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6 Reasons To License Software Under the (A/L)GPL 367

Posted by timothy
from the do-not-remove-this-tag dept.
Henry V .009 writes with a link to Zed Shaw's "newest rant," which gives a cogent description of his reasons for choosing the not-always-popular GPL for his own code: "Honestly, how many of you people who use open source tell your boss what you're using? How many of you tell investors that your entire operation is based on something one guy wrote in a few months? How many of you out there go to management and say, 'Hey, you know there's this guy Zed who wrote the software I'm using, why don't we hire him as a consultant?' You don't. None of you. You take the software, and use it like Excalibur to slay your dragon and then take the credit for it. You don't give out any credit, and in fact, I've ran into a vast majority of you who constantly try to say that I can't code as a way of covering your ass."
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6 Reasons To License Software Under the (A/L)GPL

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  • Not really for that (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vivaoporto (1064484) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @10:41AM (#28690997)
    Licensing as BSD, MIT or Creative Commons Attribution is as much valid as a way to get recognition for your work as licensing as GPL. The only thing the later adds is that not only your work can be freely (as in the 4 freedoms) distributed but also the improvements on your work must also be.

    If recognition is all you want, by all means, just choose any attribution license. If having your work used by the most people is more important, use a BSD style one. Now, if your goal is to assure that your code will be always free, use GPL, LGPL or AGPL.
  • by Antidamage (1506489) * on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @10:46AM (#28691071) Homepage

    Oh my god, this is THAT loser?

    Zed Shaw convinced me I never wanted anything to do with open source development. That very rant you just linked helped me decide it was better to use what was available then fuck off leaving open source in the dust. I concluded if you don't have complete, absolute control over your project then the Zed Shaws of the world are going to take all of your successes and mar them with whiny drama antics.

    Slashdot does itself a great disservice publishing this sort of story. I suppose we shouldn't be surprised. Sometimes, no matter how bad you think a whiner is, he has supporters who want to keep hearing him whine.

  • I do! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by filesiteguy (695431) <kai@perfectreign.com> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @10:46AM (#28691073) Homepage
    Every chance I get to tell my manager that my team has used an OSS product for one thing or another, I mention it. I'm trying to get him to stop usign the term, "freeware" or "shareware" which implies something less than ideal.

    Sure, we use multi-thousand dollar products for development, but there's always some tool, some image, some utility, some code that is just better and licensed under GPL or CL.

    Like I always say, "why improvise when you can plagiarize."
  • Re:I do! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tixxit (1107127) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:05AM (#28691301)
    Yeah, same here. I am trying to change the misconception open source software has at my place of employment, so you can bet your ass I make sure everyone knows this great new-fangled-thingy they're using is open source. Although, I admit, I do sometimes wait until they've actually used it and tell me "how great it is"/"what an improvement it is" before I drop the f(ree)-bomb.
  • Give me an example (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:12AM (#28691389)

    "How many of you tell investors that your entire operation is based on something one guy wrote in a few months?"

    Yeah, I'm sure there are so many companies like this. Maybe small companies use OSS, but do these small companies have a developer on staff? I don't think so. This sounds like a fantasy made up by some little kid who has no clue how the things really work. Show me one company that has it's "entire operation" based on software simple enough to be made by one person in a few months. I'd love to see it.

    I rate this story a -5 Delusional Troll.

  • Re:Nobody hired you? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by k10quaint (1344115) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:16AM (#28691437)

    Have you ever stopped to think that if you have fantastic technical skills and nobody will hire you, perhaps it isn't your technical skills that need work?

    ^^^there isn't enough bolt font in the world to give this quote it's due attention

    Dear Mr Z,
    My boss knows exactly what software we use in our product. So does our legal department. So does IT, because they make all the source code in it available. Investors know what powers the company as well, in fact the CEO probably brags to them about the companies extensive use of open source (like Oracle, IBM, and Google).

    Mathematicians are plagiarists. We copy theories and proofs all the time. Welcome to the universe.

