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FSF's Richard Stallman Calls LLVM a 'Terrible Setback' 1098

Posted by Soulskill
from the they-can-compile-our-source-but-they'll-never-compile-our-freedom dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Richard Stallman has called LLVM a terrible setback in a new mailing list exchange over GCC vs. Clang. LLVM continues to be widely used and grow in popularity for different uses, but it's under a BSD-style license rather than the GPL. RMS wrote, 'For GCC to be replaced by another technically superior compiler that defended freedom equally well would cause me some personal regret, but I would rejoice for the community's advance. The existence of LLVM is a terrible setback for our community precisely because it is not copylefted and can be used as the basis for nonfree compilers — so that all contribution to LLVM directly helps proprietary software as much as it helps us.'"
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FSF's Richard Stallman Calls LLVM a 'Terrible Setback'

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 24, 2014 @02:53PM (#46059087)

    If the gcc codebase was a bit more reasonable and it didn't require an entire legal team to get permission to contribute to their code, maybe this wouldn't have happened.

  • by Kremmy (793693) on Friday January 24, 2014 @02:54PM (#46059105)
    is preferable to Proprietary Software constructed within obscurity.
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday January 24, 2014 @02:54PM (#46059107)

    In particular, not everyone agrees with his rather narrow definition of "freedom". Some developers like the whole BSD thing, which gives more freedom to the person who uses and implements the software, rather than the original developer. It is akin to the CC-BY license, where you want to have your stuff acknowledged as a source, but you welcome people to do with it as they please.

    I have no problem with the GPL, but the zealots that seem to think it is the only way EVAR that is ok and that people who want a less restrictive license like BSD are bad get on my nerves.

    • Precisely (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:05PM (#46059265)

      This is exactly the problem with the GPL. Its advocates want everything to be free, and are giddy about the possibility of bringing suit against people who so much as linked to a GPL'd library and forcing their work to be GPL.

      It's viral, and not in a good way. Comments like "all contribution to LLVM directly helps proprietary software as much as it helps us" show your cards. Stallman not only is an advocate for free software; he would rather harm or hamstring free software in order to damage proprietary software.

      I'm not about to defend the practices of certain large corporations. But in education and medicine, institutional rules over IP forbid many people I know of from even linking to a GPL'd library. For us, if it's GPL'd then it is off limits.

      Also, having a friendly non-adversarial relationship with industry is useful and will result in much broader use of your software. For most FOSS projects, exposure and reaching a critical mass of contributors is crucial. The BSD is inherently helpful in this case. The GPL just scares people off, because it asserts control over code you haven't even written just because you decided to use something that happened to have a GPL license.

      So, no, Stallman, I disagree and furthermore I condemn your argument as unproductive, wrong, and unhelpful. You might have ground to stand on if LLVM were closed source but it's open - in fact, it's under a more permissive license than the GPL.

      • by hubie (108345)

        But in education and medicine, institutional rules over IP forbid many people I know of from even linking to a GPL'd library. For us, if it's GPL'd then it is off limits.

        But isn't that why libraries are (or should) be licensed under the LGPL, so that there are no "viral" issues? You're not even allowed to link to an LGPL library?

        • But in education and medicine, institutional rules over IP forbid many people I know of from even linking to a GPL'd library. For us, if it's GPL'd then it is off limits.

          But isn't that why libraries are (or should) be licensed under the LGPL, so that there are no "viral" issues? You're not even allowed to link to an LGPL library?

          The problem is 90% of software developers do not know the difference between LGPL and GPL. It pisses me off when they groan ... but but why didn't you use my api? I can't. Your license dictates that I can't earn a living off it nor can my employer.

          Sorry I am not redhat and can't charge for support. It is stupid. Sure you ahve the right as a developer but really so and I mean sooo many apis are GPL and not LGPL that the authors do a diservice without even realizing it.

          But not everyone is a lawyer unfortunate

        • Re:Precisely (Score:5, Interesting)

          by steveha (103154) on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:33PM (#46060533) Homepage

          But isn't that why libraries are (or should) be licensed under the LGPL, so that there are no "viral" issues? You're not even allowed to link to an LGPL library?

          RMS doesn't really like the LGPL. The first L used to stand for "Library" but these days it stands for "Lesser" to indicate its proper place. RMS would rather all libraries be GPL. (Of course, RMS would rather all software of any sort be GPL.)

          https://www.gnu.org/licenses/why-not-lgpl.html [gnu.org]

          LGPL actually contains some strange provisions that can be a deal breaker. For example, LGPL requires that you take no steps to prevent your customers from reverse-engineering your software. I once worked on a project where part of the technology stack came with a legal requirement to take steps to prevent customers from reverse-engineering, so LGPL was just as radioactive as GPL.

