DragonflyBSD’s Matthew Dillon on GPL

This is wonderful:

JA: How important to you is it that your code is released under the BSD license?

Matthew Dillon: Unbelievably important. I have never subscribed to the almost religious fervor surrounding the GPL, in particular I do not like the idea of trying to impose the concept of freedom on people by attaching strings. The GPL has created a misguided sense of self importance in the open source world.

Simply getting openly specified software and algorithms into the mainstream has a far larger effect then any license. BSD conforms more to the concept of pure invention. More importantly, in large collaborative projects the BSD license allows the individual authors to use both the project as a whole and bits and pieces of collaborative work they have contributed to no matter where their life takes them, including into commercial settings and even proprietary commercial settings.

BSD is a way of saying that we are not so greedy that we have to hog-tie anyone else who wants to use and profit from our work. Or, in another sense, BSD is a way of confirming that actually making money from an open-source project is a very rare event and some of us aren’t really interested in that aspect of the work.

Frankly it is not so easy to ‘steal’ open source projects as people seem to think. The BSD license acknowledges this fact while also acknowledging and even supporting both commercial use and the occasional commercial proprietization of project code. In a sense, it doesn’t really matter whether code is proprietized or not because short of rewriting it completely any commercial success (take Apple’s use of BSD and Mach for example) will inherently force that commercial entity into the use of a great deal of openly specified protocols. Just because they can add little proprietary bits and pieces here and there does not change the fact that 95% of their work base will not be proprietary, so the goal of forcing the world into using more open standards, something I *DO* want, is achieved just as well with BSD as it is with GPL.

It is really unfortunate that the fanatics don’t realize this. They hold up few and far-between examples of so-called ‘stealing’ and the so-called protection that the GPL affords against such ‘stealing’ without any real understanding of what is actually accomplished. There is very little difference between the concept of ‘integration’ and the concept of ‘stealing’ in the open-source world. They are more like shades of grey….

From my point of view, this means that the GPL basically just devolves down into, in effect, giving a project protection from competition if the project wishes to go commercial. MySQL is a good example. As people have realized, just because the base code is free doesn’t mean that anyone can continue to maintain and develop it. Using the BSD license is basically saying that one has no serious monetary interest in any of the work derived from that project, and that one has no interest in imposing strings on people who might want to use the work.


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