Subject: embedded systems [was Re: EROS license]
From: DJ Delorie <dj@delorie.com>
Date: Mon, 28 Jun 1999 09:09:40 -0400


> I don't think the GPL works for embedded systems.  I think embedded
> systems in general are a serious problem for free software.

Here's a case where dual licensing, properly applied, can benefit the
community.  Let's say manufacturer C (I won't name names ;-) has some
software that can be used in an embedded system, say a cell phone.
Now, it's inherently impractical to update the software in such a
device, regardless of license or intent, so how *can* the GPL benefit
the customer?  Really, it can't, except indirectly (initial
reliability, for example), nor can the cell phone vendor M comply with
the GPL no matter how good their intentions.  What can be done?

One option is that C can dual-license, which gives M the option of
buying the right to not have to comply with the GPL.

The pessimist would look at this situation and say, "you're trying to
make a profit off free software by making it proprietary.  You're
evil."

If properly done, I like to look at it optimistically.  I say, "the
GPL can't benefit the consumer anyway, so M is choosing to benefit the
community by funding further FS development instead."

In a strictly legal and moral sense, this isn't as good as a direct
application of the GPL, as the recipient of the cell phone doesn't
have the ability nor the right to fix, update, modify their software.
However, in a practical sense, they wouldn't anyway, due to the
incredibly high cost (education, technology, effort, special tools)
required to update the cell phone, if it's possible at all.  Also in a
practical sense, the consumer will get more benefit if the original
author continues improving the product themselves.

DJGPP has a version of this "dual license" in its terms.  It allows
itself to be used in a proprietary program *if* it remains unmodified
and the customer is told where to get DJGPP for themselves.  This
gives it more publicity (which attracts more contributors), and
entices proprietary vendors to contribute their "private" changes back
to the public version.  I feel that, by doing this, I have greatly
benefitted the overall DJGPP community.