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[Discuss] OSS licenses

On Wed, 2 Jan 2013 20:20:59 -0500
John Abreau <jabr at> wrote:

> While proprietary vendors can take code from the FreeBSD kernel just
> by keeping the BSD License text in that code, the FreeBSD kernel
> cannot reciprocate by taking code from those vendors. When this is
> done by proprietary vendors, you champion it as an example of BSD
> "freedom". when a GPL project does the exact same thing, suddenly
> it's an "attack" on "freedom"?
> I see that as a hypocritical double standard.

No, it's not a double standard. It's a sarcastic jab at the GPL
software projects that do the same thing that some proprietary vendors
do: take from BSD without giving anything back. It's a sarcastic jab at
the GPL zealots who trumpet the freedoms protected by the GPL while
ignoring other freedoms. It's a sarcastic jab at the FSF for claiming
to protect my freedoms as a user while denying me the freedom to bundle
ZFS with the Linux kernel and distribute them together to my users
downstream. Which is, after all is said and done, the issue that
started this whole discussion.

On Wed, 02 Jan 2013 21:01:47 -0500
Tom Metro <tmetro+blu at> wrote:

> Are you upset over those? Why should a corporation get a pass on
> being a good community member while a GPL project does not?

No, I'm not upset by this, because even the most "evil" of proprietary
vendors give back in the form of superior products. That's the idea; it
doesn't always happen.

Put another way, there is more to the public good than just the source
code. Source code by itself is of little use to the general public. So
if a company such as Apple or Microsoft can deliver a superior product
using BSD Licensed software than it could by doing it all in-house then
that's beneficial to the public. So much the better if it spurs
competition within the same market spaces (Android vs. iPhone for

It's better if they do contribute upstream. Better for the communities,
as they reap the benefits of the privately funded improvements. Better
for the companies as their contributions are improved upon and feed
the cycle. Apple has known this since it acquired NeXT and The Steve.
Microsoft... well, that's more a matter of competing against Amazon and
Google as a cloud service provider which means making Linux run better
on Azure than it does on Amazon's EC2 or Google's GCE.

Is it enlightened self-interest or just greed? Doesn't matter to me. I
win either way.

> There is in fact a solution to this problem, which we all know as
> dual-licensing. The developer borrowing the BSD code could
> dual-license the derivative portion, so that BSD developers would be
> free to integrate the enhancements.

Very little of the Linux kernel is dual-licensed this way. I'm willing
to bet that most contributors don't even think about it.

Nothing, to the best of my knowledge, with the GNU "trademark" on it
is, either. Different reason, though: getting the GNU mark means
assigning copyright to the FSF and they'll slap the GPL on it.

> As far as I know, this rarely happens, which is unfortunate, as I do
> think other projects, regardless of their native license, should
> contribute back to their upstream sources.

Agreed, they should. Few, it seems, actually do.

Rich P.

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