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Is GPL Licensing In Decline? 266

Posted by samzenpus
from the way-of-the-dodo dept.
GMGruman writes "Simon Phipps writes, "As Apache licenses proliferate, two warring camps have formed over whether the GPL is or isn't falling out of favor in favor of the Apache License." But as he explores the issues on both sides, he shows how the binary thinking on the issue is misplaced, and that the truth is more nuanced, with Apache License gaining in commercially focused efforts but GPL appearing to increase in software-freedom-oriented efforts. In other words, it depends on the style of open source."
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Is GPL Licensing In Decline?

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  • Deja Vu (Score:5, Informative)

    by msclrhd (1211086) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @01:38PM (#39838415)

    Didn't we have this story last week?

    • Re:Deja Vu (Score:5, Informative)

      by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @01:41PM (#39838437) Journal

      Yep. It was this one [slashdot.org]. And even that was a repeat posting, possibly by a troll or astroturfer.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by hairyfeet (841228)

        It is just Slashdot doing what it does best on a slow news week, they be trolling. They know those that treat anything RMS says as word of God will get all butthurt when they see this and will go apeshit and hilarious flames will ensue, but really if one thinks logically it is easy to explain.

        1.- GPL V3 went too anti-business, with RMS going so far as to target one business specifically, 2.- Businesses and those that are working for them were the ones writing much of the GPL code, 3.-RMS refuses to change a

        • by jhoegl (638955)
          So then... is slashdot on the decline?
      • Re:Deja Vu (Score:4, Interesting)

        by KiloByte (825081) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @02:59PM (#39838857)

        This is the fifth story[1] based on a single article by one single shill. If this were mere trolling, I'd be grudgingly impressed. As this is a commercial scheme, I hate the guy with passion.

        [1]. counting only those I noticed and remember, so there's probably more.

        • Re:Deja Vu (Score:4, Insightful)

          by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @03:36PM (#39839029)

          This is the fifth story[1] based on a single article by one single shill. If this were mere trolling, I'd be grudgingly impressed. As this is a commercial scheme, I hate the guy with passion.

          [1]. counting only those I noticed and remember, so there's probably more.

          100% true. The way this keeps coming up is a very clear message. That message is:

          Microsoft and Apple hate the GPL because it represents a chance to break their duopoly on personal computing by creating a complete independent environment.

          Whenever we have this discussion it gets pointed out repeatedly that Apple must love F/OSS because they use so much of it. What doesn't get pointed out is that the OpenDarwin project to build a system based on Apple's open source failed for lack of cooperaton from Apple and lack of involvement from their developers. This is symptomatic of Apple's attitude; they will take whatever you give them. They will even co-operate wherever they see clear profit. They will never support things which give their users freedom to work in ways that Apple doesn't approve of. Microsoft's hatred of the GPL is so well documented in their own words that nobody even tries to claim otherwise, except for a few "Microsoft has changed" voices that we have been hearing for years without seeing anything actually changing. Note, however, that Microsoft has quite happily used BSD software all over their system.

          Microsoft and Apple don't mind F/OSS as long as it is a box and they can charge you for the use of the box and limit what goes in and out of it. They fear GPL based open source as something which might allow you to create your own box and choose what you want to allow in and out of there. They are doing that by making sure that whatever you do with a computer you have to go through one of their systems. They are aiming to head back to the bad days of the 1980s when you didn't just pay for your compiler software; you actually paid run time licenses for the libraries you used. This is what app stores and their percentage taxes are about. This is what the GPL threatens by giving every computer programmer the chance to contribute to and modify the code.

