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The GPL software licence has been described as,

  • “a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches”

The GPL is deeply antithetical to idea the of software as private property (it is called a FREE Software Licence) and denies the opportunity for developers to create capital by requiring them to release the source code they create and allowing onward distribution without charge. Therefore you might only ever sell one copy of your work because after that anyone can legally use it for nothing. The problem is that if you use any GPL code in your work then your code must be distributed under the GPL. This is why it is called cancerous because it infects healthy code.

Software freetards, who typically have a monthly paycheck from a big company or institution (Richard Stallman), have a mindset similar to those who have destroyed the music business for ordinary musicians

“it is OK that music is free now because musicians can make money from gigs”

This is an specious argument that ignores the fact that most musicians do not want to spend their whole life on the road and could not fill an auditorium anyway. Only the biggest musicians can survive now. In a similar way, if developers have to release their work under GPL they have to make their living from “support” fees rather than a sales cheque.

A big problem is that free software creates monopolies, and these are controlled by a few people. I suspect that many open source developers would criticise Google domination of the advertising market by making search “free”  while being blind to the way that core developers on open source projects are best placed to hoover up the support dollars.

So why am I ranting about the GPL?

Well, I want to create an application built on a CMS application. The natural choices are WordPress and Drupal because these are “free”. I could not choose a commercial platform because then any product I created would be uncompetitive.

The problem is that that these are GPL licensed – so how can I live with cancer?

I have investigated WordPress in detail,

  • In practise it does not matter. Lots of developers release their work under the GPL and people pay them for it. As with all trade, the people who steal your stuff usually would not pay you anyway and as a little guy you can’t enforce copyright anyway so why bother. In fact WordPress actively support the commercial distribution of plug-ins and themes providing that they have a GPL licence.
  • GPL places restrictions of distribution, if you don’t redistribute the code you don’t have to give away your source. For example, if you offer an SaaS service like SalesForce you don’t have to give away your source code
  • GPL restrictions do not apply to elements such as graphics, JavaScript and supporting services provided by other servers. Thus you can distribute the GPL source but others will not be able to derive commercial advantage because they could not easily rebuild your system.
  • Extensions to the core application such as Plug-ins and Themes are probably not subject to GPL.
    • The WordPress authors would like you to think that they are but this has not been tested in court. I, like most people, think that common sense tells you that they are not derivative works. The fact that no GPL copyright holder has ever taken a plug-in developer to court indicates that they think a judge would have the same opinion.

In summary, many people can live happy and fulfilling lives while having cancer and I will continue to work with WordPress.