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Re: Fedora Freedom and linux-libre

On Thu, 2008-06-19 at 17:04 -0400, Horst H. von Brand wrote:
> Matthew Saltzman <mjs clemson edu> wrote:
> > 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.
> ... into all sorts of non-free combinations. The GPL is as it is for a
> purpose, else the BSD/MIT license (or just public domain) would be enough.

No, I'm only referring to compatibility of free/open-source software
licenses here.

Interestingly, the Modified BSD license and the X11 (MIT) license are
GPL compatible.

> > > 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...
> Most of what is out there, by all surveys I've seen.

Surveys are only as reliable as their sample selection processes.  And
in any case, it's no consolation to know that "most" free software is
GPL if the program you need is not.

> > 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.
> Fixed. See?

Do you remember the sturm und drang involved in accomplishing that?  It
is in no sense easy to accomplish these kinds of changes after the fact.
And MySQL is at least a single entity.  If you were to try doing this
with almost any distributed development project with more than a handful
of developers, you'd almost certainly fail and quite possibly sacrifice
your sanity in the process.

> > 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.
> No simple answers there. In any case, GPL /allows/ you to do certain
> things, and you are getting this software because people feel confortable
> distributing under GPL. 

Or because they don't think too hard about it.

>                           At least it is interoperable in itself.

Ooh, the possibilities boggle the mind!

> > Plenty of companies that would be willing to release free software are
> > leery of releasing it as GPL
> Why?

You'd have to ask their lawyers.  But it's a fact.

> >                              and of using GPL software.
> Now that is completely unwarranted.

You'd have to tell their lawyers.  But it's a fact.

> >                                                          Whether their
> > concerns are well founded or not, the compatibility issues are still
> > there.
> But they are way less than trying to combine stuff under the typical
> assortment of privative licenses in any case... have you looked in detail
> at that kind of mess?

No doubt.  But "better than a steaming pile" is not in itself a very
compelling recommendation.

                Matthew Saltzman

Clemson University Math Sciences
mjs AT clemson DOT edu

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