          These stories keep coming up because the various PR shills here want to make people behave differently from their own interests. Remember that and choose the GPL whenever you have the option.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by TheRaven64 (641858)

            Whenever we have this discussion it gets pointed out repeatedly that Apple must love F/OSS because they use so much of it

            No, its pointed out that Apple must love F/OSS because they contribute to so much of it. Take a look at LLVM, WebKit, CUPS, and a number of other projects and see how many contributions are funded by Apple. They contribute to F/OSS for exactly the right reason: If two or more companies need the same thing, it's cheaper if they cooperate on implementing the same thing than if they each implement their own (incompatible) ones and keeping them private. Apple has ridiculous amounts of money, enough to easily

          • by beelsebob (529313)

            You're right, apple are terrible open source citizens. They didn't give you the entire source to clang, CSA, libdispatch, ALAC, CalDAV, Darwin Streaming Server, Mac Ports, Mac Ruby, launchd, ... for free... >.<

      • In other words, there is a lot of FUD going around.
    • Re:Deja Vu (Score:5, Funny)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @02:09PM (#39838585) Journal

      I have done a study on this, and I can now publish my findings, exclusively on Slashdot, for the first time:

      Since this time last year, instances of the GPL in Slashdot dupes are now up by 300%, while instances of the Apache and BSD licenses remain at a constant level.

      Flamewars about the merits of the GPL vs the BSDL are at an all-time high. In February, for the first time since 2010, they passed the number of Android vs iOS flamewars, and are currently recorded at over 11 on the vi vs emacs scale.

      Comparisons between the FSF and the Nazis are up by 20%, but still significantly lower than any major tech company or political party. Apple, Microsoft and Google are all at record high levels on the Godwin scale, but Oracle has passed all three, with a stunning 400% increase after the takeover of Sun. IBM's record from the '80s is still unsurpassed.

    • There seems to be a glitch in the matrix.
    • Yes, we did, and I'll just re-post what I post every time this bullshit comes up:

      This is bullshit. It's counting by project, not by importance or size. I'm sure if we counted by lines of code, the GPL would still be #1.

      What's happening is that we are seeing new "projects" being created at an alarming rate, most of this projects being wordpress plugins that do nothing important, collections of shitty javascript functions, and themes for various CMS, forums, etc.

      Sure, it's full of kids that "just learned" the

  • App stores (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kthreadd (1558445) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @01:53PM (#39838509)

    Like it or not, but the fact that GPL is prohibited in many app stores is probably what discourages authors of FLOSS from using it as their license. Some authors may also feel that they don't want to use it even if it works fine for them now since they don't know what will happen in the future, as contributions are accepted from other authors it becomes much harder to change license. It's not 1991 anymore.

    • by Microlith (54737)

      All "open source" is prohibited in many app stores. Primarily because all the app stores and the platforms they service are extremely anti-open source and locked down.

      iOS and WP are antithetical to the concept of Free Software, let alone open source.

      • by kthreadd (1558445)

        Truth be told I'm not entirely familiar with the process of submitting software to either iOS or WP but in what way are they anti-open source? I have never heard anything that suggests that it's not possible to submit software released under more permissive licenses, only that GPL is not compatible with their licensing terms.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          well, suppose you have a license that requires the users to be given source they can recompile and run. now, usually that kind of license would require that you don't need a 3rd party - or hacking your device - to be able to do that - like paying apple or ms a hundred bucks to be able to upload the recompiled binary to your device(and in both cases getting a license for operating system to run the compiler in and a license for the compiler, which both do provide though, I think it's possible to weasel a fr

        • To be GPL compliant, they would have to distribute the source code to your app, as you are not the distributer - they are. linking to the code is not enough. I don't know of one app store which actually does this.

          • Linux distribution repositories - the original central app store - do this. But alas, they are not so common on phones.

        • by jbolden (176878)

          The problem for the Apple app store is that Apple is acting as distributor. Apple doesn't have a mechanism for providing source. Apple doesn't allow individuals without a developer's SDK to make changes to a program and then install. It creates a nebulous area. If Apple wanted to push it they could, but so far they haven't wanted to they have just asked the open source distributor to give them a less nebulous license.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        All "open source" is prohibited in many app stores.

