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Open-source Licensing: BSD or GPL? 631

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the six-on-one-hand dept.
BSDForums.org writes "Mark Brewer of Covalent Technologies argues BSD is better for the enterprise. As open source licensing models, both the Berkeley Software Distribution license and the General Public License have advantages and disadvantages. But in the end, the BSD offers more benefits to enterprise customers. Matt Asay of Novell makes the case for GPL. He says, no one open source license is ideal in every circumstance. Different licenses serve different ends. Berkeley Software Distribution-style licenses have been used to govern the development of exceptional open source projects such as Apache. Clearly, BSD has its strengths. However, all things being equal, he prefers the General Public License (GPL ). The GPL is one of the most exciting, innovative capitalist tools ever created. The GPL breaks down walls between vendors and customers while enabling strong competitive differentiation. Which is a better licensing model for open-source applications: BSD or GPL? What do you think?"
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Open-source Licensing: BSD or GPL?

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  • The GPL is one of the most exciting, innovative capitalist tools ever created. The GPL breaks down walls between vendors and customers while enabling strong competitive differentiation.

    Buzz word overload! Take cover! Buzzword overload! Take cover! Buzz...

    * Robot's head EXPLODES in a shower of sparks!

    Would it kill people to speak in normal sentences instead of Market Speak(TM)? This entire article is just silly. Of course businesses prefer the BSD license. It places fewer restrictions on them, and allows them true ownership of derivitive works. That gives them something to later sell or use as a barganing chip.

    Of course many OSS authors prefer the GPL. It forces companies and other users to help pay for development by giving back. The benefit to OSS authors is very clear. The benefit to businesses, however, is still questionable in many circumstances.

    In the end it comes down to the usefulness of the software. If a business can't build upon BSD licensed software, they'll go with GPLed software. But if they can help it, they'll just go for the public domain stuff. ;-)
    • by ZephyrXero (750822) <zephyrxero@nOsPam.yahoo.com> on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:18AM (#13011232) Homepage Journal
      I've seen a bunch of projects that chose to go with the BSD style licence and it's bit them in the ass. People are using their code left and right, but hardly anyone is contributing back since they don't have to. Eric S. Raymond argued recently that we don't need the GPL anymore because OS is a better model, but the problem is human nature... As long as there are human beings involved, there's going to be people taking advantage of you...it's pessemistic, sure...but it true. The GPL is the only reason most projects, including Linux have come as far as they have. Is the GPL too strict? Maybe....but BSD is clearly too loose.
      • I'm certainly not arguing your point (although one needs to expect users to exercise their licensing rights to the fullest extent), I'm only arguing that businesses and developers have differing goals.

        Where the BSD license really shines is in areas like the Apache project. Businesses donate to the project so that they don't have to reinvent the wheel every other day. They are then free to take the resulting work and bury it deeply inside the code where they don't worry about it any longer.

        In the case of GPLed code, a business must make an up front decision to accept the change in business procedures that the GPL requires. This is good for GPL developers because they see a return on their work other than money. It's bad for a business because it may invalidate their business model. (i.e. How they make money.)

        As with all things, everyone has to meet in the middle on this stuff.
      • by Scarblac (122480) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Friday July 08, 2005 @02:36AM (#13011707) Homepage

        I've seen a bunch of projects that chose to go with the BSD style licence and it's bit them in the ass. People are using their code left and right, but hardly anyone is contributing back since they don't have to. [...] As long as there are human beings involved, there's going to be people taking advantage of you.

        I don't get this. Surely he wanted everyone to use his code, without any further obligations? Since that's exactly the point of the license he used? How can you call that "biting him in the ass", or "taking advantage of"?

        BSD is clearly too loose, if you don't want people to keep their changes for themselves. But well, duh, don't use that license then. Most people in the BSD projects are perfectly happy if there code is used somewhere, regardless of ever seeing anything back (or so I've heard - I'm a Linux weenie).

        Anyway, in between GPL and BSD license, there's always the LGPL.

      • by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy@nOSPam.gmail.com> on Friday July 08, 2005 @03:31AM (#13011869)
        I've seen a bunch of projects that chose to go with the BSD style licence and it's bit them in the ass. People are using their code left and right, but hardly anyone is contributing back since they don't have to.

        If this is /really/ "biting them in the ass", and not just something they expected, but you happen to find personally disagreeable, then the people in those projects deserve every bit of pain they receive. The whole *point* of the BSD license is so derivative code remains under the control of the people writing it.

      • If people feel that choosing the BSD licence "bit them on the arse" then they chose the wrong licence to start with.

