Copyleft vs. BSD …

An age-old fight, I know. Leaning more towards the BSD-side, I just came across the following sentence today on Wikipedia:

In response, GPL supporters claim that the freedom of others to make non-free software from free software is an unjust form of power rather than a necessary freedom.
Source: Wikipedia permalink

Now now. Let me be honest with you, this sentence freaked me out a bit. It is true that the inclusion of BSD-licensed code into proprietary software makes it impossible to tinker with the code. No arguing there. Also, if you consider that right to tinker with code as essential like the definition of free software does then obviously taking away this freedom is unjust. However, many of us have a slightly different perception than RMS on what encompasses “freedom” with software. Also, given that I used to be sympathetic to the cause of the FSF and RMS, I have to say that a certain talk of his last year here in Iceland changed my mind fundamentally. Anyway, everybody is entitled to their own opinion and so is he …

My big problem with the above sentence, though, is that the inverse is also true. I have seen time and time again code files where someone slapped the GPL onto a piece of code that was previously licensed under BSD-license or any other permissive license and they conveniently “forgot” to mention the origin of the code was licensed in a more permissive manner, too. This too is a unjust form of power the GPL-aficionados have over authors using a more permissive license. And they are abusing it just like they accuse creators of proprietary software of abusing the rights granted to them via permissive licenses.

// Oliver

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