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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

GPL as ultimately business friendly 

Richard Hillesley
yet the GPL not only proved to be the best protector of the principles of free software, but was also the most business friendly of the licenses available, for one simple reason - companies like IBM, HP, and SGI could contribute openly to the kernel, in the knowledge that the developments of their competitors would also be fed back to the community - Paradoxically, the viral clause, the part of the license that so many people objected to because it wasn't "business friendly", made the license business friendly, worked to the mutual advantage of all contributors, and to the benefit of the project as a whole.

The recognition and support of the GPL and its variants by diverse organisations has propelled the open source model beyond software. To belittle the contribution of the GPL to the success of Linux is perverse. To argue that now is the time to abandon the GPL (as Raymond suggested in 2005, and others have argued more recently) is just wrong.

Time will tell, but the anti-DRM and software patent clauses in the latest version of the GPL may prove to be as necessary and successful an innovation for the spread of free software as was the viral clause in GPL 2, which encouraged (or enforced) the notion that those that took advantage of the software should also contribute their changes back to the community, and which, 10 years or so ago, so many people took exception to... in the future, the notion of liberating business from the drug of DRM and the prison of software patents by means of a software license may turn out to have been equally prescient and "business friendly".

Topics: OpenSoftware | GPL

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