I am an extreme moderate

September 4, 2011

GPL Rant

Filed under: Uncategorized — niezmierniespokojny @ 9:54 am

Ah, GPL, the frontier license of Free Software movement. It was created by Richard Stallman to eradicate his greatest enemy – proprietary software. It promises to set you free from proprietary cages where software authors set restrictive limits on how their works can be used. With GPL there is no cage. You can go anywhere you want to go.
Except that there’s a line on a ground, that if you cross, flames burst from everywhere and lawyers jump out of nowhere swearing to destroy you if you don’t go back. The line is using GPLed pieces in something proprietary. You just aren’t allowed to do it.

This reminds me of words by Henry Ford:

People can have the Model T in any colour–so long as it’s black.

Ford hated colours other than black. Stallman hates proprietary software.

I have nothing against hatred, but saying that GPL is about freedom is hypocritical. By definition, freedom is ability to make choices. GPL takes the concept of open source and adds restrictions. So it’s not about freedom. Quite the opposite, in fact.


  1. BSD is much better 😀

    Comment by TestGuest — September 4, 2011 @ 6:12 pm

    • I’m not a fan of BSD license because I find it too restrictive too, but I agree, it’s much better. 🙂

      Comment by niezmierniespokojny — September 4, 2011 @ 7:27 pm

  2. Well, to be a bit more precise,
    it is possible to use GPL in a commercial / closed source software,
    yes, it only requires to get a commercial license from the GPL code owner.

    Since the commercial software is going to use the GPL code to make some business,
    it does not seem that hypocritical to reward the coder for its work.

    One caveat though :
    i guess that once the number of contributors in the GPL become too numerous, this solution is probably no longer practical….

    Comment by Anonymous — September 5, 2011 @ 9:39 pm

    • True, there is business value of GPL, but that’s separate from ideological issues. I have nothing against people who use GPL to make money, in fact recently I was considering starting one project that would use AGPL with slight alterations. I just wouldn’t wave a freedom flag.

      Also, there are cases where theoretically you could buy a commercial license, but it’s economically infeasible. I’ve been a part of one project where most proprietary licenses offered us more freedoms that we needed and when they didn’t, I think that all authors that we reached to offered slightly customized ones for free. All except those who used GPL, there we got mixed results. The project was Total Commander Ultima Prime, a community distribution of (in our opinions) the best program in its category that happens to be proprietary. We got no budget at all, so there was no option to pay. We didn’t get Total Commander sources, so we were unable to comply with GPL. And what’s worse, imprecise language of GPL made it uncertain where’s the line. Now I think we got it wrong and interpreted GPL to be more restrictive than most people do (thus barring us from using ANY GPLed code unless we got a custom license, even when it comes to helper applications), but I’m still uncertain what would be the official interpretation of our case and even more uncertain how would it by interpreted by the court.

      Comment by niezmierniespokojny — September 6, 2011 @ 6:29 am

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