Subject: Re: Sun, BSD, and GNU
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Tue, 1 Jun 1999 18:11:52 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Tim" == Tim O'Reilly <> writes:

    Tim> I *thought* the original thread was sparked by the question
    Tim> of "which license is best for business" not "which license is
    Tim> best for the creation of more free software".  Since the
    Tim> latter is the primary aim of the GPL, it is certainly more
    Tim> likely to hit that target.

Although I agree in this case, "hitting aims" is quite rare in social
science analysis.  And I am not all that sure that the GPL is the most
likely to produce the most free software, albeit I see it as the
front-runner.  It depends a lot on how you measure it.

I am rather sure that a license carrying the GPL "viral meme" is the
answer, though, since it protects all future copies if the original
author's goal is purely creating free software, and since it protects
proprietary licensing revenues from rivals (other than the free
version itself; a different issue) if the original author's goal is
purely profit.

Then the other terms are varied to achieve the right balance between
the pure goal of free software, the instrumental goals the free
software serves (reliability, faster development, bug-fixing, etc),
and profit.

    Tim> Perhaps a better question than the one originally posed is
    Tim> "which license is more likely to spur innovation and the
    Tim> creation of added value?"  I would argue that most of the
    Tim> really innovative libre software out there is from the
    Tim> university tradition, while most GPL software is a
    Tim> politically-motivated reimplementation of work that has
    Tim> already been done.

    Tim> Them's fighting words,

Unnecessarily so; true, politically motivated in part, but really,
it's a conservation effort.  And that's now history, as you point out.

    Tim> I know, but I think there is some truth to them.  The basic
    Tim> aim of the GPL is to promote the use of libre software, and
    Tim> as a result, the primary focus has been on replacing
    Tim> proprietary software.  Since university-style licenses don't
    Tim> have that goal, they tend to focus on doing work that hasn't
    Tim> already been done.

Be very careful here.  There is great danger of confusing the
university-style license, with the university-style environment.
Heaven knows we professors by and large do a poor job of instilling
both tools and creativity in the same people, but the university
environment does tend to attract creative professionals (of all
ranks---from my own experience I know that some of the best are
undergrads).  Then the university-style license could very well be a
product of the perennial feeling of university staff that they're
underpaid, and simply creating golden parachutes for themselves in the 
private sector.

By the way, I believe that GPL is much more common for university (and
government research institute) product here in Japan---I know many of
my colleagues use it.  That could be for the simple reason that it's
"not done" to build a start-up on university research (the university
owns any copyrights or patents by contract, as far as I know; funny
thing, nobody's ever offered to show me my contract---I never signed a
detailed one, just a one-page summary).  The way to make money off
your research is to place your students in big companies, where they
convince their bosses to give you consulting contracts.

University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences       Tel/fax: +81 (298) 53-5091
What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."