[Haskell-cafe] Why Not Haskell?

Brian Hulley brianh at metamilk.com
Sat Aug 5 21:57:43 EDT 2006

Henning Thielemann wrote:
> On Fri, 4 Aug 2006, Brian Hulley wrote:
>>> 4) Haskell is open source and licensing restrictions forbid
>>> commercial applications. I haven't seen any such restrictions, but
>>> is this a problem for the standard modules?
>> You can discover the licensing situation by downloading the GHC
>> source (or source for whatever distro you're using) and looking in
>> the directories for each package. For example the base package uses
>> a BSD-style licence and HaXml uses LGPL with the exception to allow
>> static linking.
> A license which requires programmers to disclose their sources
> shouldn't be a problem for a commercial application. Which C hacker
> would or could steal code from it? :-)

Hi Henning -
Apologies for not replying sooner. I couldn't think what to say! ;-)

Disclaimer: the following essay only contains 2 Haskell functions and is not 
intended to cause offence to farmers...

Afaict a license such as GPL allows anyone, even a non-programmer, to just 
re-distribute whatever application you created because one condition of it 
is that anyone should be free to share software with anyone else without 
having to pay anything extra to the people who wrote it, and I think this is 
essentially based on the notion that software should not be regarded as an 
ownable or sellable "thing".

However a potato is sellable, even though farmers have such a great time out 
in the fields breathing in the fresh misty morning air and watching the 
beautiful colours of the sunrise, and basically just letting nature take its 
course with a bit of healthy exercise and free food thrown in for good 
measure (it might even be some of my personal sweat that evaporates and 
later falls as rain to nourish "their" crops). And what makes them think 
they have a right to "own" parts of the earth's surface anyway! ;-)

While I'd personally like to live in a peaceful society where everything is 
freely available, the fact is that I have to deal with the situation I find 
myself in at the moment ie I have to pay money whevener I need food, 
electricity, gas, internet, petrol, dvds, music, art etc and I absolutely 
don't agree that everyone else in the world except software developers has 
the right to earn a living, while we just give everything away because it's 
so much "fun" bringing it into existence, or that we should be chastised for 
trying to charge for our efforts!!! ;-)

Also, if we want a better world I can think of other professions to 
sacrifice (Hint: take 5 p = "polit" and last p = 'n').

Making complete end-user applications freely available is not always helpful 
to others, even to the end-users. Consider how a local corner-shop owner 
would feel if all the large supermarket chains stood outside his door giving 
away free food. The consumers are very happy! How selfless and beneficient 
those big supermarkets are! But how long would the corner-shop be able to 
stay open? And would the supermarkets continue to supply the free food after 
they'd finally wiped out his business? People no longer meet for a chat at 
the corner-shop. There is a void in the community. People start to feel 
alienated. Houses are vandalised. Crime is on the increase. The government 
claims it needs more powers to prevent it. Perhaps a few people see what's 
happening but really it's already too late...

Of course from a pragmatic point of view it is useful for developers to 
share parts of their source or coding ideas, since there is clearly too much 
work for any one person to do, thus BSD and LGPL make a lot of commercial 
sense, as well as being a nice gesture of fraternity between coders, and a 
blueprint for the future if we can only find the right strategies to achieve 
it given our own specific individual circumstances.

Therefore I think licenses which enforce a particular strategy or attempt to 
limit possible business models to further a specific agenda, however well 
meaning they may appear, are unattractive for commercial development in 
general, even though some specific niche companies can manage fine under 
those conditions (eg consultants/ trainers/ contracted developers etc).

Regards, Brian.
Logic empowers us and Love gives us purpose.
Yet still phantoms restless for eras long past,
congealed in the present in unthought forms,
strive mightily unseen to destroy us.


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