GPL versus GPL-with-Strings

A resolution appears to have been made between DSL and John Murga in a matter I addressed in my previous entry. Sometimes, though, the best resolution is to simply walk away from a bad situation.

At issue was an allegation that DSL had stripped Murga’s lua/FLTK bindings of copyright information. This was shown to be false.

Murga then claimed his bindings were a command line invocation. This, again, was demonstrated to be false.

Throughout the episode over the last few days, Murga was repeatedly asked (including by me) to state his grievance as it relates to how DSL used his bindings before the refactoring of the bindings to the time afterward and present. He did not answer but chose instead to lash out at others and accuse them of “butchering” his project, “molesting” his project, as well as various and sundry ad hominem attacks.

The only thing that happened differently was murgalua was recompiled so its full runtime wouldn’t load at invocation of any of its parts. The runtime had become so bloated that it was impractical to use as-is for the purposes of DSL.

This is what led Murga to claim it had been butchered. In the post in which he accused DSL of GPL violations, his sole link to reference his sentiments on untying the FLTK-lua bindings on his forums said he would not condone or approve of anyone doing that. Even though he chose the GPL for his bindings (most of the parts of what constitutes “murgalua” are under much less restrictive licenses).

He admitted throughout his accusation that his feelings were hurt, that he would need time to be more reasonable, etc. So it was at least as much about his feelings as it was about the licensing.

In the course of the resolution of the matter, Murga asked for things DSL isn’t in the position to give him — such as a copyright notice when things he didn’t write, like FLTK and lua, are invoked independently of his bindings. To the credit of the DSL developers, this was not agreed to.

But something else caught my eye among his replies. He stated that he had given permission for DSL to use his GPL code.

Permission? Permission beyond the scope of the terms of the GPL? Or just a personal approval?

Between his initial complaint (and hurt feelings) over the bindings being separated, to the odd (and unethical!) demands that he be given ego strokes every time pieces (which he didn’t write) of what he put in his runtime were invoked, and the statement that DSL either had or required his assent to use code he released under GPL, I was leery of including his code in the base.

The first thing with the binding separation is allowed under GPL. The GPL gives users the right to see and change the code and include it in whole or in part in other things so long as the rest of the GPL is obeyed (and it was in this case). The GPL is a solution to restricted use of code — which is what Murga wanted (and wants — he’s suggested that he wants to amend the license) to do.

The second issue with the demands is also central to the GPL. DSL didn’t remove any attributions to Murga. In the process of resolving the issue, DSL even offered to go above and beyond what Murga had previously stated was required (his terms and copyright information are all very muddled — another reason to consider avoiding using his code in the first place). DSL couldn’t and wouldn’t comply with giving him acknowledgments when lua and FLTK are invoked independently of his bindings. Those things belong to other people, not to John Murga. Credit should only be given to whom it’s due, not to whomever demands it in such reckless fashion.

The third part with permission also is antithetical to the GPL. It’s a PUBLIC license, not a PRIVATE license. It allows user A to give it to user B without developer Y meddling over the matter. As long as users comply with all the GPL’s terms, and DSL did, then the developer is supposed to yield to the user — not demand it be run in a certain way, be configured or compiled in a certain way, etc.

As things stand now, Murga appears to be offering “GPL but with conditions” instead of GPL. This, though, isn’t GPL because it’s not free and it restricts users with respect to what they can do with the whole or part of code under GPL.

Until Murga further clarifies (or gives up) his position with respect to the above points or changes his license to be more congruent to his dictatorial demands and novel conditions upon users, I think it’s probably best for DSL and other projects to steer clear of his code or to fork the GPL’ed bindings between lua and FLTK. Anything this tainted, offered by someone so petty and emotive, is more of a hassle than it’s worth — as proven by the way he chose to handle it in such a spectacle.

And that’s especially true when he chooses to renege on or demand more than the very terms he offered it in the first place. The GPL has specific requirements, not strings. Murgalua, unfortunately, has strings.

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