Eric S. Raymond’s Opinion on the GPL

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What he’s saying makes a lot of sense, and personally I’m becoming more disillusioned as to the GPL vs other licenses such as the BSD. The BSD UNIXs have managed to get along fine with large numbers of developers, despite their license allowing anyone to come along and take the code closed source.

As Mr Raymond says, the market will punish companies that keep their developments closed requiring paid developers to move things forward while the opensource product that was aped will, most likely, vastly outnumber the closed corporation’s developer count by an order of magnitude. This means that the closed developers will end up fighting a losing battle against the opensource developers for feature count. So, if the market punishes the corporation for going closed from an open product then why do we need a license that punishes them again in the GPL?

My own dislike for the GPL is with the third version, which has more than doubled the length of the text and introduced much more legalese making it impossible for the layman to read effectively. This third version had introduced, at my last check of the draft before it was finally ratified (I’ve not looked at the definitive version yet. over a year later :-/), DRM clauses which make it impossible for any GPL product to include DRM of any sort.

While this seems fine in theory, what it means is that GPL-opensource will never gain acceptance in the closed community where rights management is dictated by management. It’s here that we have the sticking point: while us techies understand the concepts and principles of opensource, corporate bosses want to protect their bottom-line and investments in closed systems. This means that they will require that their ICTs implement protections against unauthorised access to their information: in short, that equals strict DRM controls.

DRM is also a mainstay of the movie industry, also. While the music industry is finally waking up to the fact that DRM is not wanted, legal movie and TV show downloading is still in its infancy. Because of this, Hollywood has yet to discover the false economy behind DRM schemes.

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