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GPL question

I'm going to build an application using GPL JavaScript engine (Mozilla SpiderMonkey). I provide plug-ins for this application. These plug-ins do not include any GPL source code. May I keep those plug-ins as closed source modules ?

BTW, any bad experience with Mozilla JavaScript engine SpiderMonkey ?

Michael Popov
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Hi!

Mozilla's code is distributed under a triple MPL/GPL/LGPL
license, and so it is not necessary to publish the code
that is linked against it.

As for the GPL in general: if your own code links against GPLed code, and you plan on distributing the code, then you must release it under a GPL-compatible license.

Shlomi Fish
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

I think that this is probably the 2nd worse place to ask (the first would be slashdot...) about GPL licensing.

Goto http://www.mozilla.org/ - there are plenty of resources there to answer your question properly and with a bit more authority in the subject.

RocketJeff
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

"As for the GPL in general: if your own code links against GPLed code, and you plan on distributing the code, then you must release it under a GPL-compatible license. "


The original poster doesn't need to worry about it if the code he's working with is published under MPL, but I think people should be aware that the the GPL is almost certainly not as restrictive as the opinion I've included in comments above.  That opinion is what Richard Stallman would have you believe, but that isn't necessarily what the courts are likely to decide if and when the correct interpretation of the GPL is ever established by the courts.  In any case, the process of linking is never mentioned in the GPL, and whether it's allowed or not will depend on whether linking proprietary code with proprietary code creates what the is legally considered as a single "derivative work".

The answer to whether linking proprietary code against GPL code is legal may end up depending on several things, including whether the code is dynamically or statically linked, or whether the code linked against is a program or library with a special-purpose API created for the express purpose of linking with external code.

For a good explanation of some of the issues regarding the GPL see this article, written by general counsel for the Open Source Initiative and linked to here by NuSphere, a company which itself publishes code under the GPL:

http://www.nusphere.com/products/library/gpl_0401openmag.pdf

As always, if you have an important decision that rests on an interpretation of the GPL you're best advised to consult with a lawyer.

Herbert Sitz
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

If possible, please use IE or Opera which are excellent closed-source browsers.

Supporting open-source harms other programmers who want to earn a living by programming.

John K.
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

John K., perhaps sarcasm doesn't work well here. Are you kidding?

spam
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

>>Are you kidding?

From his prior posts, he doesn't seem to be...

He seems to be part of the crowd that sees all OSS programmers as doing it for free. They don't realize that a lot do it because it _is_ their job and their company pays them a salary to develop OSS. To this crowd, the world is black or white - no gray.

They also think that having an Open Sourced program will cause all of the closed source programs to go out of business, even though there isn't any example of that. Even the most popular Open Source programs co-exist with closed source competition (ie, Linus & Windows, Apache & IIS, Mozilla & IE, Samba & Windows Server, ...).

RocketJeff
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

> if your own code links against GPLed code, and you plan
> on distributing the code, then you must release it under
> a GPL-compatible license

Well, let say there are two parts of application. The first is a core that includes JavaScript engine. The second is a set of plug-ins that are dynamically loaded. The kind of relation between open source browser and Flash plug-in. It seems it should be legal to keep plug-ins closed.

Michael Popov
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

RocketJeff, are you claiming that most OSS programmers are being paid for their work? Undoubtably some are, but the vast majority, as I understand it (but I have no numbers to back it up), are working for free.

They spend their time and energy for no chance of compensation, while businessmen who have contributed nothing to OSS make millions off the value they produce. They are rob themselves of the compensation they deserve. I don't know if they are threatening the livelihoods of professional programmers, but they certainly aren't doing themselves any good.

Ken Dyck
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

>>but they certainly aren't doing themselves any good.

I don't know the percentage between people working on OSS for a living and those doing it for 'free', but it certainly isn't the 'all OSS programmers do it for free' that many of the people on the forum try to pawn off. Look at the Linux Kernal mailing list - most of the programmers posting to it are working on the kernal as their job.

OTOH, why isn't it doing the non-paid programmers any good? As the saying goes, they're scratching their itch. They helping to improve a program that they use - which is a direct benefit to themselves. A very tiny minority might decide to work on a program that they don't use, but most people work on programs that they also use - it's in their own interest to make it better.

RocketJeff
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

The OSS programmers who do the bulk of the work on many successful OSS projects are paid to work on them, as part of their job: Apache, Mozilla, Python, Zope, JBoss, Sendmail, PostgreSQL.  In some cases, it's because the company they work for uses the tool in some specialized fashion, in other cases it's because they are a services company built around the product (e.g. Zope, JBoss, PostgreSQL).

