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Subject: Re: Writing plug-ins

Re: Writing plug-ins

From: Anselm Lingnau <>
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2005 00:10:30 +0100

BlueChip wrote:

> LGPL may well be a wonderful thing - I don't know. The bigger question is:
> Why is free (as in 'no-strings-attached') bad? In what way does me acting
> as apostle for Gnu's belief system benefit me, or for that matter, anyone
> other than Gnu?
> If I write a bit of code which is useful (primarily and) mainly to users of
> a bit of software which is GPL - I apparently lose my rights to let people
> make money with my code. I spend vast proportions of my life doing things
> which make me happy - why shouldn't chremetists be allowed the same basic
> human right?

The important thing to note about the »free software« world of which the GPL
is one of the basic tenets is that it is really mostly about source code. In
the grand scheme of things, executable code doesn't really matter (as long as
you have a compiler). It is the source code that you can conveniently study
to learn how it works, conveniently fix if it is buggy, and conveniently
change to suit your (or your customers') needs. It is the source code that is
really worth sharing with others if you're serious about »free software«, and
not a glob of binary gobbledygook that just might run on some machine (or
might not). Hence the GPL's insistence on source code as »the preferred form
for modification« of a program.

Thus, publishing »free« (as in beer) executables with no source does not cut
it from the point of view of the »free software« scene, where people would
ideally want source code for every single executable bit on their machines.

The GPL tries to ensure that stuff based on GPLed stuff, for which the source
code is »freely available« according to the GPL, remains available subject to
the same conditions, which seems fair enough. If you don't want to be bound
by the GPL on a ready-made piece of software such as Rockbox, feel free to
write your own equivalent code from scratch.

> It seems to me that GPL is not much short of a psuedo-political power
> struggle which persues the end of imposing upon 'the masses' the neccessity
> to conform to a single belief system - just like Jesus, Bush, Blair and
> many others before them.

Nope. Everybody is free to use whatever license they want for *their own* code
that they wrote themselves from the word go. However, if you borrow somebody
else's stuff wholesale to write your own code on top of it, that somebody is
entitled to have a say, one way or the other. This applies to GPL code as
well as to code that you get from Microsoft or some other proprietary outfit,
and chances are that the restrictions on the proprietary code will be even
more onerous than the GPL, e.g., you probably won't be able to share the code
with just anyone.

> PS. Just an after-thought: If *I* want to use (portions of) my code, which
> has been copy-left infected, in a commercial product... do I also lose the
> rights to what was originally my own "Intellectual Property"?

No. If it's yours and useful outside the context of the copylefted code, you
can release it separately under whatever license you want.

In any case the GPL doesn't ever make you »lose the rights to your own
intellectual property«. The only thing it might do is keep you from
distributing your IP together with somebody else's GPLed IP as part of the
same program, but that is something else entirely.

Anselm Lingnau, Frankfurt, Germany .....................
Good advice is something a man gives when he is too old to set a bad example.
                                          -- François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld
Received on 2005-01-12

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