[openip] Re: GNU License for Hardware

Stephen J. Turnbull turnbull at sk.tsukuba.ac.jp
Fri Oct 15 09:42:18 UTC 1999

>>>>> "Bruce" == Bruce Perens <bruce at perens.com> writes:

    Bruce> It makes sense that the end-user in general would prefer a
    Bruce> "do anything you want" license.

Well, no.  At least, not if you mean that's more plausible than its
negation.  It is true that downstream developers will prefer less
restrictive licenses, as John Metzger has so forcefully argued.

But his argument that users will prefer it depends on many things.  In 
the first round, there will be (exaggerating for effect) an explosion
of (presumably proprietary) development, which almost surely is of
great benefit to users (by the usual economic arguments about voluntary

Set against that are (a) the quality of the second round---many eyes,
few bugs; since time-to-market is so important, it's unlikely large
design changes will be made, making the Steve McConnell "a few good
inspections upstream beat a lot of eyeballs floating out to sea" (IEEE
Software July IIRC) argument irrelevant, and open source may have an
advantage here, and (b) the quality of support and bugfixes, and the
possibility to hire your own mechanic.  And there's (c) some people
just like to look at the source, and (d) the freedom fighter

More important in the long run is which generates more software
benefits.  That's going to depend on how you measure it, but it is
theoretically possible (I think it highly improbable) that putting all 
software under the GNU GPL would result in the highest possible amount 
of software being produced.  It is more likely (although still IMO
improbable) that open source, current quality of the software fixed,
is preferable, the quality-adjusted quantity of software will be
highest under that scenario.

And with more realistic, mixed-license scenarios, it is not clear what 
is best for the users.  Users may actually prefer GPL on the OS and
X11 on the apps, or vice versa.  Or even more fine distinctions.

    Bruce> Going by the freshmeat announcements, GPL is extremely
    Bruce> popular.

Good URN.  Thanks.  As such, this is a measure of activity, not
authors.  (Technical note, not a complaint.  Can fix.)

University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
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What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."

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