Wired Article on the GPL

Justin Wells jread at semiotek.com
Fri Mar 31 23:37:38 UTC 2000

On Fri, Mar 31, 2000 at 01:52:32PM -0800, Chip Salzenberg wrote:

> Well, consider the possibility that we can get a court to agree that
> the GPL is an enforceable contract if binaries are distributed.  Isn't
> that really the situation we are most concerned about?

Not only that, but I think it's easy to find consideration even when 
someone even distributes the software verbatim.

My client recently released some software I wrote under contract as 
opensource software. I convinced my client to do this with economic
arguments like this:

  #1 We will receive some bug fixes and improvements for free on this
     bit of infrastructure software, and that will be valuable to us,
     by saving us development $$$.

  #2 The kinds of people we are trying to hire will like that we have 
     released some of our software as opensource, and so it will be a 
     little easier to attract good programmers. This will be of value
     to us as well, since better programmers produce more and better
     code for fewer $$$. 

Those are our goals. The software license we release under offers us 
two types of valuable consideration:

  -- By requiring that source code be shared, it helps us achieve 
     goal #1. 

  -- By requiring that we be credited on derivative works, it helps
     us establish our reputation and achieve goal #2. 

Actually in our case we didn't use the GPL and the license we did use
does not include any requirement to share code--though we *still* 
expect to receive code in return (and in fact, we have got some). 

It ought not to be difficult for a judge to find that there is valuable
consideration in most opensource software license. 

For one thing, any license which requires crediting the original
opensource author ensures that any distribution of their work
amounts to free advertising of the authors expertise. That is 
valuable consideration in my eyes.

My other software that I released under an opensource license has 
established my reputation and helped me find clients, win contracts, 
and charge higher fees, all on the basis of the reputation established
for me by my opensource software. Everyone who distributes my software,
uses it, etc., is helping build my reputation.


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