Viewing a single comment thread. View all comments


pho4cexa wrote

You can, if you hold the entire copyright (or have permission of all holders of copyright.)

But it's not retroactive; if I give you code that I wrote 100% of under the GPL then change it to something else, your copy is still under GPL; you must still use GPL to redistribute it.

The value of the GPL is that an individual who releases under GPL (or better yet AGPL) can make it difficult for a powerful company to just steamroll them and do proprietary or embrace-extend-extinguish shit with it. If a company acquires all the copyright over some code though (e.g. by purchasing it from the developer), they have the power to change the license or sell versions under a different license and the GPL is essentially declawed.

I kindof think this is okay; Apple having to purchase Samba so they can do whatever they want with it is better for its developers than if they had released it under a permissive license, allowing Apple to do whatever, whenever they want for zero compensation.

Also, Apache 2.0 is 'GPL3 compatible,' which means any of us can still grab a copy, modify it, and release a fork under GPL3. (Though the terms of Apache 2.0 like the patent clause remain in effect. Which isn't bad.) Not that it would do much good in this case since Apple controls the bulk of the code and would just ignore or re-implement those changes.

(afaik ianal etc. This is the understanding I get from reading but lawyers can argue and judges can rule in ways that don't necessarily make sense to programmers.)


Cosine wrote

This is really disturbing; I did not know this. This means that if the copyright-holder releases under GPL, at any time they can just re-release under a permissive license and then use it in proprietary software. That's literally the thing we try to prevent by using GPL.

You say that it's not retroactive but who cares about that. We only care about the newest version anyway, once I retcon the freaking license, the newest version is completely unprotected.

I guess that's another thing I have to look at when considering projects now too, then. Not just license but copyright holder, and is the creator willing to sell it to a shithead company.

I respect developers, I really do, but IMO the software freedom is more important. If the devs (who are often not poor i'll point out) sell out, the leverage against the corporations is lost to everybody.


pho4cexa wrote

That's basically how AGPL dual-licensing schemes work:

Developers know that companies have been conditioned to be pants-shitting terrified of the AGPL, but they want to be open source, but they still want to get paid. So, they release under AGPL, but offer to sell to companies willing to pay for a permissive do-whatever-you-want license.

These projects usually say that they require a particular type of contributor license agreement (CLA) in which everybody offering a patch must sign over copyright or permission to re-license it.

I used to feel like this kind of scheme was an egregious and underhanded betrayal by developers, but calmed down when I realized it's almost equivalent to -- and slightly better than -- basic permissive licensing. Except that it might not be obvious what's going on.

(I still dislike permissive licensing far more than the FSF seems to, but it's still free software, and still far better than proprietary, and most permissively-licensed code can be absorbed into a copylefted project by sufficiently motivated and productive developers.)

This is also why there's been a recent push from the FSF and Software Freedom Conservancy to try to get developers to ask their employers to let them retain their copyright over their work (instead of assigning it to the company, as is the default in a work-for-hire situation). Because

  • the company probably will never damage its reputation by enforcing the GPL against another company, but an individual might be more principled and
  • the more copyright holders there are, the more people must grant permission when somebody wants to weaken the license for money.

If the devs (who are often not poor i'll point out) sell out

Depends. Devs who work full time for a software company then struggle to carve time out of their family and weekends to do a tiny bit of free software might indeed not be poor, but i hope to see a day when full-time free software work becomes sustainable.

Those full-time free software devs might be quite poor in comparison. And their ability to sell permissively-licensed forks might enable them to continue releasing the bulk of their work under AGPL. Would that trade off result in more, or less copyleft-licensed code being released to the community?