Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
GNU is Not Unix Debian Open Source News

GPL, Copyleft On the Rise 277

Posted by Soulskill
from the GOP-hoping-it-can-beat-romney dept.
paxcoder writes "Contrary to earlier analyses that predicted a decline of copyleft software share to as little as 50% this year, John Sullivan, the executive director of the Free Software Foundation, claims the opposite has happened: In his talk at FOSDEM 2012 titled 'Is Copyleft Being Framed?,' Sullivan presented evidence (PDF) of a consistent increase of usage of copyleft licenses in relation to the usage of permissive licenses in free software projects over the past few years. Using publicly available package information provided by the Debian project, his study showed that the number of packages using the GPL family in that distribution this year reached a share of 93% of all packages with (L)GPLv3 usage rising 400% between the last two Debian versions."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

GPL, Copyleft On the Rise

Comments Filter:
  • by Barbara, not Barbie (721478) <barbara.hudsonNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday March 03, 2012 @12:37PM (#39231723) Journal
    The earlier study looked at a much broader base of projects, not just cherry-picking by limiting itself to packages in a distro.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 03, 2012 @12:50PM (#39231817)

      "The earlier study looked at a much broader base of projects, not just cherry-picking by limiting itself to packages in a distro."

      Good point. The update in the On the continuing decline of the GPL [the451group.com] article also mentions this: "UPDATE – It is has been rightfully noted that this decline relates to the proportion of all open source software, while the number of projects using the GPL family has increased in real terms. Using Black Duck’s figures we can calculate that in fact the number of projects using the GPL family of licenses grew 15% between June 2009 and December 2011, from 105,822 to 121,928. However, in the same time period the total number of open source projects grew 31% in real terms, while the number of projects using permissive licenses grew 117%. – UPDATE"

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MatthiasF (1853064)
      And doesn't Debian actually actively work for make sure the packages it distributes are GPL?

      So, not only is he cherrypicking but he picked a project that strives to use Copyleft.

      http://www.debian.org/News/2012/20120219 [debian.org]

      The actual study mentioned in the talk came out last month and was written up here.

      http://www.itwire.com/business-it-news/open-source/52838-gpl-use-in-debian-on-the-rise-study [itwire.com]

      John Sullivan even called picking only one distribution as "scientific". I'm not sure he knows what the wor
      • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @01:13PM (#39231995)

        And doesn't Debian actually actively work for make sure the packages it distributes are GPL?

        Not at all. They just tend to make selections of the projects which actually work rather than the hundreds of projects that never go anywhere. The Debian Free Software Guidelines [debian.org] mean that main distribution software has to be free, but basically anyone who has motivation and acceptable software can get their package in.

        Simply put, if a package isn't in Debian then it mostly very specialised, quite new or isn't worth touching. If there are several Debian packages and you don't know which to go for, then go for the one which is in Red Hat since that will be the most professionally maintained package.

        The first survey may have been representative of packages which people start developing, but this is more representative of packages which are actually useful.

    • by KiloByte (825081) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @01:06PM (#39231937)

      Or rather, it's cherry-picking by quality. Any useful project that is not fundamentally restricted to Mac or Windows will most likely be ported by someone, and packaged for Debian. Fart apps, not so much.

      It's also interesting how fast non-GPL licenses decline. We're talking about falling by a factor of 4.2 in less than seven years.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kjella (173770)

      Broader? Hogwash. If you dig into the KnowledgeBase figures they list only a little over 13765+984+409=15158 [blackducksoftware.com] GPL family projects. While the Debian stats say:

      The last Debian release, Squeeze, which emerged in February 2011, had 28,126 packages of which 26,271, representing 93 per cent, were under the GPL family.

      So the one saying there is a decline is missing at least 10,000 GPL projects, plus quite possibly more that are not in Debian. Seems to be it's their figures that are incredibly narrow and wrong.

      • Just because you have more numbers does not make your sampling more accurate. With good sampling you can have less samples and a smaller error rate. This guy's study has clear sampling bias. It's like saying 95% of Americans disapprove of Obama by only calling registered Republicans.

