Sean’s Obsessions

Sean Walberg’s blog

Random Thoughts on GPL and BSD

I was reading an announcement about PostgreSQL releasing replication under the BSD licence. Someone commented ”Maybe GPL will be a better choice for a licencing :-)”, to which someone else replied, and it got me thinking.

(Posted Aug 27, 2003 16:37 UTC (Wed) by AnswerGuy) (Post reply)

Why would GPL be better for PostgreSQL Inc. than BSD?

More importantly why would you nitpick on *their* choice?

What factors to you suppose the considered in making their decision?

Perhaps they want to feel free to create proprietary secondary derivatives
from this work (that is to say to create temporarily proprietary derivatives
from the first order derivatives that you or I might develop from these
sources). They are, after all, creating (temporarily) proprietary products.
Perhaps they use the BSD License because that’s what the core PostgreSQL
code is released under; perhaps this is part of a tradition that dates back
to Postgres and Ingres, to Stonebreaker at the University of California at

Perhaps people should think about the issues before posting knee-jerk
nit-picking drivel.

I’ve always found the rationale behind choosing a licence interesting. To my understanding, the GPL and BSD licences can be boiled down as follows:

GPL: Use this code as you like, but everything it touches becomes GPLed. This is to keep everything in the open and free
BSD: Use this code as you like, but give me credit. This allows for commercial, closed use, but requires that credit be given where credit is due

Theo De Raadt, the leader of the OpenBSD project puts it more clearly:

But software which OpenBSD uses and redistributes must be free to all (be they people or companies), for any purpose they wish to use it, including modification, use, peeing on, or even integration into baby mulching
machines or atomic bombs to be dropped on Australia.

Personally, as someone who writes code as a hobby, or out of necessity, I prefer a BSD style licence. I’m not worried about people competing against me, and trying to run me out of business. My goal is to allow as many people as possible to use the code, even if it means they’re going to drop it on Australia.

“Free” to me means no restrictions on use, not restrictions in the name of freedom. I believe in Open Source. There’s nothing wrong with GPL (though, given the choice, I prefer LGPL) However, the choice of a licence should be made carefully, after due consideration, and certainly not as a result of being pushed into it.



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