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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • The GPL has held up in every single court case against violators in the US and Germany. (I don’t know what the situation is like in other countries. It may differ there.)

    (In most every case, the defendant demurs and settles before the case is actually tried before court. That’s probably not because they’re afraid that the GPL may be deemed invalid.)

    • By disputed I didn't mean "legally" disputed, and being a non-native English speaker I may have misunderstood it. By disputed I meant that it is:

      1. Controversial.
      2. Not fully understood by many FOSS activists, including not by many people who've licensed their code under it.
      3. That some people dislike it, thinks it complicates matters too much, or think it's not needed to protect free software from abuse.

      A certain Israeli BSD developer noted that sites like gpl-violations.org are "the anti-thesis of

      • Right, then “disputed” was the wrong word. “Controversial” would have been a much better choice.

        programmers should just focus on writing good code, and making sure their software is widely used and supported, rather than pursuing people who supposedly violate it.

        See, that’s an excellent demonstration of your point that nobody really understands licences. (By the same token I cannot in good consciousness claim that I understand them; the most I can say is that I have identi

        • Right, then “disputed” was the wrong word. “Controversial” would have been a much better choice.

          Fair enough. "Controversial" it is. I'm pretty sure I heard "disputed" used for non-legal things, but in this context it might be misleading.

          programmers should just focus on writing good code, and making sure their software is widely used and supported, rather than pursuing people who supposedly violate it.

          See, that’s an excellent demonstration of your point that nobody really understands licences. (By the same token I cannot in good consciousness claim that I understand them; the most I can say is that I have identified more errors in my reasoning than many non-lawyer type people.)

          Well, I read the MIT Licence and understood everything there. Then I realised sub-license means something a bit different than what I thought. I also read the SleepyCat (now part of Oracle) BerkeleyDB licence and it was pretty obvious and easy to understand. It is a GPL-like licence, but from what I understood somewhat more liberal in allowing even non-GPL-compatible, and proprietary source to link against it.

          I read the GPLv2 one day and didn't understand most of it. My (superficial I am sure) understanding of the GPLv2 is by reading what educated people said about it and judging for myself what sounds more logical.

          Again, like I wanted to say, some licences can be interpreted in several different ways by the Law. But one doesn't have to be a lawyer specialising in copyright law to be able to have a more superficial understanding of what a licence entails. It helps though.

          The core thing to understand with licences is that the licence never affects the copyright holder. The copyright holder themself can do whatever they damn well please. What the licence regulates is who has what rights when the work has been distributed by one third party to another.

          In this exchange, the GPL favours the recipient. The MITL favours the distributor.

          Not sure I agree with it. Sometimes people can play different roles.

          That’s it. Neither licence is more or less free; both give one party power over the other, they just differ in which party gets the preferential treatment.

          Also, to come back to this point:

          programmers should just focus on writing good code

          This combines at least two fallacious ideas. One of them is that all the skill necessary to drive a software project to success is programming aptitude. (Not true; thus, the fact that some project devotes effort to track down GPL violators does not at all imply diminished effort in programming.) Another is that time is fungible, ie. time you spend watching TV, say, is interchangeable with time you spend programming. (Not true; just because a programmer devoted some of his time doing something other than programming doesn’t mean he could equally well have been coding in the same time.)

          I see how you can deduce that I meant that from what I said, and I therefore apologise. However, I'm well aware of both of these fallacies and that wasn't my intention. What I meant to say was something along the lines of Linus Torvalds' "Show me the Code!". I.e: do whatever you can do to best promote your software and make it of better value to the users, popular, etc. In my opinion, going after violators of the licence legally is an obstacle to this. That's because legal processes are time-consuming, money-consuming, repute-destroying, and leave a bad taste in your mouth (to say nothing of the fact that people and organisations may be too quick to sue). Even if you win, you probably have lost a friend, a customer, your reputation, etc. Don't go there unless you have to.

          I believe (and you can disagree with me) that by using BSD/PD-like licences for my software, I am best making sure that I have the fewest worries about how my software is going to be abused, because I promise myself that there's very little chance of it to be abused. And this makes me happier, keeps me out of as much legal trouble as possible (whoever initiated it), and gives me much more time to do other things. If Microsoft or SCO or Satan himself wants to use my code in his "proprietary" product, or modify it to suit his needs, that's fine by me. That's because it's also fine if Debian, Red Hat, NASA or my best friend will do it.

          What I want to say is that sometimes spending time on something does not come at the exchange of something else. This is one reason why a common argument that says that porting software to Windows is bad because it wastes time is wrong. But legal hassles are a nice way to waste and accumulate many resources that are wrong.

          I can respect companies and people who distribute GPLed products with an optional commercial exemptions (e.g: SleepyCat BerkeleyDB, TrollTech's Qt, etc.). However, if I were them I wouldn't waste too much time trying to hunt them because they probably wouldn't have become paying customers anyway [berlios.de].

          The fact that bsd-violations.org does not exist may possibly imply that BSD people care more about getting good code into widespread use, but it certainly does imply that by the very nature of their licence they care less about the power of the recipient of their software – to a first approximation, anyway. It can be argued whether this ultimately ends up benefiting said recipient more, or not.

          It probably should better be bsdl-violations.org for BSD Licence. I hate grouping the BSD people together with their licence and with calling their anti-thesis the GNU/Linux/GPL camp. The BSD developer I paraphrased kept making this mistake, and I don't want to repeat it. But back to our subject.

          You are right that it may not be indicative of whether it benefits or harms them. The How to become a Hacker howto [catb.org], can be interpreted to mean that both the GPL is better and the BSD or the LGPL are better. ESR later voiced an opinion against continuing to use the GPL, saying it was no longer necessary, and basically too much trouble. At Raymond's defense I should say that he still didn't try to spread misleading information about the GPL.

          But in any case, as far as I can see, it really is not possible to declare either licence the better one. There is a fundamental polarity that cannot be resolved, and the two philosophies, BSD vs FSF, merely fall on either side of it. (This is why I currently like the LGPL best; it attempts to straddle the divide.)

          The LGPL is not too bad a licence. You're probably safer with LGPLv2 and above, because the LGPLv3 is not GPLv2 compatible. (%-)). I think it makes sense for Perl modules too, if you don't intend the module to be integrated into the perl5 core. I was told the Artistic licence (or at least the Artistic 2.0) makes even more sense for Perl, but thinking about it makes my head spin.

          In any case, I am a firm believer in free choice and a "Do and Let Do" attitude. If you want to publish your own silly Ozy and Millie [ozyandmillie.org] comics fetcher under the Microsoft Vista EULA then all the power to you. I'll stay a clear mile away from this script, but someone may find it useful.

          I don't think developing or distributing proprietary software is immoral or unethical or whatever like the FSF thinks. Since the BitKeeper saga, where I got personally burnt, I've become more suspicious of most classic non-free software, but I'm still using it as long as I try not to depend on it. (Adobe Flash being a notable exception). But I still see myself as a developer and advocate of free software because there are enough other ways I can make money from my software (assuming I want to) besides restricting its licence by one iota more than the MIT X11 Licence. That is assuming I actually do, which I don't see as a necessity.