      • Check how many packages GCC is in Debian...
    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Not to mention he is counting packages which last time i checked some applications can have literally dozens of packages connected to them. That would be like counting every little piece required to make Libre Office (what is it with FOSS and shitty names? is it like a rule or something?) and counting it as a separate app.

      Now I'll probably get hate for this, which will be ironic and sad since /. is supposed to be libertarian, but WTF I don't care. We ALL know why GPL is going down, its because TINSTAAFL and

      • by jbolden (176878)

        Something like "You are free to look at and modify the code, but if you distribute you have to pay for it"?

        Every license that exists has that freedom. Anything beyond that isn't supported by copyright law.

      • Now I'll probably get hate for this, which will be ironic and sad since /. is supposed to be libertarian, but WTF I don't care.

        The following is not hate. Just a sincere and considered response.

        Slashdot is not "supposed" to be libertarian, except perhaps in the fantasies of Slashdotters who are libertarians. The philosophies of open-source software and libertarianism do have a non-empty intersection. But that doesn't mean that open-source advocates (or Slashdotters) are necessarily libertarians in the majority.

        We ALL know why GPL is going down, its because TINSTAAFL and with GPL V3 RMS has gone so damned anti business he's scared away too many folks. [...] Now ironically if FOSS truly WAS a community and collective effort then right about now a large group of devs, users, and businesses would get together and hash out what the problems are and fix them, basically cooperate for the betterment of all, and if RMS didn't want to participate they'd just fork which is the standard way that FOSS routes around damage.

        In fact, this has happened already, many times [opensource.org], and will continue to happen.

        But sadly RMS doesn't want a democracy, he wants a dictatorship.

        Opinions of RMS's ego aside, in the end who c

      • by unixisc (2429386)

        If it's alternative licenses that you're hoping for, there's a whole bunch of them [gnu.org] that are available, including one from many of the companies/orgs that have any stake in FOSS, such as Nokia, IBM, Sun and so on. You are right about his Marxist leanings - if you look @ that page, you'll see that most of the licenses that are GPL compatible are the ones from non-profit orgs, as well as ones associated just w/ programs, rather than companies (e.g. Apache, Eiffel, NCSA, et al), while the bulk of the licenses

    • by jbolden (176878)

      Debian is not "cherry picking". It is perhaps picking based on a criteria, like non-trivial number of users.

      • Debian is not "cherry picking". It is perhaps picking based on a criteria, like non-trivial number of users.

        In that case, they should have picked Windows.
        Or even OSX.
        Or the IOS ecosystem.
        Or even the Android ecosystem.
        Of course, all that would show that the vast majority of software is anything *but* gpl, and that if you really want to make any money selling software, the gpl is not the way to go.

        • by jbolden (176878)

          The question is what the vast majority of open source software is.

          On OSX / Macports most of the stuff is ported from Linux. Darwin itself is heavily BSD.
          Android is heavily GPL as is the software ecosystem.
          IOS doesn't have much open source.

          And yes GPL is lousy if you want to sell software with some minor exceptions, like dual licensing.

  • Makes sense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DaleGlass (1068434) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @12:48PM (#39231803) Homepage

    IMO, if you're writing or releasing software, the GPL is preferrable. You benefit from patches, even being able to take those people don't intentionally contribute. You keep your code unusuable to those competitors who follow a closed management model. You also get to use it as advertisement if you're willing to offer an alternate license for money.

    If you're looking to use somebody else's software though, of course the BSD is best. But the thing is that once you spent a few months working on code, a BSD license can be a bit of a hard sell for anything important, because you have nothing of the above. I think for most people some degree of attachment and desire of control develops after spending a lot of time on something.

    • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by oiron (697563) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @01:03PM (#39231907) Homepage

      The way I'd do it is, GPL for applications, BSD/MIT/LGPL for libraries, depending on the level of participation, the commercial and legal aspects, etc. And all university research should always be permissive, so that it can be incorporated into either GPLed, proprietary or whatever else.

      Isn't it easy enough to see that all the licenses solve different problems? Some are good to bring a piece of research out into the open, and some are great for protecting freedoms... No point mixing the use cases...

      • Actually agreed there. I was really speaking of personal or commercial projects. Things made by universities definitely should be permissive.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by fyngyrz (762201)

        GPL for applications

        So that no commercial interest can benefit from your source code, thereby intentionally pushing the freeware / non-commercial approach, yes?