          IMHO, LGPL is not a good license and should go away. It should be replaced by the GUILE license, which is simply GPL with an exception: linking the library does not in any way invoke the viral GPL features. So, if you fix bugs or add features in the library, you must share your code so other users of the library gain the benefit; but you are free to link the library with proprietary software if you wish.

          The above will not happen, as RMS and the FSF consider the viral aspects of GPL to be a feature.

      • Re:Precisely (Score:5, Insightful)

        by orasio (188021) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:42PM (#46059913) Homepage

        The thing is that you are worried about computing in the current world.
        RMS is worried about the future of computing, and has helped shape it, winning several battles, even though he is losing the war.

        Of course there are IP laws/contracts/whatever that don't let you link to GPLed code. That's why it's GPLed, so the work of free software developer does not help those who want to shrink our freedom.

        You can use our work, if you share, if you don't share, go build it yourself. It _is_ us versus them, and RMS sees it very clearly.

        Fifteen years ago, RMS rants about a dystopian future looked exaggerated. Right now, they look like old news.

        You are right that the GPL is a PITA when you want to work with proprietary software, that's not a bug, it's a feature, which BSD software lacks. That's because the GPL is supposed to have a long term effect.

    • by Microlith (54737) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:15PM (#46059447)

      I don't think he's asking you to agree with him. I think he's expressing his opinion of LLVM within the context of his goals. Given it happened on the GCC mailing list, I hardly see this as shocking or surprising.

    • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:18PM (#46059511)

      Agreed.

      It sounds like RMS is butthurt that GCC is losing popularity ?

      Choice for the consumer is good.

      In an ideal world we would all have the source for every program so we can diagnose it.
      In an ideal world we would only _need_ 1 compiler instead of everyone wasting man-years re-inventing yet another "wheel".

      I deeply admire anyone who can remain committed to taking their ideology to an extreme by living it. However, such ideology is not appreciated, or understand by the majority. There are more "practical" and "pragmatic" sacrifices that sometimes must be made. Not everyone values Freedom the same way. :-( I'm sure Richard understands that some are willing to trade Freedom for Convenience. And his warning will probably be hauntingly true years down the road. Having someone who is able to look at the "bigger" picture must seem like a lonely, and unpopular job, but I am glad we have someone who does that.

      However, taking a step back, what are _all_ the reasons that people are switching over to LLVM in the first place?

      - Is part of the bigger picture is that GCC doesn't make it easy to embed into an IDE?
      - If LLVM is "cleaner" under the hood so you don't need to be a compiler expert to modify / fix it, shouldn't that be a wake up call for GCC to clean up the code + architecture ?
      - If I want to just make a front-end for a new (programming) language why is it easier with LLVM then with GCC ?

      What are the fundamental reasons (aside from licensing issues) that Apple switched from GCC to LLVM, and others?

      • by ray-auch (454705) on Friday January 24, 2014 @05:48PM (#46061573)

        - Is part of the bigger picture is that GCC doesn't make it easy to embed into an IDE?

        Yes, and the fact that that is (or was) deliberate on RMS / GGC's part, therefore changing it required policy / politics not just contributing some code changes.

        - If LLVM is "cleaner" under the hood so you don't need to be a compiler expert to modify / fix it, shouldn't that be a wake up call for GCC to clean up the code + architecture ?

        In one sense it already has - on gnu.org there are relatively recent pages around plans for modular gcc. Unfortunately it is now years behind on this and may never catch up, as many of those interested in working on things like this will probably use CLang / LLVM rather than work on getting GCC to do the job.

        There is also the issue that historically GCC architecture is deliberately unclean in order to prevent your previous (and following) suggestions. RMS does not want GCC to play any part in a toolchain/process which might have non-GPL parts, but that can't be controlled with copyright licence because simply reading / producing e.g an intermediate language does not make a derivative work. Hence GCC is locked-down technically so you can't access any of the intermediate steps. Some of it is probably historical accident of complexity and some is by design - but also by design it hasn't been cleaned up (so far).

        Essentially, in order to satisfy a licencing goal that can't be achieved with a licence, GCC has been deliberately crippled.