    And I used to think that all open source developers were selfless. BOY WAS I A MORON.

  • OSS 101 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:25AM (#28691569)

    Dual-licensing always seemed like a no-brainer to me.

    This cannot be emphasized enough.

    Businesses have money. Their sole purpose is to make it and not use it. If you give them the option to not use it, they will gladly accept. But if you don't give them that option, they will gladly pay, if what you are offering is worth the price.

    Nothing is personal about a business, and it seems many GPL programmers expect some transaction on some personal level, like an IOU or something. But if you take the money element out of a business transaction, there is no human element left. Unless the law requires it, they owe you nothing, and they have better things to do than console you.

    If you don't dual license your OSS, then you are not interested in making money. You are making it clear, and you cannot expect anything in return. If you do dual license, then you are asking for money from those who make it. They will review your value proposition, and either accept, or go to a competitor.

    Make your intentions clear with the licenses you choose, not with your mouth or your blog.

    It is that cut and dry. There really isn't much to rant about.

  • by Enleth (947766) <enleth@enleth.com> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:32AM (#28691659) Homepage

    I guess I have some 30 seconds now before heavy airborne objects thrown by the GPL and BSD advocates bring this thread into a total mayhem, but I'll try to make an unorthodox argument there, anyway.

    IMHO, both GPL-like and BSD-like licenses protect the freedom equally. The question is, whose freedom it is. Roughly speaking, GPL protects the freedoms of users by restricting the coders, while BSD protects the freedom of the coders, which might result in restricting the rights of the users. Which is more important, that's a whole new problem, but it's not about one license being "better" than the other.

    Another, no less interesting way of looking at the problem is asking who do we exactly mean by the "users" of the code - the people "using" the resulting binary, or the people taking the code and "using" it to create new code? Or maybe both? This question alone puts the issue in a new light, and it's not an obvious one.

    Many times I've seen people fighting over the GPL/BSD issue here and not ever once they agreed beforehand what do they mean by "users", "freedom", "better", etc. - heavy object throwing took over.

  • Re:Nobody hired you? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FishWithAHammer (957772) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:39AM (#28691787)

    Actually, having met Zed once, I was surprised at how personable the guy was--I'd be surprised if there was a group he couldn't work with. I chalked it up to the Maddox Effect: Maddox [xmission.com] writes as a bombastic douchebag, but is a pretty shy and soft-spoken dude in person.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @12:53PM (#28692843)
    One thing that seems to always be left out of these discussions is that the GPL is incompatible with many sincere open-source licenses, including some that are approved by the Open Source Initiative (http://www.opensource.org). Consider the NASA Open Source Agreement, under which NASA contributes some pretty good open-source code such as http://ti.arc.nasa.gov/project/nasa-vision-workbench/ [nasa.gov] -- this license is incompatible with the GPL because it requires all contributions to be the contributor's original creation, but it is a solid OSI-approved license.

    I understand why the FSF takes a hard line with regard to linking GPL code with code that is licensed under GPL-incompatible OSS licenses -- linking does technically create a derivative work, the LGPL is also available, and the FSF has a long-term political agenda (with which I do not entirely disagree).

    What bothers me is that some OSS developers who claim to use the GPL to inhibit its use by companies (in order to sell licenses) are quite myopic in their views of those who are contributing to the OSS community and thus are deserving of free -- in both senses of the word -- usage of their code.

    True story: I worked for a while on an open-source NASA project. I needed to add some new features, and the best fit for providing some of the back-end functionality was a GPL-licensed library. I contacted the author of this library about adding a linking exception to its license (so that it could be linked with NASA OSA-licensed code), assuming that he would be honored that NASA was interested in his library, and happy that another open-source project would be promoting his library by requiring it as a dependency (for some optional features). To my great surprise, the author refused unless NASA would pay. In the end, everybody lost -- my project used an inferior library because it was LGPL, and the GPL library got no new users and no free publicity from being linked from my project's webpage.
  • by Unequivocal (155957) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @12:59PM (#28692929)

    Zed's point (IMO) is that by using the GPL he forces many businesses to transact with him for a different license. Many businesses don't want GPL code in their product line, and for those companies Zed will sell them a differently licensed copy of his software. That means he'll be doing business with those companies, and therefore getting the recognition and/or compensation he feels like he wasn't getting with his MIT licensed stuff.