        You don't put your code out under the BSD licence with the hidden hope that someone will raise you up on their shoulders via their wealth.

        People shouldn't complain about licences when it was their own choice initially.

        If you're seeking an alterior motive when putting code out under a BSD licence then you deserve to bit "bitten in the arse".

      • One of the questions we need to ask ourselves is what our goal really is. Are we trying to develop useful code to help people (BSD/MIT), or are we trying to make other people develop useful code to help us (GPL/LGPL)?

        One of those goals doesn't sound very much like freedom. If we're going to champion freedom for software, including a convenient pair of shackles in every project looks a little suspicious.

        The problem with the GPL is that it doesn't work on anyone except a developer. It says "if you want to u
      • The GPL and the BSD licenses focus on different types of freedom.

        The BSD licence focuses on freedom for the developer. Do what you want with it -- change it, sell it, close source it.. Whatever. Once you have the source code, (if it's still free) you can do whatever you want with it.

        The GPL focuses on freedom for the source code. Do whatever you want -- change it, use it sell it, whatever -- as long as people continue to have access to the source.

        The problem with the GPL is that some companies may be

    • by Xtifr (1323) on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:39AM (#13011329) Homepage
      Your analysis is blindingly oversimplified. Most companies would rather GPL their own code than release it under a BSD license, but would rather have others release their code under a BSD license.

      Actually, most companies don't care! Most companies aren't in the software market, don't want to be in the software market, don't care about the license as long as they can freely use and copy the software for their own purposes, and think all this arguing is insane. As far as they're concerned, the BSD and GPL licenses are functionally equivalent.

      But for the tiny percentage of all companies that actually are in the software or computer services market, the BSD license is something they only want to see applied to other people's code. So, saying they "prefer" the BSD license is hopelessly naive and misguided. They prefer to give away as little as possible, while getting as much as possible. And, in general, many of them seem to find the GPL or other copyleft licenses to be a reasonable compromise.

      The benefit to businesses of the GPL is quite obvious (at least to smart companies, of which there are an increasing number). They can release their own code without worrying that their competitors will abscond with it, improve it, and not share those improvements.

      Me, I tend to prefer the BSD license for my own code, as it's simpler, and there's less to worry about. But it's a very mild preference, and I happily contribute to GPL'd projects as well.
      • by GrouchoMarx (153170) on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:56AM (#13011595) Homepage
        Your analysis is blindingly oversimplified. Most companies would rather GPL their own code than release it under a BSD license, but would rather have others release their code under a BSD license.

        Which is one reason I am personally fond of the LGPL. It says, in essence, "MY code is Free and must stay that way. Do what you want with you parts." It also has the side-effect of encouraging good, modular, component-based design. That's a win-win for everyone. Why people keep forgetting the LGPL in these flamewars I don't know, as it is a perfectly reasonable compromise between the "do anything" BSD and the "hand of Midas" GPL. I am particularly fond of it for libraries, frameworks, APIs, etc.

        That said, can we mod this entire story flamebait? I mean really, is the next Slashdot story going to be "Vi or Emacs, what does Slashdot think?"
    • by AlexMidn1ght (705563) on Friday July 08, 2005 @02:14AM (#13011649)
      Would it kill people to speak in normal sentences instead of Market Speak(TM)?

      I think Market Speak(TM) revolutionizes leading-edge initiatives by deploying mesh synergistic relationships and innovates in user-centric niches by enabling strategy scalable streamlined virtual communities and transition collaborative deliverables!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:11AM (#13011197)
    The GPL license is perfect for developers.

    The BSD license is perfect for everybody else.
    • by QuantumG (50515)
      Except the consumers.
      • by sycotic (26352)
        Why is it bad for the consumers?
        • Cause proprietary software makers who use BSD software do not contribute back their changes. I guess you gotta share the belief that proprietary software is inheriently bad for consumers to truely appreciate that argument though.
          • by fyngyrz (762201)

            Cause proprietary software makers who use BSD software do not contribute back their changes.

            Instead, they contribute usable products sooner and having jumped through far fewer legal hoops, which, if the consumer decides to, they can add to their library of tools, thus enabling them in some manner.

