Fwd: study of GNU GPL vs MS EULA
Dr. Ernie Prabhakar
drernie at opendarwin.org
Tue Apr 29 00:12:01 UTC 2003
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
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
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
Pacific Regional Manager, Apple Computer
1 Infinite Loop, MS: 111-HOM
Cupertino, CA 95014
seb at apple.com
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