CodeTyphoon, GPL and the whole money thing
After my initial post regarding “Free Sparta” and “CodeTyphoon” by PilotLogic, both separate products which are in violation of the GPL license and (not withstanding) morally bankrupt I received a lot of comments. Both here and on the Delphi Developer group where the post was issued first.
the majority of the human population are socially programmed to think exclusively in terms of gain and loss, checks and bills, making a quick buck and taking advantage of a situation.
First, turns out that the Free Sparta project died out a few weeks back, so we can at least scratch that off the list. apparently the package introduced no changes to the original codebase, something I find very hard to believe since the one of its core selling points was its ease of use and better IDE. Either way, it’s out of circulation so no point wasting time on that.
The second product, CodeTyphoon, is in direct violation of the GPL. They do not provide source-access to their product or alterations to the original code, which is the fundamental point of GPL. Namely to allow others to evolve a piece of software, improving and building on the initial system.
Since there seem to a lot of confusion, let’s go through a few facts
Selling GPL software
First off, yes – you are allowed to sell GPL software. This was initially included to cover the cost of distribution back in the days of floppy-disks and modems; back when a 50 megabyte hard disk would cost you an arm and a leg. Be that as it may – yes, you are allowed to sell GPL based software —- but once again, a part of that states that you must also provide source-code access to the sold GPL based software. So once again, PilotLogic is off the mark.
Secondly, regarding the “open source” model. A lot of people seem to be under the impression that OSS is money agnostic or “open for personal interpretation”. But that could not be further from the truth. OSS as a concept is very much against profit based on software. The entire point of OSS is to ensure that no corporation or financial entity is able to control the market through closed source. Closed source is regarded essentially as robbing the individual of the right to choose, hindering scientific research through patents and establishing information based monopolies. Source: Revolution OS, documentary on Linux
But OSS is not against making money, but rather it pushes potential for income into services around the product. A prime example is Open-Office which itself is free. It’s used by probably hundreds of thousands of schools around the world and is responsible for breaking Microsoft’s monopoly in the office space.
So where does the money come from? From tutoring, from presentations and from sponsorship. What typically happens is that a company hires you to do custom adaptations of a product. They pay the bills and finances your work, and in return they get to promote the work (and use the tools).
Besides from that you are expected to sell your expertise, using the product to create or achieve something. And you can also scrape in some cash for distribution, both binaries and source-code.
This way of working may seem alien to most programmers out there, but it’s actually how researchers work around the world. You live off grants, sponsorships and custom work for various institutions. When operating with open-source software, especially under Apache or GPL, you have to remember that these both originate at universities and scientific establishments. They dont originate from a software house or “club”, but are designed to cater for scientists and researchers first of all.
Back to the future
Richard Stallman, the founder of the GNU foundation and the author of the GPL license – and pretty much the grandfather of the open-source movement, holds a completely different philosophy than most people. And this has to be underlined because the majority of the human population are socially programmed to think exclusively in terms of gain and loss, checks and bills, making a quick buck and taking advantage of a situation. This is the thicket in which the goat of reason easily get’s stuck.
Stallman said his primary goal is to live off the prize money so that he can devote his time to continue his not-for-profit work leading the Free Software Foundation, developing the GNU operating system, and campaigning for social change in the way software is written and distributed. Source: Stallman to Recieve Price
The entire point of the GNU operative system (what people today call Linux, which is actually just the kernel. The operative system, libraries, desktop and software is actually called GNU) and it’s license was to ensure that a free alternative existed. An operative system that went completely against everything Microsoft, Apple, IBM and all the other big-wigs from way-back times stood for: namely economic power based on digital secrecy.
The reason a license exists in the first place, is to define a moral framework in which to work, which ensures that people use and behave according to the intention of the original authors
Stallman comes from a very different place than most people; His roots go back to the late hippie movement of the 60’s and 70’s. You could say that he is the drug-free, non flower power, scientific version of a hippie. He believes in total freedom within a moral framework (as opposed to limited freedom within a larger framework, which is the ideology the western world presently lives under) which has resulted in one of the biggest software archives in the world. All of it written to avoid and bypass the whole corporate culture which Stallman and his posse hates.
Stallman is an ideologist which has more than often spoken against concepts like patents, because they cripple technological achievements (and I have to agree on that point) when allowed to be held for more than the initial 6 years (which was the original time-frame you could hold a patent back in the late 1800’s). So the entire GPL culture is all about free research, free evolution of software and free access to software.
What people have to understand is that this line of thinking does not mean you can do whatever you want. That’s the difference between the hippie-movement and anarchists. You are still expected to show ordinary social respect for other people’s work, to ask and to behave as an intelligent, responsible human being. The reason a license exists in the first place, is to define a moral framework in which to work, which ensures that people use and behave according to the intention of the original authors. This has to do with respect.
Freedom under responsibility
Freedom without boundaries is not freedom, that would be chaos. Without boundaries it’s impossible to set goals and perform co-operation. As such Stallman and his crew made damn sure that no-one would be able to do exactly what PilotLogic is doing. Namely to grab an open-source project, evolve it and then keep the code behind closed doors.
That is, when you think about it, the very definition of greed. It is equal to being poor, getting a truck with food to give out to others — only to keep the whole thing for yourself. You were given access to the code under the premise that you, just like the original authors, demonstrate solidarity and transparency.
It doesn’t really get much clearer than this.
Easy to point the finger
I am not perfect, and surely I have grabbed some piece of code I found online over the years, fixed it up and stuffed it in a library. But I have always tried to add the name of the original author or source to the unit. I mean, sending an e-mail to someone asking if you can re-name a unit and classes — it wont really cost you anything.
I just want to underline that im not doing a witch hunt here. I am not “perfect” in any way, and I have for a long time given PilotLogic the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they just forgot about it? Maybe they did not have the resources? But I think it’s become quite evident that PilotLogic simply don’t care.
They post updates and keep evolving their product, and last time I checked a sourceforge or GIT account is free. So there really is no excuse that can validate ignoring emails from users, ignoring complaints by programmers who suddenly find their own work available inside CodeTyphoon.
Since PilotLogic is in direct violation, it should not be necessary to preach morality. But I know that I would personally be quite offended if I suddenly discovered my code in some RTL out there, completely stripped of my name or any form or info regarding origin. This is in fact the reason I publish code under “COPYRIGHT”, even on this blog.
People are allowed to read, study and use my code – but if you want to use it in a commercial product, then just ask me. I’m a fairly mellow individual and not a hard-ass at all, so if you need a unit, just send me an email.
Most programmers are fairly laid back, but unless otherwise stated, it’s good to send an email before you grab a huge piece of code. I do that myself.
That’s not too much to ask for.
But when it comes to open source, the rules are clear. I have two open-source projects myself, with one Lazarus fork of ByteRage out in the wild. And as expected the converter contacted me via Facebook asking if it was ok. Of course it’s ok.
And he also had the ordinary decency to leave the header alone, adding a secondary header on top of the unit with his information. No problem at all, use and have fun.
See how easy that was?