Subject: Re: readline & GPL
From: "Brian J. Fox" <bfox@ua.com>
Date: Sun, 17 Oct 1999 10:16:26 -0700


   Date: Sun, 17 Oct 1999 06:58:35 -0700
   From: "L. Peter Deutsch" <ghost@aladdin.com>

   >    rms said that FSF's attorney said that if I included in Aladdin
   >    Ghostscript a module that #included the interace to GNU readline, and
   >    code that called GNU readline, the result of linking the compiled
   >    version of this code with GNU readline would violate the GPL.
   > 
   > Readline is a special case.

   In that it is released with the GPL rather than the LGPL, or in some other
   way?

Yes, exactly.  I lobbied hard for Readline to be released under the
LGPL -- so hard in fact, that it is the last conversation of any
length that I have had with the Richard since April, 1977.

My argument was that end users are the ones that will make business
people use free software, since they (the end users) are the ones
providing dollars into the business.

    From: "Brian J. Fox" <bfox@datawave.net>
    To: rms@gnu.ai.mit.edu
    Date: Sat, 26 Apr 1997 12:56:45 -0700

    If end users begin to expect the flexibility, quality, and generally
    lower price of free software, this will drive the proprietary software
    houses to satisfy those needs.

    In time, this approach can truly succeed.

    ------------------------------------

    Date: Sat, 26 Apr 1997 20:37:12 -0400
    From: Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.ai.mit.edu>
    To: bfox@datawave.net

    If you're right that using the LGPL for a library will lead to
    benefits through this mechanism, GNU libc ought to be doing a hundred
    times as much as readline would do.  So how much of this benefit is
    resulting from GNU libc?

It seems to me that the acceptance of free software in the end user
community has had a significant increase in the last few years, mostly
due to Apache, Linux, and XFree86.  Now there are many large companies
using free software in the course of their business.

For example, I-Pivot, a company that supplies network appliances, just
got purchased for $500M.  The flagship product uses GNU Readline in
the command line interface (perhaps because it was distributed along
with some BSD variant that was also used).

At a friend's house, I was shown a printer that you can telnet to, and
interact with.  It was running Bash, and of course, Readline.

But, most importantly, the companies themselves are becoming more and
more aware of the benefits of free software, and of Open Source(tm)
software.  If it takes these companies another few years to start
producing purely free software (because the end users demand it) the
battle for free software will be nearly over, and that in a positive
way.

   Do you own the copyright?  If you do, you can re-release it with the LGPL
   (or an even more liberal license) now if you choose.  Or did you sign the
   copyright over to FSF?

I signed the copyright over to the FSF (either explicity or through an
understanding that I had with Richard).  I won't battle with Richard
over software that I wrote in 1987.

   > I will simply spend the 3 days it took to write it in the first place,

   size /usr/lib/libreadline.so
      text    data     bss     dec     hex filename
    119769   14032    2732  136533   21555 /usr/lib/libreadline.so

   Did this really only take you 3 days to write?  I'm really impressed.  (No
   sarcasm.)

The core functionality (i.e., Emacs-style command-line editing,
the history manager, arbitrary completion on input data, and overall
structure of the code and API) was written over a weekend.  I believe
that Chet Ramey then donated the vi editing interface.

   > and write it again, using a better, cleaner interface.

   I'd be delighted if you did that.  I have several specific
   suggestions for improving the interface to reduce the number of
   casts and const violations, and to replace procedures with closures
   to make the code fully re-entrant.  Please let me know if you're
   really going to do this.

I'd be delighted to hear your ideas.  It could be that I would simply
create the structure, core editing, and display functionality, and
then start a bazaar.

Brian
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