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RE: [TSVN] To GPL or not to GPL

From: <Bill.Hughes_at_cgi-europe.com>
Date: 2005-08-25 11:38:28 CEST

Simon Large wrote:
> Bill Hughes wrote:

>> 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.
One of the reasons I thought it might help.

>> 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 ;-)
The point isn't really who would want to (though see Michael Tiller's
reply), but should they be able to do so if they wish? Suppose a company
wants to base a commercial diff tool on TMerge, is that OK?
Just because we can't see a large jump in capability being added to TSVN
doesn't mean someone else can't - do we care?
>> 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.
That's my view, you can't worry too much about that sort of thing.

>> 5) Would TSVN remaining under the GPL 'scare' companies off from
>> contributing code to it?
> Yes. According to Stefan this has already happened.
Unfortunate, but is it the name of the license or the terms?
If another license had similar terms but was called Fred's Sharing Caring
License would they have contributed? Is this another case of the sort of
thinking referred to in 4) above?
>> 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?
The TSVN devs, the users.

> 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.
That depends upon your choice of license - with the (L)GPL all downstream
changes should be available for merging back even if not directly
contributed to TSVN.
Forks actually don't appear to be very common with (L)GPL software, most of
the time they appear to be caused by personality clashes - Emacs/Xemacs
being the most obvious. Strangely enough the (L)GPL seems to me to
discourage forking by making it so easy to add changes back to the original

> 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.
Under a BSD-ish license they don't have to distribute the source code, just
the copyright notice.
This makes it much more attractive to a company - take bsd code, change it a
bit, sell the binary, keep source closed - 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.
Fine, but it is there. From this point of view there is no difference
between the (L)GPL and modified BSD licenses.
> 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.
The Apache 2.0 license is regarded as incompatible with the GPL by the FSF -
this may give problems if TSVN wants to use any GPL code :-(
The other bit that bothers me is
"You may add Your own copyright statement to Your modifications and may
provide additional or different license terms and conditions for use,
reproduction, or distribution of Your modifications, or for any such
Derivative Works as a whole, provided Your use, reproduction, and
distribution of the Work otherwise complies with the conditions stated in
this License."
This looks like I could take TSVN make my super-duper-secret hacks and
create a license to only allow the use of those changes by people who pay me
lots of money.
You don't appear to have to distribute the source in any case.

NB I'm not regarding the FSF as authorities on these matters but they do
take them *very* seriously and put more effort into looking at them than
most devs have the time or inclination to bother with.


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Received on Thu Aug 25 11:41:41 2005

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