Summary: Copyleft licences such as the *GPL family are under attack and perpetrators against copyleft often have strong links to Microsoft
THERE are some companies out there whose main output is articles about how “expensive” it is to comply with copyleft licences. One such company, Protecode (see this latest press release), does not seem like it’s connected to Microsoft, unlike other such firms (headed by or founded by Microsoft veterans). It’s quite a new wave of FUD and it seems to be well coordinated. Bruce Perens calls the FUD "BS" although he appears not to even know about the Microsoft connections (he pointed this out in relation to OpenLogic, but not Black Duck, both of which have very strong Microsoft connections).
Recently, a member of the Asay family disseminated some copyleft FUD, receiving some resultant coverage (i.e. seeding the ideas) from unexpected people, including Glyn Moody. Here are some articles that I humbly do not recommend because they are hinged on the idea that copyleft FUD is in fact true:
FLOSS is about Freedom, allowing the recipient of the software to examine the code, run it, modify it and to distribute it under the same terms. A move to put Free Software in the public domain undermines that. A monopolist can take public domain software, tweak it to be incompatible with Free Software that is in the public domain and use leverage to enslave users. Free Software needs copyright as a lingua franca for licensing so that no monopolist can hide the code and force millions into slavery. Public domain would be great if there were no evil people in the world trying to take advantage of people to complete their power-trip.
Of course, moving to PD wouldn’t mean that today’s free software licences disappear – they will still be there for those who wish to use them. As ever, choice and personal freedom are crucial. But I hope that people will think twice about introducing new licences, or even updating old ones. In particular, I hope that there will never be a GNU GPL version 4. Instead, we need to complete the revolution that Richard Stallman began nearly three decades ago by making free software truly free, placing it in the public domain, and severing the chains that still bind it to that three-hundred-year-old monopoly called copyright.
Black Duck, unlike Protecode, is connected to Microsoft, but that is not the main point. The main point is that selection bias in reporting and also in data gathering has helped manufacture that FUD which Microsoft so badly craved. We showed this about 4 years ago when Microsoft signed some deals that feed data bias. Moreover, it has served as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy since 2009, deterring developers from picking copyleft licences. The FSFE’s founder has already responded to Glyn Moody, saying to him the following things:
“Since all the “evidence” for that comes from neo-proprietary proponents, I remain sceptical. My experience tells me the opposite.” [Source]
“..the are the main beneficiaries of the “let’s not use Copyleft anymore” approach. No more CAs required.” [Source]
“but then: Apple also did not fare so badly with its “only take what’s not Copyleft” approach. And Google also is not a fan.” [Source]
“So I see a pattern here, and a marketing/image campaign by the primary beneficiaries of a move away from Copyleft.” [Source]
“”oddly”, I would say. I think I saw this particular wave of spindoctoring peak after GPLv3 came out. What a coincidence.” [Source]
Some former Microsoft staff trying to exaggerate costs of “compliance” is not news. We wrote about OpenLogic almost half a decade ago. There is an agenda there. We need to expose those who are serving this agenda. More importantly, we need to spread awareness that this is happening. In some cases we see Microsoft funding academic staff to manufacture copyleft FUD, corrupting public trust in government-run institutions (Microsoft was also Obama’s #2 funder in the 2012 elections). █