GPL Considered Harmful?

Had a quick chat with Paul Everitt this morning, which to my surprise
informed me that people out there are bitching about Plone’s license
which happens to be GPL. Paul makes some nice points on a
blog post, and I aggree with all of them.

I had some trouble seeing why people would see Plone’s licensing as
GPL as stealing, but Chris McDonough makes some good points on his
comment to Paul’s post.

While I agree that it’s suboptimal for getting Plone’s improvements
back into Zope, people must keep in mind that the requirement that
code checked in to the Zope repository must be licensed under the
ZPL isn’t optimal either.

For Plone’s attitude, I don’t see it as stealing. Plone is a great
tool, and lots of experimental, mostly user-experience related stuff
ends up into Plone. However, when there is some framework-related
enhancement required for Plone’s evolution it (mostly) always end up
being contributed to CMF/Zope.

I, as a developer, have checked in and contributed much more code into
Zope and CMF in the last two years than in Plone itself. Those fixes
were very important for Zope as a whole. Most of them were related to
WebDAV/FTP in one way or another. That’s mainly because the company I
work for, Enfold Systems, has proper WebDAV support as one of the
selling points for it’s products.

It’s sad though to see that outside our stack of products the only
mention of WebDAV/FTP is the occasional "I’ve tried it and it failed
miserably". I have a hope that I can help change that.

I have contributed code to several projects under several different
licenses, mainly because I don’t really care about the whole license
non-sense
(uhm, a good rhyme). People might be interested in the
PolicyHTTPCacheManager which happens to be licensed under the ZPL.

Personally, I would like to see much more convergence of improvements
and bug fixes to Zope. Once we were too immature to do that. Very few
people could contribute good and valuable code without risking break
Zope in some way. The platform is much more stable today, and the
people that have been working on it have turned mature enough to now
be able to contribute back.

Plone plays a large role on this, because most people’s first
contact with Zope happens through Plone, and that has resulted in a
situation where several excellent programmers are working now with
Zope and will be able to contribute in the near future.

3 thoughts on “GPL Considered Harmful?

  1. Python license for Zope & Plone?
    The GPL (esp. GPL v3) is poison. It
    isn’t at all clear that anything posted to a
    plone site doesn’t fall under GPL v3 provisions.
    It sure would be nice for python, zope and plone to
    converge on a single, python-like license.
    This way, the world could use
    python/zope/CMF/plone stack for whatever
    purposes … including commercial/for-profit
    purposes.

  2. FUD
    You can use GPL’d code for commercial and for-profit purposes, I charge money for GPL’d software. This is explicitly blessed by the FSF as legal under the license.

    The GPL v3 hasn’t been released yet so I think that you are jumping the gun a little on your insinuations of poisoning and such.

    The GPL v2 and planned v3 do not apply to content. Your comment is FUD.

    If you modify the Python interpreter, you can sell the modified interpreter, you can sell it but you just can’t deny your customers the right to redistribute it. If you create a module (for example), you can sell it independently of Python under any license you choose.

    I find it ironic that people complain about being limited by the GPL but not by every other proprietary license. The fact is the GPL prevents ANYONE from limiting your use of that software any more. You want to be able to limit everyone’s use of your code, but can’t stomach being limited the same way.

    I don’t think it’s difficult to understand why the Python community doesn’t appreciate your suggestion. If most of our software was licensed this way, there wouldn’t BE a Python community.

    Look at the case of GPL’d code in the recent Sony rootkit. Look at the rebranding of PearPC as CherryOS. These situations are why the GPL exists. Without it, there would be no recourse for the authors of those software packages.

  3. Python and the GPL
    You seem to be under the misconception that Python is GPLed:

    >> "If you modify the Python interpreter, you can sell the modified interpreter, you can sell it but you just can’t deny your customers the right to redistribute it."

    You can, in fact, do exactly that, since Python does not use the GPL but rather its own license which allows use in closed-source applications, as long as you include the appropriate copyright notices and a "brief summary of the changes made". See http://www.python.org/2.4/license.html and specifically see footnote #1 in the explanation of Python’s licensing history.

    >> "I don’t think it’s difficult to understand why the Python community doesn’t appreciate your suggestion. If most of our software was licensed this way, there wouldn’t BE a Python community."

    Much Python related software IS licensed that way. Check the licenses on third party Python modules, and see how many have a license that allows closed-source modification — "most" is probably not an understatement.

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