        RMS:

        The GNU Project campaigns for freedom, not functionality.
        Sometimes freedom requires a practical sacrifice,
        and sometimes functionality is part of that sacrifice.

        - If I want to just make a front-end for a new (programming) language why is it easier with LLVM then with GCC ?

        Because LLVM IR is _much_ better documented, because that was a goal of LLVM project. For political reasons why that is, see above.

    • by squiggleslash (241428) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:19PM (#46059519) Homepage Journal

      Understand.

      One of the most ambigious words out there is "freedom." We can usually focus on some areas of broad agreement, but for the most part it's a word used more for its positive overtones than its accuracy.

      The Southern States, zealously supporting slavery, described themselves on the side of freedom. John Wilkes Booth wrote about glowingly. Why? Because the Feds letting the power holders in the South own slaves was, clearly, not interfering with their freedom to do so.

      I'm using the South as an great example, but there's an even better one, except the conversation would degenerate from here if I used it. Let's just say "You know who also said he was fighting for freedom?"

      I'm inclined to avoid using the word these days. In the mean time, using the term objectively, I think Stallman is probably on a better track than the BSD people. The BSD people would be better if it weren't for the existance of copyright. That changes everything, Stallman understands that, I don't think the BSD people do.

    • by andydread (758754)
      SO what you are saying is that if I download a BSD licensed source, change it then distribute only a binary to you which apparently BSD license allows. You now have that same freedoms I have? I didn't know that BSD enforces release of source code downstream.
    • Some developers like the whole BSD thing, which gives more freedom to the person who uses and implements the software, rather than the original developer.

      Exactly, it gives more freedom to the person who uses the product that some middleman developer closed-sourced.

      Oh wait...

  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Friday January 24, 2014 @02:57PM (#46059147) Journal

    so that all contribution to LLVM directly helps proprietary software as much as it helps us.'"

    And that is a problem why? THIS is the problem I have with RMS, is that anything that helps OTHER people is considered "bad" even if it helps you, equally.

    At some point, actively trying to NOT help others, even if it helps you, is counter Productive to your own cause. BSD license, doesn't harm ANYONE and is "more free" license, compared to GPL.

    • by fredprado (2569351) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:02PM (#46059221)
      This comes from his belief that proprietary closed source software is dangerous and should be fought. So he is just being consistent. You may disagree with his assumption (I disagree at least with part of his ideas as well), but you can't say that his posture is inconsistent with his beliefs.
      • No, He isn't against "closed source" he is against anything that might be able to make closed source, even if it is completely free AND free (BSD). This is why he opposes BSD licensed material, not because it is free and free, but because it MIGHT be used in closed source.

        Be opposed to closed source all you want, but if if tool is free and free why would you oppose it?

        • He is agaisn't it.

          Go google "Told you so" when the creators of bitkeeper told Linus to stop letting those use their software?

          RMS and others grinned that those who use proprietary software should be punished for this. Meanwhile a flamewar developed on slashdot over this.

      • by nobodyman (90587) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:36PM (#46059819) Homepage
        Parent was arguing that Stallman's behavior was counter-productive -- I think we agree that Stallman is consistent. However, I see this as less of a GPL-vs-BSD thing, and more of a troubling window into Stallman's personality. Here Stallman reveals that his primary factor for evaluating the worthiness of a product is not quality, openness, or even license. Rather, he evaluates software based on it's ability to harm his enemies. This is not a healthy opinion to have, let alone vocalize.

        Are we going to swear off eating apples because they provide the same level of nutrition to Bill Gates? Fuck that: I like apples

    • I like to think of it as, why are you doing FREE work for a proprietary company that has no obligation to you other than to possibly hide your name at the bottom of a long list of credits buried in the help menu? This is what the BSD license allows.

      If they aren't going to pay me, then I want them to have to contribute back anything they do with my software, which is what GPL requires. THAT is their way of paying me for my time -- that down the road I can save some time by getting help back from them. And no

      • by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:16PM (#46059469)

        I like to think of it as, why are you doing FREE work for a proprietary company that has no obligation to you

        Because it makes everyone's life better. If that's not reason enough, I don't know what else to tell you.

        What's wrong with doing work that you expect ZERO acknowledgement from anyone? I learned something doing the work, and something else somewhere I might use one day works better as a result. That's a win no matter how jaded a filter you chose to apply.

      • by Freedom Bug (86180) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:17PM (#46059473) Homepage

        RMS couldn't care less if other companies profit off of his work.

