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When your code and my code becomes "our code".

Posted by jbob on April 27, 2005 at 10:41 AM PDT

All licenses need to be obeyed and there should be consequences for those that violate any license.

Security specialist, Fortinet, just found themselves in the cross hairs of the GPL Police (aka gpl-violations.org). A C|Net News.com article is reporting that the founder of gpl-violations.org has filed for a court injunction against Fortinet for violating the GNU General Public License.

Now, if the allegations are true, I am completely in support of what is happening here. However, this action, or the article itself, is not the topic of this weblog entry. It's the thoughts and images that are invoked by this that I wish to discuss.

I guess the real question is: What happens when my code and your code becomes our code? If Open Source is the enabler of this, shouldn't open source licenses handle this openly (and fairly)?

There has been a lot of discussion and debate over the merits of GPL as "the open source license", or more correctly, the lack of merit of non-GPL licenses. There are people that will go so far as say that "Open Source == GPL". I've heard opinions that GPL is the only real open source license because it provides the most freedom.

But, what about freedom of choice?

Phrases like "court injunction" and the mere existence of a gpl-violations.org watchdog seem to contradict the nirvana of freedom and openness that has been made synonymous with GPL.

It's one thing to try and propagate a philosophy through a license but is all of this a sign that a philosophy is becoming fundamentally extreme? Nobody is debating the right to enforce a license and I hope the first sentence of this piece made that clear, but I find the whole situation ironic and humorous.

All this tells me is that GPL does not provide more freedom than other licenses. It merely provides different freedoms while removing others - just like every other license out there. I personally don't like people telling me what license to use for code that I have written on my own. I have just as much of a right to pick my own license for my code as other do for their code. You can dictate to me when, where, and how to use your code, just don't dictate what license I have to use for my code. If your code and my code becomes our code, don't I have a say about what license to use for our code? GPL doesn't seem to think so.

Sidebar: Greg Papadopoulos has a blog entry titled "My Views on Open Source" that I think it is a good read and makes some thought provoking points about GPL.

I'm also aware that I have the right and freedom to not incorporate GPL code in my code if I disagree with the license. After all, we have to obey licenses whether we agree with them or not.

Thanks for reading.