I have been rolling around an idea a switch to GPL as the core license of Tsugi and am curious as to what you think.
This is definitely a switch in direction – the Apereo Foundation (and Sakai Foundation before that) – has historically been very pro Apache (and its second cousin once removed ECL).
I have done some writing over the years that is not particular friendly to GPL:
But I have been GPL-curious for a long time:
Here is my 2020 summary of how we got here and where we might go from here:
– In 2003, GPL felt a lot more like an “infection” – commercial companies were scared to go near it in case the the GPL infection might spread to their proprietary products (i.e. like in the Ring movie – if you look at GPL code you are forever marked). IBM built staffing firewalls where those who touched GPL code never interacted with “real” IBM engineers.
– Because of this, there was a notion that if you did GPL, companies would neither adopt nor help you. Hence Sakai was militant pro Apache in 2004.
– In the by 2008, we kind of understood that modern companies were not afraid of GPL. And frankly if a company was afraid of GPL – perhaps that was an indication that the company had a slightly different set of values w.r.t. open source. And it turns out that one company back in 2004 that was the most vocal against GPL *did* have some big plans that were not entirely shared with us. Thankfully that company is no longer in existence – due in part because their strategy was not as profitable as they had hoped :)
– In the early days, when we spent a lot of time “transferring copyright ownership” to the Foundation, using the Apache / ECL license felt better to a lot of folks. But for “organically grown” code like Tsugi – and the new github world where collaborators flow in – it really does not matter.
If you look at my most blistering attack on GPL:
It is less an attack on GPL per se and more an attack on “who owns copyright”.
What has happened in the past decade is a change in approach to copyright “ownership”. In the old days, Apache and Sakai/Apereo transferred “ownership” of the code to the Foundation. And for the early part of Moodle – Martin Dougiamas owned all the code and any contributions were given to him.
Things are different today. The Apache Foundation and Moodle lets contributors keep the copyright on their contributions and simply provide a non-expiring no limitations right to use.
This means that Moodle is no longer 100% owned by Martin. It might be 80% owned by Martin (legacy) but 20% is owned but other people. It is 100% *licensed* to the Moodle community and those licenses cannot be revoked.
This is a super important distinction as it has to do with the danger of someone like Martin or the Apereo Foundation going evil and selling their interest to some third party. Yes this is unlikely that Apereo will go evil – but if there was a complete turnover of the board – we Apereo could quit-claim their interest to some proprietary company.
But with multiple “owners” like Moodle has, Martin can only “quit claim” 80% of the code. The other 100 or so contributors also need to quit claim. This effectively insures Martin can’t really do a meaningful quit claim.
Once the “who owns the code” and “who works on the code” is resolved – the difference between GPL and Apache is that GPL is harder to fork and go proprietary. It is trivial to fork and go open source.
And the key *advantage* of GPL is that GPL is seen as an “activist” open source license. Apache is pretty passive – there is little brand value to being Apache. The Apache brand is about being very boring. There *is* brand value being GPL because of the Free Software Foundation’s promotion of your product:
Sakai and Tsugi are not “open enough” to qualify as software that protects user freedom.
This might seem insignificant – but if by switching to GPL – we gain marketing and lose nothing – then why not.