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Programming GNU is Not Unix Software IT Technology

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

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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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @10:36AM (#28690911) Journal
    Zed, man, we gotta talk. Your site has changed since Slashdot last led me to it []. Back then I thought it was black and had huge scrawled letters over the top of it that said "Zed's So Fucking Awesome!" So what happened to ZSFA? Also, now when I click that link you seemed to have replaced [] your badass rant against people with an apologetic explanation of your "parody" and you won't grant poermission to publish it? That's a shame I quoted the best part [] on the Slashdot story.

    What happened to you, man? You used to be cool! Where's all the in your face swearing and abrasiveness? You used to be hardcore! Your 'music' is so alive with raw power but now your site is somehow more respectable.

    And now in your latest rant you're complaining that by writing Mongrel you weren't given a consulting job? You weren't handed a company to destroy? Well, way to stick it to the man, my friend. You seem to enjoy bashing the hell out of developers trying to get a job done for not standing up and screaming "Zed's So Fucking Awesome" but now you are complaining that didn't win you a job.

    You, are a great software developer. Much better than I in all probability. You are a complete and utter asshole in nearly every other respect (yes, even in your music) and it should come as no surprise that you cannot land a job on a team. I would not pay money for your projects since I don't use them but I will send you $20 to stay in a hole, write software and restrict yourself from communicating with the outside world. Really, the world would be a better place.
  • Money quote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davide marney ( 231845 ) * <> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @10:44AM (#28691033) Journal

    But the days of quick-flip corporations and ingrate programmers making money on my software are over. My new motto is:

            Open source to open source, corporation to corporation.

    If you do open source, youâ(TM)re my hero and I support you. If youâ(TM)re a corporation, letâ(TM)s talk business.

    A very sensible position, IMHO. Dual-licensing always seemed like a no-brainer to me.

  • Nobody hired you? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @10:55AM (#28691157) Homepage Journal

    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?

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @10:55AM (#28691175) Journal
    I never heard of any of this guy's software, I don't use it, and I don't care. Sounds like he has an inflated sense of his own importance.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @10:59AM (#28691229)

    Mod me a troll if you want, but the GPL has aboslutely NOTHING to do with his complaints. The GPL will not guarantee him to be hired, or his code praised. His attribution rights are the same as under an LGPL or BSD license. He is still just as liable to be called a hapless codemonkey who produces nothing but broken code, as if he had released under any other license. People will use his code to cover their asses in exactly the same fashion, whether its GPL or BSD or any other license. ALL the GPL does is make the code of the company free just as his code was free.

    A GPL supporter uses it to keep software free. If your expectation of it is to somehow improve your career or reputation that you otherwise cannot support, you are not a free software enthusiast, you're just a loser.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:02AM (#28691257)

    Now, if your goal is to assure that your code will be always free, use GPL, LGPL or AGPL.

    Your code may be free, but you can hold your breath and see your efforts being duplicated by someone using a more permissive license.
    Thus, rendering your code irrelevant, eventually.

    Also, if your boss allows you to write open source code, you might want to pick a more permissive license, so that you can freely use your own code once you leave the company.

  • Reason 7 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:02AM (#28691259) Homepage

    The way the GPL has turned out is:

    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.

  • Some good advice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RenHoek ( 101570 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:08AM (#28691331) Homepage

    Here's some good advice for anybody who does anything creative, be it programming,art, writing a story, anything...

    Do _not_ create something and then expect the masses upon which you bestow your baby to be happy.

    I've seen tons of open source coders quit because their public was only complaining about features and bugs. So don't start out with such expectations. You should create something because _you_ want to make something. If anybody praises you afterward then count your lucky stars. But the only way how you can remain a creative person is by doing it for yourself in the first place.

    I'm sure some of my code/programs are being used in the wild. And that makes me happy. I haven't gotten a lot of positive feedback, but that's ok. I'm happy because writing it made me happy.

  • by Ukab the Great ( 87152 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:12AM (#28691391)

    HR Person (to Zed): "We see on your resume that one has paid you to do rails development in the last year and a half, and that you've been writing some "mongrel" thing in your spare time. We're really looking for someone with more relevant and recent Ruby-on-Rails experience."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:12AM (#28691393)

    This is nothing more than typical programmer entitlement EGO issues.

