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"Crispen, Bob" <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 6 Mar 2001 07:59:26 -0600
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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
suits.

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
ago.
--
Bob Crispen
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