Path: gmd.de!Germany.EU.net!mcsun!uunet!noc.near.net! howland.reston.ans.net!usenet.ins.cwru.edu!magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu! cis.ohio-state.edu!gnu.ai.mit.edu!rms From: r...@gnu.ai.mit.edu (Richard Stallman) Newsgroups: gnu.misc.discuss Subject: Effects of the GPL Date: 5 Jul 1993 01:33:42 -0400 Organization: GNUs Not Usenet Lines: 36 Sender: dae...@cis.ohio-state.edu Distribution: gnu Message-ID: <9307050533.AA20948@mole.gnu.ai.mit.edu> The Objective C part of GCC was written by NeXT and donated to the FSF. Based on discussions at an earlier date, I believe that NeXT donated this code because of the fact that the GPL did not permit making it proprietary. There's no way to be certain what NeXT would have done in another world. But I have seen numerous occasions where other companies have donated improvements to GNU software, and only one occasion where a company refused when asked. By contrast, there are many proprietary versions of X windows, BSD, and other non-copylefted free programs. It is quite common for companies to make improvements that never become available to the free software world. I am therefore convinced by my experience that the GPL is one of the crucial factors that made GNU software as good as it is. Using the GPL also helps remind people of the ethical issues about sharing and changing software, and about the practice of trying to stop other people from sharing and changing software. Making people think about cooperation, and about right and wrong, is important in its own right. Every society functions only to the extent its members are willing to cooperate voluntarily much of the time. We have seen that forced, planned cooperation is a failure (look at Russia). We have seen that selfishness and the "invisible hand" are a failure (the US is full of examples, ranging from RSA Inc. to the homeless people on the streets). To have a happy, prosperous society, we need to encourage the will to cooperate. The GPL is my way of doing this. Making software public domain does not address the problem, because it lets selfish people do their selfish thing without ever a moment when they have to think about right and wrong. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Path: gmd.de!xlink.net!sol.ctr.columbia.edu!howland.reston.ans.net! darwin.sura.net!haven.umd.edu!uunet!cis.ohio-state.edu!gnu.ai.mit.edu!rms From: r...@gnu.ai.mit.edu (Richard Stallman) Newsgroups: gnu.misc.discuss Subject: GPL ramifications and purpose Date: 6 Jul 1993 02:12:29 -0400 Organization: GNUs Not Usenet Lines: 54 Sender: dae...@cis.ohio-state.edu Distribution: gnu Message-ID: <9307060611.AA24791@mole.gnu.ai.mit.edu> Several years ago, I met with Steve Jobs, who was looking for some alternative to making the Objective C front end free software. (This may have been due to worries about being hassled by Stepstone, rather than a desire to be uncooperative.) He asked me if it it would be legal to ship proprietary .o files to the user and have the user link them with the GNU compiler. At that time, I envisaged the legal ramifications like some others who have recently posted on this list, so I did not see a basis for saying they could not do this. But at the same time, I realized that it would not bode well for the GNU project if such a thing were permitted. So I responded, "I will have to check with our lawyer." It's a good thing I did, because when I checked, I found that there was a basis for objecting to this plan. Such .o files would have implied the presence of the GNU compiler, linked with them. They would be, in effect, a way of distributing a larger program which implicitly includes the GNU compiler; as such, it must follow the terms on the GNU compiler. I told NeXT this, and NeXT decided there was no alternative to making the Objective C front end free software. So now it is available to all of us as a part of GCC. Note that this is not a matter of copyrighting an interface. The .o files that NeXT planned to release would have used one of the (internal) interfaces of the GNU compiler, but that was *not* what the FSF objected to. Our objection was because the use of these .o files implied linking them with the GNU compiler--the program, not just an interface. If it were possible for a company to get around the GPL simply by dressing up changes or extensions as "separate programs that the user might link in", then the GPL would be a paper tiger. (True, we often print it on paper, but...) So it is vital for the FSF to object. If we made this a request rather than a legal demand, some people would comply as a matter of conscience. But many others who would not. If I had told Jobs, "It is legal, but please don't," I doubt he would have heeded the request. Many improvements to GNU software are contributed by, or funded by, companies. If they could make these improvements proprietary, many of them would. I consider these companies unethical (because making proprietary software is unethical in general), but they don't share my ethical views, and they don't feel they should forego profit for a mere request from the FSF. The only way to make sure these improvements are free software is to make it hard to make them proprietary. That's what the GPL is for, and to make it work right, we must not permit getting around it by "having the user do the link."