On Mon, Mar 13, 2000 at 02:23:54PM -0600, John_White at dell.com wrote:
> The GNU General Public Licence is a combination of both, it allows the
> freedom of Open licencing while restricting a company (for arguments sake
> say Nocturnal Aviation Computing Inc.) from taking an honest persons free
> work and then either charging for it or creating a derivative work and
> charging for that.
BZZZT. Wrong. The GPL in no way restricts you from selling the code. What
it forbids you to do is modify the source code, then sell the binaries
I.e., it's perfectly legal for you to take a GPL program, add a feature and
sell CDs of the improved program for $10000 as long as you publish the
changes you made to the source code. In practice, this doesn't happen very
much, because your competitor down the street is able to get your changes
and sell exactly the same thing for whatever he chooses.
The real difference between the ways Open Source software and Closed Source
software are usually sold is in what you are allowed to do with it. You can buy
(or download!) one copy of Red Hat Linux and install it on 10,000 machines.
The GPL guarantees your freedom to do this.
However, you can't do this with Windows. Microsoft forbids you from installing
it on a second machine without paying an additional license fee.
The music/book markets that you compare with also have this restriction. Sure,
the content of a book is 'open source', but I'm still not allowed to make
copies of it and give these copies to my friends. The author's invocation of
standard copyright law forbids this.
While it is possible for open source software to be distributed in such a
fashion (you have the source code, you can modify and fix it, but you need
to pay addition fees for multiple installations), it probably wouldn't survive
in the long term.
The major reasons for the rapid technological (rather than political) advancement
of Open Source is the pyshcology behind why we contribute to it. Eric Raymond's
Homesteading the Noosphere (http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/writings/homesteading/)
explains it fairly well. Take away the freedom to distribute your fixes and
improvements and most of the incentives to contribute go away.
I would really love if such a compromise were possible. There have been plenty
of times that I would have loved to fix a bug or add a feature to a commercial
package. Having the source would have allowed me to do this. But this would
also open up this companies 'innovations' to competitors, thus reducing the
differentiators between products, commoditizing the market and bringing down
prices (things I-the-user would _love_ to see!), which 99% of companies would
be very unwilling to do.
In theory, copyright law could prevent the wholescale 'stealing' of code from
such products, just as plagiarising chunks of books is prevented. However,
because of the nuances or style inherent in written English, it is fairly
easy to see that text has been plagiarised. In software, there is often
only one sane way to implement something, and it becomes difficult to
prove that you didn't copy it from someone else (or, following the 'innocent
until proven guilty' principle, prove that you did copy if from someone else).
It will certainly be interesting to see how it all pans out.
(Linux/VAX developer: http://linux-vax.sourceforge.net)
Maintained by the ILUG website team. The aim of Linux.ie is to
support and help commercial and private users of Linux in Ireland. You can
display ILUG news in your own webpages, read backend
information to find out how. Networking services kindly provided by HEAnet, server kindly donated by
Dell. Linux is a trademark of Linus Torvalds,
used with permission. No penguins were harmed in the production or maintenance
of this highly praised website. Looking for the
Indian Linux Users' Group? Try here. If you've read all this and aren't a lawyer: you should be!