An intelectually-stimulating discussion I had with a friend from school, whom I saw online after three goddam years. Couldn’t have kept it to myself, so following is the transceipt, where PG is my friend and ML is, of couse, who else?
PG: …I have been a part of the core technical architect team for our business vertical and was one of the guys looking after our interactions with open source initiatives. I know that though the idea is noble but the motivations hardly are. But I myself stand strongly behind OS…
ML: hmm… the OSS ideals are more about business… noble it is if you look at it from the view point of FSF — fsf.org.
PG: No I understand the fact that profits make the world go round. I don’t deny it. But I wish that it wasn’t the case. I don’t demand ‘copyleft’ but I do wish there were more apaches and mozillas.
ML: The fact that copyleft makes good biz sense is what Mozilla and Apache proves. Some of the companies not hit by the global melt down are the OSS giants like Mozilla, Red Hat, et al. RH still reported hefty profits in Q4 2008
PG: Mozilla, Apache aren’t copyleft. We have been using their libraries under their licenses for ages in our group for commercial copyrighted software. I think their concept is that “Let ideas be free”. And I believe in that. If people make money off it thats a side effect. And what I am not happy with is how some companies just work towards the side effect. [That said,] I don’t strictly agree with fsf. They say ‘free as in freedom’ but then they say ‘but not unless you agree with us’. Thats not cool in my books.
ML: They simply say a software is free as in freedom if it gives the four freedoms.
PG: And which are?
ML: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html … Why do you think Mozilla and Apache licences aren’t copyleft? Just because you can use MPL and ASL licenced code with proprietary code? …It’s even easier to do it with BSD-licensed code. That’s how Apple’s Mac uses the FreeBSD userland tools so “freely” in their restrictive OSX systems. But BSD itself is a copyleft license.
PG: Hmm. Well my take on it is a bit different. How would you define copyright?
ML: oh ok… correction… MPL qualifies as weak copy-left license. ASL and BSDs are non-copyleft free licenses …Good lord this is a good discussion… I generally look at everything from the GPL point of view.
PG: Yep. Thats exatcly my perspective. I disagree with GPL because you can’t claim freedom and then say, I quote: “Copyleft is a general method for making a program or other work free, and requiring all modified and extended versions of the program to be free as well.” Heck thats a restriction. Not freedom in my books. You can’t require things off of freedom
ML: Well freedom of speech doesn’t give you the right to go and abuse your neighbour or make false claims about them. That’s [certainly] a restriction. Or a very good example is in a free country although you’re free to do anything you see fit, but you can’t kill people as you see fit. Cuz that sort of freedom would give rise to chaos… GPL is a simple tit for tat license. That’s one of the reasons, Linux (the kernel) is miles ahead of a BSD kernel when it comes to features. Although BSD is arguably older than Linux.
PG: Well I don’t deny that GNU works. And I like what linux stands for as much as the next guy but the way I see it GNU says: “Here’s how to make noodles. You can make them for free and add whatever you like to them. But if you make “noodle soup” you have to allow others to make it for free too. Or else you can’t make noodles.”
ML: Where is that from? Anyway the point of freedom is whatever freedom you have, others should have the same freedom too. So essentially a non-copy left free license although gives you the freedom to remix or reuse it in your code, but then denies your users the same amount of freedom. That’s taking away freedom. A free society can’t work under those terms. Just like freedom of speech doesn’t give us the right to abuse our neighbours or for that matter anyone. …So, that noodle quote essentially means: pass down whatever freedom you had while making noodles to the recipients; otherwise, you’re denying them the freedom that you enjoyed.
PG: Look at it this way: Freedom needs to apply to the licensing too. The original author of the work under GPL was free to license it under whatever license they wanted. Hell they are even free to relicense their work if they want. Why take away that freedom from licensees? To be free to create is important but is the ability to do whatever you want with what you create freely is important too right? I dont think I tell someone ” Create what you want, you are free to do so. But only use it this way or else …”. Abuse is a crime. Ofcourse you cant hurt anyone in what you do. But other than that there should be no restrictions on what one does…
ML: That’s a smart thing to do… otherwise, you see companies like MS lifting freely available code, e.g. BSD’s TCPIP stack, and rolling it out as non-free software. Which means you take stuff freely from the community and give nothing back. That’s how BSD is kinda slowly evolving, because Apple is not giving anything back to the community… while Linux is evolving pretty fast. Because the licensing is making IBM, Oracle, Novell, or any other traditionally proprietary company give back. That’s softa like the ultimate free market economics. And the point to note here is you only have to give your contribution back if you release your binary to the public. If you use it in-house, it’s all yours.
PG: But then its GNU’s purpose to restrict usage of what they have created. They only want it to benefit the people they identify as worthy. Well MS does that too. MS says “he who pays me is worthy”. GNU says “he who redistributes under my terms is worthy”. Well call me a nitpicker but I don’t think that’s freedom. Neither has the right to use that term. As I said, I understand its all for profits, for MS money, for GNU contributions.
ML: It’s not GNU alone… all the big shots are in the licensing committee, including Oracle, IBM and co., with whose policies FSF most often disagrees with. But they all agree that these must be the best terms. GNU’s “he who redistributes under my terms is worthy” incidentally agrees with the 6 freedoms offered by constitutions to its citizens too.
PG: Well thats right I admit. Let me chew on that and come up with something:-). I gotta go sleep. But I am really enjoying this discussion I am having with you. This issue is pretty close to my heart. Lets continue it sometime. Maybe if you are online tomorrow?
Sure as hell, we will!