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Some Opinions about the Different Licences

The so-called “GPL vs. BSD” war probably started from as early as the time when the GPL was phrased in stark contrast to the BSD or generic public-domain licences used up to that point by the free software community. Here are some links that I can recall:

  1. Ken Coar ,famous for his involvement with the Apache project, published an essay titled “Ken’s Musings about Free Software and Open Source” where he explained why he prefers BSD-style licences over copyleft licences. Reading from the essay:

    I consider myself an open sourcerer; I won’t work on (or release) software covered by the GPL or any other copyleft licence except in unusual circumstances. I feel that the infective nature of copyleft licences does a disservice to the developer community and, more importantly, to the industry as a whole.

    Regardless of whether there are viable alternatives, a lot of commercial organisations are extremely reluctant to release the source code to their products, regarding the source as a trade secret. And many copyleft licences include terms that prevent any part of software covered by them from being included as part of a package that is not itself completely source-available.

  2. Eric S. Raymond , an open-source developer and advocate famous for his writing of the “Cathedral and the Bazaar” series was interviewed by O’ReillyNet, and in the Interview he claimed that BSD-style licences are preferable over the GPL and the LGPL. Raymond later continued this theme in a different interview.

  3. Zed Shaw published an essay titled “Why I (A/L)GPL” which was also featured on Slashdot. In my opinion, Shaw seems to speak out of a lot of cynicism there, which heavily detracts from his arguments.

  4. The Free Software Foundation had published an article explaining why, in their opinion, a free software developer should use the GPL instead of the LGPL, even for libraries.

  5. Elad Efrat, an Israeli developer of NetBSD, wrote a message to the Hackers-IL mailing list (in English) (Hackers in this context are any software and software development enthusiasts, not necessarily computer intruders) arguing that using the GPL for one’s software is standing against the Hacker Attitude (as phrased by Eric S. Raymond in his “How to become a Hacker” document), due to its “No problem should ever be solved twice” clause. I replied saying that copyleft licences may sometime aid in making sure that no problem should be solved twice, because they prevent proprietary solutions that later on need to be implemented as open-source software.

    One can also find further emails in support of this view by Mr. Efrat in the “Hamakor discussions” mailing list archive. His opinions are not unique among proponents of permissively licensed software.

  6. This IRC (=Internet Relay Chat) discussion is illustrative of various people’s opinions on the GPL and BSDL licences.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Searching the web for “gpl bsd” and similar searches will yield many other resources. So let’s move on to my recommendations.