kuro5hin offers this brief, brief examination of the GPL. The
author prefaces his piece with "Microsoft's attacks on the GNU
General Public License (GPL) prompted me to analyze its technical
merits, using insights from the book 'Nonzero' by Robert Wright.
Since I'm a fan of Open Source for its pragmatic benefits, my own
conclusions surprised the heck out of me."
"Society is built on exchange. One particular form of
exchange that we're genetically wired for is reciprocal altruism:
speculative generosity with expectation of future payoff.
Open Source is a textbook example of reciprocal altruism. But
this leaves the Open Source community vulnerable to parasitism.
(This term comes from game theory; I'm not trying to insult
anyone.) In a small group, trust comes from repeated interactions,
and personal experience is adequate to recognize parasites and
avoid them. But in a large group, interactions between any two
people are often indirect and/or infrequent. Something more than
experience is needed to engender trust between people who don't
know each other, and who may never even meet.
Therefore, any large group must evolve a technology of trust. If
it doesn't do so, it will fall victim to rampant parasitism, which
will cause inefficiency, which will eventually bring stagnation and
failure to compete -- that is, death."