Source string Read only

(itstool) path: listitem/para
95/950
Context English State
The GPL explicitly disallows revoking the license. It has occurred, however, that a company (Mattel) purchased a GPL copyright (cphack), revoked the entire copyright, went to court, and prevailed [2]. That is, they legally revoked the entire distribution and all derivative works based on the copyright. Whether this could happen with a larger and more dispersed distribution is an open question; there is also some confusion regarding whether the software was really under the GPL.
In another example, Red Hat purchased Cygnus, an engineering company that had taken over development of the FSF compiler tools. Cygnus was able to do so because they had developed a business model in which they sold support for GNU software. This enabled them to employ some 50 engineers and drive the direction of the programs by contributing the preponderance of modifications. As Donald Rosenberg states "projects using licenses like the GPL...live under constant threat of having someone take over the project by producing a better version of the code and doing it faster than the original owners." [3]
GPL Advantages and Disadvantages
A common reason to use the GPL is when modifying or extending the gcc compiler. This is particularly apt when working with one-off specialty CPUs in environments where all software costs are likely to be considered overhead, with minimal expectations that others will use the resulting compiler.
The GPL is also attractive to small companies selling CDs in an environment where "buy-low, sell-high" may still give the end-user a very inexpensive product. It is also attractive to companies that expect to survive by providing various forms of technical support, including documentation, for the GPLed intellectual property world.
A less publicized and unintended use of the GPL is that it is very favorable to large companies that want to undercut software companies. In other words, the GPL is well suited for use as a marketing weapon, potentially reducing overall economic benefit and contributing to monopolistic behavior.
The GPL can present a real problem for those wishing to commercialize and profit from software. For example, the GPL adds to the difficulty a graduate student will have in directly forming a company to commercialize his research results, or the difficulty a student will have in joining a company on the assumption that a promising research project will be commercialized.
For those who must work with statically-linked implementations of multiple software standards, the GPL is often a poor license, because it precludes using proprietary implementations of the standards. The GPL thus minimizes the number of programs that can be built using a GPLed standard. The GPL was intended to not provide a mechanism to develop a standard on which one engineers proprietary products. (This does not apply to Linux applications because they do not statically link, rather they use a trap-based API.)
The GPL attempts to make programmers contribute to an evolving suite of programs, then to compete in the distribution and support of this suite. This situation is unrealistic for many required core system standards, which may be applied in widely varying environments which require commercial customization or integration with legacy standards under existing (non-GPL) licenses. Real-time systems are often statically linked, so the GPL and LGPL are definitely considered potential problems by many embedded systems companies.
The GPL is an attempt to keep efforts, regardless of demand, at the research and development stages. This maximizes the benefits to researchers and developers, at an unknown cost to those who would benefit from wider distribution.
The GPL was designed to keep research results from transitioning to proprietary products. This step is often assumed to be the last step in the traditional technology transfer pipeline and it is usually difficult enough under the best of circumstances; the GPL was intended to make it impossible.
BSD Advantages
A BSD style license is a good choice for long duration research or other projects that need a development environment that:
has near zero cost
will evolve over a long period of time
permits anyone to retain the option of commercializing final results with minimal legal issues.
This final consideration may often be the dominant one, as it was when the Apache project decided upon its license:
<quote>This type of license is ideal for promoting the use of a reference body of code that implements a protocol for common service. This is another reason why we choose it for the Apache group - many of us wanted to see HTTP survive and become a true multiparty standard, and would not have minded in the slightest if Microsoft or Netscape choose to incorporate our HTTP engine or any other component of our code into their products, if it helped further the goal of keeping HTTP common... All this means that, strategically speaking, the project needs to maintain sufficient momentum, and that participants realize greater value by contributing their code to the project, even code that would have had value if kept proprietary.</quote>
Developers tend to find the BSD license attractive as it keeps legal issues out of the way and lets them do whatever they want with the code. In contrast, those who expect primarily to use a system rather than program it, or expect others to evolve the code, or who do not expect to make a living from their work associated with the system (such as government employees), find the GPL attractive, because it forces code developed by others to be given to them and keeps their employer from retaining copyright and thus potentially "burying" or orphaning the software. If you want to force your competitors to help you, the GPL is attractive.
