Imperial Public License

This is too stupid to blog, but I’m going to go ahead and expose my inability to exercise self restraint on my moron level intelligence.

CNET reports on Sun executive Jonathan Schwartz critisizing the GPL as a tool of U.S. imperialism:

The GPL purports to have freedom at its core, but it imposes on its users “a rather predatory obligation to disgorge all their IP back to the wealthiest nation in the world,” the United States, where the GPL originated, Schwartz said. “If you look at the difference between the license we elected to use and GPL, there are no obligations to economies or universities or manufacturers that take the source code and embed it in (their own) code.”

This has got to be one of the more wrongheaded statements by software executives about free software (though I haven’t followed SCO in a long time).

Should one choose to incorporate GPL’d code in their software, there is an obligation to release the derived software’s code under the GPL. Anyone in the world may use the code under the GPL’s terms. Only in the sense that the U.S. is part of the world is there a requirement to “disgorge” relevant IP (the derived software’s code) to the U.S.

This is predatory and imperialistic in approximately the same manner that trade between people in different nations is considered by some to be predatory and imperialistic — it isn’t, except in the clouded heads of Schwartz and economic neanderthals.

Oh, and the geographic origin of the GPL is completely irrelevant.

Reported in the same story, Schwartz makes another wrongheaded argument. At least this one isn’t a complete non sequitur:

“Economies and nations need intellectual property (IP) to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. I’ve talked to developing nations, representatives from academia and manufacturing companies that had begun to incorporate GPL software into their products, then…found they had an obligation to deliver their IP back into the world,” Schwartz said.

To the contrary, ignoring IP has proven a great way to develop quickly. The U.S. did not enforce European claims until the 1890s. More recently all of the Asian tigers have engaged in copycat development. Imitation is simply a great way to quickly close the technology gap with the most advanced economies. IP owners in the U.S. and other advanced economies want governments of developing economies to enforce strong IP — becuase that is in the IP owners’ interest, not because it is a reasonable development strategy.

By the way, ignoring IP can mean ignoring the requirements of the (copyright dependent) GPL as well.

Via Dana Blankenhorn.

Also today, read about Jonathan Schwartz, visionary.

6 Responses

  1. Dun Naif says:

    His point is Red Hat is the near exclusive beneficiary of GPL code in the software industry. And they, along with IBM, are the primary companies benefiting from people running the GPL licensed products. Both are US based companies. Both are complete hypocrites.

  2. His point is then completely wrong. What evidence is there that RHAT is the “near exclusive beneficiary of GPL code in the software industry”? RH is not the Microsoft of the free software world. It has many direct competitors, including Novell/Suse (US & Germany), Mandrake/Conectiva/Mandriva (France and Brazil) and Canonical (South Africa & EU) and may indirect competitors who build on Linux and other GPL software, including Sun and most other large systems companies. There are also countless software companies that do not compete with Red Hat at all that benefit from GPL code. Nearly every software company in existence I’d bet uses some GPL’d tools.

  3. Dun Naif says:

    Those competitors are nearly irrelevant in Sun’s big-box world. His point is the biggest competitors are based in America, and developing nations should pay attention to supposedly charitable US-based companys coming to tell them how wonderful GPL is. And while we have morons like this running around, I have a hard time disagreeing.

  4. Code Guru says:

    It’s quite obvious that Sun would like nothing more than open source to disappear. This comes up every time there is an attempt on their castle hoarding Java from the barbarians at the gate!

  5. Dun Naif says:

    That is such crap. Sun’s contributed OpenOffice, Gnome, NetBeans, LookingGlass, done major work on Mozilla. And the code is available for Java. What’s not is Microsoft’s ability to fork it – or IBM’s, your big buddy. You’ve become a tool for IBM (who last I checked has given NOTHING OF VALUE to the GPL world).

  6. […] Imperial Public License. Protection of growing industries within a jurisdiction is how that jurisdiction’s economy moves up the food chain, gains competitive advantage, develops. The GPL limits one means of protecting a budding software industry within a jurisdiction, and the beneficiaries are jurisdictions with dominant software industries. Jonathan Schwartz was right: the GPL is, perhaps inadvertently, a tool of U.S. economic imperialism. […]

Leave a Reply