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Feature:GPL vs BSD 359

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the compare-and-contrast dept.
Joe Drew wrote in to give us his perspective on a debate that is quite the rage these days: the BSD License vs the GPL. He has written up a summary of why he prefers the GPL, and I think it might be worth a read- especially if you have been wondering about this stuff (and according to my INBOX, many of you are).

The following was written by Slashdot reader Joe Drew

The GPL vs the BSD License: A GPL advocate's perspective

Recently, there has been a lot of anti-GPL sentiment in the BSD camps. A cynic would say that they are simply jealous over the GPL's (and Linux') success; however, with a careful examination of reality one notices that the BSD license is no less, perhaps more successful than the GPL, and the BSD variants are thriving in their own niches. So why the anti-GPL sentiment? Personally, I believe it's two things.

  1. BSD advocates are maybe just a little, tiny bit bitter over the fact that Linux is perceived to be more successful than BSD. Everyone with his head screwed on straight knows that neither of these two factions are going away, but nonetheless, there may be some resentment there. By creating awareness of their OSen, they can draw attention to it.
  2. Some BSD advocates mistake the anti-proprietary slant to the GPL as pro-communist or anti-capitalist, both of which are blatantly foolish and incorrect.

The GPL exists because Richard Stallman, rms, wanted to ensure the freedom of software forever. Free Software, of all its types, thrived then and thrives now; however, the GPL is one of the only licenses which guarantees that Free Software cannot become non-Free. This doesn't mean that money can't exchange hands over Free Software, only that it can't become proprietary.

When using the BSD license, your software is just as Free as when you use the GPL. However, a company can take your code, incorporate it into its own proprietary product, and (depending on the type of BSD license, with or without advertising clause) you can receive no compensation for your work, perhaps not even credit. If that's exactly what you want, then the BSD license is for you. However, it seems just a little bit dangerous for a lot of Free Software authors.

This isn't possible with the GPL. It's always there, blatantly in your face, telling you ``You may not use this code in proprietary ventures.'' If a company takes your work, repackages it and sells the repackaging and service for it, your code is still available. It isn't legally permissible for them to take your code, incorporate it into another product and sell that product.

The BSD license is a fine license. It does exactly what it's meant to do, which is get the software out there. For a lot of Free Software authors, that's exactly what they want. However, for some people, that's not good enough -- they want to give everyone the freedom to do with the code what they will, but they don't want to give people the right to make the code proprietary.

The GPL is very popular, and very effective, because it protects people's Free Software, while still allowing them the freedom to do with it essentially whatever they want. Many people make a living selling and creating Free Software; this number will only increase as its benefits become more publicised and well-known.

The bottom line is, the GPL is not anti-commercial or anti- capitalistic; it is only anti-proprietary. The BSD license, on the other hand, is very unrestrictive, and allows proprietary knockoffs. Which you choose depends on what you need and what you value. There's nothing more to it than that.

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Feature:GPL vs BSD

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