In support of GPL

Last Updated on November 29th 2011

Edited mail of a friend, which stirred me to look at GPLv3 and then ASL (Apache License), is given below. The mail was sent on Sept. 22nd. 2011 but I was able to study it only yesterday.

The Creative Commons licenses were not designed to handle intrinsic derivatives like source -> object code and so (IMHO) lack some key features specific to the  software context.  If you do not wish to require that anyone who distributes (commercially or freely) any derived works from those developed by, should also publish (freely) their mods to the source code, then you could choose CCo “attribution (by)”.  Note that there is another CCo, “attribution share alike (by-sa)”, that tries to preserve all rights granted by the original copyright holder/publisher.

Personally, speaking for myself, I do not / will not contribute to any project that does not preserve and continue all rights I originally grant.  I do not mind commercial exploitation of the original or derivative works, but I do not want a commercial enterprise withholding their source code mods to my original work.

I have benefited immensely from FOSS products (including the Linux machine I am typing this on) and very strongly believe that the open source movement is worthy of nurturing and support.   I also believe in the sanctity of (

Nobody should be restricted by the software they use. There are four freedoms that every user should have:

    • the freedom to use the software for any purpose,
    • the freedom to change the software to suit your needs,
    • the freedom to share the software with your friends and neighbors, and
    • the freedom to share the changes you make.

You must have seen the recent onslaught of patent attacks against Android and Linux.  I think the GPLv3 is the only open source license that goes far enough to prevent such selfish exploitation.  I think for a user accepting the GPLv3 essentially boils down to asserting that s/he will not violate the above 4 freedoms.  The rest of the verbiage is legalese.  However, the verbiage is very necessary and it is not evil.  It may be boring and tedious to read, but trying to assert your copyright when attacked/exploited is unfortunately neither short nor sweet.

Much of the above (other than general comments about CCo and the GPL) is my personal opinion.  It may or may not be in line with your needs.  Just wanted to make sure you are aware of some of the pitfalls of the approach you propose to take.

My response:

I am getting back to work after a long gap :). I had marked your mail response on the license issue as unread and have studied it now. I thank you very much for your very valuable thoughts.

To be honest I was not aware of the patent threats on Linux. I did a quick read of the GPLv3 link that you sent and it has been a real eye-opener to me. The excerpt below was a striking point:

“What this means for users and developers is that they’ll be able to work with GPLv3-covered software without worrying that a desperate contributor will try to sue them for patent infringement later. With these changes, GPLv3 affords its users more defenses against patent aggression than any other free software license.”

Another point is that if I use something like GPLv3 then I will be using a well recognised and very mature free software license which potential users/contributors will understand and respect. My own “Sweet & Simple License” will, in contrast, be looked at with some concern, to say the least :).

So I think it makes sense for to use some standard license at least in the beginning. Later as I get more comfortable with these licensing issues I can take a fresh look again.

And another point I got from your mail was that the Creative Commons licenses are not fully geared for the software context, whereas the GPL licenses are.

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