Sunday, April 22, 2007

GPL and commercial advantage

I have a feeling I've talked about the commercial advantages of the GPL on this blog before, but I'm too lazy to go take a look in the archives. In any case, here is an interesting piece that reiterates that claim (one of the surefire certainties about the writing in this area is that the same points will be made again and again, the same canards spread, the same refutations made - this particular repetition suits me, so I indulge in it). The piece's narrative follows a general trend. It notes how some commercial vendors prefer licenses other than the GPL because the GPL is "too restrictive"; it then goes on to point out that the reciprocity requirement of the GPL actually makes tons of commercial sense, because it requires those that draw upon you, to give back. Here is an interesting excerpt:
Enterprise Content Management vendor Alfresco recently decided to move from its Mozilla Public License based (which is similar in many respects to the Apache license) to the GPL. Instead of seeing the GPL as being something that would handcuff their business, Alfresco has taken the view that it will actually help their commercial business. Matt Asay, vice president of business development at Alfresco, told me that the risk of a forked version of Alfresco's GPL code would be a positive thing for the company. "We would be ecstatic if someone forked the GPL version of Alfresco because then they get to go off on their fork and develop their own system but we would also benefit from the work that they do," Asay commented. "If we can't compete based on the work that we're doing on our own code as well as benefiting form the work that a fork would do on theirs, then we don't deserve to be in business."
I've read very similar sentiments expressed in a post by Matt Assay (provocatively titled "Microsoft + GPL = Match Made in Heaven"), which, while including language about "inhibiting competitors" that I find problematic, includes this gem:
Microsoft needs to ditch its weird view on the GPL. It used to call it anti-American. It’s actually the exact opposite. It is the most American of open source licenses. Microsoft could embrace it and continue to pull in its billions…and what could be more American than crass materialism?


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