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GPL: The Best Business Licence for Corporate Code

James Bottomley

About Me


Container evangelist

Open Source Advocate

  • Converting Business to Open Source
  • Lead effort to create LF TAB

Kernel Developer

  • SCSI Subsystem Maintainer
  • PA-RISC architecture Maintainer

Disclaimer: Talk based on Personal Opinion and Observation
May attribute (to me not to IBM) anything I say in this talk (no Chatham house requirement)
What Is Community?
Community essentially mean built by engineers for engineers (self organising)
Best community and code is built by engineers with ένθεος
Caring for the code drives caring for the community
The ένθεος Based Community Health Check
How many contributors would still contribute to the project if they weren't paid to do it?
You're unhealthy if < 50% of core contributors would not
And also drives caring for the choice of code licence.
Users don't tend to figure strongly in this community.
A primary value of Corporations in a community can be representing users
However, communities are also very wary of corporations
With good reason: Almost every corporation acts for market advantage
market advantage is measured in dollars not community
So how can communities trust corporations?
And how then do corporations influence communities on behalf of their users?
The solution to the trust problem can be licensing and goal alignment
Worries of Corporations about Open Source
Investing hugely in code that a competitor uses against you
Loss of Intellectual Property
Classic problem is permissive licence with patent grants cause massive IP leakage
With Reciprocal licences the IP leakage is bounded
Loss of Control Generally; particularly to other Corporations
Business goal is dominance, but will settle for equity
Open Source vs Free Software
Free Software requires you to support a set of philosophical axioms
Open Source only requires some commonality in goals
A corporation whose goal is to dominate the market can march a long way with a community before the goals diverge
Free Software Philosophies are often an anathema to a Corporation
GPL as the Perfect Licence
Reciprocity is the key
Use my code but give back modifications is fair to communities
Reciprocity contains intellectual property leakage
Inbound = Outbound + DCO ensures perfect fairness in contribution
Fairness restores trust and thus makes Corporations useful to Communities
Fairness also levels the playing field with other Corporations
The Great Lies in Open Source
The Licence emodies the philosophy of the Community
Often used to tar the GPL with the FSF Philosophy
Rubbish: Licence is consonant with the philosophy but doesn't "embody" it
GPLv2 merely embodies reciprocity; GPLv3 only shifts this slightly
Compliance is Hard
Enforcement is Bad
Compliance is Governanace
Without compliance there is no reciprocity and thus no fairness
Enforcement ensures compliance
We need a Foundation
Foundations atrophy communities
Reason: foundations often try to assert control and once a corporation joins, it's achieved its goal
Foundations dilute ένθεος by introducing bureacracy and confusing governance
Result is often paralysis
We're doing this for the community
reciprocal licences embody fairness
If a corporation can't have dominance it will settle for fairness
Compliance and Enforcement are necessary expression of Governance
Don't be afraid of self interest: with a reciprocal licence it's why we trust you
Beware of Foundations
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