"You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in
whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any
part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third
parties under the terms of this License."
Then Microsoft warns that this translates to this: "anyone who
adds or innovates under the GPL agrees to make the resulting code,
in its entirety, available for all to use ... [which] might
constrain innovating stemming from taxpayer-funded software
Apparently spin is more important to Microsoft than actual facts
(gasp!). Microsoft's interpretation of paragraph 2B of the GPL is
incorrect. They forgot to pay attention to the clause "that you
distribute or publish".
If, for example, the CIA wants to hack the Linux kernel to do
some super secret stuff, they don't have to publish the source code
they add to the kernel as long as they don't publish the binaries.
It's that simple. And no, the resulting code doesn't automatically
become GPLed. Why? Because they didn't release or publish it to
anyone. It's internal, and they're not required to do so.
As for the US government using open source software, I don't see
what the problem is, except that maybe the government is their
biggest customer. And what has the government (and summarily all US
citizens) reaped from this close relationship with Microsoft? One
example is the USS Yorktown, which was forced to use Microsoft
software on its internal systems. You can read about it here
and here. If
we were at war and one of our ships was dead in the water because
of a Blue Screen of Death...well I'm sure Microsoft could find a
way to spin that positively, too. Personally, I can't think of a
better expression of democracy than to have the government of the
people, by the people doing its work with tools built by those same
An organization called Heifer
Project International, based in Little Rock, AR has for years
been giving pairs of farm animals (male and female) to
poverty-stricken families in Third World countries. The one rule
that the recipients of this gift must follow is that they must give
one of the female offspring to another family, so that the gift
might continue. Would Microsoft argue that Heifer Project
International is "stifling barnyard innovation" and "threatening
livestock property laws" by making this requirement?
Microsoft is upset because it sees software that is GPLed that
is better than their own, and they are not allowed to steal it and
proprietize it because of the GPL. They look at the millions and
millions of dollars they've spent on Win32 API development, and
wonder why it isn't better than code written freely by volunteers.
They just don't get it.
But the GPL isn't the only game in town. There's the LGPL (Lesser, or
Library GPL), the Mozilla Public
License, the Apache
Software License, and the BSD
License that all allow for redistribution of modifications
without source code. There is quite a bit of quality software
written under those licenses that Microsoft can use and make
proprietary (and you can bet that they already have done this to
I'd like to personally thank Richard Stallman for having the
foresight to form the Free Software
Foundation in 1984. Otherwise, the GPL might not be as
prevalent as it is today, and Microsoft would own Linux. Heh. They
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