        And what app stores would those be? It's certainly not the iOS App store.

        Doom is GPL Licensed [wikia.com]
        Doom is in the App Store [apple.com]
        The Source for for iOS Doom [github.com]

      • by syzler (748241)

        Why do you think open source is prohibited on many app stores?

        I recently released an LDAP administrator for the iPad which is built around the OpenLDAP libraries. In the about section of the app, I clearly state that the app uses OpenLDAP, OpenSSL, and Cyrus-SASL libraries. I also provide links to a framework on github which I developed to provide the visual elements and convenience classes used within the app. When submitting the app to Apple, I disclosed that the app uses OpenSSL.

        The app was approved i

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          Are any parts of your app GPL V3? I would guess not. You see what the appstores and even Android do NOT allow is GPL V3 because its anti-business, hell RMS even went out of his way to target a specific business that pissed him off (TiVo) so naturally businesses don't want to have anything to do with GPL V3. the problem is too many think "Open Source equals GPL" when you can enjoy any number of licenses and still be open source, just as you yourself did when you chose BSD.

          So the appstores are NOT anti-open

          • by syzler (748241)

            My comment was in response to a comment which stated that

            All "open source" is prohibited in many app stores.

            Speaking from my experience, you are spot on. A few years ago I started migrating the few libraries I have written from the LGPL to a modified BSD license just for this reason. It is also why I am more inclined to hunt down bugs and submit patches for non-GPL/LGPL software packages.

    • Re:App stores (Score:5, Informative)

      by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday April 29, 2012 @02:36PM (#39838721) Homepage Journal

      Like it or not, but the fact that GPL is prohibited in many app stores is probably what discourages authors of FLOSS from using it as their license. Some authors may also feel that they don't want to use it even if it works fine for them now since they don't know what will happen in the future, as contributions are accepted from other authors it becomes much harder to change license. It's not 1991 anymore.

      What app stores other than Apple's have terms incompatible with the GPL? Google Play doesn't. Amazon Appstore doesn't. Nook Store doesn't.

      (BTW, the problem with Apple's terms isn't that they ban the GPL, it's that they require that apps be licensed on a per user basis, with no sub-licensing or re-distribution permitted, even if the licensing cost is zero. The GPL requires that everyone have redistribution rights, which is incompatible with per-user licensing. Google doesn't constraint the app developer's licensing choices, and AFAICT the other Android stores have followed suit.)

    • As far as I know it's only the iOS and WP app stores that are anti-GPL. You can submit GPL'ed software to the Mac App store so Apple as a company doesn't even fully ban it.
    • GPL is prohibited in many app stores

      How many app stores are there outside of Android?

      More of the same, more FUD.

  • by interval1066 (668936) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @01:54PM (#39838511) Homepage Journal
    I've had recent occasion to talk to a few SAAS providers and other software producers who are employing OSS tech in some of their products and the consensus was the GPL was too constrictive, so their using other schemes. I'm also noticing others around the web sticking to GPL 2.0, and dismissing 3.0. I'm just a messenger, just what I've seen.
    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @02:08PM (#39838581)
      I have felt from the time it came out that GPL 3.0 was a step too far. With any attempt to write a legally binding document (whether a license like the GPL or a law) that applies to people you have never met you have to make a choice between one of two options. You can either write it so that no one can ever abuse it, or you can write it so that it is flexible and can be applied in innovative ways to solve problems that it never occurred to you might be connected to it somehow. If you do the first one, the document will, at best, be unusable in situations that are outside of what you considered possible when you wrote it, but more likely will actually restrain innovation in any area where your document applies. GPL 3.0 does this.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The primary objective of the GPL and free software was not innovation; it was freedom. Freedom for the little guy. RMS has underlined again and again that some software might not be so shiny because of that freedom, or proprietary products might have more features. This however, has always been a non-issue; the primary objective has always been the four freedoms, regardless of how others might want to use or abuse the software or the essential right to freedom.

