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Quick overview of the GPL

Things to remember about the GPL:

  • It’s a Copyleft license, not a permissive license (we’ll see the difference)
  • Free as in speech
  • Not necessarily free as in beer
  • (You know I love beer, but that’s not what it’s about)

Permissive licensing

This is the typical “3-clause BSD” license:

Copyright (c) <year>, <copyright holder>
All rights reserved.

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without
modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:
 * Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright
notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
* Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright
notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the
documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.
* Neither the name of the <organization> nor the
names of its contributors may be used to endorse or promote products
derived from this software without specific prior written permission.

THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS "AS IS" AND
ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED
WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE
DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL <COPYRIGHT HOLDER> BE LIABLE FOR ANY
DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES
(INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES;
LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND
ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT
(INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS
SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

Permissive licensing

  • Lets anybody do anything they like with the code (including make it non-free)
  • Very one-sided against developers
  • (Seemingly) more friendly to “business”

Example of when I once used the BSD License: Making a code library to talk to my iPod.

The code got used by: Foopod for Foobar2000, WinAmp, the iPodLinux project, some early versions of gtkpod

My goal was to get support for it in many projects, not to keep the code free

Copyleft licensing

  • Keeps the software free
  • Quid-pro-quo for developers
  • Ensures that “popular” projects never die
  • Builds community surrounding projects

Define “popular”:

A “popular” project is one that is being maintained, used, and supported by a community. The GPL doesn’t make a project popular, but it does help one stay alive when it is.

What exactly is the GPL?

Yes, I promised, no more license texts.

Summary:

  • Anybody can use the code for any purpose.
  • Anybody can also modify and redistribute the code, as long as they do so also using the same license.
  • By using the same license, you therefore give these same permissions to anybody else who gets the code.

GPL is better for (certain) businesses

Software is largely a service industry operating under the persistent but unfounded delusion that it is a manufacturing industry.

– Eric S. Raymond, The Magic Cauldron

Roughly 52 person-years (estimate) of work are in WordPress. (Source: Ohloh)

The “use value” of software is far more than the cost of the up-front sale.

Businesses benefit from using the software much more than the initial cost of purchasing it.

What do you sell to your users, really?

My own pain with “proprietary” software

Points to Ponder

  • Free speech (and sometimes free beer)
  • Being too busy for support is a good thing! But consider the users of your products too.
  • Consider what it is that you sell.
  • If somebody else can improve your code, and you can use those improvements too, then that’s a win-win!

FREE FREE FREE

Questions?

I hate slides

Seriously, they’re boring. Let’s do questions instead. Any topic.

-Otto
otto@wordpress.org

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