Monday, May 04, 2009

A week or so ago, ESR had a blog entry about 'The economic case against the GPL', it spawned a hefty discussion on slashdot, as you can imagine. However the case he tries to make is correct. Companies are scared of the GPL.
As a user or independent developer the GPL is probably the most attractive license for software/open source development currently available. I know i would release all my work using this license. But companies don't see it that way, and they try hard to avoid the GPL. Linux applies to the GPL as well and it's about the only exception they are willing to make (mostly thanks to the idemnification efforts from several distro poviders).
At my current employer they are scared of the GPL as well. The general rule is to avoid anything GPL. This would make sense for our development team and they want to assure themself never to have to release code to the public. But this rule is enforced for end-user use too (as a unix admin, i would be an end-user), because there is this fear it could still end up with a customer somehow. I almost had to pick up myself after hearing that explenation.
It's even worse if you know that software is not even our core business, we have software ofcourse, as any company will these days. But we are not a software company. Software is not our product, although it enriches the products for our customers. In such case i believe that when you are completly open it will benefit your main product more then with closed software. They could enjoy the benefits of faster development of software by leveraging available GPL code instead of inventing everything all over again (which costs you money on something that isn't your core business, don't you want to avoid that?).

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