn out.  The majority of stakeholders in that system will realize
that most people are getting a free ride, and won't be as likely to
contribute in the future.  From what my brother is reading in the book
"Freakonomics" I could be completely wrong, but personally I wouldn't
put money (or a career) behind the idea.

Granted I spend most of my brain's clock cycles writing code and not
trying to solve the problem of trying to make a living and make it all
open-source.  But the concept that it's maybe possible is still extant
in my imagination!

>> I honestly question that all the many GPL bits of software were made
>> GPL by actual understanding of the license....
> Feel free to tell a few tens of thousands of coders that they're a bit
> dim and don't understand their own choice of licensing.  I'd rather like
> to be there when you do it.

Funny how you put that, I was imagining a more Socratic approach: "Why
did you pick the [L]GPL?"

> Would you please do me a favour and start with my friend Jeremy Allison
> of the Samba Project?

Are you being facetious?  It's very difficult to tell from plain text.
 After reading about him, he would indeed be a very interesting person
to ask about the pros and cons of the GPL, though he appears to be a
very busy person and as such I'm very loathe to simply drop him an
email out of the blue.

Registered Linux Addict #431495
For Faith and Family! | John 3:16!

More information about the svlug mailing list