            An important benefit here is that the costs of the product drop because lawyers are cut out to a considerably greater degree by BSD as opposed to GPL. BSD is a "no-worry" license, insomuch as such a thin

            • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:20AM (#13011490) Homepage Journal
              Yep, pretty fundamental in my way of thinking about open software development is the concept that users of proprietary software are getting a raw deal. If you don't share that idea then I'm sure you'd have no problem actively helping people to make proprietary software. Of course, there are times when doing so has advantages. A project [sourceforge.net] I started and is still actively developed is licensed under a two clause BSD license with the outright intention that it help proprietary software makers enter a hard to define market. The idea being that if they can base services on this software they won't have to invest so much to get started. They can keep their changes to themselves and hopefully when there is some competition we'll see some innovative things. But when you're talking about free software in already established markets, you really are just throwing away your work.
    • by EzInKy (115248)

      The GPL license is perfect for developers.

      The BSD license is perfect for everybody else.

      As a software consumer who never ever wants to be forced to agree to a EULA just to get better performance from my software I have to favor the GPL. Screw those who want to screw others, if you want to charge me for something then make it yourself from scratch.
  • by Fox_1 (128616) on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:12AM (#13011204)
    I swear to god my jaw dropped when I read the article summary, at first I was excited by the idea of some differing views being presented on the different license models, but then I hit the last line
    "Which is a better licensing model for open-source applications: BSD or GPL? What do you think?"
    Please for the love of god remember the children when you post.
  • The GPL motivates development because DEVELOPERS are enticed by the idea that derivatives of their code will REMAIN open, and that their projects will flourish.

    If corporate consumers of free SW prefer BSD licensing, then they're free to choose from the tiny subset of free sw that's licensed under BSD. Their demand is NOT going to motivate the creation of significant additional BSD software.
    • The GPL motivates development because DEVELOPERS are enticed by the idea that derivatives of their code will REMAIN open, and that their projects will flourish.

      It may be a retarded question, but not for the reasons you describe.

      I've seen GPL projects that die because they target a commercial audience that won't touch a GPL. The GPL, in and of itself, is not going to spur development. And neither is the BSD.

      BTW: theres a lot of non-GPL OSS out there to choose from these days. I, for one, try to

    • For example, software contributors (corporate or otherwise) don't have to worry about contributions being used to subsidize competing proprietart software.

      For example, if IBM contributed code to FreeBSD, then Sun would be able to add that to Solaris.

      But in the end, the license doesn't matter as much as community-building. Apache, *BSD, BIND, PostgreSQL, etc. all have very large and vibrant communities behind them. And once the community reaches a certain size, then proprietary competition simply doesn't
    • by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy@nOSPam.gmail.com> on Friday July 08, 2005 @03:46AM (#13011919)
      The GPL motivates development because DEVELOPERS are enticed by the idea that derivatives of their code will REMAIN open, and that their projects will flourish.

      Unless you subscribe to the loony definition of "derivative code" that RMS does, the GPL encompasses a hell of a lot more than "derivatives of their code".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:12AM (#13011207)
    I wish to edit my open source license files. Which is a better editor for this purpose, Emacs or Vi?
    • A Symbolics Machine [wikipedia.org] running vi.

      * Me waits for the heads to explode
    • by ari_j (90255) on Friday July 08, 2005 @02:07AM (#13011635)
      Which is the best flamefest?

      BSD License vs. GPL
      Linux vs. FreeBSD
      Emacs vs. vi
      C++ vs. Java
      Python vs. Perl
      PHP vs. Ruby on Rails
      Microsoft vs. SCO
      • by Nimrangul (599578) on Friday July 08, 2005 @04:49AM (#13012054) Journal
        I think the OpenBSD versus Linux one has been a bit stronger than the FreeBSD alternative recently.

        A big part of that is because of Theo's opening driver work, cause the entire time he's been rubbing it in the noses of Linux developers and communities, cause they refused to help.

        Not to mention the comments in that one interview.

        Those and the whole security thing really put some gas on the fire that is OpenBSD versus Linux.

        I guess this will start up the OpenBSD versus Linux versus FreeBSD versus Linux flamefest then.

    • by Kethinov (636034) on Friday July 08, 2005 @02:38AM (#13011714) Homepage Journal
      I wish to edit my open source license files. Which is a better editor for this purpose, Emacs or Vi?
      Do it with Microsoft Word so you can have irony++.
  • by Toba82 (871257) on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:14AM (#13011212) Homepage
    First you say they work to different ends and then ask which is better. Isn't that like comparing swiss cheese to nuclear physics?
  • by jon787 (512497) on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:15AM (#13011215) Homepage Journal

    The purpose of the GPL is to ensure that the code will always be open.

    The purpose of the BSD license is to ensure the authors are given proper credit, not necessarily to keep the code open.
    • The authors still gotta get credit with the GPL to you know.
  • Oh dear Lord... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:15AM (#13011219)
    Why not mark the entire post and resulting thread as -1 flamebait now and get it over with? While it's an interesting question and I'm sure there are places where people could have a nice mature and rational discussion about it, /. is just NOT one of those places...

