[TUHS] GPL or not (was SVR4 vs Sun disagreement)

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Sat Jan 7 00:24:46 AEST 2017

​This is a history list and I'm going to try to answer this to give some
historical context and hopefully end this otherwise a thread that I'm not
sure adds to the history of UNIX much one way of the other.    Some people
love GPL, some do not.​  I'll gladly take some of this off list.  But I
would like to see us not devolve TUHS into my favorite license or favorite
unix discussion.

On Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 9:09 PM, Larry McVoy <lm at mcvoy.com> wrote:

> That makes sense to me, the GPL was hated inside of Sun, it was considered
> ​ ​
> a virus.  The idea that you used a tiny bit of GPLed code and then
> everything
> ​ ​
> else is GPLed was viewed as highway robbery.

​I'm not  lawyer, nor play one.  I am speaking for myself not Intel here so
take what I have to say with that in mind.   Note I do teach the required
"GPL and Copyright Course"​ of all Intel SW folks so I have had some
training and I do have some opinions.   I also have lived this for 5 start
up, and a number of large firms both inside and as the a consultant.

Basically, history has shown that they both viral an non-viral licenses
have their place.   Before I worked Intel I admit I was pretty much
negative on the GPL "virus" and I >>mostly<< still am.   IMHO, it's done
more damage than it has helped and the CMU/MIT/BSD style "Dead Fish"
license has done for more positive *for the industry @ large *than the GPL
in the long run.   But I admit, I'm a capitalist and I see the value in
letting some one make some profit for their work.  All I have seen the
virus do in the long run is that firms have lawyers to figure out how to
deal with it.

There is a lot of miss information about the term "open source" ....  open
source does not mean "free" as in beer.  It means available and "open" to
be read and modified.   Unix has >>always<< be open and available - which
is why their are so many versions of Unix (and Linux).  The question was
the *price* of the license and who had it.  Most hacker actually did have
access as this list shows -- we had from our universities for little money
or our employees for much more.  GPL and the virus it has, does not protect
any one from this diversity.  In fact, in some ways it makes it harder.
The diversity comes from the market place.   The problem is that in the
computer business, the diversity can be bad and keeping things "my way" is
better for the owner of the gold (be it a firm like IBM, DEC, or Microsoft)
or a technology like Linux.

What GPL is >>supposed<< to do it ensure that secrets are not locked up and
ensure that all can see and share in the ideas.  This is a great idea in
theory, the risk is that if you have IP that you want to some how protect,
as Larry suggests, the virus can put your IP in danger.    To the credit of
firms like Intel, GE, IBM et al, they have learned how to try to firewall
their >>important<< IP with processes and procedures to protect it (which
is exactly what rms did not want to have happen BTW).  [In my experience,
it made the locks even tighter than before], although it has made some
things more available.   I now this rankles some folks.   There are
positives and negatives to each way of doing things.

IMO, history has shown that it has been the economics of >>Clay
Christiansen style disruption<<, not a license that changed things in our
industry.   When the price of UNIX of any version (Linux, *BSD, SunOS,
MInux, etc...) and the low cost HW came to be and the "enough" hackers did
something.  Different legal events pushed one version ahead of others, and
things had to be technology "good enough" -- but it was economics not
license that made the difference.  License played into the economics for
sure, but in the end, it was free (as in beer) vs $s that made it all work.

Having lived through they completely open, completely closed, GPLed and
dead-fish world of the computer industry, I'm not sure if we are really any
farther ahead in practice.  We just have to be careful and more lawyers
make more money - by that's my being a cynic.

Anyway, I hope we can keep from devolving from really history.

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