ELNM Topic 17: The Hacker Approach: Development of Free Licenses

To Do:

  • Study the GNU GPL and write a short blog essay about it. You may use the SWOT analysis model (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).

GNU GPL strengths (according to the text):

  • a number of crucial components were already developed by the GNU project and became to be used in the Linux distributions;
  • being used at approximately 70% of all free software projects;
  • The GPL has authorship as its focus, stating the author’s right to his/her work as the first thing (therefore the criticisms of being anti-author are unfounded).

GNU GPL weaknesses (according to the text):

  • The copyleft nature of GPL is very unpleasant to Microsoft and other big players who cannot use free software authors as unpaid labour force for developing their proprietary applications, but is a good guarantee for continuity;
  • GPL is very resistant to a widespread but unethical practice named Embrace, Extend and Extinguish (the best example of its – fortunately quite unsuccessful – attempt is probably the infamous MS-HTML);
  • The license compatibility remains an issue in the free software world.

GNU GPL opportunities (according to the text):

  • Richard Stallman and his Free Software Foundation use the GPL as a sort of measuring stick to evaluate other free licenses;
  • the GPL takes a radically different path comparing to proprietary licenses. Instead of exact dictation of conditions of use, it proclaims the rights of the user:
    • the right to use, copy and distribute the work for any purpose (including business)
    • the right to study the work – for software, demands inclusion of the source code
    • the right to modify the work and develop new works based on it
    • the right to distribute the derived works under the same conditions

GNU GPL threats (according to the text):

  • the anti-patent clauses – essentially, GPL 3 provides some active defense against software patenting;
  • GPL 3 is slowly gaining traction in software world, but some people oppose it for the same additions described above, feeling that they narrow down the freedom instead of enhancing it. One of the prominent opponent of GPL 3 is Linus Torvalds, who keeps Linux kernel under GPL 2 for now.
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