Subject: Re: Releasing under OS, what License?
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2001 13:56:07 +0900

>>>>> "DJ" == DJ Delorie <> writes:

    DJ> The GPL is the most effective OS license for preventing unfair
    DJ> competition.
    >> Er, don't you mean "for enforcing unfair competition"?

    DJ> No, I meant what I said.  I suppose it depends on what you
    DJ> consider fair vs unfair, though.

    DJ> The GPL puts everyone on the same level wrt the sources - once
    DJ> released, the author (original or otherwise) has no advantage
    DJ> over anyone else.

Yes, they do.  The group of copyright holders has the advantage that
they can release improvements under proprietary terms.  The LGPL makes
this more nearly symmetric.

    DJ> I consider that "fair" because a given group's success or
    DJ> failure depends solely on their own efforts and choices, not
    DJ> on an accident of history.

From now on "Red Hat is the biggest employer of glibc developers" is
an "accident" of history that allows them to maintain their position
in the future at lower cost than would-be entrants need to pay to
catch up.  "Fair or not," as you say, is a matter of view point.

My point is that it is a _real_ business advantage that would not
accrue to (eg) an LGPL'd product.  Then new entries would have the
option of "cream skimming" the early adopters of an improvement at
high prices with a proprietary release, followed by a GPL-like opening
of the source having paid back the VCs and established their product's
and the firm's reputations.  (How many times have we seen people
propose schemes like that on this list?)  Under GPL, a well-endowed
incumbent can squash that kind of competition, simply by merging the
improvements into the mainline version.

Note that mere size confers an advantage under GPL.  I know two
non-Red Hat glibc package maintainers.  I don't buy their argument
that "Red Hat is a despicable monopolist" because they can't keep up
with the Red Hat patch kits.  If that's their goal, then their
employers should hire more glibc people.  After all, Red Hat pays a
lot of people to generate those patch kits in the first place, and
publishes them under GPL to boot.  It's a straightforward exercise to
catch up.

But it is a losing business plan (to try to catch up).  Fending off
entrants is a similarly straightforward exercise, requiring only the
ability to merge sources, for the large incumbent.  Is it really good
for society (and the industry and especially the movement) to
encourage bigness for its own sake?  (Real question.  Obviously, I
don't think so.  But I don't know.)

    DJ> Other vendors will make that decision based upon their own
    DJ> values and situation, and will live or die by their own
    DJ> choices, not by someone else's.

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 straight lines for?  "XEmacs rules."