    • by Microlith (54737)

      Of course SaaS providers would object to the GPLv3, it eliminated the ability for them to exploit GPL software, subsequently used by their customers, without distributing the sources. Much like the anti-tivoization clause, it's another patch to fix the loopholes that companies exploit.

      • Distributing source was not the objection I heard. It was more along the lines of the license itself... anyway, if you use it are you exploiting it? You kind of sound like ANY use of OSS is exploitation. If so, why release it? Just keep it in a vault if no one can use it.
        • by swillden (191260)

          Distributing source was not the objection I heard. It was more along the lines of the license itself.

          That doesn't make any sense. The license distribution of source and giving permission to re-distributed. That's the essence of "license itself".

          .. anyway, if you use it are you exploiting it? You kind of sound like ANY use of OSS is exploitation.

          "Exploiting" isn't a word that has any meaning in this context. You can use GPLv2 and GPLv3 software in any way you like, consistent with the terms of the license. In the case of v2, that basically boils down to "if you distribute binaries, you also have to distribute source, and whoever gets the source from you is likewise free to redistributed it under the sa

        • by jbolden (176878)

          It is not use, it is SaaS a version you modified without releasing changes that is objectionable.

      • Of course SaaS providers would object to the GPLv3, it eliminated the ability for them to exploit GPL software

        No it doesn't. The AGPL does, the GPLv3 still allows, for example, Google to use GPLv3 software on their servers for everything and not release any of the source code.

    • by caseih (160668)

      I have zero sympathy for SAAS providers whining about the inability to use GPLv3 in their for-profit service. If they want to use a GPLv3 app, negotiate a commercial license for the code. Whining about the GPL being so restrictive just tells me they want to continue to be able to leach off of free software developers. If the software is so useful, pay the GPL developers!

    • by Alex Belits (437) *

      I'm just a messenger, just what I've seen.

      First of all, you have no proof of that. SAAS, as restrictive as it is, is not affected by GPL at all.
      Second, go fuck yourself anyway. We write software, we distribute it under licenses that parasites like your "few SAAS providers and other software producers" are afraid of. If they don't like it, they can always ask Oracle to buy their shitty companies.

  • BSD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zamphatta (1760346) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @02:17PM (#39838625) Homepage
    Personally, I prefer the BSD licenses. There's more freedom in it. Although, I can see why people like the GPL & Apache licenses, I think they're a little too restrictive.
  • Personally, I think the whole open source gig is fading away. The next generation of programmers have been raised to live and program in flashy iDink walled gardens and have neither the interest or the inclination in releasing or collaborating on code.

    In their world, code is something that is packaged into an app, approved by Apple, and then sold for profit. It is not something which can even be freely compiled and run on their devices, let alone shared and co-written.

    Ultimately computers and the Internet are growing up, moving out into suburbia, and accepting pre-packaged convenience over creative potential. People want shiny and slick, and really couldn't care less freedom, code, control, or innovation. There's probably an App for feelings like that anyway.

    The Internet is becoming squaresville, one settled Mac user at a time.

    • Personally, I think the whole open source gig is fading away. The next generation of programmers have been raised to live and program in flashy iDink walled gardens and have neither the interest or the inclination in releasing or collaborating on code.

      This happened 30 years ago, except then it was the DOS and then Windows world. The F/LOSS movement largely came from a later generation of programmers who realized that walling everything up sucks and impedes progress. And, although it was before my time, I understand there was a similar dynamic a couple of decades before that. Seems like just another turn of the wheel -- assuming you're even right, which I doubt.

    • by gutnor (872759)

      People want shiny and slick, and really couldn't care less freedom, code, control, or innovation.

      People never cared, only programmer and hacker ever did. OpenSource never delivered anything to the masses before they were packaged "for the masses" (Android, OSX).

