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"Team Ada: Ada Advocacy Issues (83 & 95)" <[log in to unmask]>
"Crispen, Bob" <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 6 Mar 2001 07:59:26 -0600
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"Crispen, Bob" <[log in to unmask]>
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Tom Moran [mailto:[log in to unmask]]

>>shouldn't ask for money.  The question is whether programmers
>>will be allowed *not* to ask for money.
>   You should check that Dan Gillmor column in the SJ Mercury News.

Read it.  Did you read the article on kuro5hin?  Very
cute.  They stole a march on segfault on the Allchin story.

>Allchin didn't say the GPL should be outlawed, he just said things
>paid for *and owned by* the government (or universities using
>government grants) should not be under a restrictive license like
>GPL.  There is no question about allowing programmers to use any
>license they like for copyrights they own.

But here's the rub: if the government owns the software
(which is the case I've been talking about the whole time)
and they impose a license with a high entry fee, then only
the programmers who work for the big companies (like you-
know-who) will get an opportunity to improve it.

On the other hand, if the software is covered by a BSD or
Apache-style license, the big boys will run with anything
they find that's worthwhile.

Anybody who wants to do open source development using
source they find on a government site with a BSD/Apache
style license is going to find himself competing with the
proverbial 900-pound gorilla.

For example, if HLA really takes off (we should be so lucky)
and the current open source HLA effort publishes with a BSD
or Apache license, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the
open source project that grabs it and puts it on sourceforge
suddenly finds themselves with a lawsuit for infringing on
the patents in Microsoft Visual HLA++ and having to prove
that the "innovations" they infringed on were in the original
government source.  I might find myself the richest person on
the team and therefore the probable target of the harrassment

Wait.  Never mind.  Microsoft would never do anything like
that just to squash a competitor.  Forget I suggested it.

The open source community is very, very vulnerable to
predation from powerful companies.  The GPL currently stands
as a barrier between open source developers and the rich but
ethically challenged.

>As you point out, of
>course, if Microsoft or somebody knocks on the door with a big
>check, the owner of the copyright can sell them a different set of
>rights.  I doubt many university finance officers, or faculty in the
>less well-off departments, are ignorant of the Netscape/U of
>Illinois story.

Sorry, I'm afraid I don't know about that one.

>>The company has gone out of business, and there is literally no way
>>you can get a legal copy of those filters at any price.
>  And if *nobody* exists who owns, and can sell, the copyright,
>then just exactly who is going to demand that you stop selling
>copies, let alone sue you?

"Legal copy" /= "nobody can be found to sue me".

>>were the patent now in the hands of
>>receivers who had no idea how to sell it, but knew how to sue
>>someone who infringed, we'd be farther still from the goal of
>  So you believe creditors of a bankrupt company would be happy
>to spend money on a lawsuit to stop you from using the patent,
>but they would refuse to accept money from you to license the
>patent?  You aren't thinking of the oil companies and the
>engine that runs on water, are you? ;)

No, I'm thinking of a typical receiver who has no idea how to
sell the product (that not being his business) but who has a
very good idea how to sue someone (that being his business,
since receiverships are frequently run out of law offices).

In fact, I wrote to a receiver asking for a license for a copy
of some software and got a letter back that said "We are unable
at this time to sell you a license, and we will sue you if you
obtain a copy illegally."

I'm only taking them at their word.  It's not improbable at
all.  If I can find it, I'll show you the letter.

>>Just who *would* you take arguments from?
>  We hear lots of pro-GPL arguments from people who don't have any
>economic interest in selling software (though their employers
>might).  I'd take a lot more seriously arguments from people
>trying to work full-time starting, or working for, a start-up in the
>early, cash-poor days.

Sorry, can't accommodate you.  My startup days were too long
Bob Crispen
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