Subject: Re: [Freesw] Re: FreeDevelopers
From: Glen Starchman <>
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 17:17:03 -0800

> Here's another example: I create a wonderful new widget using gcc, ld,
etc... I > > have done it mostly for fun and have whimsically given it a GPL.
Now, company X > > wants to buy the rights to said widget, but they don't want
to have to release > > the source changes they might make when they sell a
commercial version. What > > happens? Am I screwed? (this is a theoretical
situation). > 
> That depends.  The software can be re-issued under any license the authors choose,
> regardless of the existance of a GPL'd edition.  The catch is that you have to get
> the agreement of all of the authors.  So you can effectively do the re-issue hack
> if:
>    * you are the sole developer
>    * the other developer's contributions were minor, and therefore can be backed
>      out and replaced
>    * the other developers can be bought (share your profits)

Thanks, Crispin... note that this is a completely hypothetical scenario. In
reality, I have come across situations whereby a company wished to use a
proprietary license for the core of a product, but was not adverse to GPLing
other parts... I think that is a relatively common scenario nowadays.

> Note also that by re-issuing your widget under a proprietary license, you do NOT
> get to prevent others from distributing and enhancing the existing GPL'd version
> of your widget.
That's to be expected. But for another question: is there a *legal* mechanism
for changing an existing license, especially in regards to GPL? 

>The re-issue hack/business plan counts on you (the primary
> author) being better at supporting the widget than that rowdy gang of open source
> user/developers, which may or may not be true.

Which, I believe, is the primary motivation behind big business's use of closed
source licensing... the fear that someone will take their code and create a
monstrosity out of it and still refer to the original product. I have had
several discussions with clients in this regard.

On the other hand, there are definitely cases where software companies fear an
open source effort will be *superior* to their own proprietary product.

Caveat:  I am not at all addressing the morality of whether one *should* engage
in > such practices.  It's a free world (more or less) and I leave that up to
the > authors of the code.

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