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Re: lynx-dev Re: Licensing Lynx (fwd)

From: Brett Glass
Subject: Re: lynx-dev Re: Licensing Lynx (fwd)
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 1999 12:27:20 -0600

At 08:26 PM 9/27/99 +0900, Henry Nelson wrote:

> > Anything distributed under the GPL cannot be commercial, because the
>This doesn't sound right. What is Redhat or Slackware to Linux? 

They sell disks, books, and support. But they don't sell or even
license Linux itself, because Linux is not their intellectual
property. The distinction is very important!

>been know to shell out hard cash for a book with a cdrom containing
>nothing but GPL code. Why did I buy it when I could download it from
>the Internet? Quite simply because the people who put it together did
>a superior job of *writing* a manual and/or *collecting* obscure ports
>of one kind or another. Just getting 200+ patches aligned so they go on
>smoothly, or making a set of configuration files so I can just press ^\
>and instantly be able to input multibyte characters is worth bucks.

True. And that's key to the whole thing. Linux itself is not, and cannot
be, commercial. The operation that produces books or disks can be.

> > We would hope that our code would be good enough that it would require
> > little or no support. As for relying on "customer loyalty;" a GPLed
> > product must be available at no charge, so most of the users (if not
>You most certainly could charge for your product. Of course ALL of the
>source code would have to be freely available, including anything you
>wrote for Lynx. 

Our product is software, not disks or manuals. The GPL would require
that we give away what we produce for free, instead of being compensated
for our efforts.

>GPL code is not for sale, quite true, 

Fortunately, code that is licensed under the GPL can also be licensed
simultaneously under different terms. So, the developer(s) can sell other
rights to it. 

>but that doesn't
>mean someone cannot make money off of it. If you can package it or
>in some way add on value or make it indispensable so that people are
>willing to pay for the _product_, you may have a marketable commodity.

The marketable commodity, in that case, is the packaging -- not
the code. Again, we're programmers; our product IS code! 

> > Again, we need to create commercial code, not GPLed code.
>                     ^^^^^^
>Well, if you must distribute a binary without revealing the source code,
>then you will have to write the whole thing from scratch by yourself, as
>you put it, "create it."

We will certainly create good code, but it pays to use existing libraries,
etc. as well. When one sets out to write a program, one doesn't rewrite
the compiler's runtime libraries every time! To do so would be to waste time
reinventing the wheel unnecessarily. 

Brian Reid once said that scientists stand on one another's shoulders, while 
programmers stand on each other's feet -- this would surely be true if we
couldn't use existing code in this case. That's why we want to license Lynx 
from the developers for everyone's mutual benefit.

>What do you think makes Lynx such a powerful application? It is the
>contributions of literally hundreds of people since Lynx's conception.
>That's not even taking into account the thousands of dedicated users
>who have mailed in bug reports over the years. I have no intention of
>selling you or anyone else my 2 or 3 lines of code in Lynx for any
>amount of money. That isn't why I wrote it. If someone could buy Lynx we
>really would end up with an MSIE clone.

We would hang our heads in shame if we produced anything even remotely as badly
written as MSIE.

However, if people are unwilling to license their code, then they are supporting
the GPL's "poisoning the well" effect -- literally preventing small groups of
programmers from being compensated for their work. Large companies, such
as Microsoft, can afford to rewrite ANYTHING from scratch; it's the little guys,
who would otherwise be able to compete with Microsoft, who will suffer due to
the "keep-away" aspect of the GPL.

Programmers such as we are your colleagues, and deserve your support. If you
deny us the opportunity to license your code, you sabotage our attempts to 
good work and make an honest living by doing so.

In the meantime, Microsoft is laughing all the way to the bank, because it knows
very well that its potential competition is being thwarted by the inability to 
license publicly available code.


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