Re: [dev] Anti-GPL hipsters

From: Paul Onyschuk <>
Date: Mon, 24 Oct 2011 20:06:00 +0200

On Sun, 23 Oct 2011 14:54:18 +0200
Andreas Krennmair <> wrote:

> Primarily, the GPL balances freedom towards the agenda of the FSF and
> their specific interpretation of the term "freedom".
> -ak

Copyleft or not? This is never ending discussion, mostly ideological.
GPL has many others problems besides that and they're mostly ignored.
Why not choose simpler copyleft licensce like EPL, CDDL or MPL instead?

There is a short article published by Erik Sherman about "Privacy
Policies" [1]. Why no one is reading them? In simple conclusion: too
long, too much specialized terminology. GPLv3 is longer than most of
those policies and as hard to read.

I'm not surprised that most of the people here tend to like BSD-like
licenses. Those licenses are much shorted - to the point, where you can
memorize them like poem. Interpretation is even simpler: copy-and-edit
("don't sue me" and "include my name in source code" are minor

GPL, especially in version three is diffrent kind of beast. You can
find "Practical Guide to GPL" [2] on Software Freedom Law Center
website - it's 15 pages long and it only describes most common
questions. Probably more detailed information can be found in german
book called "Die GPL kommentiert und erklärt" [3], which is almost 200
pages long.

I'm not sure about percentage of people, who readed and understand
terms of GPL in a context of their software projects. I wouldn't be
surprised if number is pretty low. It's pretty easy to shot yourself
in a foot, while using licenses published by FSF - below is example.

There is a project (I can send you a name in private mail), which uses
GFDL for documentation and GPL for C source code. What is the problem?
Documentation is included in source code as comments and when make is
invoked, text is extracted by simple script. GFDL and GPL aren't
compatible, so you end up with a mess. On what terms you can
distrubute documentation and how it affects software?

GPL world is full of weird words: derivative work, dual licensing,
linking exception and so on. Some people tend to think that LGPL is
better than GPL, because copyleft is weaker. For me LGPL is a linking
exception applied on top of GPL like a hack. What is linking exception?
It is exception that allows software to be linked with GCC runtime
library without infecting compiled software with GPL [4].

I don't think that GPL or any GNU license are meant to be readed by
programmers. AFAIK FreeBSD project has friendly consultans (copyright
lawyers) to help them with GPL. It seems that FSF isn't interested in
resolving this issues. Instead of simplifying, newer versions are more
complicated than originals (GPLv1 -> GPLv2 -> GPLv3). GPL version three
even introduced some terms relating to patents. "Rumor has it, that
version four could be printed in hard cover ;)"

It's not funny to find small project, where 60% of source code are
autohell scripts, 30% is license and actual code that does something is
10%. I've theory that Stallman writed GPL to accompany GNU projects
(most of them can be counted of having hundred of thousands line of

Back to copyleft dilemma: it's your choice, but you can choose at
least better license than GPL. Mozilla Foundation is currently
updating MPL [5]. Release Candidate for version two is available and I
can say already that it is well written. Scope of revision includes:
simplifying text, making it compatible with other licenses and
resolving issues with non-code works (documentation, multimedia and
so on).

Keep in mind, that MPL is offering weaker copyleft than GPL. EPL, CDDL
and MPL avoided "derivative work" term for very good reason. Many have
heard this term, but no one actually knows what it is. Almost every
lawyer has different opinion on this topic. Right know FSF
interpretation is used, "but Onion News reported that Supreme Court is
accepting unlimited donations from private corporations" (small joke).
One court rouling can change this dramatically.

I would like to end this with qoute from well known copyright lawyer (I
won't tell his name, because qoute is out of context): "The more you
read GPL, the less intelligent you become."

btw. I din't write in english for some time, so I give humble apologise
for bad spelling and so on.


Paul Onyschuk <>
Received on Mon Oct 24 2011 - 20:06:00 CEST

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