[Haskell-cafe] Why Not Haskell?

Brian Hulley brianh at metamilk.com
Sun Aug 6 15:01:22 EDT 2006

Chris Kuklewicz wrote:
> Brian Hulley wrote:
>> Henning Thielemann wrote:
>>> On Fri, 4 Aug 2006, Brian Hulley wrote:
>>>>> 4) Haskell is open source ...
>>>> You can discover the licensing situation...
>>> 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? :-)
>> Afaict a license such as GPL allows anyone, even a non-programmer, ...
> The GPL does indeed do that.  Your "even a non-programmer" aside is
> strange, as I cannot guess how to segregate people into such a category.

I meant "even a non-programmer" in the sense of  "even someone who is not a 
C hacker" to show that the threat of people being able to "steal code" from 
a program is not the only source of problems that GPL could impose on a 
commercial application. No derogatory implication towards people who choose 
not to learn computer programming was intended.

> The GPL itself refers to a cost of distribution, since it recognizes
> such things are not free-in-price.  This is in reference to offering
> a copy of the source code.  The price of a binary copy can be as large as 
> desired. Likewise for the cost of support.

Well I understand the "free as in free speech not free beer" motto, but 
suppose person A is talented at writing software but prefers a peaceful 
existence and lacks the contacts/refs/desire/energy etc to be a consultant 
or contractor, and has had the bad experience of being forced to work 
extremely long hours with low pay while in an employed position, and person 
B is outgoing, ebullient, and talented at marketing and advertising. Now 
person A spends some years quietly writing some code, which uses a GPL 
library and is therefore GPL'd, and sells it, as is his/her right under the 
GPL to person B. Then person B is free, as in "free speech" to do whatever 
he/she likes with the software, and so in particular could use his/her 
marketing skills to completely undermine person A's one and only hope of 
earning a living, so from person A's point of view the *amortized* effect of 
the GPL is to make his/her software free as in "free beer" as well.

Therefore I think this distinction between concepts is just sophistry.

>> However a potato is sellable, even though farmers ...
> Farmers have great mystique and respect in modern society.  That was
> a good choice for emotion-based rhetoric.

Everyone needs to be able to feel good about themselves especially if they 
are just trying to earn an honest living by doing the quite difficult task 
of creating and marketing software. I was just trying to counter some of the 
negative emotional effects I encountered when I read passages like (from 
http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/why-free.html ):

        The system of owners of software encourages
        software owners to produce something---
        but not what society really needs.
        And it causes intangible ethical pollution
        that affects us all.

Is this not designed to stir up feelings of guilt in proprietary software 
developers? And is it desirable to limit the production of software to "what 
society really needs"? Eg I'm glad the Coca-Cola company chooses to produce 
Coke because I like drinking it but in no way could it be said that I 
actually *need* it, and I wouldn't expect them to reveal their secret recipe 
so endless other companies could instantly start competing with them.

> The GPL only gets in the way if you put it there by choosing to
> derive work from GPL code...

Thanks for choosing BSD instead of GPL for your library: it leaves me free 
to make this choice.

>Your long complaint against this seems strange to me.

I can't entirely dismiss GNU/FSF/GPL but it poses a fundamental conflict 
with the only way I can see of earning a living so it's like a continuous 
background problem which drains some of my energy and enthusiasm hence the 
length of my rambling post where I made another attempt to understand my 
relation to it.

Also, as an aside, Henning didn't even mention GPL so I probably shouldln't 
have posted all this stuff in the first place... :-)

Best regards,
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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