      The next generation of programmers have been raised to live and program in flashy iDink walled gardens and have neither the interest or the inclination in releasing or collaborating on code.

      OpenSource is not a choice you make nowadays. You must use OpenSource or you don't deliver as fast as your competitor. If you create a framework, you must open source or you will never reach critical masses. You must participate in open source project, because that is too costly to maintain your own private fork and nobody care about your refere

      • nobody care about your references if they are not commit id on github

        That's an absurd thought. Plenty of code is written and not open-sourced or otherwise distributed to the public. This will remain true until we reach the Star Trek level of technology and culture.

    • by Alex Belits (437) *

      There is enough embedded systems and in-house development to make the opinions of all all dinky app-store-bound developers completely irrelevant. The last time around with DOS software, a negligible minority of individual developers were able support themselves by writing anything sold to consumers -- that market, with exception of games, was quickly monopolized by Microsoft and Adobe. This time, things are shaping up in exactly the same way. Meanwhile, embedded systems and large IT/Internet-basdd services

  • Apache licenses are favoured by projects which have corporate sponsorship and funding.

    GPL licenses are favoured by "grass roots" efforts which have no funding.

    The question is the funding a cause or an effect of the choice of license?

    • by Nadir (805)
      <quote><p>
      Apache licenses are favoured by projects which have corporate sponsorship and funding.
      </p><p>
      GPL licenses are favoured by "grass roots" efforts which have no funding.
      </p><p>
      The question is the funding a cause or an effect of the choice of license?</p></quote>
      Yes, like the first $1 billion open source company in the world... not! All of Red Hat's stuff is LGPL.
      • by msobkow (48369)

        RedHat neither owns nor pays sponsorship to most of the projects they contribute to.

        I'm thinking in terms of groups like Mozilla which receive actual cash funding from companies like Google for their work, not companies which have found a way to leverage the work of others to turn a profit. Or the actual Apache projects, which receive funding from some of the biggest IT firms in the world to develop and maintain "core infrastructure" components for the web world. Another one that comes to mind is Eclip

  • by jtotheh (229796) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @02:36PM (#39838717)

    To restate the obvious:
    There are two paradoxical possible twists to an open source license.
    1. The user is allowed to use the source as part of a closed source product (which is a kind of freedom)
    2. The user is obliged to make derivatives available as source (which ensures the greater freedom of other users/developers) (this is a restriction on the actions of user 1)

    Neither one is complete freedom. They are both giving up something - the possible work of the downstream user or the business motivation of the first user.

    The GPL's origin is in RMS' desire to be able to modify software that was produced by companies. It takes this to the extreme, basically by prohibiting closed source products based on GPL.

    The benefit of this is mostly to developers, and within that, to developers who are independent. Software companies share code / secrets a lot as part of business, but under NDAs. The FSF has as a slogan "you deserve software that is free" but how many users want to exercise the freedom to modify and recompile their software?

    More and more, FOSS is produced in a dual stream approach - Redhat/Fedora, Jboss community/pro, other things work this way like Jasper reports etc

    The reality of this is that the code that is run in production is not "free" in an active way. When you pay for a supported version of RHEL or whatever you do not generally modify anything very deep inside it and then demand support for your modified version. The fact that you are paying for a supported version is a disincentive to using a modifed version, your own or anyone else's.

    Also consider that the Linux kernel is largely developed by people working for IBM, Suse, Redhat, etc.

    So while the lone developer wanting to add his improvements to the commercially produced and defective printer driver is a convincing story to argue for the GPL, the reality as it is today is different - it's more like the millions of Linux users who wish their hardware was supported but do not produce a driver for it. And I know they may not have access to the necessary information from the hardware maker, etc. Still, the number of people able and motivated to write OS-level code is small. I know I don't know enough to do it.

