Colin Devroe on a kayak

Everything Colin

A collection of the things that I write, share, make and dream.

The GPL is a speed limit sign

For those that haven't already heard or read the transcript of Chris Pearson's arguments against using the GPL I'll sum it up for you. Chris has three main problems with the GPL. He didn't itemize them very well on the podcast but this is what I was able to extract myself.

Chris feels...

  • as though the GPL is not conducive to good business practice,
  • that it is not an enforceable license,
  • and that Thesis, a Wordpress theme and the main product of Chris' company, somehow steps outside of the bounds of the GPL and so it shouldn't apply.

Those three main arguments would be great to debate, to discuss and to figure out definitive answers to. However, the way Chris went about it - by simply not distributing his theme under the GPL - is definitely breaking the law.

It is sort of like speeding down a highway because you don't agree with the speed limit in that area and your arguments are that speed limits aren't good for highway safety, that there are no cops around to write out tickets and that you are somehow exempt from the speed limit laws because you're a remarkable driver.

Bringing up problems with a license or even saying that a license doesn't feel right and you'd like to discuss it at large is always a valuable thing to do. Deliberately distributing software without the GPL on top of software that is protected by it is not a valuable thing to do.

Is the GPL good for business? Is it enforceable? Is Thesis somehow exempt from the terms inside of the GPL due to its complexity? I don't know the answers to those questions but it'd be fascinating to find out.

If this goes to court it would set a precedent but I hope it doesn't for everyone involved.

  • 16 July 2010

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