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|Wednesday, August 27, 2003|
I've really disliked the break from reality that is the GPL. GPL-ing your software, quite simply, gives your work to anybody smart enough to know how to build it. I don't feel like giving away the right to be the sole source of my software. There are many arguments from the Free Software Foundation meant to combat people that feel like me. I haven't been convinced.
Here's a recent chunk of a post I wrote to the Apple Java Development list (thread initially responded to using, that's right, The Digest Handler! What a great, copyrighted application!). We were discussing recent troubles with the LGPL and Java, and the "GPL with library exception" was mentioned. I dug up this link which I thought was the exception he meant. Original poster's comments in bold.
No, that's not it at all. That's a completely different issue for the standard GPL, and it has nothing to do with the GPL with library exception.
As a special exception, if you link this library with
other files to produce an executable, this library does
not by itself cause the resulting executable to be covered
by the GNU General Public License. This exception does
not however invalidate any other reasons why the executable
file might be covered by the GNU General Public License.
Thanks for the clarification, though I'm not sure how this reads any differently with respect to creating and distributing Java applications, where you actually have to ship the library for your "executable" to run, than what's causing trouble with the LGPL. Hey, I'm reading that I can ship with LGPL jars (or the GPL with the exception above), but would prefer to get out from under all this hubbub.
Please also note that there is absolutely nothing in the GPL, LGPL, or GPL with library exception that in any way prohibits the use of the software in commercial applications. GPL software may most definitely be sold, and in fact is sold every day.
Argh. You crazy Free Software zealots who have strong alternative sources of income other than writing and selling software which doesn't require services. ;^)
The argument that you can still sell Free software commercially drives me perhaps the most crazy. Though certainly you're not lying when you say those licenses don't mean that software written with them can't be sold commercially, the issue is, as you well know, that you no longer have the right to be the *sole source* of your software. That's a huge difference than when I say "commercially" and imply "with sole copyright", though I will admit that I should have been more explicit so as not to fall into the FSF's semantic trap.
Attaching my software to GPL code wouldn't mean I couldn't sell it, but it would mean that John Schmoe, who didn't contribute second number one to my software, has the right to request my source, create a build, and sell the exact same thing for whatever price he would prefer. Hey, I'd love to grab the source to MS Word and start making builds, but I don't feel I've earned that right (and this also dovetails into my "GPL'd commercial software breeds convoluted build practices", but I'll save that rant for later). Gaining the right to sell my software simply because you understand how ant works doesn't make common sense to me, which is where I fork from the FSF.
This is why I like the LGPL -- or at least what it used to mean before all this linking jive came up. If I borrow your library do accomplish some function and you're nice enough to let me have the source to improve it or maintain it in the future or add a new feature, I certainly hope that I feel compelled to give those "improvements" back to you. The LGPL made that common courtesy official.
I do not feel, however, that if I use your library in my app, that I should be forced to open source the whole lot of what I've been doing. Then I'm giving away time, and therefore dollars, to anyone who can request source and has the savvy to make a build. I and the companies I work for don't have that luxury, nor should you have to if you prefer to be the sole seller of novel software you created *that doesn't need servicing*.
And that's why I'm a little upset that no new license that's easy for the layman to read and interpret has come about to help protect works written in Java that are meant to help people who create commercial apps to which they would like to have the sole right to release.
Though, that said, copyright lengths are much too long. I do think it's time to free Steamboat Willy. That's a travesty. And that, say, original Atari 2600 game code is still copyrighted is insane. These aren't books, fellows. Wake up and catch up, legislatures.
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posted by ruffin at 8/27/2003 08:35:00 AM
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