        And all university research should always be permissive, so that it can be incorporated into either GPLed, proprietary or whatever else.

        Thereby enabling all approaches equally, and may the best approach succeed. Well, that seems much more even handed, fair, and so forth.

        So... if you want to do that with source code that comes from a university, why

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The way I'd do it is, GPL for applications, BSD/MIT/LGPL for libraries, depending on the level of participation, the commercial and legal aspects, etc. And all university research should always be permissive, so that it can be incorporated into either GPLed, proprietary or whatever else.

        Generally agree, but I'd also give serious attention to the Apache License (2.0) for libraries. It's also fairly open, but also provides a patent license as well, and that's an important consideration what with all the trolls around. I think this is the only thing missing from the non-GPL licenses in your list.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      It depends what your goals are as well. In academic releases, I see two main drivers of the choice:

      1. BSD/MIT-style if your #1 goal is to get your code used as widely as possible. Maybe you have a strong personal belief that some method should be widely adopted; maybe you hope to benefit from the publicity of saying "as seen in Excel 2015!" about one of your methods; maybe you just consider it not worth putting any restrictions on; or various other reasons. Lots of examples of these.

      2. GPL-style if you don'

      • by KiloByte (825081)

        For most people I personally talked with about licenses, the reason is "if there is a fork of my software, I want to be able to use it", with being able to incorporate improvements into their version as close second.

        • For most people I personally talked with about licenses, the reason is "if there is a fork of my software, I want to be able to use it", with being able to incorporate improvements into their version as close second.

          There is no license that guarantees that code changes will come back to you. They only guarantee that code will reach those who buy/download the fork. Unless you go for RPL [wikipedia.org], which is GPL-incompatible. That code comes back to you in GPL is an emerging effect.

          Copyright is not merely theft. As a form of censorship, it's a crime against humanity.

          Copyright is a tradeoff between creators of content and users, that society has decided on as a useful concept. Such a statement can only come from someone who doesn't

          • Supporting GPL and opposing copyright doesn't go together.

            Wrong. I, and no doubt others, support the GPL as long as copyright exists. Eliminating copyright would automatically give everyone freedoms 0 and 2 [gnu.org] over any software package, making the GPL less important.

    • IMO, if you're writing or releasing software, the GPL is preferrable. You benefit from patches, even being able to take those people don't intentionally contribute

      Speaking as someone who has released well over a hundred thousand lines of BSDL code, I strongly disagree. The GPL rarely forces people to contribute. It doesn't, for example, force Google to contribute back any of the changes they made to the Linux kernel. 90% of all software is developed for in-house use and either GPL or BSDL code forces people to contribute changes back when used in this way. More importantly, the fact that code is GPL'd is often a show stopper for companies wanting to use it. The

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 03, 2012 @12:52PM (#39231843)

    So one study, which looks at the wide ecosystem of open source software finds copyleft is on the decline. But a study which only focuses on a Linux distribution which has a strong focus on GPL finds copyleft is increasing? Isn't that a bit like going to a Green Peace rally and saying a majority of people surveyed support saving whales?

  • The sad part. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by philip.paradis (2580427) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @12:53PM (#39231849)

    I've seen so many developers just slap the GPL on their code because it's perceived as the "default" choice. When asked why they chose to use the GPL, they can't even explain its basic provisions. When told how it works, many of those same developers will say "oh, that's not really my intent." Sadly, because of the original "default" perception, a ton of code gets licensed this way.

    I aggressively support the right to license something any way creators see fit, and happen to license my most of my stuff under the BSD and Artistic licenses. That said, people really need to understand what different licenses provide before they run off using them. When in any doubt whatsoever regarding any of it, it wouldn't be a terrible idea to pay for an hour of a lawyer's time (if possible).

    • Re:The sad part. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Qubit (100461) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @01:14PM (#39232005) Homepage Journal

      I've seen so many developers just slap the GPL on their code because it's perceived as the "default" choice. When asked why they chose to use the GPL, they can't even explain its basic provisions. When told how it works, many of those same developers will say "oh, that's not really my intent." Sadly, because of the original "default" perception, a ton of code gets licensed this way.

