Subject: Re: Thoughts on GPL
From: Russell Nelson <>
Date: 18 Feb 1998 16:44:21 -0000

Jonathan Shapiro writes:
 > My comments to Kragen were written in haste, so I'ld like to restate them
 > more carefully.
 > I asserted that GPL does not support innovation.  To make a long story
 > short, this is because it provides no means to recover development costs on
 > basic innovation.

(L. )Peter Deutsch has made the same point  There are several
mitigating factors:

1) If your innovation is protected by a patent, then the
copyright/license on the implementation doesn't really matter, does
it?  I think later versions of the GPL prohibit use of patented
software, but you can use an earlier one with no problems.

2) Without patent protection, then you only have market forces
protecting you, e.g. brand recognition, market entry cost, bundling,
time to market.  Yes, anyone can reverse-engineer the idea and use it
against you, since reverse-engineering is legal.  But even if they do, 
you still have a head-start on them.

3) Patent protection is iffy anyway.  It's only a license to sue

4) GPL-ed software has certain efficiencies about it that act to
improve such software.  If part of the profit from the innovation
comes from sales of an implementation, using the GPL will enhance
those profits.

And as someone else pointed out, you can protect an innovation using a
patent, publish a proprietary version with source, and agree to put
the patent in the public domain and software under the GPL before the
20 years are up.  Might work.  Don't know anyone who's tried it.

There's room for a lot of innovation and testing in business plans for
free software businesses.

-russ <>
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