"viral" (was RE: Licensing options for firmware)

Forrest J. Cavalier III mibsoft at mibsoftware.com
Wed Apr 6 17:16:21 UTC 2005

James W. Thompson, II wrote:
> Sorry, not an acquaintance of Ken Brown's.

Oh, you know of him then?  (Why didn't you ask "Who is Ken Brown?")

> What justification can there be to say that if you choose to extend an
> application that you must license your work under the same terms as
> the original app, shouldn't the author of code set its terms, not
> someone else?

Isn't it silly to expect that people respect and obey the terms you chose
under penalty of law, while denying the author of the original work
the same expectation?

Your objection is with copyright law, not the GPL.

Copyright law gives the original author control over derivative works.
In fact, copyright law says that without express permission, only the
original author can legally distribute derivative works, and further
(and maybe more surprising to you) except in limited circumstances
only the original author can even CREATE derivative works unless you
have express permission.

So, contact your representative if you think this is not justified.

It has worked pretty well for a long time, and most countries have
adopted similar copyright protections for authors.

> The GPL restricts freedom in regards to derivative works
> through this 'viral' nature and without solid justification, why? 

OK, your analysis must be going like this:
    1. For James Thompson II, code I receive under GPL has value 'A'

    2. For James Thompson II, same code under BSD has value 'B' where 'B' > 'A'

No one can argue with your analysis so far....

    3. This analysis is accurate for For James Thompson, II, so it must be
       accurate for everyone, including the original copyright holder.

    4. Therefore, the author has no solid justification for using
       the GPL.

Can you see where the flaws in the logic are?  Clearly #3 has a major

But #4 assumes that the author must maximize quantifiable value
in making a license choice.

Sure, you can talk about bargains and quid-pro-quo and make a case that
copyleft maximizes the probablity that the original author eventually
benefits from derivative works.

But a lot of authors choose the GPL for reasons that have nothing
to do with quantifiable value.  There are intangible benefits too.

You don't have to agree with those reasons.  But copyright law
says you must respect an author's right to share or not share under
terms they choose.

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