License Proliferation

Zak Greant zak at
Mon Sep 5 01:17:57 UTC 2005

Russell Nelson wrote:
> Chris Zumbrunn writes:
>  > "Open" and "free" would become the Yin and Yang of the open source
>  > movement and the clear difference will actually make it easier to
>  > develop compatibility and harmony.
> Uhhhh, actually I made that point to show that the GPL works as hard
> to inhibit and prevent freedom as it does to support and increae
> freedom.  It's not "Open" and "free", it's "Freedom as defined by RMS"
> and "Freedom as defined by the rest of us; you know, the absence of
> restrictions on activity."  It's pretty Orwellian of Richard to say
> that we're more free when we live under more restrictions.
> I'm not making this up; this has been a long-term and long-lasting
> criticism of the GPL.  I'm posing it as a strawman because I know that
> there are members of the community who feel this way about the GPL,
> and their voices haven't been heard.  I distribute most of my software
> under the GPL, so if you watch my feet, you can see how I've voted.

It would be more accurate to characterize these characteristics as 
characteristics of strong copyleft licenses, rather than just the GPL.

It would also be more useful to critique the official views of the FSF, 
rather than a charicature of Richard's views.

Richard (and the FSF's) concise definition of freedom is:

    Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy,
    distribute, study, change and improve the software.


As for the FSF's position on the copyleft vs. permissive Free/Open 
licenses, perhaps this sums it up best:

    Releasing your code under one of the BSD licenses, or some other
    permissive non-copyleft license, is not doing wrong; the program is
    still free software, and still a contribution to our community. But
    it is weak, and in most cases it is not the best way to promote
    users' freedom to share and change software.


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