Subject: Re: Releasing under OS, what License?
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2001 12:22:15 +0900

>>>>> "DJ" == DJ Delorie <dj@delorie.com> writes:

    DJ> The GPL is the most effective OS license for preventing unfair
    DJ> competition.

Er, don't you mean "for enforcing unfair competition"?

This is not to say that GPL isn't far better for the world than
proprietary licensing.  But you're understating the business
advantages that can accrue (under certain circumstances) to GPL.

For example, what Red Hat does with glibc and gcc.  Red Hat
representatives regularly make the point that they have "the best
glibc and gcc" in presentations.  That's OK; it's justified by the
work they have put in.

However, other distros are justifiably wary of using the improvements
until they make their way into the "official" distribution.  They
can't support them except at prohibitive levels of investment in
studying the Red Hat patch kits -- they have to pass customer support
questions to Red Hat!  Furthermore, they'd be crazy to invest much in
more than superficial bugfixing, as any such improvements would
immediately be _practically_ available to Red Hat.[1]

So the position of "best glibc" is Red Hat's to lose.  They have an
enduring advantage in the market which is not based on technical
superiority, simply by being big enough to match (identically!) the
best ideas any competitor can put forward.[2]

And this doesn't even take into account the opportunities for taking
competitors' good ideas proprietary (via clean-room implementation)
available to sole owners of GPL-ed software.


Footnotes: 
[1]  Of course the "usual reasons" for contributing still apply.  I'm
just saying that there is no "pure business case" for it.

[2]  In fairness, in the same presentation RH reps are typically quite
forthcoming (and by name) about important contributions by competitors.
But there's always the subvocal "yeah, others can do good work too ...
but you can always be sure of having the state of the art by buying
Red Hat!"

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