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ZDNet: Caldera to introduce modified open-source license

May 10, 2001, 13:03 (108 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Mary Jo Foley)

Ransom Love of Caldera says the GPL might not be the best license going for commercial software, and to that end he plans to consider other licenses. "Microsoft is attacking open source at its weakest point: the GPL," he says.

"Caldera has some similar misgivings -- not about the GPL model being the optimal one for open-source development, but about how appropriate the GPL is for open-source software that is sold commercially, Love acknowledged."

As a result, Caldera is "seriously looking at and considering different licensing models," he said. Caldera is considering BSD and "other licensing models" that "would be truly open source but still allow folks to influence the (development) process," Love added.

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Rob Landley wrote in with these comments when he submitted this story:

Ransom Love fell for Microsoft's recent gambit, discarding the GPL in favor of BSD-style licensing. That was the whole point of Microsoft's recent attacks, convincing people to do that. Why? Very simple.

Open Source is not a threat to Microsoft.

Think about it. Microsoft is thrilled to embrace and extend BSD licensed code; the entire Windows network stack and many of the standard command line utilities are derived from BSD. They even stole enough BSD code (and found enough standards loopholes) to get Windows NT declared posix compliant! It's not just BSD, they're embracing and extending the internet as well. Most of their growth since Windows 95 has been derived from the internet, and making Internet Explorer the primary interface to it for 3/4 of it current user base. How long did Tim Berners-lee's public domain web browser remain in the public domain, anyway? Outlook and exchange for email, front page for web authoring. Embrace and extend.

Embrace and extend is what Microsoft does for a living. They haven't had a new idea in decades, even DOS 1.0 was a clone of CP/M they bought from a third party. Their OS development stalled after 1995 because they'd finally run out of ideas to copy from Apple. Open Source must seem like a godsend to them, a pristine alaskan wilderness to strip-mine.

If Microsoft was facing BSD, they'd just fork it. Grab the BSD codebase, embed explorer and some Win32 compatability Dlls (not a difficult problem when you have the windows source code) , hide half of office in the system dlls just like on Windows, and bingo you have a new Unix based version of Windows incorporating every advance the BSD people have made.

But they're not facing BSD. They're facing Linux. And Linux is protected by the GPL. They can't embrace and extend the GPL, the GPL embraces and extends THEM. And that is scaring the heck out of them.

Idealism aside, the GPL is an effective, pragmatic solution to the problem of monopolies that intentionally fork code bases once they reach critical mass. The 1980's unix world was BSD based and it forked itself to death as soon as companies saw that there was money in it. Netscape hired all the Mosaic developers away. Altruism doesn't keep corporations from strip-mining nature preserves, and it won't keep them from forking open source projects if they see money to be made, no matter how we try to "educate" them about software environmentalism.

Richard Stallman created the GPL to fend off the monopolistic practices of AT&T and Xerox in the 1980's, and it works just as well against Microsoft in the 1990's. This is what it was DESIGNED for. As Eric Raymond said, it's a "stake in the ground they can't pull out". The GPL doesn't just put stuff in the public domain, it nails it there so it can't be removed.

The GPL is a very effective immune system for open source projects, defending them from proprietary embrace and extend attacks. The GPL is what makes Linux a threat to Microsoft, not the merits of the code itself or the amount of effort going into its development. That's just a contributing factor. Linux* couldn't BE a threat without the GPL.

Microsoft has recognized this, and it's about time we do too.

[* Richard Stallman tries to point all this out to people by insisting people call Linux "GNU/Linux", which is about as annoying as Kellog's insisting we call their product Kellog's Corn Flakes, or Budweiser insisting it's "Bud Lite", and about as likely to be universally adopted. He's a smart enough guy he assumes everybody else will think through the dozen or so logical steps and figure out what he means to say, and of course assumes everyone knows the ideals of the GNU project and thus know what he means to imply. What he's MANAGED to do is annoy a very large number of people without actually getting his message across, but not all hackers are great with the humanities side of things. It's a pity, he DOES have great things to say. The FSF could REALLY use a marketing department. Or at least somebody to explain the concept of "judicious and focused expenditure of political capital".]