Software Licensing

Don’t you love predictions in technology, like how Bill Gates was supposed to say that “640K of memory should be enough for everyone”? A subgroup of such predictions I particularly like1 are the type that declare the death of something or another. Such as this blog entry declaring the death of the GPL.

The GPL is a software license, and probably the most popular license in the FOSS community. It’s currently being revised to version 3, a long and arduous process, because the current form of the GPL is already fairly good – v3 attempts to close a few holes, and generally clean up the terminology.

So why would anyone predict it’s death?

There are two problems involved with and surrounding the GPL: one is that most users of the license consider themselves as part of the Open Source movement, while it was designed to benefit the Free Software movement2. That is, most users of the license are interested only in parts of the the licensing terms that comprise the full license – and completely ignore the others. The author of the above blog entry, Hurley, seems to be in that camp3. It seems his prediction is based mostly on his own interests and wishes.

The second problem is that the new revision of the GPL introduces a few changes that seem to restrict the freedoms of the software authors. More specifically, it introduces terms that deal with hotly disputed topics such as embedding GPL’d software, and software patents. The simplistic assumption of critics is that more terms in the license equals more restrictions, and thus must be undesirable.

  1. That is, I find them amusing, and therefore like reading them. []
  2. See also my blog entry about Google’s relation to FOSS. []
  3. There’s nothing wrong with that as such, but realizing and mentioning one’s own position would go a long way towards changing the appearance of a blog entry from a rant to an opinion. []