The GPL in practise

Posted on Tue 31 October 2006 in geek

Harald Welte has an interesting post in his blog today about the effects of GPL enforcement actions.

The GPL can mean different things to different people. To some it is an engine of social change, freeing software of the corporate manacles. To others it is a pragmatic license that engenders co-operation between disparate engineers in producing well engineered software. Whatever your take as to the purpose of the GPL if you use/adapt/write GPL software you should be sure you understand the responsibilities that come with the rights it assigns.

Welte's blog points out that the code dumps generally don't have much to the "community" as they are often either specific to the one niche or contain such hacked up non-portable code too much pain would be involved in getting the code into the mainline. In my experience some code submission makes sense submitting. Typically this is common code (in my case CPU specific code) that will benefit multiple platforms. However there was little point submitting the BSP parts of the Vivid DVR as only one product would have used it. Without having an active external community building and testing with the mainline source it would have just withered on the vine. Besides it's not exactly in the hobbyists league, well not until they start turning up on Ebay. Regardless of that the point still remains the source has to be available to anyone you distribute the binary to. Anyone who distributes GPL software must be able to satisfy their responsibilities to the license regardless of if the source code will be of any interest to anyone.