    I want credit for this, I want credit for that, I want a job at your company, because I made XXX.

    But what about the OTHER people who made YYY, so YOU could do XXX?

    What about all the other libraries, API's, and documentation YOU used? Did you give credit to them?

    Get off the high-horse, and get rid of all this entitlement you THINK you deserve.

  • Re:Money quote (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:22AM (#28691513)

    The problem with dual-licensing is that it practically kills reciprocation: If you use the open license, you can't contribute back, because then the merged code base can no longer be dual-licensed, unless you do what the original author just rejected: Allow someone else to make money on your work while you get nothing. Big projects often require that you sign over your rights to patches or they won't consider them for inclusion. It's a form of "do as I say, not as I do."

  • If your code... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:22AM (#28691519) Journal
    is anything like your writing capability, it's no wonder people say you can't code.

    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.

    Editors. When you see something so blatant, please use [sic] after it so people will know it's not you doing the mangling the English language.
  • by ILongForDarkness ( 1134931 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:27AM (#28691595)
    Or, we read your rant about how ruby on rails is a ghetto so you obviously don't want to work with the technology, so why did you apply?
  • by NewbieProgrammerMan ( 558327 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:28AM (#28691611)

    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.

    No, asshole, some of us think it's important for our employer to know which third party libraries and tools we're using (whether they are open source or not), so they aren't blindsided with a lawsuit. I conjecture that you're projecting your own need to be the hero onto the rest of us.

  • Re:agreed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Freetardo Jones ( 1574733 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:29AM (#28691631)

    The BSD, MIT licenses (even if more open) are for mugs who end up having their code "stolen" !

    You claim this but the BSDs get countless contributions back from people and corporations that use their code. This is just GPL FUD.

  • by Fnord666 ( 889225 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:31AM (#28691647) Journal

    Sadly, none of Mongrel's success mattered for me. Even though everyone was using my software, the vast majority of firms using Mongrel were startups. The last thing a startup wants to admit is that they don't own their intellectual property. They want everyone, especially the VCs and investors, to believe that they're all geniuses who "innovated" everything they run.

    So if I build the next great NASCAR engine, I should credit Craftsman(TM) for making the sockets I used to assemble it? Maybe these startups should also credit the RAM, mobo, and PS manufacturers for the parts in the server.

  • by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:37AM (#28691737) Homepage

    Let me tell you a little secret. Proprietary software developers are just as big assholes.

    Sometimes even worse, because sociopathic bosses and the economy make their contribution as well.

    In the closed source world you almost never have complete control of your project. What happens if the OS, language, or vital module of your project is dropped by the maker? If you work on .NET for instance, then one day it could be abandoned, to be replaced by something newer and shinier. In comparison, C and Perl are ancient and aren't going anywhere.

  • OSD? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shadowknot ( 853491 ) * on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:39AM (#28691781) Homepage Journal

    I think Zed needs to read this as he seems to have lost the spirit of open source entirely:

    1. Free Redistribution
    The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.
    2. Source Code
    The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form. Where some form of a product is not distributed with source code, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining the source code for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost preferably, downloading via the Internet without charge. The source code must be the preferred form in which a programmer would modify the program. Deliberately obfuscated source code is not allowed. Intermediate forms such as the output of a preprocessor or translator are not allowed.
    3. Derived Works
    The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.
    4. Integrity of The Author's Source Code
    The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in modified form only if the license allows the distribution of "patch files" with the source code for the purpose of modifying the program at build time. The license must explicitly permit distribution of software built from modified source code. The license may require derived works to carry a different name or version number from the original software.
    5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups
    The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.
    6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor
    The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.
    7. Distribution of License
    The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.
    8. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product
    The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program's being part of a particular software distribution. If the program is extracted from that distribution and used or distributed within the terms of the program's license, all parties to whom the program is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with the original software distribution.
    9. License Must Not Restrict Other Software
    The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software.
    10. License Must Be Technology-Neutral
    No provision of the license may be predicated on any individual technology or style of interface.
    The Open Source Definition []

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:41AM (#28691811)

    He says: 'I Dont Want To Be Ignored Again'.

    Well then maybe you shouldn't release your software with no marketing what-so-ever?