    Anyways, as an encore, I think the next posting should be "VI vs. Emacs: Which is the best text editor for your needs?"
  • Which Open Source Operating System do you see being used more often in the enterprise? Which has more development momentum?

    BSD? Older than GNU/Linux, and people can do whatever they want, including take someone elses work and make it proprietary.

    Or GNU/Linux, the younger OS where the GPL creates a snowball effect?
  • BTW (Score:4, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmai ... m minus language> on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:15AM (#13011222) Homepage Journal
    Furthermore, software containing embedded GPL-based code must be licensed under the GPL.

    This is incorrect. The GPL does not require that derivitive works be GPLed. The key is that the restrictions placed on derivitive works (you must give up the source code and exclusive rights to redistribution) makes the resulting code effectively like the GPL. You can still use some other license for the derivitive code, and once you stop redistributing you can stop giving out the source code. Plus, nothing prevents you (as the copyright holder) from reusing the source that is yours in a non-GPL-derived product.

    Clear as mud? Good.
    • Re:BTW (Score:4, Informative)

      by ccady (569355) on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:36AM (#13011529) Journal

      Unless I've misunderstood you, you've got the facts wrong yourself. You claim: The GPL does not require that derivitive works be GPLed. and You can still use some other license for the derivitive code

      If you distribute your derivative work, b) You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this License. [section 2b of the GPL [gnu.org]]

  • Vi or emacs

    Windows or Linux

    Replublican or Democrat

    Development or Systems

    Apache or IIS

    Apple or Intel

    Oh wait.... geeze...

  • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:17AM (#13011226) Homepage Journal
    When I do programming for myself, with my own money, I do it under the GPL. That way, I can share my software, and if someone doesn't want to share they can pay for a commercial license. When a customer pays me to do BSD-licensed software, I do it happily.

    The BSD license is great if you are a big company and lots of little folks like me are contributing BSD software that you can use in any proprietary way you wish. But it's not so great for those little people, because they are functioning as sort of unpaid employees. GPL gives the whole situation a balance.

    If you take the range of GPL, LGPL or GPL + exception, and BSD, you have a range of licenses for essentially any business purpose. Each has their strong and weak points.

    Bruce

    • >When I do programming for myself, with my own
      >money, I do it under the GPL. That way, I can share
      >my software, and if someone doesn't want to share
      >they can pay for a commercial license.

      I would say that this is a great *problem* of the GPL. It's very easy in an open project to get spread, diluted copyright ownership. With the GPL, relicensing to a commercial customer can become impossible. A developer can easily find themselves in a situation where he would want to license his work, but some e
      • by unapersson (38207) on Friday July 08, 2005 @02:35AM (#13011702) Homepage
        "I would say that this is a great *problem* of the GPL. It's very easy in an open project to get spread, diluted copyright ownership. With the GPL, relicensing to a commercial customer can become impossible."

        That really depends on whether or not you just accept random patches, or if you're planning to license the code commercially, whether you require copyright assignment to you before applying those patches.

  • by puzzled (12525) on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:18AM (#13011233) Journal

    I'll get beaten down for posting this again, but having used FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Redhat, and SuSe extensively over the last ten years:

    The Linux distro cloud is like an English garden - wild stuff going on all over the place, very easy for someone with a new idea to break in and produce a distro, and in general there is a frenetic level of innovation.

    The BSD systems are more like the lawn of the base commander at Camp Pendleton - each blade named, serial numbered, and rarely do they get out of line.

    I'm running FreeBSD most everywhere because I don't have to jack with it. I've got SuSe on my desktop because I've got a captive Windows thingy with accounting data and people around here pay me to touch SuSe, so its worthwhile to be up to speed.

    Each has their place - I love the massive amount of GPL stuff in /usr/ports, but I'm really glad I'm no longer stuck in RH binary dependency hell.

    Yes, I've heard of portage, no, I haven't touched it yet - consider enlightening without flaming if you're a guru ...
  • ...just kidding!

    I gotta say, the GPL strikes me as being a far better bargain for whomever is producing copyrighted works (which might be a developer, might be a business, who knows). It gives them the one thing that might be as valuable as the copyrights to their own code: access to the source of derivative works.
  • by qaffle (264280) on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:21AM (#13011246)
    I work for a government lab that develops both free software and private software (specifically when under contract with private companies) and we have to deal with this issue constantly. We try our best to not reinvent the wheel and to use pre-existing libraries that are out there, but sometimes you find a perfectly fitting library only to find its GPL'd, which kills any possibility of using it since not all of the work a company like ours can do is able to have a GPL style license.

