Subject: Re: Who holds the copyright?
From: Paul Rohr <>
Date: Sun, 21 Nov 1999 15:45:20 -0800

At 11:21 PM 11/20/99 -0800, Bruce Perens wrote:
>From: Brian Bartholomew <>
>> If ABIsource goes obnoxious-monopoly-proprietary, it's worse
>> than if they had never existed. 
>It simply could not happen without setting _them_ back, and would still
>leave the world with all of their work to date when it happens. Forget
>about it, it doesn't make sense.


I couldn't have said it better myself.  

I have no idea why Brian suggests that *anyone* with half a brain would make 
a commitment to the GPL lightly or fraudulently.  Didn't this exact issue 
get hashed out in an earlier FSB thread?  He's not suggesting that Linus 
would do the same thing, so it is something about us at AbiSource?  

That insult is completely unwarranted.  I'm appalled.  Spending multiple 
person-years developing and releasing badly-needed, high-quality software -- 
under the GPL, no less -- is evidently not enough to be treated with more 
respect than this.  Why?  

We're painfully aware of the high costs of switching licenses, because we've 
gone through that nightmare once already.  

When we originally started out in August of 98, we knew we wanted to be Open 
Source for a number of reasons, and we had to go through all the usual 
license angst.  There were various pools of code available to us under 
mutually incompatible licenses.  Ditto for the communities of potential 
contributors.  We had to choose between those sets of people and code, doing 
what best allowed us to develop and deliver the products we envisioned.  

In fact, we originally felt we had to write our own license (anyone remember 
the AbiPL?) so that we could get as close to the GPL as possible (it was 
very LGPL-ish in its permissions mix) while still allowing us access to the 
JavaScript engine in the Mozilla codebase.  That was a very very tough time 
for us, because we had to forgo lots of GPL-only code.  We also took a bunch 
of flack from the community, because our license gave away more rights than 
the MPL (pissing off one community), and not quite as much as the LGPL/GPL 
(pissing them off too). 

When we decided to abandon that license in favor of the GPL last December, 
we had to purge our codebase of all the MPL code, and get permissions to 
relicense other parts of it (such as James Clark's expat) under the GPL.  We 
also had to permanently forgo any hopes of using other Mozilla code in the 
future.  Please don't understimate the determination and hard work that took 
on our part, and we're already a *lot* further along than we were then.  

We *want* to be GPL.  We want to *stay* GPL.  Anyone who's unsure of this 
should do their homework.  We spend a *lot* of our time trying to get as 
many people as possible to contribute to our code base.  (Read the archives 
of our mailing list.)  The current CREDITS file has over 50 folks in it.  
(Grab our source, the file is right in the root directory.  Ask any of our 
*them* whether we change our tune in private email.)  Of the sources we use, 
at least 40% aren't even under our copyright.  (Again, just look at the 

Sure, we could hypothetically throw away all that work, and all the goodwill 
we thought we'd been building -- except with Brian, it seems -- take an 
obscene amount of money from all those scads of greedy capitalists besieging 
me day and night, and reinvent ourselves as a proprietary company.  That 
would "just" require what Bruce describes, plus a massive increase in 
development and marketing costs.  

Sure.  That's exactly why so many of us are working without salary, trying 
to bring an Open Source office suite into existence.  I am a self-confessed 
evil genius deviously attempting to hijack everything the community has ever 
accomplished, go totally proprietary, and thus become richer than Bill Gates 
himself.  My weapon of choice is the GPL.  

Curses, foiled again!  

exasperated and too sarcastic

PS:  Brian, if you want to use us an example for your FUD, please at least 
spell our name right -- it's AbiSource.  ;-)