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Re: [TSVN] To GPL or not to GPL

From: Simon Large <simon_at_skirridsystems.co.uk>
Date: 2005-08-24 18:59:06 CEST

Bill.Hughes@cgi-europe.com wrote:
> It seems to boil down to a few issues:
> 1) Ease of using external code in TSVN where that other code is under a
> different license.

This is a (minor) issue now. We should be putting in additional clauses
to our existing GPL to permit use of the Subversion, APR and OpenSSL
code, because all those licenses are incompatible with GPL. But that is
an easy fix.

> 2) Ease of using TSVN code in external projects where that project is under
> a different license.

Sometimes there is cross-fertilization between SVN and TSVN, for example
the crash reporter. As it stands, that code belongs only to Stefan, so
he can re-license it to Subversion under any license. But if others had
contributed, he would have to get permission from anyone who had been
involved with it in any way. Admittedly, LGPL would solve this.

> 3) Should someone be able to base a proprietary project on TSVN?

Who would want to? As Nicolas said, TSVN is a mature product and
self-contained. Anyone releasing TurtleSVN would have to compete with
the free version from Stefan - personally I would not bother buying
shares in that company ;-)

> 4) Would TSVN remaining under the GPL 'scare' companies off from using it?

Only if they have extremely cautious lawyers who don't understand open
source at all.

> 5) Would TSVN remaining under the GPL 'scare' companies off from
> contributing code to it?

Yes. According to Stefan this has already happened.

> I think my opinion is known, but to explain why:
> I think TSVN is very useful and well-written, I think it should be available
> to the largest number of people. To that end I dislike BSD-style licenses
> and prefer GPL style licenses - to be precise I would prefer TSVN under a
> strong copyleft license. The reason being that BSD-ish licenses may give the
> first recipients more freedom (to commercialise the code) but a GPL-ish
> license preserves the freedoms it grants for subsequent generations of user.

Who does copyleft benefit in this case?
1) In a chain of redistribution, subsequent generations can be
guaranteed access to source so they can modify it. That pre-supposes
that people will be modifying it and passing on their modified version
rather than contributing to the core project. Frankly I see that as a
disadvantage as I prefer development to be centralised at the TSVN
project rather than any number of forks.

2) Commercial enterprises will not bother own-branding it if they have
to distribute source code. That pre-supposes that someone will want to
do this (see above). As the original source is available from us, even a
BSD license doesn't make things much better for them.

And if someone *does* commercialise it, or just integrate it into a
larger package, GPL only requires copyright notices in the source code
(and maybe the license file?). Most users never look at source code.
Other licences can require you to display attribution more prominently.
OK, we will never get a big banner, but we might at least appear in the
doc and the about box.

BTW, the license we are currently looking at is Apache 2.0. It is beefed
up a bit from the 1.1 version which Subversion uses, but it is not a
copyleft license.

Simon

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Received on Wed Aug 24 18:58:56 2005

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