      Do you think this is because many programmers see "open-sourcing" their software as a kind of "throw it over the wall" kind of exercise? Perhaps they don't have much invested in the benefits of a shared community around the code?

      My guess would be that for programmers who plan a livelyhood based on writing wholly (or near to it) FOSS code, something like the GPL protects their interests and future business possibilities in the market more than a permissive license like the 3-clause BSD. For programmers who write a lot of code under proprietary licenses, I can totally understand that they would (1) want (or rather NEED) to use permissively-licensed libraries, and (2) thus would be much inclined to release their code under those same permissive terms.

      I aggressively support the right to license something any way creators see fit, and happen to license my most of my stuff under the BSD and Artistic licenses. That said, people really need to understand what different licenses provide before they run off using them.

      Licenses are very tricky things. Given the entry barriers to writing some PHP code vs. understanding the provisions in the Artistic License, the GPL, what advertising clauses mean, etc..etc..., computer code is often easier than its legal counterpart.

      When in any doubt whatsoever regarding any of it, it wouldn't be a terrible idea to pay for an hour of a lawyer's time (if possible).

      Oh, it's certainly a good idea, but how many lawyers (or laypeople -- Hi, Bruce!) do you know who are expert enough to consult about ip, copyright, FOSS licensing, etc..? I know a handful, and I believe that they make over $300/hr -- some probably make a lot more than that!

      • My guess would be that for programmers who plan a livelyhood based on writing wholly (or near to it) FOSS code, something like the GPL protects their interests and future business possibilities in the market more than a permissive license like the 3-clause BSD. For programmers who write a lot of code under proprietary licenses, I can totally understand that they would (1) want (or rather NEED) to use permissively-licensed libraries, and (2) thus would be much inclined to release their code under those same

        • by tepples (727027)
          Some libraries, such as libpng and libvorbis, are under a permissive license for a very good reason: they're intended to make it just as easy for an application or device to use a newcomer format as it is to use the format's more entrenched patented competitor (GIF and MP3/AAC respectively).
      • computer code is often easier than its legal counterpart

        Ok, the next time I'm having a deadlock situation with more than 10 threads involved, I'm calling my lawyer.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by maxwell demon (590494)

          computer code is often easier than its legal counterpart

          Ok, the next time I'm having a deadlock situation with more than 10 threads involved, I'm calling my lawyer.

          I don't think you'll want to wait until a federal court has decided on the ownership of those mutexes. :-)

        • by Qubit (100461)

          computer code is often easier than its legal counterpart

          Ok, the next time I'm having a deadlock situation with more than 10 threads involved, I'm calling my lawyer.

          About as much fun as dealing with a deadlocked jury?

    • I don't think any run of the mill lawyer would be able to explain the GPL better than what you'd find on the first page of googling "GPL".

      Unless said lawyer regularly deals with software licensing issues, it'd probably take that lawyer more than an hour to read and understand the GPL himself/herself (possibly poorly), before he/she'd be able to explain it back to you.

      What you'll get is a warm and fuzzy feeling that you've spoken to a lawyer and got expert legal advice, but in reality it's like asking slashd

      • by mpoulton (689851)

        I don't think any run of the mill lawyer would be able to explain the GPL better than what you'd find on the first page of googling "GPL".

        Unless said lawyer regularly deals with software licensing issues, it'd probably take that lawyer more than an hour to read and understand the GPL himself/herself (possibly poorly), before he/she'd be able to explain it back to you.

        What you'll get is a warm and fuzzy feeling that you've spoken to a lawyer and got expert legal advice, but in reality it's like asking slashdotters to explain P?=NP (because they're related to computers, right?)... sure there are some people who know what they're saying, but the others simply have no clue.

