[SciPy-user] Re-releasing Python Equations under a new license?

Robert Kern robert.kern at gmail.com
Fri Jan 19 13:00:03 CST 2007

Matthew Vernon wrote:
> Hi,
>> This is an issue I have noticed that the python science world has VERY
>> strong opinions about . . . and I was hoping that maybe people would
>> answer my final questions before becoming a BSD'er ;-)
> I'm a GPL person myself.
>> In John Hunters very good pitch, I find his main points being:
>> 1) GPL generally can not be comfortably/legally used by companies, so
>> you cut off these developers needlessly.
> That's not entirely true; for example, companies could agree to pay  
> you to let them release your code under a non-GPL licence.

This is not really an option for projects with multiple contributors that
sometimes disappear. At least those that aren't large enough to require
copyright assignment to a Foundation. If you're hoping to accept nontrivial
patches, you need to make sure that you get them under a license that allows you
to relicense (or sublicense; I don't want to look up the difference now) to
something else. But if you are going to ask that of your contributors, it just
makes sense to extend that same courtesy to them, too.

> Also, some  
> companies do work on GPLd code (e.g. Ubuntu) 

And there are many more companies that don't. We call them "customers."

> - if their business  
> model doesn't rely on creating proprietary software and selling it,  
> then there's no reason for them not to use GPL code.

That makes complete sense. Unfortunately, as with most sensible things involving
law and business, it's not true. While the GPL is fine for them for some
software, like say gcc and the rest of the GNU/Linux toolchain, it's not for
other things. It's often very not fine for libraries. Companies buy proprietary
libraries and code-bases all of the time and hire other companies to build on
them and combine them with other things.

"In-house" code frequently isn't.

> There's a side-point about whether it's good to encourage non-free  
> software to be used in science. I would always advocate doing science  
> with free software wherever possible [that discussion really is for  
> somewhere else. Maybe I should blog about it ;) ].

Well, we're not. We're encouraging people to use BSD. Discouraging the GPL in
favor of BSD is not encouraging non-free software for science.

>> 3) GPL is generally used by developers without thinking about the
>> above, and they use it because it is popular.
> Now this really isn't on. Many developers (like myself) chose to use  
> the GPL, because we think that it's model of free software is  
> superior to the BSD-licences'.

However, it *is* very often true. Like in this case. See the post that starts
this thread.

Robert Kern

"I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma
 that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had
 an underlying truth."
  -- Umberto Eco

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