GPL license vs. BSD license - is goal tech transfer or a living project?
Posted Sep 1, 2006 5:00 UTC (Fri) by dwheeler
In reply to: GPL is the big edge of Linux over the BSDs
Parent article: The future of NetBSD
Obviously, a license choice should depend on your goals. But let's look more carefully at that statement, maybe we can see what license tends to be better for different purposes.
If your goal is to get an idea or approach widely used to the largest possible extent, a permissive license like the BSD (or MIT) license has much to offer. Anyone can quickly snap up the code and use it. Much of the TCP/IP code (at least for tools) in Windows was originally from BSD, I believe; there are even some copyright statements still in it. But don't expect the public code to be maintained by those who take and modify the code. I haven't noticed a large number of Microsoft developers being paid to improve any of the *BSDs, even though they share the same code ancestries.
If your goal is to have a useful program that stays useful long-term, then a protective license like the LGPL or GPL licenses have much to offer. They force the cooperation that is good for everyone in the long term, if a long-term useful project is the goal.
In general, I've noticed that GPL projects are far less likely to fork than
BSD-licensed projects; the GPL completely eliminates any financial
advantage to forking.
Yes, companies could voluntarily cooperate without a license forcing them to. The *BSDs try to depend on this. But it today's cutthroat market, that's more like the "Prisoner's Dilemma". In the dilemma, it's better to cooperate, but since the other guy might choose not cooperate and exploit your naivete, so you'd better not cooperate.
Even there, I don't think that it's all that simple. Again, the Apache web server does well with its BSD-ish license.
But packages like Linux, gcc, Samba, and so on all show that the GPL
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