        What he cares about is some company taking his work, making it better, selling it back to him and then not letting him hack on it, fix it, port it to unapproved hardware, use it for unapproved uses, et cetera.

    • by afidel (530433)

      Actually, here's the point, today many, many embedded systems on odd architectures use gcc as it's the low cost easy to port compiler of choice. Due to the copyleft license any changes these platform developers make to gcc and distribute to users have to be released back to the community so open source systems can easily be ported to the platform. If you let them just take the compiler work and make their own proprietary compiler that platform may never be able to be supported by open systems.

  • RMS Right, Again (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 24, 2014 @02:59PM (#46059173)

    RMS is right, again. This does erode the GPL advantages.

    But, the answer is fairly straight forward and I don't understand why it wasn't done in the first place. LLVM's BSD license lends itself well to being forked into a GPLed fork LLVM(BSD) -> LLVM-NG(GPL) -> -> ->

    BSD helps proprietary software AND GPL. QED.

  • by wanderfowl (2534492) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:03PM (#46059233)

    This is like the US saying "A cure for cancer would be a major setback to the US, as it would also enable our enemies to be cancer-free".

    New, FOSS software which is awesome is a Good Thing, for the community as a whole. Sure, its license allows people who don't care for FOSS to use it, but surely a net improvement in the community's state of the art can't be a bad thing. If nothing else, this licensure allows people with bigger wallets to pay for improvements which they need, and to have those available to the community too, allowing copylefties more time to work on other things.

    • by NoImNotNineVolt (832851) on Friday January 24, 2014 @06:09PM (#46061837) Homepage
      That's not as crazy as you make it sound. Perhaps our enemies have a cancer incidence rate that is orders of magnitude greater than ours. Perhaps the US only has one cancer death a year, but "the terrorists" lose millions to cancer every day. Were this the case, then indeed, a cure for cancer would be a major setback to the US.

      That's a more accurate version of your analogy. The freedom afforded by the BSD license has value to the users of software, indeed. But it has much greater value to those who would sell proprietary forks. For example, I run OpenBSD. I like that it's open source, and I like that I can do basically anything I want with it, so long as I preserve attribution information. However, I haven't modified the code, and I don't really get any meaningful value from being able to do so and then sell my fork as closed-source software. As a counterpoint, Apple likes LLVM. They've modified it, and they're selling their proprietary fork as XCode. They've found great value in the freedom afforded them by the BSD license. The users of XCode, however, aren't seeing much benefit from the BSD license, because it never got to them. Apple ate it along the way.

      I think it's self-evident that the BSD license benefits "the enemy" (profit-generating businesses) more than it benefits "us" (the users of software), which renders your analogy misleading.

      Of course, this is a dramatic oversimplification of the BSD vs GPL debate, as there are many more implications of choosing a license than what is detailed here. I'm no GPL fanboi, and I can see why developers would prefer BSD simply to avoid all the legal confusion that comes with GPL. However, to portray GPL as crazy, or senseless, or wrong, is to be quite myopic. There are valid arguments to be made in favor of either license, and the philosophical differences are deeper than many are capable of admitting.
  • by TheloniousToady (3343045) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:06PM (#46059275)

    The existence of LLVM is a terrible setback for our community precisely because it is not copylefted and can be used as the basis for nonfree compilers — so that all contribution to LLVM directly helps proprietary software as much as it helps us.

    Isn't it sad the way he sees this as a loss in the war of "Us versus Them" rather than as a "technically superior compiler" resulting in a bigger pie for everybody?

    • Re:Us versus Them (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:23PM (#46060377)

      The existence of LLVM is a terrible setback for our community precisely because it is not copylefted and can be used as the basis for nonfree compilers — so that all contribution to LLVM directly helps proprietary software as much as it helps us.

      Isn't it sad the way he sees this as a loss in the war of "Us versus Them" rather than as a "technically superior compiler" resulting in a bigger pie for everybody?

      Well he doesn't just care about technical superiority. He has never claimed that "free software" is important because it is inherently technically superior to proprietary code, or that it will always be more secure.

      In fact, the term "open source" was coined during the late 90s dot-com bubble precisely because Stallman has always argued that there are important ethical principles at stake in software development, and some people were worried that this concept of "behaving according to a set of ethics" would sound too much like hippy 60's nonsense. Businesses might be discouraged, and then how would we have got crazy stock market floations, dizzying P/E ratios and Scrooge McDuck-style money baths? Instead they wanted a way to push this growing set of software with revised presentation approach that was value-neutral, and so they came up with the idea that by rebranding it as "open source" and stressing only its supposed technical merits, the men in expensive suits would not be disturbed from their vocation of grabbing as much money as possible.