    First of all: You wrote a HTTP library for Ruby. Big fat hairy deal. Frankly, I never knew and I couldn't care less. Second of all: The Rails crowd gained traction and scored bizar amounts of hype for one reason - and one reason *only*: They had, by standards of open source - a massive marketing campaign to push Rails into the FOSS webdev field. They have a website that, for *once* in the FOSS field, didn't look like shit (and changed the FOSS-Project-Website & Enduser Awareness Game for ever - God bless them!), they pratically invented the concept of screencasts to showcase their FOSS webkit in short understandable fashion and they abandoned all snotty-nosed elitist crap in favour of building a community for webdevs while at the same time doing huge inroads into the Java & academic community who needed Ruby to boost their ego and to seperate themselves from the PHP crowd. And who, until the rails hype, weren't aware of any FOSS webkits. Of which Rails, btw., isn't a particuarly new, good or innovative one anyway. Other kits from ages ago are still leading the field by far technology wise - with nobody careing. Due to, guess what?, no marketing.

    Your conclusions are wrong, Mr. Shaw. People care squat about what you licence your software under. If you want money, you demand money. If you want attention, you demand attention. Rails did it, you didn't. Your Mongrel site isn't bad, by FOSS standards that is, but it doesn't look particuarly interesting either. Learn you lesson, licence with whatever you want - wether it's the GPL or not *nobody* of *any* importance fucking cares - and do a little marketing and reasearch before you push your next FOSS tool. That, and nothing else, will enable a business on top of it.

    My 2 Euros.

  • by mortonda ( 5175 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @11:42AM (#28691825)

    From the article:

    That's my first reason I use the GPL:

    Because I want to, and if you disagree with it then don't use my software. It's as simple as that.

    You know Zed, that's all you have to say. The rest was at best... silly.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @12:48PM (#28692741)

    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 [] writes as a bombastic douchebag, but is a pretty shy and soft-spoken dude in person.

    Yes, but if a potential employer can google your Maddox Effect rants, they're not going to give you the chance to screw up a team. In other words, if you want to be a professional, be professional. Duh.

  • by Enleth ( 947766 ) <> on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @12:49PM (#28692771) Homepage

    That's a rare view, I think - the majority seems to claim that GPL restricts coders by not allowing them to do whatever they want with someone else's code, and this is why I phrased it like that. Indeed, at the same time, this protects the original author.

    Actually, yet another important question arises here - does "the coder" here mean "the author who released the code under GPL" or "some other programmer who found the code and wants to use it"? Do you see it now, that even your statement can be dangerously ambigius?

    Don't be so quick to call nonsense, no one of us is an oracle of the absolute truth.

  • by derGoldstein ( 1494129 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @12:49PM (#28692775) Homepage

    Nonsense. The GPL protects the freedom of coders by ensuring that they are free to modify code.

    The parent post did point out that this will, unnecessarily, turn into a license war thread. At which point he started that war by throwing the first stone (wrapped in an "IMHO", but we know that doesn't change anything).

    Licenses have nothing to do with TFA, as the comments above have well pointed out. There's no need to get sucked (suckered?) into another one of these flame wars just because this guy (who wrote TFA) decided to make licenses the cause of his problems, almost arbitrarily.

    Attempting to follow my own "advice", I won't give my opinion on the license issue, humble or not. I will, however, point out that choosing a different license, *any* license, would not have solved this person's problems. See comments above for details.

  • Re:OSS 101 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FishWithAHammer ( 957772 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @01:27PM (#28693361)

    A dual-licensed version opens up the possibility of forking and taking business away from me, which I find unacceptable. I can fix bugs just as well as they can, and make money off of it. And because my good name is invested in the product and there is no community for me to foist bugs off onto, I am encouraged to make sure those bugs are addressed myself, to my own standards.

    So, in other words--yes, I am better off.

    I open-source what I don't intend to use for commercial purposes, or what is based on other open-source components with copyleft licensing terms. What makes me money stays closed.

  • by rs232 ( 849320 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @02:05PM (#28693913)
    "If your library is GPL-licensed, you're barring people from using it; from finding bugs and contributing patches. What open source is all about imho"

    You're kidding, right?
  • by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @02:26PM (#28694203)

    The truth is that the GPL simply allows the original author to control the terms under which derivitive works can be distributed. Absent any moral or ethical self-congratulations, I have no problem with that.