    I'm just saying that's what I think his argument is.

  • Re:Nobody hired you? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mellon (7048) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @01:36PM (#28693507) Homepage

    I don't know if I'd necessarily call you a moron, but you were definitely mistaken. Open source developers do it because it works for them, not because they want to wear a hair shirt.

    I don't have any complaints about the open source software I wrote that you probably use, because I did actually get some recognition for it. But we could never make money at it, because it was licensed under the BSD license. If I had it to do over again, there's no way I'd release it under the BSD license - what that meant was that all the open source people flamed me for not GPLing it, and the corporations took it and submarined it into their products, which they then sold in competition with the company that was paying me to write the software, so that despite having the best DHCP client and server at the time, we never made a penny on it.

    Unfortunately my company went to closed-source rather than GPL, but after that experience I can't really blame them. So when I read Zed's rant, I was singing "right on, brother" the whole time.

  • by chdig (1050302) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @01:45PM (#28693641)
    Have you spent 8 years in a bubble dedicating your life to learning a profession, deal constantly with life and death in person, and also have to interact constantly with demanding and arrogant patients for years on end? Top doctors are likely much like top programmers: few understand exactly what they do or how they do it, and they get ticked off when people disrespect their experience and ability.

    To whine and name-call a guy who's just helped heal you, or contribute massively to open-source code that many use, especially without even responding to his calm and detailed arguments, is pretty shallow.
  • Re:Reason 7 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @03:08PM (#28694719) Homepage Journal

    You use a product written by people who didn't foresee what you were going to use it for and they end up integrating changes to benefit someone whose use they didn't foresee. By keeping the code free over the long haul you get fascinating cooperation at the code level.

    Yeah, I've told this before, but anyway: my company had an itch that needed to be scratched so I wrote a program to address it. My boss let me release it under the GPL [sourceforge.net] since we had zero interest in profiting from the program. It exists solely to perform one specific task for us, and not so that we can sell or charge support for it.

    As it turns out, that seems to be a fairly popular itch, and I've gotten requests from people all over the world to add new features or to handle special circumstances that never would have occurred to me. Everybody came out ahead on this! The world got a handy piece of Free software, and we got some new ideas that made it work better in its original role here in our office. To reword your statement:

    You write a product used by people who don't use it the way you foresaw and they end up suggesting changes that benefit your own needs in a way they didn't foresee.

  • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000@NOSPaM.yahoo.com> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @03:44PM (#28695111)

    because it was licensed under the BSD license.

    Really? you couldn't make money using the BSD license on your own code but you could using the GPL? How so? I want to start a photography business, which may not be a good idea in this economy, and because I can't afford to buy all the software I'd need to run the business I want to use open source software and modify it so it's better for me. Now I figure that if I am going to tyme a considerable amount of tyme programming then maybe I could try to sell the software to other photographers as well. If I use the GPL I can not prevent them from sharing the software with others whereas with a BSD style license I can close the source and at least try to stop sharing. Now others have suggested that instead of selling the software I could sell services, but that would turn me into a software/services company not a photographer. I just want to write my own software because I can't afford the thousands of dollars commercial software for photographers cost and I may be able to make a little more money if after I spend tyme programming I sell the software.

    Of course there is a negative to using a BSD license, unless the source code is open I wouldn't be able to add or bug fixes or incorporate modifications others add to it.

    Falcon

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @06:16PM (#28697203) Journal

    Actually VB6 code is still getting written even today, but it's a dangerous proposition. There's no guarantee it'll run on future Windows versions. Especially there's no guarantee that the OCX you need will work on future Windows version.

    That's okay, VB6 works under WINE, and the number of supported OCX controls increases every version...

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