Reply to post: Re: Linux kernel copyrights

VMware survives GPL breach case, but plaintiff promises appeal


Re: Linux kernel copyrights

@DougS - There are two ways that GPL licensed projects tend to be run. One is copyright held by a single party, the other is distributed copyright (everyone retains individual copyrights). The latter is the more common one these days.

The FSF got into the game fairly early when "open source" was still considered to be a fairly novel idea, as was downloading software for free off the Internet. They also didn't have big corporate backing to finance lawsuits or a long list of favourable legal precedents, so they wanted to make any court cases as cut and dried as possible. Hellwig's current problem is exactly the sort of thing they were trying to avoid.

The FSF does not like to sue people. They simply want compliance with the terms of their software license. And we should remember that it's Hellwig with Linux kernel code who is suing here, not the FSF.

The case for distributed copyright is that free/open source software has more or less won the argument, and nearly everyone is using it these days. As such, it's grown well beyond the FSF.

When copyright in a work is widely distributed and the license is GPL, it's not possible for a single party to take it proprietary. Thus companies are more willing to participate in large projects because they know they won't be screwed over by someone else.

When copyright is held by a single party or the license is not GPL, as an outside participant you have to "trust" whoever is controlling the project to not screw over the other parties whenever there is a change of management or control. While the FSF may be fairly trustworthy, how far do you trust Oracle with their ownership of MySQL (which they own all the copyrights to)?

With Android, how far would you trust Google to not take it completely proprietary if Linux used a BSD license instead of GPL? They're gradually tightening the screws on the Apache/BSD licensed bits of it. If I was a major phone manufacturer, I would much prefer GPL licensed code as then I would know that I always had an escape hatch if Google went totally "evil".

Generally, a GPL license with widely distributed copyright is "friendlier" to end users, small developers, and businesses who have ongoing support obligations. If you want to create a "community" around a software project it's still the best bet because it doesn't allow anyone to get into a position of privilege with respect to anyone else.

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