        That's why you choose a lawyer who is already familiar with the GPL. Pretty much any lawyer with some technical background has delved into it, even if software licensing isn't their main practice area. And you don't want a lawyer handling software licensing who doesn't have some technical background. Paying for a liberal arts major to learn what libraries and classes are so he can comprehend your work before giving legal advice is probably not a good investment. There are plenty of technically competent

    • Re:The sad part. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kjella (173770) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @01:33PM (#39232129) Homepage

      On that note, the GPL is probably the "safer" choice. Releasing GPL code as BSD is simple, oh now you can use the code in proprietary code too. Going from BSD to GPL is trying to put the cat back in the bag, often leading to a fork and drama from those who no longer can/want to use it. If the developer is clueless it's less harmful that people can't use the code the way he intended than that people can use the code in ways he didn't intend. "Oh you want the code under the BSD, here you go" is a lot easier to fix than "OMG WTF you mean Apple and Microsoft can just take my code for nothing now? That's not what I wanted!"

    • I've personally witnessed the opposite happening: a project releasing under the BSD, then getting upset about it being forked and after I talked to one of its developers, it changed to GPLd afterwards.

      Yes, people really don't think enough about licensing, but that goes for both those who choose permissive and strict copyleft licenses. People should think for a bit on subjects like "What if my code ends up in every computer on the planet, but I still get nothing from it? Will I be proud to say 'I contributed

      • by jbolden (176878)

        And lets point out that the GPL came out of exactly this situation. The way commercial vendors took X and made proprietary Xs so that the MIT version was essentially worthless as anything but a spec.

    • by bug1 (96678)

      I've seen so many developers just slap the GPL on their code because it's perceived as the "default" choice.

      Ive seen so many developers just slap a pricetag on their work because its percieved as the "default" choice. When asked why they chose money over freedom, they can't even explain the concept of social capital. When told how it works, many of those same people will say "oh, that's my long term intent." Sadly, because of the original "default" perception, a ton of work gets marketed this way.

      I aggressively support the right to license something any way creators see fit, and happen to license my most of my st

      • It may surprise you, but I absolutely respect the sentiment expressed in your post. If we were to sit down over coffee and discuss various components of our views, we might well disagree on different points, but I suspect it would be a good conversation. I think what I really want is more real conversations, and less blind rhetoric. There seems to be entirely too much of the latter being tossed around on any given side.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 03, 2012 @01:16PM (#39232019)

    I think the FSF might be a bit biased. Don't you.

    • by ClickOnThis (137803) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @03:50PM (#39233207) Journal

      I think the FSF might be a bit biased. Don't you.

      Undobtedly the FSF is biased. That can hardly be disputed. But are they wrong?

      • by jockm (233372)

        We can't tell based on their data, since it isn't about the general pool of free software, just what is in Debian.

        • by 51mon (566265)

          We can't tell from Blackduck's data either since it isn't known what criteria are used by them.

          We could pick other projects and see what the trend is in them, but ultimately all we would know is what the trend is in them. Google Code looks like a fairly easy place to gather some figures from and they host a lot of code these days.

          Any such study is limited by the set of data it looks at. I presume the FSF chose Debian because it is (a) large (b) licenses are reasonably easily checkable (c) well documented hi

  • by msobkow (48369) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @01:17PM (#39232023) Homepage Journal

    While non-copyleft licenses like the Mozilla, Apache, and LGPLv3 are quite popular for core services and libraries, most applications I've used over the years were copyleft/GPL type licenses.

    If you're building a core service, you want it used by as many people and projects as possible. But if you're developing a tool, utility, or application, often your concern is more to prevent any one company or individual from seizing that work and selling it as their own product.

    Personally I use both LGPLv3 and GPLv3 licenses as a result, because the goals of the different software components are not the same.

  • So says the FSF. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    John Sullivan, the executive director of the Free Software Foundation, claims... a consistent increase of usage of copyleft licenses in relation to the usage of permissive licenses in free software projects over the past few years.

    Who would have thought?

  • MidnightBSD currently has 2754 ports. Of those, 1194 are under some GNU license (gpl2, gpl3, lgpl variations). A good chunk of that is for GNOME, KDE or GNUStep. Only 127 are under GPLv3.

    I believe them that GNU licenses are as popular as ever, but I doubt that GPLv3 will be the most popular for some time. Many projects have been downgrading their licensing to GPLv3 including core GNU projects, Samba, etc. There's still a lot of old code or code that hasn't been updated in awhile under GPLv2. Frankly,

"Hello again, Peabody here..." -- Mister Peabody

Working...