GPL Vs. Free Software Foundation - InformationWeek

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9/25/2009
10:28 AM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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GPL Vs. Free Software Foundation

After my post about the GPL's day in court in France, a programmer friend noted he no longer used the GPL for anything, now that its instigator, the Free Software Foundation, has (in his view) gone off a cliff. Do other people see the GPL as tainted because of the FSF's rather stentorian views?

After my post about the GPL's day in court in France, a programmer friend noted he no longer used the GPL for anything, now that its instigator, the Free Software Foundation, has (in his view) gone off a cliff. Do other people see the GPL as tainted because of the FSF's rather stentorian views?

A lot of my friend's unease with the GPL and the FSF has been building on and off for a while. A recent spate of events -- including the FSF's branding of GNOME/Mono developer Miguel de Icaza as a "traitor" for his involvement with Microsoft's CodePlex -- sealed the decision for him. He didn't want to publish any more software under the GPL as part of his way of distancing himself from the FSF generally.

That led to a question I asked myself later on: If people are repelled by the FSF's more outré opinions, do they see the GPL as being part of that?

Me, I don't think so. I've grown dismayed with the way the FSF has become the nagging aunt of the software world, more interested in rhetoric and denunciation than accomplishments. I'm not against criticism being levied where it's due, and I haven't exactly been fair in that department either (hey, I'm the one who called CloneZilla "ugly", remember?). But their criticism has devolved severely, and become partisanship by any other name.

That doesn't mean the GPL or the software created under it is without merit, though. The amount of terrific software out there released as GPL products speaks for itself. The GPL -- and the programs developed with it -- have a life of their own entirely outside of the FSF.

I hope it remains that way, too. All signs point to that being the case. Most people that I have seen adopt the GPL do so because of other software / projects / programmers that have also adopted it. They have the examples of others to draw on. The FSF and its rhetoric don't even come into the picture.

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