    It is not logical to expect (IMO) that a company contracting another company is always going to want (or be willing to accept) a GPL style license, so GPL'ing something limits its use in corporate sectors (again IMO).

    Now many times if you go and ask the library authors' they'll grant special permission especially in a case like this, but it's a hastle to work with. And you can argue that you should fight for free software all over, but it doesn't make business sense in every case, especially when your company is not in the business of providing support.

    Also the LGPL solves this sort of issue to some extent, but I'd say the LGPL is more BSD then GPL, but that's a bit of an overstatement...

    • by AuMatar (183847) on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:55AM (#13011399)
      You see, as a GPL developer, thats exactly the reason why I only use GPL. You want to be able to take my work and sell it. Ok, thats fine. You want to be able to do so while not contributing back and improving the software for the rest of the users- you want all the benefits of open source with none of the responsibilities. Thats not cool.

      My goal in life is not to be your free development resource. My goal is to produce software to help my fellow man. If your company can benefit too, thats a bonus. But if you aren't willing to do the same thing, then you can pay for my work to replicated on your own dollar. You can't have it both ways. Pay me in code, or pay me (or other developers) to do it in cash. But you will pay for the use of it in another project.
  • I believe that the BSD license is a better license then the GPL because the BSD has less license restrictions and enables software companies/developers the ability to link their software product with a library under the BSD license without having to release their source code.

    GPL reminds me of a virus, only license wise.
  • BSD vs GPL: FIGHT!!!

    Seriously, didn't Matt Asay already explain this, only a couple lines above this "Which license is better!?!OMGWTFLOL!!!

    "...no one open source license is ideal in every circumstance. Different licenses serve different ends..."

    It doesn't get any simpler than that, and I can't believe that anyone could believe that either license is 100% better, or better in any application than the other. Christ, even Richard Fucking Stallman has agreed that the BSD license is more suitable for some [vorbis.com]
  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:28AM (#13011281) Homepage

    The BSD license offers more advantages to companies looking to sell software derived from existing software. They can take BSD-licensed code, do what they wish with it and treat the results as their own proprietary code.

    The GPL license offers advantages to end-users long-term. Anyone wanting to take advantage of the starting point GPL'd software offers has to return the favor in the form of their code. Essentially it makes developers let other people take advantage of their work in the same way they took advantage of others' work. It also guarantees that, as an end-user, you're never in a position where you can't get fixes and modifications to the software.

    Which one is better for you as the author of the software who has to decide on the license to release it under depends on your goals for the software.

  • Ok GPL is really a free socialist "copy-left".
    It is far from capitalistic you cannot capitalize on GPL based appilcations etc.. becasue it is almost free ( you must pass on what you recieved ).

    Anyway besides all this jazz, I am just against building weapons for offensive strikes or actions that are made from GPL based products. Example cannot use Linux for the guidance computer of a missle that is used to strike civilian targets etc..
    Or a robot that goes into battle using open source apps etc...
  • by Kaz Kylheku (1484) on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:31AM (#13011294) Homepage
    An enterprise can always approach the author of a GPLed software component and license it. Then they can do whatever they want, according to the alternate license, like shipping binaries with no source. He would be a fool who would not take money from someone who wants to ship proprietary binaries containing his program or library, under alternate licensing!

    But, if there are are too many joint authors, that's a problem. It may be impractical to get everyone to agree to set up the alternate licensing.

    If all the authors have assigned their copyright to some organization that is politically against proprietary software, that's also a problem for you. (That's why those FSF people want copyright assignment. They know too damn well that the GPL by itself isn't enough!)

    These aren't inherent problems with the GPL, though, only with the specific situation involving the GPL.

    Under the right conditions, when there are only a few authors or maybe just one, the key difference between the GPL and BSD is that you have to obtain permission from the authors of the GPLed program for proprietary use. When you do that, you have a bit of advantage too, because that program remains non-free to your competition. If they want the technology, they have to approach those authors and buy it separately from you. Heck, you could even buy the complete, exclusive rights to the GPLed program. Afterward, none of your competitors could make proprietary use of the technology, only the uses permitted by the GPL'ed public releases (which you can continue to make, as the new owner!) So you see, it's pretty damn smart to write GPLed software: you leave yourself open as a nice acquisition target for someone who wants the technology.

