Posted by: 2stepsback | October 11, 2007

Dual license precautions

If you write open source code, the license that creates least problems for both you, and the ecosystem that grows around your product, is the GPL.

But to make money, you might want to dual-license your product –
1. free-FREE for GPLed use and,
2. commercially licensed for commercial redistribution or redistribution with closed modifications.

In this case, there is one lesson to learn from a history – specifically, the Mambo CMS. It is now forked and renamed “Joomla! CMS”
It shows how powerful the user community is before the commercial entity that tries to hoodwink the entire community into parting with the code after all the good work has been done by the community.

Companies with such long-term plans are destined to get a lasting bad name in the history of the industry. The mistake is small if it was temporary greed, but if it was planned all along, the result is painful, but fitting.

Another similar trap exists for dual-licensing projects or companies:
Using special legal theories to rollback the effects of any specific GPL version.
Some people may wonder why I am giving ideas like this for people to use. To that I would say – I am much less intelligent than thousands of legal eagles across the globe. If some of them have unethical intentions, construction of convenient legal theories is a piece of cake for them.

Therefore it is important to warn open source programmers not to be carried away by the fame and money they are getting from their work. Work will always be there. Innovation is a part of routine life much like entertainment, family, business, social status, etc.
“I’ve made my money, I am going to live happily ever after” is not good for industrious people. That is probably best for renunciants. In fact, they too do a tremendous amount of physical and mental work, for either their own good or for the good of others.

So, what is the specific problem?
(a) “Reform” of software patents.
(b) Dual-licensing + multiple GPL versions + vague mentions of “IPR” = biiiiiig trouble

Prevention is better than cure, goes the saying. Maybe cure is more profitable. But who makes the profit is the crucial thing. Do you want a simple single-battle war or a long-drawn street-by-street, floor-by-floor painfully slow death to either this side or that?

It is far better to drop software patents totally than “reform” them.
People might say – what right have you to say all this as if you were a big father figure? What is your claim to fame? And what is your authority?
Nothing much else than this set of posts. Go back to the first, have a look at it. Read all the previous posts.
All those ideas are there for you to take for free, make software out of them and sell.
And I will not complain or ask you to thank me even.
Why? Simply because it is very easy to think them up yourself. That is the whole point.
Update: Check out Oracle’s stand on Patents in software and on IP. They use patents exclusively for defense against spurious claims by IP-only companies. And the reason they give is the same – everyone can think up the same solutions to the same problems because we all know the same theories and we all think in the same way.

Software, especially a complex program, seldom includes substantial leaps in technology, but rather consists of adept combinations of many ideas. Whether a software program is a good one does not generally depend as much on the newness of a specific technique, but instead depends on the unique combination of known algorithms and methods. Patents should not protect such methods of innovation.

Oracle’s success comes from the quality of the code and support not extortion and legal loopholes.
Software Patents and Intellectual Property are a bunch of vague terms, created vaguely, used vaguely, interpreted vaguely and implemented variedly.
Everything ends up becoming a lawsuit in courts.

  • What will happen to society if more than half the lawsuits in courts are about IP violations which are essentially dubious, vague claims most of the time?
  • Who has the time left to try real criminals for physical offences?
  • What happens when physical offences go unpunished and intellectual property “trespasses” become more important to the law?
  • Is there a better way to destroy a civilized society, short of social unrest?
  • Am I spinning too long a yarn?
    What has happened to people in developing countries all over the world due to tolerated piracy?
  • What has happened to numerous shareware authors? Have they not faced the cracking problem?
  • Would it have even existed had piracy been outlawed years ago?
  • Do you not think that the art of cracking an OS trains a person extremely well in cracking other programs as well?
  • Is not cracking the biggest problem of shareware authors?
    I have myself faced enough of it.
    Painful, expensive waste of time and energy.

Instead, all you have to do is dual license your source code with GPLv3 or later and commercial, and report violations to the FSF/SFLC – they go to court for you, they fight for you and the fees for lawyers, the lawsuit and damages are recovered from the offender.

How much publicity does that give your product? As much as the crack gave?
How much revenue does the publicity give? As much as the crack gave?
Think a bit. Or think much. But do think on this.
Take time out, ask your family, ask your friends, think about it.
Which is better?

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