The Technocracy

Who will win the Battle for your Desktop?

BSD is not more biz friendly

There is a common description of non-copyleft licences as being “business-friendly”, with the implication that copyleft licences like the GPL are not.

Personally, I don’t understand this. If I were a for-profit business contributing open-source code to the community, and one of my comptetitors took some code I’d contributed and built it into a closed-source product that they then used to take customers away from me, I’d feel ripped off. Whereas a copyleft licence forces them to release the source of anything they redistribute.

Thus, to me, copyleft ensures a “level playing field” where all can compete. Which is something that businesses are supposed to be fond of.

Some may ask how can you sell a product which you can get for free?

Well ask that of the $8 billion U.S. bottled water industry. Or of Red Hat, novell or the hooker on the street. There are plenty of examples.

So I ask why does it appear that so many of the new and most actively developed open-source projects these days are being done under the GNU license, rather than the BSD one which proponents say is more business-friendly? Most likely programmers do not want the work they released to be used in a manner they did not support. The BSD philosophy seems to hold that creating and giving away code, then seeing it used by others, is victory and reward enough. But most of the GPL supporters disapprove of allowing “others” to close off source code and hide enhancements.

Also IBM, SGI, and other companies don’t want to contribute source code to the community if competitors can use it against them. While using the GPL won’t prevent competitors from using the code, it does keep them from making proprietary extensions. This appears to be the strongest case in favor of corporate support of Linux and the GPL.

It’s not just semantics. GPL-advocates  recognize the value of more permissive licenses such as the BSD license and the LGPL. BSD-advocates often fail to understand why the GPL is so successful.

In other words the GPL is more business friendly from the point of view of the developer – for example, you can ensure that proprietary competitors do not simply take chunks of your code and put it in their products.

The BSD can be characterised as more anarchist: you give your stuff away for the public good with no expectation of reward. Very laudable, but it does not seem realistic in a capitalist world.

I realise this is not altogether fair, but it is a stronger argument that common “BSD is more business friendly”.

The GPL license basically says “Here, take this code, it’s free. Do what you want with it, except distribute it. If you want to redistribute, you’ve got to follow these criteria”. That’s it. There’s nothing stopping you taking GPL code, linking it to whatever you want and using that. Google have a ton of GPL code all hooked up to proprietary stuff and have no legal issues because they don’t *distribute* that code to customers. They are the end user. They are free to do what they want. GPL code is free to use. GPL code is not free to distribute, unless you follow some criteria.

The GPL doesn’t restrict what you can do with the code, copyright law does. The GPL is permissive, but it’s not fully permissive which is what the BSD could be described as being. This is fine, and is an idealogical difference, but please lets not go around saying that the GPL is “OMG TEH MOST RESTRICTIVE THING IN THE WORLD”, because that just demonstrates to the world that you don’t understand copyright. it’s really not complex: the BSD license doesn’t promote (code) freedom, the GPL license does. The BSD license is designed for maximum freedom to use the code – anyone can use it for anything with only very minor restrictions. The GPL license is designed to ensure that the code stays free – it’s more about spreading the philosophy of (code) freedom than bragging rights and padding your resume(look my code is in OSX). That appeals to a lot of real developers.


April 11, 2010 - Posted by | License wars | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] Więcej: BSD is not more biz friendly « The Technocracy […]

    Pingback by BSD is not more biz friendly « The Technocracy – bsd - dowiedz się więcej! | April 21, 2010 | Reply

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