    That's what kind of makes the BSD license stupid; the authors have just given away the permission to everyone to do anything. It's a good license to put on the smallest possible piece of code that will make a name for you as a great hacker and help you secure future contracts. It's also good for your reference implementation of some spec that you are trying to push onto everyone else, whether it be a data format, protocol, or what have you. Otherwise you're just doing free work for some software venture capitalist, which is stupid. I mean, if you want to help people, go spend time with sick children or something. Doh!

    • by Sheepdot (211478) on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:03AM (#13011437) Journal
      Otherwise you're just doing free work for some software venture capitalist, which is stupid. I mean, if you want to help people, go spend time with sick children or something.

      Apparently there are some mods who only read half of the comments.

      So I suppose the Apache Foundation should just give up the work they've done? I suppose name-recognition for a popular BSD project isn't enough for you?

      If anything, licensing under BSD instead of the GPL is the most selfless act a software developer can make. It means they are coding for the love of coding, not because of a political or philosophical agenda. Is there something wrong with that?

      Likewise, is there something wrong with working for Habitat for Humanity, the Peace Corps, and The Hunger Project?
  • by crankyspice (63953) on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:32AM (#13011296)

    My biggest problem with the GPL is the FSF's position that even dynamically linking against a library under GPL is enough to make the resulting code a derivative work (and thus also subject to the GPL). The BSD license affords much more flexibility. The LGPL is also not so encumbered. (http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/lgpl.html [fsf.org])

    Note also that the FSF's interpretation may not be binding, but it hasn't been tested in court (that I'm aware of, and I recently attended a symposium on this very topic). So, in my mind, it creates an unacceptable exposure for anyone who wants to develop software but not adopt the GPL. The BSD license is substantially safer.

    More discussion on this point: http://www.oslawblog.com/2005/01/static-linking-gp l-and-lgpl.html [oslawblog.com]

    • The dynamic linking issue is probably my only real gripe with the GPL. It makes it almost impossible for me to realistically consider using the GPL for any of my code. The LGPL is much easier to work with and still provides almost all of the same benefits as the GPL for me as a developer, and my users get the same basic freedoms from it as they would from the GPL (theoretically, they actually get more), so most of my projects are licensed under the LGPL (or occasionally just the plain ol' zlib license).

      On
    • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:42AM (#13011556) Homepage Journal
      This is piss funny [trolltech.com]. Whoever wrote the answer to that FAQ must have gone on to a long career in politics.
      • TrollTech similarly claims that you cannot, for example, develop something with the noncommercial Qt's and then buy a commercial license later.

        I'm not a lawyer, but both those claims seem utterly unenforcable to me.
      • This is piss funny. Whoever wrote the answer to that FAQ must have gone on to a long career in politics.

        What license is Qt covered by these days? By that FAQ entry, it absolutely cannot be GPL or GPL-compatible, because their terms (as defined by that FAQ entry) directly contradict the spirit and wording of the GPL itself.

        Very interesting...

    • by jbolden (176878) on Friday July 08, 2005 @03:05AM (#13011794) Homepage
      y biggest problem with the GPL is the FSF's position that even dynamically linking against a library under GPL is enough to make the resulting code a derivative work (and thus also subject to the GPL).

      The FSF doesn't define derived work, that's a legal term from copyright law. Most lawyers are of the opinion that the FSF is being far to liberal and that much more stuff would constitute derived than even they believe (stuff that most programmers would consider "mere aggregation".
  • WTF? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by orz (88387) on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:39AM (#13011336)
    The article submitter should be flayed alive. The /. editor should be drubbed soundly.

    Use the GPL if you're going to get upset if someone uses your code commercially without paying you. GPL won't quite prohibit that kind of thing, but it will make most business models involving it impractical.

    Use the GPL if you have strong philosophical objections to the basic idea of intellectual property. If, eventually, a sufficiently large portion of code is GPLed, then it might become prohibitively difficult for anyone to make non-GPLed code without re-inventing the wheel. Dream on.

    Use the BSD license if you just want your code to be useful to as many people as possible.
    • Re:WTF? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by femto (459605)
      I think apples are better than oranges.

      It's just as valid to debate the above.

      It's not a question of which is being better, but what you are trying to achieve by your choice of license. Just as apples and oranges have different uses, the two licenses suit different purposes, so aren't really worth comparing.

      Debate the merits of each purpose if you will (and get into an argument where 'right' depends your point of view), but neither of the two licenses is 'better'.

    • Re:WTF? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Scarblac (122480) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Friday July 08, 2005 @02:42AM (#13011725) Homepage

      Use the GPL if you have strong philosophical objections to the basic idea of intellectual property.

