Tuesday, September 6, 2011

software licensing - permissive licensing, countermeasures

GPL2 (used by Linux kernel) was released in 1991. Since then 2 or 3 large companies have used those 16 years to identify it's weaknesses and develop counter measures.

In 2007 the GPL3 adopted clauses in response to those countermeasures (drm, tivoization, patent grants) and so it goes on.

But MIT/Apache2 is the only license you ever need?

A subject of much debate. MIT / Apache2 fill a need, however they do not require 'share alike' (code / patent grants) in the same way as the GPL, and, do little to protect against the counter measures of the last decade, I mentioned above.

What is wrong with permitting large corporations to bundle your software?

Nothing, however you need to give consideration to the following:
  • Attribution
  • Robocopping

Robocopping - what does that mean?

It could be argued (for and against) that Apache2 / MIT permissive sort of licenses have actually helped, create one of the silicon valley monsters, that every day works against free software and user control.

Here is how it goes - it's the eighties and you want a big slice of the personal computer market. What is your pitch? Well we want to free you from the tyranny of control, of huge software like IBM and buggy software like MSDOS.

So you take a project like BSD (which has a permissive license) and start the Robocopping.

Robocop began as a human, and then had non-organic parts grafted onto his torso in place of original biological components.

When OS8 was released it contained a good chunk of BSD low level utilities for most system tasks (free software) and this was bundled with proprietary software for the cosmetic end of things (the GUI).

Now with OS10, more and more of the free software has been gradually removed. Ironically, whilst pitching itself as a friend of the 'hacker', the development OS8 -> OS9 -> OS10 has gradually removed more and more of the code over which those 'hacker' types have any rights.

But Robocopping - that's just your opinion?

Here I lift a few phrases from a 2004 message exchange, there are plenty more examples of folks expressing similar sentiments:

Quite honestly, I don't think they've taken a great deal more than /bin, /sbin, /lib, /usr/bin, /usr/sbin, /usr/lib or if they have, I couldn't tell...

Source: 2004 message here

If FreeBSD wanted more than attribution, perhaps the choice of BSD license was a bad idea. :-)

Source: 2004 freebsd discussion here

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