BT et C

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Me and Jon

(Schwartz, that is)

...have a love-hate relationship going on right about now. So many great things he's said and done over the years, then out of the blue some honkers pop up:

Item: from a news.com article on GPL version3:

"If people want to use the GPL and integrate with it, they have to adopt the proprietary license called the GPL," said Sun President Jonathan Schwartz in an interview this month. "Basically it forces your hand. You don't have any choice anymore." (NOTE: can't find that quote in the linked interview, or anywhere else, although it's used in numerous other articles)

Lacking context, I can only go wtf?! In order to use the GPL, people have to adopt the GPL. You don't have any choice, and presumably that is bad.

It is bad that, once you decide to use a license, you have to comply with its terms. This is just the baffling quote -- I fully expect to make some sense out of it when I find the source.

The sinister quote, of course, is "the proprietary license called the GPL". Is this another weak attempt to cloud the water so people can't see the very obvious benefits of free software? Just outright call the GPL proprietary enough times and see if it sticks?

Somebody help me find the complete interview, please!

6 Comments:

  • I quite agree with where Schwartz is headed - that the GPL is closed and restrictive, irrespective of its voluntary usage. Sun looks to have studied licensing with exquisite care in constructing the CDDL for opensolaris - I can mix and derive with total autonomy, without fear of having my destiny or price dictated. Any my inability to mix with Linux isn't the CDDL's fault - it's the GPL's.

    By Blogger martinf, at 7:57 PM  

  • Sun is corporate thief. all sw must be free and gpl. FOSS will bring multinational corporation to their knees. no point in resisting.

    By Blogger BenSharo, at 8:40 PM  

  • Thanks for coming by, guys. 'Til now I think it was just me and my brother.

    What I'm dying to know is how Schwartz can comfortably call the GPL proprietary. I'm well aware of its drawbacks in terms of mixing/deriving your own code -- or rather, of the fact that this "drawback" is seen by some to outweigh the benefits of developing GPL software.

    But specifically... proprietary? Near as I can tell, Schwartz just knows that's an Icky Word to a lot of people and wants it to be associated with Sun's competitors and not Solaris.

    Sun has definitely done more homework than me on this issue; at first glance I think the CDDL will make Solaris users/suddenly-developers happy, but I don't see it igniting the imaginations of the Linux crowd.

    I am also unconvinced that so-called "BSD-style" licensing that allows codebase to be closed off later, is a good thing.

    By Blogger Matt Crouch, at 6:44 AM  

  • I'd like to just reach way back into hallowed antiquity for a second. Roundabouts the 3rd comment when my suggestions of an OS license with careful attention to Web-Services (albeit over-zealous at the time), was downplayed as mere speculation. But it now seems Eben is spending attention on that very idea. (4th-to-last paragraph) Admittedly, he's proposing the kind of remedy you proposed to me, but I'd like to think I was at least an instigator of thought remotely directed in the proper ballpark. I don't have much OS strategy credibility, so at least give me this...?

    as for Shwartz's comment, I think I can identify with him. I constantly fluctuate between skeptical and optimistical(?) of OS licensing.

    my personal example is with none other than MySQL. even MySQL's salespeople are not versed in the licenses of their own products. we asked the very direct question:

    "Do we need the commercial license for our purposes, or can we just stick with the GPL license?"

    MySQL response (paraphrasing):

    "You really should get commercial licenses just in case. Because the GPL has the legal technicalities that may or may not come up later and hinder your use. It's just best to be sure."

    for us, this is not a possible drawback, it's a huge one. we're building some pretty detailed apps that contain a lot of our proprietary business logic (PBL?) one in particular is a product catalog application on a mini CD that performs secure encrypted posts back to our servers to get pricing data. if it's using GPL software, and one of our competitors can convince a judge somewhere that we're required to open the app's code up, then either a) they'll have our encryption algorithm and can thus determine all of our private pricing plans or b) we'll have to re-write all of our apps with a new encryption algorithm.

    if all this is based on FUD, it's FUD coming from and supported by an open source vendor.

    I don't think Sun's new CDDL is going to win over any Linux people, but it gives them a fresh, on-the-edge face and will probably make lots of Solaris people happy. gave us a momentary pause while we're considering moving from Solaris 9 to RHEL.

    I'd like to hear more about your opinion on BSD-style licensing. especially after the way you described it - "allow"ing someone to do more things with the code seems like MORE freedom than GPL, not less.

    By Blogger luke, at 7:19 AM  

  • well, i don't know how your software works, but i suspect that it's modular and therefore easy to tell the GPL software (mysql) from your app that queries it and sends result/whatev to your homebase.

    I mean, I use Linux -- a GPL'd system. This doesn't mean I have to publish my online banking password on sourceforge. ;) In all seriousness, I think the GPL is less "viral" than a lot of people think. Are you even distributing that software? Have someone in legal spend a half hour figuring out how many CDs you can give yr partners before you're "distributing" software .. or, like the mysql guy said, just pay the $300 and get on with yr life.

    As for "BSD-style" licenses, the term is problematic. So is the concept. Your instinct, which I admit vibes with common sense, is like this:

    GPL: permits modifying and distributing.
    Non-copyleft free software: permits modifying, distributing, and adding restrictions on downstream users.

    Sure looks like that second one grants more freedom. But only to the first recipient. Should that entity prove untrustworthy, the net result is a loss for developers in general.

    To put it another way: say you've developed a bit of kickass software and want to distribute it freely. Say it rocks. Like, a lot. So much that a competitor with a large or dominant share in YOUR market would get a big charge out of co-opting your software, extending it, closing the code with their extensions in it, and locking all their customers into their version of it. Wanna let 'em?

    By Blogger Matt Crouch, at 4:09 PM  

  • I think if I'm all about people using my software freely, I'll let them use it however they want, including using my software and then closing it off for their own uses. because MY code is still available publicly, but THEIR code (alterations/modifications/extensions) is theirs to license however they want.

    Stallman says there's nothing wrong with non-copyleft (n-cl), but it misses an opportunity, and I agree with that. but if the productivity and efficiency of pure copyleft software is greater than n-cl, the market will catch on. if people who release copyleft software really do accelerate innovation above n-cl, those peoples' wares will be preferred compared to n-cl.

    and if I understand the GPL, this is possible under it. I mean, assumming the code is "modular enough" - a phrase we should pray the court's never have to define for us.

    it might be interesting to see an open-source project that makes itself available not just under an OS license and a commercial license, but a number of OS licenses. or at least, 1 copyleft and 1 non-copyleft. I would predict that developers will flock to the copyleft, and business will flock non-copyleft....?

    By Blogger luke, at 3:00 PM  

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