A BSD license is not simply a gift. The question <quote>why should we help our competitors or let them steal our work?</quote> comes up often in relation to a BSD license. Under a BSD license, if one company came to dominate a product niche that others considered strategic, the other companies can, with minimal effort, form a mini-consortium aimed at reestablishing parity by contributing to a competitive BSD variant that increases market competition and fairness. This permits each company to believe that it will be able to profit from some advantage it can provide, while also contributing to economic flexibility and efficiency. The more rapidly and easily the cooperating members can do this, the more successful they will be. A BSD license is essentially a minimally complicated license that enables such behavior.
A key effect of the GPL, making a complete and competitive Open Source system widely available at cost of media, is a reasonable goal. A BSD style license, in conjunction with ad-hoc-consortiums of individuals, can achieve this goal without destroying the economic assumptions built around the deployment-end of the technology transfer pipeline.
Specific Recommendations for using a BSD license
The BSD license is preferable for transferring research results in a way that will widely be deployed and most benefit an economy. As such, research funding agencies, such as the NSF, ONR and DARPA, should encourage in the earliest phases of funded research projects, the adoption of BSD style licenses for software, data, results, and open hardware. They should also encourage formation of standards based around implemented Open Source systems and ongoing Open Source projects.
Government policy should minimize the costs and difficulties in moving from research to deployment. When possible, grants should require results to be available under a commercialization friendly BSD style license.
In many cases, the long-term results of a BSD style license more accurately reflect the goals proclaimed in the research charter of universities than what occurs when results are copyrighted or patented and subject to proprietary university licensing. Anecdotal evidence exists that universities are financially better rewarded in the long run by releasing research results and then appealing to donations from commercially successful alumni.
Companies have long recognized that the creation of de facto standards is a key marketing technique. The BSD license serves this role well, if a company really has a unique advantage in evolving the system. The license is legally attractive to the widest audience while the company's expertise ensures their control. There are times when the GPL may be the appropriate vehicle for an attempt to create such a standard, especially when attempting to undermine or co-opt others. The GPL, however, penalizes the evolution of that standard, because it promotes a suite rather than a commercially applicable standard. Use of such a suite constantly raises commercialization and legal issues. It may not be possible to mix standards when some are under the GPL and others are not. A true technical standard should not mandate exclusion of other standards for non-technical reasons.
Companies interested in promoting an evolving standard, which can become the core of other companies' commercial products, should be wary of the GPL. Regardless of the license used, the resulting software will usually devolve to whoever actually makes the majority of the engineering changes and most understands the state of the system. The GPL simply adds more legal friction to the result.
Large companies, in which Open Source code is developed, should be aware that programmers appreciate Open Source because it leaves the software available to the employee when they change employers. Some companies encourage this behavior as an employment perk, especially when the software involved is not directly strategic. It is, in effect, a front-loaded retirement benefit with potential lost opportunity costs but no direct costs. Encouraging employees to work for peer acclaim outside the company is a cheap portable benefit a company can sometimes provide with near zero downside.
Small companies with software projects vulnerable to orphaning should attempt to use the BSD license when possible. Companies of all sizes should consider forming such Open Source projects when it is to their mutual advantage to maintain the minimal legal and organization overheads associated with a true BSD-style Open Source project.
Non-profits should participate in Open Source projects when possible. To minimize software engineering problems, such as mixing code under different licenses, BSD-style licenses should be encouraged. Being leery of the GPL should particularly be the case with non-profits that interact with the developing world. In some locales where application of law becomes a costly exercise, the simplicity of the new BSD license, as compared to the GPL, may be of considerable advantage.
Conclusion

Loading…

No matching activity found.

Browse all component changes

Glossary

English English
No related strings found in the glossary.

Source information

Source string comment
(itstool) path: listitem/para
Flags
read-only
Source string location
article.translate.xml:394
String age
a year ago
Source string age
a year ago
Translation file
articles/bsdl-gpl.pot, string 65