      You might not agree with Stallman's view on ethics - many don't - but it is a little sad to see how much crap he gets even for suggesting that people should stop to consider ethics before reaching for "a bigger pie for everybody".

  • GPL/BSD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by znanue (2782675) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:07PM (#46059317)

    I'll bite. I do think that RMS has a point about the open source compiler of record being under the GPL, as well as the operating system and other essential build tools and core platform elements. Many people will rightly point out, yet again, that GPL is a pretty aggressive license for most userland software, but when it comes to the platform itself, this aggression seems to be quite desirable. Also, these value statements seem temporally bound to the moment. Maybe in the future we will live in a set of legal and intellectual circumstances where RMS has basically won and that maybe a good thing.

    So I wonder he isn't right about it being sad that LLVM is not under copyleft.

  • by dbc (135354) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:14PM (#46059431)

    People are focusing on BSD versus GPL, but really, the thing to see here is Stallman's definition of "community". If you would ever let your software be used by for-profit interests, you are not part of the community he is speaking of, and claims to speak for. It's just that simple, no flamage or politics implied by saying that.

    I've long said that people should chose a license the way they choose a screwdriver, not the way they would chose a religion. What are you trying to achieve? Want total world domination for a new protocol? Go BSD. Want to keep for-profit entities from rent-seeking based on your work? Go GPL.

    It's OK to be part of Stallman's community. It's also OK to not be part of Stallman's community. It's OK for RMS to be dissapointed with people who are not part of his community. It's OK for people not part of Stallman's community to not give a rat's ass what RMS thinks.

    I'll say this though, the number times I've originally dismissed one of RMS's ideas a crack-pot loony assertion, and then five years later come to see the point he was trying to make, is non-zero.

  • And? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ledow (319597) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:18PM (#46059501) Homepage

    Which is only a problem if you actively do NOT want to help proprietary software.

    I don't want to hinder proprietary software. I want to boost open software. There's a difference.

    Proprietary software has it's place and, in a free market, people will choose whatever is best for them.

    As in many things (feminism, sexism, racism, etc.) there are always some people who will champion the cause right through equality and out the other side.

    You know what? I don't mind that proprietary software could take something like LLVM, do stuff with it, and sell it. So long as they can't stop ***ME*** taking LLVM, and doing what I want with it.

    Historically "Free" software was hard to find and so proprietary was your only choice. From there, I would prefer to have open software which proprietary people can take and use too if they want. Pretty much, nowadays, you can find an open equivalent of just about anything but the most locked-in of protocols/programs.

    But what I don't want is to tell everyone in the world they are an idiot if they don't open-source everything. All that does is make people hate you, and think you're an idiot. Instead, let's lead the way and **IGNORE** proprietary software, and put the lobbying efforts towards the choice of freedom, and writing good code.

    When their customers realise that there's better software out there, for free, they will have to up their game, or start rolling up their sleeves to help.

    We don't have to go around actively attacking them for daring to be proprietary. And we certainly don't have to get all snotty because a piece of software can be used by anyone.

  • by Pinky's Brain (1158667) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:25PM (#46059613)

    It would behove Stallman to admit that his/GCCs insistence on obfuscated/incomplete intermediary representations was never tenable in the long term. If they had just adopted LLVM for GCC-Next when it was offered this wouldn't have been a problem ... in the end GCC had no choice to follow their lead any way with LTO, proving that the argument that it made proprietary backends too easy should have never been used.

  • by DRJlaw (946416) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:26PM (#46059633)

    From the post:

    They object to the measures we have taken to defend freedom because they see the
    inconvenience of them and do not recognize (or don't care about) the need for them.

    Or they believe that the "inconvenience" outweighs the need for those measures -- e.g., the inconvenience is very large or the need is not as great as Stallman believes.

    Most of Stallman's post is quite balanced and reasonable. However, suggesting that another group's thought process is defective ("do not recognize" or "do not care") merely because they consider other factors and reach different conclusions than yours is a bit of a cheap shot.

