[Haskell-cafe] Re: Why Not Haskell?

Brian Hulley brianh at metamilk.com
Mon Aug 7 17:00:55 EDT 2006

Jón Fairbairn wrote:
> Stefan Monnier <monnier at iro.umontreal.ca> writes:
>>> 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.
>> Maybe you should thank the FSF for making you doubt: you should
>> really think very hard about how you're going to make a living off
>> of selling a program, even if that program hasn't been anywhere near
>> any GPL'd code.  In all likelihood it'll be much easier to earn your
>> money by selling services around your program than just the program
>> itself.
> To add to that from the point of view of a potential user:
> if there some programme that I'm going to rely on and its
> source is not free, I'll look elsewhere rather than rely on
> a single vendor that might disappear without a trace and
> leave me with no support.
> Conversely, if it has free source, but doesn't quite do what
> I'm relying on it to do, I'll happily pay someone to sort it
> out for me (assuming that I can't/don't want to/am to busy
> to do it myself and that I have any money).
> I know of several good ideas that started out as attempts at
> commercial projects but weren't taken up. The best that
> happened to them is that someone recoded the idea (or it was
> re-released) as free software. If that didn't happen, they
> disappeared without trace. Remember, keeping the code secret
> is no protection against someone rewriting the whole thing
> from scratch.  If it's a big enough idea, you can be sure
> that some large commercial concern (and conceivably teams of
> amateurs) will do that unless you've patented something
> crucial... and keeping patents alive is an expensive
> business -- especially if there's a large concern on your
> case ("we want to use your patented idea. Oh, it looks like
> your code uses one of our patented ideas; you'll be hearing
> from our lawyers").

Thanks Jón and Stefan for these points.

I'm coming round to the idea that possibly a combination of BSD (for libs) 
and a metamorphosing licence for the program (from proprietary up to a 
certain date then GPL thereafter) would solve these problems by removing 
incentives for anyone else to try and reverse engineer code before I'd had 
time to get an established user base, while keeping users happy (6 months is 
not that long to wait to get full control), and preventing anyone else 
getting a similar advantage after the 6 months had elapsed (if they used any 
of the non-BSD parts of the app (now available to them under GPL) they'd 
have to release their version as GPL).

After the 6 months had elapsed, other companies could develop the code 
further, but they wouldn't be able to impose a similar metamorphosing 
license because the code they used (apart from the BSD components of course) 
would be covered by GPL.

However *I* would still have the right to modify my code and repeat the 
metamorphic process because I wouldn't be bound by the metamorphic GPL 
license I sold to others (please correct me if I've got this wrong), so 
people could choose to pay a modest sum to me for the improved version, 
(which I'd have had a head start of the last 6 months to develop) or wait 6 
months to get it from some other company, or spend several months hacking 
themselves starting from the original version...

It gets even better because as long as I make sure that I only use BSD libs 
+ my own code, I could always choose to release future versions with a 
proprietary license therefore the amortized consequence of the previous 
metamorphic GPL releases would be risk-free (those versions now being so far 
behind that they would be irrelevant) yet any other companies which had made 
improvements (as long as they were based on a version they received + all 
their own code (or BSD code)) could be a useful source of ideas (to 
reimplement) or collaboration.

Anyway no doubt this is all getting a bit off topic but it's interesting 
that the different concepts provided by BSD and GPL can suggest possible 
models like the above.

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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