  • by WNight ( 23683 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @02:48PM (#28694485) Homepage

    The problem with the freedom for who, coders vs users question is that is draws a line between the two. By being focused on only the current coders and users. Users become coders - if they have the means.

    Yes, the BSDL offers one more freedom, for THAT coder, the right the close the source.

    The GPL offers that coder one less freedom, but offers all the rest to everyone else in perpetuity. Not only do they have access to the code you originally wrote, but to anything current which is based on it. Not just some neat old code, but code to THE binaries they're currently running.

    But frankly, I've never seen a 'GPL is bad/BSD good' post that was anything other than an entitlement whine. "I should be able to close-source your code or I can't really use it, wah."

    To anyone who feels this way, good. I mean great. Any license that keeps you from profiting and being stingy is doing its job.

    This is a tempest in a tea-pot though. I challenge anyone to point out a real developer (other than Microsoft) with this GPL-bad attitude. The reality is that the GPL is no-more viral than a proprietary license. By mixing your code with someone else's you no-longer have full control over it. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something.

    I've certainly never seen a prominent BSD community member with this attitude. Not that BSDers love the GPL, but that no real open-source BSD dev is whining about their inability to close-source some GPL'd project. Their complaints are that our (GPLers) caring about what they see as a minor issue harms open-source in general by preventing BSD/GPL mixing.

    Real coders and users don't fight over the BSD/GPL, because they benefit from both - whiners are never happy and will lie about their reasons (greed).

  • by mellon ( 7048 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @09:54PM (#28699035) Homepage

    No, that's not the answer. The answer is that they were a really big company, and were able to sell it through an existing sales channel alongside products that were already well-established. We do just fine selling our closed-source product - the fact that we weren't competing against a well-funded, established company selling the same thing allowed us to build our own sales channel and establish our own relationships.

    It's nice that you have so much faith in the free market, but actually your conclusion is a tautology. Profitable ideas sell? Right. That's why you can call them profitable.

  • by mellon ( 7048 ) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @09:58PM (#28699055) Homepage

    You're mistaken. You own the software. Whether it's BSD or GPL, you can sell it, because you own it (presuming, of course, that you actually wrote it yourself). The difference is that with BSD, if you ever release the source code (and if you didn't, who cares what license you use on it in-house?), anybody else can *also* sell it as a closed-source product.

    With the GPL, they have to sell it as open source. It doesn't mean no-one will sell it, but for whatever reason a lot of companies are uncomfortable turning GPL software into a product, presumably because they have to release their own work. So, as it turns out, you can make a pretty nice living using a dual-license model, where you sell binaries, but you give away source.

  • Re:freedoms (Score:3, Insightful)

    by andy.ruddock ( 821066 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @06:13AM (#28701419) Homepage
    So they should have started from scratch with their own code then. If you're going to stand on the shoulders of giants, those giants must be acknowledged.
    It's not complicated - if you can't agree to the license, don't use it.
    Actually (as far as I'm aware), what Tivo did was within the letter of the GPL but so far outside the spirit as to be on another planet.
  • by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @06:21AM (#28701447)

    That is specifically what the GPL disallows. BSD gives you more freedom to close your derivatives of someone else's work.

    As a FOSS writer (not that I do much, but hypothetically) I don't see why I would want that.

  • by andy.ruddock ( 821066 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @06:28AM (#28701473) Homepage
    But it's not just software that you are making, it's software that was written by somebody else, that you are modifying or extending.
    Otherwise the client can foot the bill and have you write the whole thing from scratch under the license of their choosing.
  • by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @01:53PM (#28705871) Homepage Journal

    Zed's had a lot of clients, and has some really good references from them. I think they'd be more interested in those than what he does in his personal time.

    Except he crosses a line: his rants are about his work, and about people who are potential or actual business contacts.

    Maddox can rant about movies because he's not a movie director. If he ranted the same way about people working in his industry, he might find his rants a bit more career limiting.

    (Actually, there are a few careers where you can be a total asshole and still do quite well, and movie director is probably one of them, but the point still stands I think.)

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972