      I don't get this. Without intellectual property (read: without copyright law), it would be like everything was BSD licensed. The GPL relies entirely on copyright law to do its trick.

    • Re:WTF? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by latroM (652152)
      Use the GPL if you're going to get upset if someone uses your code commercially without paying you.

      The GPL doesn't cover the use of software, only distribution. The GPL doesn't prevent making money, it only prevents making software non-free.
  • by Kjella (173770) on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:40AM (#13011337) Homepage
    ...as providers of code, they hardly want to release under the BSD license. A GPL license is often acceptable where BSD is not. As consumers of code, they love the BSD license. As for OSS authors, I think the requirements of the GPL are excellent at promoting OSS. So I think the contributors should be release under the GPL (except where reasonable such as standards you want everyone to follow). What the consumers want is really irrelevant since they don't contribute in the making. Why should you aim to please someone where you have nothing to gain?

    Kjella
  • by tehanu (682528) on Friday July 08, 2005 @12:42AM (#13011344)
    How many companies, as opposed to not-for-profit organisations have actually released software as BSD? For a company, *releasing* software as BSD makes no sense. Here, take my work. Oh, Mr Competitor, of course you can use my money and research to help you compete against me. No, you don't have to give me any improvements you make. With the GPL the company is assured of getting any improvements back. It's taking the gamble that while its money could be used to help its competitor if they use the code for anything it has to release *that* as GPL so that it can use it. Also if its competitor makes an improvement it will be able to use that improvement itself. For a company *releasing* software under an open-source license BSD has no real advantages and many disadvantages.

    For a company that *consumes* open-source software - and by this - I don't mean using Linux on the desktop but say taking open-source software and using it in their own programs or repackaging it, BSD is obviously superior as they can take as much as they like for free, profit from it and not give anything back.

    Personally I think if BSD was the predominant open-source license you won't be seeing nearly as many companies releasing their work as open-source. For for-profit companies, BSD gives all the benefits to the selfish companies and penalises the generous companies. GPL is more fair from a for-profit perspective.
  • GNU GPL all the way (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cronopios (313338) on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:21AM (#13011492) Homepage Journal
    BSD is better for the enterprise.
    Yeah, right. How many cases can you think of enterprises releasing their software under a BSD license?
    Alas, I can think of many programs being released by big corporations under the GNU GPL.
    Enterprises just wants other's software released under BSD.

    If individual developers/small groups want to make any money from their work or get enterprises collaborating in their project, they should go with the GNU GPL as well.

    Of course, sometimes the LGPL will be preferable. And -rarely- the GPL+linking exception.
  • by alanw (1822) * <alan@wylie.me.uk> on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:34AM (#13011524) Homepage
    Around Y2K, I worked for a company called Cyrano.com. It produced testing
    software. We had done very well in the run-up to Y2K - lots of people wanted
    to perform regression testing on their database applications. We were a small
    company - much smaller than e.g. Rational.com (Now borged by IBM), but felt
    that we had a good product. The management decided that the best way to help convince
    customers to buy our product, in the face of arguments that Cyrano might not
    be around in a couple of years time, was to open source the code. In these
    circumstances, the obvious license to choose is the GPL: it ensures that
    the company benefits from any changes anyone else makes.

    I spent a very long time going through the files, adding the appropriate
    header comments, and removing any comments naming individuals, especially
    individuals who were no longer with the company, before setting up the
    project at SourceForge: http://opensta.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]. There were
    also OpenSTA.com and .org domains set up. The project is still running, and
    I believe that several ex-employees, made redundant after the company went
    tits-up, are now self-employed and using the application.

    At the very least, open-sourcing the project meant that the codebase was not
    lost when the company folded.
  • by Zordak (123132) on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:35AM (#13011528) Homepage Journal
    To quote a popular comic book movie opening this weekend:

    Flame On!

  • by WhiteWolf666 (145211) <(sherwin) (at) (amiran.us)> on Friday July 08, 2005 @01:44AM (#13011565) Homepage Journal
    (That has be said many, many times on this article)
    . . . . is of the subset of companies willing to consider opensourcing their software, very, very few would be willing to BSD license their code, as opposed to GPL licensing it.

    At least with the GPL, they 'feel' like no competitor will 'abuse' their property (i.e. take it and not contribute it back).

    That should tell you something about why most companies prefer the BSD license. It have very, *very* little to do with code they themselves are releasing.

    This doesn't mean that John Q. programmer shouldn't ever use the BSD. But think carefully about what it means when someone says most companies prefer the BSD license.

