Fwd: study of GNU GPL vs MS EULA

Dr. Ernie Prabhakar drernie at opendarwin.org
Tue Apr 29 00:12:01 UTC 2003

Hi all,

A friend of mine forwarded me this article (and report), which I 
thought would be of interest to the readers of this list.  Has anyone 
else seen this?   Do you feel the analysis of the GPL is a reasonably 
accurate one? Do you think this would be perceived as a 'balanced' 
comparison by parties on both sides?

Given that the authors are non-lawyers, they seem favorably impressed 
by the fact the license is 'non-legalese', and spends most of its time 
granting rights rather than taking them away.  However, I'm curious 
whether the lawyers on this list consider such use of language is 
really a net benefit, since it may increase ambiguity.

-- Ernie P.


Study puts paid to common myth about GPL

By Sam Varghese
April 24 2003

A study of End User License Agreement (EULA) for Microsoft Windows XP 
and the GNU General Public License (GPL), the most common licence under 
which Free/Open Source Software is released, has put paid to the common 
myth that GPL software cannot be included in proprietary software 
without the entire mix having to necessarily be released under the GPL.

The study also found that the majority of the EULA appears to protect 
Microsoft while a major portion of the GPL is geared towards 
apportioning rights to users.

The Microsoft EULA "appears to limit choices, options and actions" 
taken by users of software covered by that licence. The GPL appears to 
safeguard the rights of the original developers in order to ensure 
continued accessibility of the source code for the software, the study 

The study was carried out by the Melbourne-based firm Cybersource , and 
authored by its CEO, Con Zymaris.

The Microsoft Windows XP Professional End User License Agreement was 
selected as representative of the current-generation licence provided 
by Microsoft for business-grade systems.

The study pointed out that if a developer wanted to create free or open 
source software which he or she wanted to use in proprietary software 
without that proprietary software itself coming under the GPL, they 
could use the Library GPL, which was specifically designed for this 

"Under Linux, many of the libraries are released as LGPL software, 
which allows non-Open Source software, such as IBM's Sybase SQL Server, 
Oracle and Lotus Domino etc. to be compiled and linked to these 
programming libraries. This software then can remain as proprietary, 
non-Open Source software, even though it directly links to GPL 
software," the study pointed out, effectively killing the idea that the 
GPL has some kind of viral properties.

Zymaris said these two licences had been compared as they were the 
major ones which decision-makers confronted when they were choosing 
software for enterprises.

"As these two (Microsoft and the Free/Open Source Community) have now 
become the most prominent purveyors of platforms and software 
application technology in the computer industry worldwide, we feel it 
would be instructive for business and organisational users to have a 
plain-language analysis of these key components of the software they 
use," he wrote.

The study found that while 45 percent of the EULA was concerned with 
limiting users' rights, only 27 percent of the GPL concentrated on this 
aspect. Over half (51 percent) of the GPL focused on extending users' 
rights while only 15 percent of the EULA was concerned with this 
aspect. And while 40 percent of the EULA limited remedies, the 
corresponding figure for the GPL was 22 percent.

"I tried to be as complete and as even-handed in our analysis as 
possible. It really surprised me that so many people kept holding onto 
obviously misguided information about both licences, which is why we 
decided to review and publish these results. Also, since we are not 
lawyers, we thought we would try and map the contents of the licences 
into words and meanings that IT and management can understand," Zymaris 

He said the release of the study had nothing to do with the fact that 
Microsoft plans a major product release in the US tomorrow AEST. 
"Actually, I wrote the core of this document six months ago, and have 
been reviewing it, discussing it with numerous members of the 
international IT community since then. I'm amazed that no one has done 
this kind of analysis beforehand. Licences and licensing are becoming 
the crucial difference between the Microsoft and the Free/Open Source 
Software camps, so I believe this kind of review, distilling the 
essence of each, is needed," Zymaris said.

Some features about software covered by the EULA:

copying was prohibited
could be used only on one computer with a maximum of 2 processors
cannot be used as a webserver or fileserver
required registration after 30 days
could stop working if hardware changes were made
updates could change the EULA if the company so wished
could be transferred to another user only once
the new user must agree to the licence terms (no specification how this 
could be achieved)
imposes limitations on reverse engineering
gives Microsoft rights to collect information about the system and the 
its use
gives Microsoft the right to supply this information to other 
gives Microsoft the right to make changes to the computer without 
having to ask.
warranty for the first 90 days
fixes, updates or patches carry no warranty

Some features found in the GPL:

freedom to copy, modify and redistribute the software
precludes one party from preventing another from having these same 
provides coverage for rights of users to copy, modify and redistribute 
the software
no warranty as there is no fee
can be sold if the user so decides and services for such software can 
be charged for
any patents must be licensed for everyone's use or not licensed at all
modified software must carry no licence fees
source code must be provided
if there is a change in license, the general terms of the existing one 
will be maintained.

Zymaris said he had been helped by Leon Brooks, Conrad Parker, Jacinta 
Richardson, Richard Keech, Steve White and Tim O'Leary in carrying out 
the study.

Stephen Bates
Pacific Regional Manager, Apple Computer
1 Infinite Loop,   MS: 111-HOM
Cupertino, CA  95014

seb at apple.com
tel: 703.608.4753

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