Good ol' BSD vs. GPL

Zenaan Harkness zen at
Mon Jan 5 16:57:04 PST 2015

On 1/5/15, grarpamp <grarpamp at> wrote:
> On Mon, Jan 5, 2015 at 12:35 AM, Rob Myers <rob at> wrote:
>> Both restore rights that copyright otherwise restricts.
> No. Copyright exists automatically in default state of "all rights
> reserved".

But that shifts the ground on what Rob was speaking to.

Sure you can say 'in the default state of "all rights reserved"', that
'copyright exists automatically', and we can even go so far as to say
the --current legal regime-- grants 'copyright protection by default',
which in jurisdictions I am aware of, is the case.

BUT, copyright itself, is a legal fiction. THIS (as I read it) is the
foundation on which Rob makes his point. So, we most of us do in fact
live in an artificial statutory regime of various legal fictions, one
of which is called copyright, the right to make copies, and the right
to grant (or restrict, by default or otherwise) others the right to
make "copies".
In THIS regime (default statutory fiction rights, re copying), the BSD
and GPL licenses "restore rights that copyright otherwise restricts" -
Rob's words are precise, correct, and clear.

> Any "restoration" you may wish or take for yourself
> within that is an abuse of the author's rights as you have none.

This is a non-argument, and I'm not sure you're making a point, or
making your point in a way I can understand.
The "restoration" that Rob speaks to is **the author's** choice of
license, the *author*, who by "statutory legal fiction right by
default" is granted exclusive right to make copies of --author's own
work--, chooses, of --his own free will-- to "restore" to recipients
of author's said works, certain rights otherwise restricted by said
statute fiction rights.

Rob's words are clear and simple. Mine are verbose. Grarpamp, am I
understanding your position correctly, or am I missing something (as
in, from my viewpoint, you were missing Rob's point)?

> Any
> rights to the author's work you may have are granted to you as the
> author chooses.

In the regime of legal fiction rights, yes...

> Subject to various limited notions...
>> The GPL ensures that you are free to use the software even if you
>> receive it from a third party.
>> BSD doesn't do that.
> Yes it does.

No it does not. GPL ensures that recipients may not -further restrict-
the freedoms 'granted' by the GPL (which is presumably the author's
desire and reason for choosing to license under GPL); BSD only ensures
-first recipient- has "GPL like" freedoms, in addition to the "freedom
to futher distribute under proprietary license", which some of us
consider to be a freedom that ought not be granted, and for those who
consider this way, the GPL is therefore a much better choice - the
point being, if the -first recipient- of BSD licensed software
thereafter distributes under freedom-removing license (proprietary),
said recipients are no longer using free/libre software, but
proprietary software - this is what GPL attempts to handle/ improve
upon, and yes, some people prefer to distribute their software with
the right for recipients to distribute as proprietary ("the freedom to
take away freedom").

> The author can slap BSD or GPL on it, give it to Alice
> who gives it to Bob who gives it Carl who gives it to you which you
> then "use". There's no difference between the two there.

:)  Your liberal viewpoint is technically correct, -for the example
you give-; but as you must well know, Alice or Bob may "remove the BSD
license when they distribute" (or to use your term, "slap on a
proprietary license") to Bob and Carl respectively. Ignoring this
alternative pathway in your argument, does not make that pathway

>> Therefore BSD "grants" less freedom than the GPL.
> No it doesn't. This has already been explained. GPL people often
> confuse freedom vs force(d open source redistribution), and permissive
> vs restrictive. Don't get confused.

On this point I agree with you. BSD grants all the freedoms that GPL
does, -as well as- the freedom for the recipient to add restrictions
of any sort when he further distributes. So in that technical sense,
the BSD license provides "more freedom".

GPL proponents (which include myself), consider that the GPL's 'hack'
of the legal fiction rights granted by statute law, is a useful
mechanism to work towards maximising the amount of free/libre software
available in the world, over the long term. It is a valid, and
apparently effective, strategy.

And one I wholeheartedly support :)

I welcome reviews of my new play, Pirates of the Commons:


Pirates of the Commons.
A play by the freedom-deprived, of the freedom-deprived,
and for the freedom-deprived.

No freedom. No freedom. Arr. Arr.

> Yarr!

<the ghost of christmas Apple>
Arrgh me hardies, let us pillage and plunderrr the code of the mighty
ship BSD Commons.
She sits with her sails a flappin' promiscuously in the breeze tharrr!

<draws out monocular and views the tarrrget>
Ay lads, she's sittin' vulnerable in them tharr waters of statutory
easy lays and a wealth of booty for us 'n' us alone does she provide.

<sound of whips cracking>
Code laddies, code!
No slack till the walled garrrden is done lads!

No freedom. No freedom. Arr. Arr.


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