  • zero-sum? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mugnyte (203225) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:29PM (#46059679) Journal

    RMS's philosophy assumes a zero-sum combative environment for software: "free and uncapitalizable" vs "open-source and capitlistic". He's consistent and clear, but this zero-sum assumption is false. Closed-source innovations have cross-bred with open many times, either via concept or actual code contributions. The ecosystem mingles every time any coder merges their closed-source ideas with open or vice-versa. Freedom in this case lives at the meta level that allows individuals AND a market to thrive. We're not going back to an age where all the drawers of tapes are unlocked for everyone at all times, but where the concepts embedded in the tapes' content crossbreed and multiply. Freedom has thus encompassed RMS's idea (after all, GPLv3 is not prohibited) and that of a market-based economy. His stance that assumes zero-sum reveals a clear dislike for the existance of the market, which perhaps arose from a time when digital commerce could not be envisioned. However, digital-goods are indeed a very large market and that work to create such goods will come from anywhere, free, paid, donated and even (regrettably) stolen. It mirrors the real world, as it should.

  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:42PM (#46059907)

    Stallman said,

    ... all contribution to LLVM directly helps proprietary software as much as it helps us.

    as if that were a bad thing.

    He's confusing the promotion of free software with opposition to proprietary software. Those are two different things. The former is a productive activity that helps me as a user. The latter is an uphill battle that doesn't even really need to be fought. The best way to defeat proprietary software is to provide a superior, free alternative.

    I like to think of myself as one of the biggest Stallman fans out there. I think he is a visionary, and I totally agree with him that free software is important to a free society and the betterment of the human condition. But holding back from adopting a good compiler because someone proprietary vendor might also benefit sounds like cutting off our noses to spite our faces.

    In fact, if, as Stallman says, "sharing with your neighbor" is an ethical imperative, then one could say he's applying that selectively. (I am aware of his argument why this is the right thing to do; I just don't accept it.)

  • by gman003 (1693318) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:44PM (#46059949)

    When open-source was first taking off, the GPL was necessary because only a small group of die-hard believers thought it would work. Having the work "stolen" into a proprietary product that successfully hijacks the userbase was entirely possible, and so a protective license was necessary.

    Now, open-source is common. Users are aware enough that it's nearly impossible to hijack a userbase - any good features added to a proprietary version will be quickly cloned in the open-source original, and few users distrust open-source software. Companies are rarely afraid to work with open-source projects or release their code, and many see it as an advantage.

    The GPL (and similar copyleft licenses) protects the open-sourceness of the project, but it also limits its usability. BSD or similar licenses do not offer similar protections, but also do not have the restrictions. Now that open-source has cultural, not just legal, defenses, GPL is not necessary unless you consider the open-sourceness of the code to be more important than the usability of the code.

    And so I think GPL is best treated as a transitional license. In areas of software where open-source dominates, it is no longer necessary. In areas where it faces strong opposition from proprietary software, it remains useful or even essential.

  • by Rob Bos (3399) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:44PM (#46059963) Homepage

    Historically, BSD licensing has created some big problems, with companies taking software, adding major features, and then providing it as part of their own Unix without feeding the changes back into the central tree. It's arguable that overly-permissive licensing terms gave us the extremly divided and nasty Unix market of the 80s and 90s, and that the GPL provided a sort of herd immunity against massively differentiated forks by making it possible to get features back into the mainstream trees in a consistent and timely manner.

    RMS has a distressing habit of being proven right, and I wouldn't discount him quite so easily.

  • Winning the Battle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rob Riggs (6418) on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:36PM (#46060591) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if RMS realizes yet that by winning the battle (not making the GCC available for other tools to use) he has lost the war for GCC and ultimately GNU. There are great free software projects, such as Eclipse, KDevelop, and others, that could really use a decent C++ parser. But, if the architecture and license of a core component such as GCC is such that it cannot be used because of a philosophy that prevents the creation of good free software tools, then the battle is lost. If RMS, GNU and the GCC steering committee had reacted fast enough when the problem was apparent, then this could have been prevented. But I'm not sure that they see the real problem with their dogma yet.
  • Fork it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flymolo (28723) <{flymolo} {at} {gmail.com}> on Friday January 24, 2014 @05:10PM (#46061053)

    If GPL is superior, do a GPLed fork of LLVM/clang and beat the BSD licensed version with their own code.

    You should be able to grow faster.
    You have access to their improvements, while they don't have access to yours.
    But then you'd be doing what you criticize corporations for, what you fear being done to LLVM by corporations.

    You obviously could, but it feels wrong to me. But if it's freedom you are protecting why does it feel wrong?

"Gotcha, you snot-necked weenies!" -- Post Bros. Comics

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