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

Bruno Mahé bruno at bmahe.net
Tue Jan 19 02:16:40 PST 2010

On Tue, 2010-01-19 at 01:00 -0800, Chris Miller wrote: 
> 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!

This would only demonstrate one thing: GNU/(L)GPL works !
GNU/GPL empowers users and keep you (software vendor) from locking them
in or keeping them from adapting the software they use to their needs.
If cheating answer their needs, it's none of your business.

Anyway, people don't need access to source code to cheat. They can
directly edit values in memory, establish proxies, edit files, and
reverse engineer binaries.

As of network enabled games, security should be at the protocol level
and not through obscurity.

> 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.

You would have a tremendous advantage because you know your product
inside out.
But you seem to think the only way to do business is to lock in somehow
your customers. There are other ways to differentiate yourself from
others and denying any freedom to your users would be against the spirit
of free software (which is why the GNU/GPL prevents most of the scheme
you talk about).

Here is an old (from 2007) white paper about free software business
models: http://www.april.org/files/economic-models_en.pdf
There are tons of others but this is the first one in my bookmarks.

> 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. 

Actually yes. See the story about Ryzom which is somewhat similar to
blender's story. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryzom
The $60 000 wouldn't be enough to cover the budget of any AAA game, but
this isn't a small amount either.

> 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.

This isn't exactly free ride. People would report bugs, answer questions
on forums, write documents or even port or provide patch for your
And even though no one else would participate, the stakeholders still
get to split development costs which is still less than handling
everything by themselves.

> 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.

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