10 May 2001 tripp   » (Journeyer)

Personal Life Dept.:

15 days and counting. Two weeks from tomorrow, I will be married. The last time I went through this process (being engaged), it was two years away and I woke up every morning feeling like I needed to puke my guts out.

That was because it was the wrong relationship.

This time is totally different. Each day that passes, I get more excited about the impending ceremony! I'm pretty sure that's a good sign :)

Geek Issues Dept.:

In the "License Wars" department, I read this article talking about Ransome (Caldera) Love's agreement with Microsoft's "claim that the GPL doesn't make much business sense."

In much the same way that anti-rape laws don't make sense to someone looking for sex at any cost.

I don't mean to trivialize rape by that statement; rather, I mean to exploit the obviousness of that concept to explain what can be esoteric and abstract licensing issues.

Microsoft is absolutely right: the GPL doesn't make business sense-- for Microsoft. They can't steal your code if you release it under the GPL. They have to play as an equal partner. They have to share.

The GPL does make business sense if you're considering how to open up your own "intellectual assets" for public consumption. If you release your sources under a wolf-in-sheep's license like the early Apple license, you'll hear a great hue and cry from "the community". If you release your sources under a Libertarian[1] license like the BSD license, you expose yourself to competitive disadvantage when someone else wraps their extensions around your code and closes up the whole mess.

Under the GPL, when you decide to release your work, you're not doing it "for free". You're doing it for compensation in kind. You're saying "you can stand on my shoulders, as long as I can turn around and stand on your shoulders" (I'm trying to picture that, and it's painfully recursive, but I think you know what I mean).

You are saying, in effect, "I'm giving you a competitive advantage by offering you my work, but I expect that advantage returned by equal access to your improvements on my work."

As with all things, this is a choice. You choose to release your source under the GPL. When I choose to use your GPL'ed sources, I have chosen to share equally with you everything I link to your code; all of my improvements.

Returning to my earlier analogy, that sharing is consensual sex.

On the other hand, when you decide to release your source under terms that don't bind me to share, you open yourself to intellectual gang rape. As an individual, I can take your software, make my own improvements, and close it up. I'm not much of a threat to you that way, because we probably have similar resources at our disposal, and my closed model will likely fall to your open model at the end of the day, because your customers will have the security of knowing they can always pay someone else to continue your work.

On the other hand, if I'm a large corporation, and I'm threatened by you, I can use your more permissive license as leverage against you. I have might. I have numbers. I have a marketing engine that can convince the public that you "were asking for it". And I can take your code, make incompatible modifications, release it in closed form throughout my entire installed base, and give you little chance of fighting back.

Again with the analogy, taking is rape.

In the end, I choose the GPL not because I'm afraid of what individuals might do, but because I've seen what corporations will do.

I choose the GPL because no means NO.

Footnote: "Libertarian" Licenses

I call the BSD license family "Libertarian" here because it depends on the individual responsibility and ethics of each member of the community. In politics, I lean toward Libertarianism. However, I see the same problems with it here in the licensing world that I do in the "real" world; namely, that unscrupulous people can and do wield influence far out of proportion to their number when the head large, cash- and power-rich corporations. Ultimately, I'd really like to see a union of the Green and the Libertarian Parties into one killer third-party that could mop up the Republicrats.

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