Austin, if it makes you feel better to call anyone who disagrees with
you a zealot, enjoy. But from where I sit, it’s a little more
complicated than that.
– You, and the people supporting licenses like MIT, use a definition of
‘freedom’ that maximizes choice for the largest number of people,
optimizing across the first round of choices after you release the
license. That trades-off more choices for more people about what to do
with the licensed code today for a risk that subsequent changes may
permit fewer choices for some people in future. Nothing wrong with that,
and there are plenty of people out there who use a similar definition.
– Stallman and the people advocating GPL use a definition of ‘freedom’
that maximizes choice for the largest number of people, optimizing
across all future rounds. That trades-off a reduced immediate
‘freedom’ for some (the GPL restrictions you mention) for a guarantee of
the same amount of ‘freedom’ for all people in all future rounds.
Despite your personal FUD, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that,
either. And clearly, there are a lot of people who use a similar
Despite what you may think, this doesn’t mean that MIT is better than
GPL – or that GPL is better than MIT – or that BSD is better than
Linux – or even that Betamax is better than VHS ;-). It is literally
impossible to predict which strategy will result in greater total
‘freedom’ without making some pretty strong assumptions about (a) the
relative size of the first v. subsequent-round audiences, (b) the
proportion of each audience that would actually want to do something
contrary to the license in question if given the opportunity, and ©
the current context and future direction of the particular OS
application and its community.
In other words, both options maximize choice for an arbitrarily large
group of people: they just each define the group differently. And as
both economists and psychologists can tell you, when used in a
predictive capacity, those two strategies are more a matter of
individual taste than right v. wrong. Some people ride motorcycles
off-road without helmets; others won’t get out of bed unless the
insurance policy is paid-up. Taste for risk varies, as does
So feel free to “go with your gut” in your own decision process – but
why not cut a little more slack for those whose guts tell them
Austin Z. wrote:
Instead, imagine the alternative history if BSD hadn’t been in the
middle of a legal fight.