The GNU toolset is one of the few successful projects where this is somewhat less likely to be the case.  But a lot of the GNU tools had the advantage of being reimplementations or enhancements of already-spec'd tools.  Thus, they parallelize better for development.  Even so, the FSF still provided *funds* for some projects.  So, money is actually more universally involved in these things than you think.

Phillip J. Eby
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

(and you think I'd kearn to spell Kernel by now...)

RocketJeff
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

>>OTOH, why isn't it doing the non-paid programmers any >>good? As the saying goes, they're scratching their itch.

That's true. They are doing themselves some limited amount of good. If they would keep their work to themselves they'd be completely compensated for the limited value they produce, but then they release their work and its value increases with every person that downloads it. The GPL, and every other OSS license that I am aware of, all but guarantees that they will not be rewarded for that incremental value. So yes, they are doing themselves some good, but if they produce something of value to many people, what they receive is well short of what they are due. In my books, men deserve to be compensated in proportion to the value that they produce.

Ken Dyck
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

If the answer turns out to be no, you can contact the moz foundation and offer to pay for an exemption from the GPL.  They're strapped for cash and should be receptive.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Just because some OSS programmers are being paid to work on it doesn't mean it's in their or programming's long term interests.

They are mostly being paid by interests that benefit from effectively putting programmers out of work. commoditizing your complements, as Joel points out. (Thanks Joel.)

It's the difference between musicians earning income from audiences who like their music, and, in 3rd world countries, being paid by operators of tourist resorts to perform like seals. One scenario values the people doing the work; the other doesn't. One scenario gives the people long term prospects; one doesn't.

JM
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

>> So yes, they are doing themselves some good, but if they produce something of value to many people, what they receive is well short of what they are due. In my books, men deserve to be compensated in proportion to the value that they produce.

Since on a project of any magnitude there are multiple programmers involved, each programmer _is_ getting more back then what they put in.

Take the GIMP - one developer wouldn't be able to develop it by themselves in a realistic timeframe. Get many developers together, pooling their resources, and they can get a complex, but useful, program done is a realistic timeframe. Think of it like an old-time barn-rasing - would you be against neighbors helping each other out because they could have made a buck off of it?

RocketJeff
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

>>They are mostly being paid by interests that benefit from effectively putting programmers out of work.

Yes, thousands of companies are no longer writing their own operating systems, web servers, or even photo manipulation software because there is now Open Source software that does it for them... 

That's like saying that Microsoft is putting programmers out of work with Windows or IIS since their company can now buy it commercially rather then building it in house...  And, if you see a real difference between these, please let me know what it is.

Most programmers don't work on programs that can be replaced by open source - they work for companies writing internal applications specific to their business. Open Source works best (at this point, at least) with horizontal rather then vertical applications.

RocketJeff
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

>Think of it like an old-time barn-rasing - would you be
>against neighbors helping each other out because they
>could have made a buck off of it?

I certainly would not choose this method for myself. I would rather pay an experienced contractor once to build a barn for me than live my life in perpetual obligation to my neighbours. I would also advise anybody considering a barn-raising to reconsider for their own good. If that counts as being against it, then I guess I am.

Anyway, I'm not sure what pooling of resources has to do with this discussion. A for-pay software project can hire developers just as well as a for-free projects can recruit them.

Ken Dyck
Thursday, September 25, 2003

>Think of it like an old-time barn-raising - would you be
>against neighbors helping each other out because they
>could have made a buck off of it?

My neighbour asks me to build a barn on Fred's farm. This takes me two months during which time I earn no income. My neighbour charges Fred for project management and thus receives income from my work, without doing anything. Since Fred saved money by not having to pay for a builder, he buys a big new car. Meantime I have no money.

JM
Thursday, September 25, 2003

> That's like saying that Microsoft is putting programmers out of work with Windows or IIS ...

When we  talk about open source, we're talking about applications software. There are distinctions between platforms and applications.

> Take the GIMP - one developer wouldn't be able to develop it by themselves in a realistic timeframe. Get many developers together, pooling their resources, and they can get a complex, but useful, program done is a realistic timeframe.

Earth to RocketJeff, this is a benefit if you're an art company, but not a programmer. You don't see lawyers running around saying it's great that you can do law for free. In fact, they have laws to stop you doing that.

Second, a lot of the studios that use gimp charge a fortune for their own work. You don't see them saying: "let's do this work for free."

> Most programmers don't work on programs that can be replaced by open source - they work for companies writing internal applications specific to their business.

This is not entirely true. As open source gathers pace, there are places that want development to occur on top of oss packages. They've been brainwashed by the oss community. Such jobs are often very awkward, because it's not the best way to develop software.

Also, as John Carroll pointed out, this undermines their willingness to pay for software. They look at all the software they can get for free, and think any modifications should cost just a few hundred dollars, even if it takes you a week.

JM
Thursday, September 25, 2003

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