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Date: Sat, 27 Apr 2013 00:45:12 -0500
From: Rob Landley <>
Subject: Re: High-priority library replacements?

On 04/25/2013 12:53:53 PM, Zvi Gilboa wrote:
> Ironically, much of the current thread is about the need to create
> alternatives to commonly-used GPL'ed libraries, which in itself  
> reminds
> of past (and present) efforts to create open source alternatives to
> proprietary libraries and software products.

Unfortunately the FSF poisoned copyleft in 2006. The GPL was a category  
killer synonymous with copyleft... until GPLv3 came out and there was  
no longer any such thing as "The GPL".

Today Linux and Samba can't share code even though they implement two  
ends of the same protocol. QEMU is caught between wanting Linux driver  
code to implement devices and gdb/binutils code to implement processors  
and it can't have both. Licensing code "GPLv2 or later" just makes it  
worse: you can donate code to both but can't accept code from either  

Programmers are not lawyers, we're not _good_ at how licenses interact.  
The GPL was a terminal node in a directed graph of license  
convertibily, where all a programmer had to care was "is this  
convertible to The GPL or not"? If it is, treat it as GPL, if not avoid  
it. There was no interaction, there was just The GPL. The FSF destroyed  
that, leaving a fragmented incompatible pool, and people's attempts to  
_fix_ it with Affero GPL or GPL-Next or other viral licenses just  
fragments it further.

Copyleft only worked with a category killer license creating one big  
pool. With multiple incompatible copyleft licenses, copyleft _prevents_  
code sharing because you can't re-use it or combine it in new projects.

In the absence of a universal receiver license, non-lawyer programmers  
looking for someting simple and understandable are switching to  
universal donor licenses. BSD/MIT or outright public domain.

This shows the GPL falling from 72% market share in 2009 to 58 in 2013:

Eben Moglen, author of GPLv2 and GPLv3 (Stallman is not a lawyer,  
Moglen is) recently lamented the decline of copyleft but doesn't seem  
to understand why:

As far as I can tell the FSF has alienated all the young programmers.  
The most popular license on Github is not specifying a license at all,  
taking the Napster approach of civil disobedience and waiting for the  
intellectual property system to collapse. Ten years ago the GPL would  
have appealed to them, but since GPLv3 shattered the ecosystem it does  

That's why Android's "no GPL in userspace" policy (if you add GPL code  
to your userspace, you can't use the Android trademark advertising your  
product) actually makes _sense_.

> Zvi


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