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Re: Fedora Freedom and linux-libre

On Thu, 2008-06-19 at 12:59 -0300, Alexandre Oliva wrote:
> On Jun 18, 2008, Matthew Saltzman <mjs clemson edu> wrote:
> > Then can we at least agree that there are sometimes unfortunate
> > consequences to the GPL's failure to permit one to share a work
> > combining two pieces of *free* software because of relatively minor[1]
> > license incompatibilities?
> Yeah, it's unfortunate when this happens.  In general, authors who use
> the GPL for its intended purpose (ensuring the 4 freedoms are
> respected for all users) won't object to the combination of their
> works with other works that respect users' freedoms, and will grant
> additional permissions for the combinations in spite of the license
> conflicts.
> Of course, not everyone does that, and some people who would like to
> create such combinations may even not realize that this possibility
> exists, or think it's not worth the effort.

Would not the world then be a better place if the GPL permitted such
combinations to start with?  That would simplify this process enormously
and help spread free software.

> So, yeah, it's unfortunate, but I don't think it's really such a big
> deal.  Nearly all Free Software *is* available under the GPL and
> compatible licenses anyway.

Maybe all the free software *you* use...

PHP, for example, is not under GPL.  When MySQL changed its free
distribution from LGPL to GPL, that almost put an end to the php-mysql
library.  The end result was MySQL's free software exception clause,
which they added to the GPL to create their license.

I work on a free software project (very widely known in my field) that
is primarily CPL.  GPL compatibility is a problem for us.  We also need
to interface to proprietary libraries.  I have little hope that I can
get permission from all the contributors' employers to dual license.

Plenty of companies that would be willing to release free software are
leery of releasing it as GPL and of using GPL software.  Whether their
concerns are well founded or not, the compatibility issues are still

> > In fact, I think it's arguable that there are sometimes unfortunate
> > consequences to the GPL's failure to permit one to share a work that
> > makes use of a GPL library and a proprietary library.
> Sparing a user from becoming dependent on a piece of proprietary
> software might even be a sacrifice for the user, but it's actually an
> advantage for the user and for society in the long run.

In the long run, we are all dead.[1]  Meanwhile, we have to trade off
the benefits of purity against the possibility of actually getting
useful work done.  If I can do so by combining works already created
(even if proprietary) with new works I create, then I may have to be
prepared to live with the necessary sacrifice of my principles, even
while advancing those principles as best I can in other contexts.

And it's a shame if I can't make the added benefits of the work I
created available for others to use if they are prepared to acquire the
other components or do the work to replace them.

> Anyhow, it is true that conquering freedom is not without its
> sacrifices.  Like, one could argue that an army is a useless expense
> and sacrifice in times of peace, but if you don't work on your
> defenses proactively (and GPL is a license that not only respects the
> 4 freedoms, but also stands up to defend them), you become a sweeter
> target, more likely to be defeated and terminated.

[1] John Maynard Keynes
                Matthew Saltzman

Clemson University Math Sciences
mjs AT clemson DOT edu

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