    Nonetheless, the existence of (mostly) GPL OSes is an amazing thing. The access to knowledge for developers that that provides is awesome. But a lot of the requirements to stay GPL-pure do not sound like freedoms to me- requiring you not to buy certain(most) products, visit certain sites - it's ironic when, in the name of freedom, your freedom to act as you wish must be limited.

    • But a lot of the requirements to stay GPL-pure do not sound like freedoms to me- requiring you not to buy certain(most) products, visit certain sites

      Could you cite examples of websites and products you must avoid? I'm aware that you must avoid certain source code if you wish to develop software with a corresponding function on the other side of the OSS divide, but I'm not aware of products I must avoid to be able to continue to use GPL?

      • by jtotheh (229796)

        I'm not talking about things that you are legally or practically blocked from using with GNU. I'm talking about what you do if you are really committed to the GNU philosophy. If you look at the all-in point of view of FSF/GNU, you should not run any software that is not free. So the Flash plugin for browsers is off limits. I guess you can visit youtube without flash, I don't think it'll work. (maybe I'm out of date here, but when youtube videos were in flash, that was the deal) Sites that use what is consi

        • by Alex Belits (437) *

          By this logic, any Monarchist in US has an obligation to kill himself.

        • the word freedom is used to demand restrictions on behavior

          Everything you describe would be a personal choice though - the exercise of the freedom that you claim is being eroded. What's more, as an informed choice, it's a better choice. I admire Stallman for his moral fortitude, but even he bows to practicality and will fly on airplanes, etc, even though these things involve compromise. He will go much further out of his way to make a choice that he is morally comfortable with, electing to travel by train whenever practical (to avoid tracking of his movements), buy

  • Who Cares? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    You ask me: "Is GPL Licensing In Decline?"
    I ask you: "Who Cares?"

    if the GPL fits your goals (personal, business, etc.), then use it.
    If the GPL doesn't fit your goals, then don't use it.

    If the whole world goes GPL or I am the last person on Earth releasing code under the GPL license .. does it really matter, if we're all meeting our goals?

  • Of course, any library published with a restrictive license (GPL) will eventually be supplanted by a library with a more liberal license (BSD, etc)
    The value proposition is simply better.

    • by HuguesT (84078)

      Value proposition for whom ? I can see plenty of GPL software not about to be replace anytime soon. I can see some libraries and packages being reimplemented for the BSD O/Ses, but not all.

      Can you give some examples ?

    • by midicase (902333)

      I don't think so. I have found that BSD based software tends to lags in "bleeding edge" features (not that is is better or worse) since the people that use, customize and enhance BSD licensed software are not legally required to disclose these changes as it is required by GPL.

  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Sunday April 29, 2012 @04:37PM (#39839307) Journal

    Many banks and other companies that received threatening letters from SCO and MS salesmen have anti gnu or freeware policies in their organization. A famous Canadian bank even licenses for an obsolete version of SSH because BSD *might* be gnu. Funny, that the corporation just downloads the BSD one and repackages to the customer as its own for $$$.

    Lawyers are afraid of it in big companies after several court cases with companies like Netgear being accused of copyright infringement for including Linux without the source in some of their embedded products.

    I could turn this into a BSD vs GPL flameware but wont. There are many such as myself who feel comfortable using free software at work but would feel better modifying and shipping BSD versions which are more business friendly to customers and suppliers. Remember you are asking the company to ship its crown jewels away if they license it with GPL. It is true it may protect you agaisn't getting ripped off, but you have no way to know for sure.

    Businesses do not like risk or to give away free things. They own them if they paid for the labor so why the risk?

    • by Alex Belits (437) *

      Remember you are asking the company to ship its crown jewels away if they license it with GPL.

      No. Just no.
      I work for a company that uses embedded Linux, running all kinds of proprietary software. Linux and utilities are GPL, proprietary software is not, the latter runs on the former without any problems.

      Now, if "crown jewels" were someone's extra-special version of GPL software, I wouldn't want to use it for reasons other than licensing -- the motivation would be suspect.

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