Monday, June 18, 2001

GPL: a technology of trust Someone on Kuro5hin argues that the GPL is important because open-source runs on the basis of trust and the GPL enforces that trust by baking it into the code. They miss the point: enforcing alturism through trust is only important when the good is scarce like food, not when the good is non-excludable (like software, or ideas). The GPL's true value is that it helps enforce a different element of the open-source culture, fame, that is scarce (ie. not everyone can be famous). My posted response to the article:

Good article.

Nevertheless, trust is not important in a zero scarcity environment. Parasitic community members that take but do not give back are problematic in alturistic societies where the good being traded is limited in some way (ie. food). So, if there is a limited amount of food available, it makes sense that it should be divided amongst those who created the food, and not to parasites.

But with software, one person using another's code does not deprive anyone of that code. Free-riding is *not* a problem with open-source, and so the GPL is not neccessary for open-source to continue.

However, those who create open-source *do* deal in a different limited good -- fame (see HtN). If the GPL somehow helps distribute fame appropriately, then it might be necessary.

Also, please note that just because the GPL may not be necessary does not mean it cannot be useful.


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