    Microsoft has said they prefer the BSD license. How many BSD licensed Microsoft packages are there?
  • by Skuto (171945) on Friday July 08, 2005 @02:27AM (#13011681) Homepage
    TROLL

    Because:

    1) It offers *zero* real protection, *especially* for *small developers* with no legal team to back them up.

    2) For people that *are* honest, it causes a hell of a lot of interworking problems.

    These are quite simply the facts, regardless of all the religious beliefs that are continously being flaunted above by misguided GPL zealots.

    END TROLL

    I marked this as a troll because that is how most people will percieve it. Nevertheless it's the truth.
  • Shock news! (Score:4, Funny)

    by nagora (177841) on Friday July 08, 2005 @02:37AM (#13011709)
    Companies say they like people to work for free.

    "Frankly, we resent the air our programmers use up; how come that's not mentioned in thet Coyote agreement thing we hear about?" said a spokesman.

    In other news, it was found that people like to be given free money and have sex with beautiful people.

    TWW

  • by heikkile (111814) on Friday July 08, 2005 @04:09AM (#13011977) Homepage
    I am lucky enough to work for an OS company. We use different licenses for different products.

    One of our core products is the YAZ toolkit for Z39.50 communications. That is under a BSD-style license, since it is in our interest to increase the use of Z39.50, and with it our potential market. In that we have succeeded well, we guess that about half of world's Z39.50 products are based on our tools, and we have made ourselves a name in the community of Z39.50 users.

    Another core product, the Zebra search engine is licensed under GPL, because we don't mind small businesses and universities playing with it, but we don't want to see it absorbed into a competing product. We also sell commercial licenses for it, should someone want one.

    Of course, we also do some custom work that remains closed source.

    The difference for us is not the amount of patches we receive - that is about equal, and small in any case - but the different licenses serve different purposes.

  • by Kevinv (21462) <kevin@noSpaM.vanhaaren.net> on Friday July 08, 2005 @07:33AM (#13012527) Homepage
    The vast majority of enterprise level corporations, and smaller companies, don't produce software that is distributed outside of the company. Below enterprise level companies an even larger percentage doesn't distribute software.

    For these companies the license doesn't matter. Both licenses are equally free on the end-user. The licenses differ in what developers have to do if they distribute their works outside of a corporation.

    For a corporation that does distribute software, wanting to build a standard the GPL would seem better to me. Under BSD a competitor can take your work, add to it and distribute it without releasing code -- competitive advantage to the competitor. Under GPL any changes must be available, they can't keep secret their modifications. Level playing field.
  • I understand that some of you may only have heard of the open source movement. I'm grateful that you would consider using the GPL for your projects. However, the GNU General Public License (or GPL) predates the open source movement by many years by the founder of a movement with different goals than the open source movement. Therefore it is not fair or accurate to credit the GPL as an "open source license" merely because the Open Source Initiative (which started the open source movement) placed it on a list of approved licenses.

    The GPL was written by Richard Stallman, most notably. Version 1 of the GPL was released in January 1989, and version 2 (the current version) in 1991. So, two major releases of what has come to be the most important and popular free software license were released well before the Open Source Initiative was founded in February 1998. The OSI has yet to write a license that compares with the popularity or strength of the GPL.

    The GPL speaks repeatedly about software freedom, not "open" anything, and for very good reasons. First, the term "open source" didn't exist when the two revisions of the GPL were written. But even if the OSI existed, the open source movement doesn't want to frame any issue in terms of software freedom because it gets in the way of addressing businesses, their chief audience. Talking about software freedom means talking about something beneficial to users, not addressing more efficient means of connecting cheap programming labor with businesses. Philosophically and historically, the FSF and OSI are not the same, nor are the free software and open source movements. Stallman and Eben Moglen, chief counsel for the FSF, confirm this in every speech they give and virtually every essay they write. The Free Software Foundation has published an essay describing the differences between the two movements [gnu.org] and why they see the free software movement as better. To this list of differences I'd add that free software guarantees private derivatives, unlike the open source definition.

    The upcoming GPL (version 3) in this regard because it will be the first version of the GPL where anyone from the OSI may have editorial say in. The final word (and framing of the issues surrounding the GPLv3 [fsf.org]) still comes down to Stallman and Eben Moglen.

    Thus, with all of this history, I think it is fair to call the GPL a free software license, not an open source license. The GPL existed well before and independantly of anything to do with the open source movement and does not embody the values of the open source movement. I encourage you all to stop misleading people into giving the OSI and the open source movement an undeserved primacy.

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