FUD from the Apache Foundation
At Bradley Kuhn’s talk at linux.conf.au this year, I was surprised and disappointed to see a slide quoting some FUD (in the traditional Fear-Uncertainty-Doubt model, a la the Microsoft Halloween documents from back in the day) about the GPL and the SFLC’s enforcement thereof. Here’s the quote:
This is not just a theoretical concern. As aggressively as the BSA protects the interests of its commercial members, [GPL enforcers] protect the GPL license in high-profile lawsuits against large corporations. [FSF] writes about their expansion of “active license enforcement”. So the cost of compliance with copyleft code can be even greater than the use of proprietary software, since an organization risks being forced to make the source code for their proprietary product public and available for anyone to use, free of charge. […]
The Apache Advantage
However, not all open source licenses are copyleft license. A subset of open source licenses, generally called “permissive” licenses, are much more friendly for corporate use.
The quote/slide is available at about 20m into Bradley’s talk. A quick google reveals the source of this as a page from openoffice.org which is, indeed, an Apache project. The revision history for that page is available via subversion.
The elisions in Bradley’s quote changed “the Software Freedom Law Centre” (Bradley’s employer) to “GPL enforcers”, simplified the reference to the FSF, and dropped off a couple of sentences of qualification:
To mitigate this risk requires more employee education, more approval cycles, more internal audits and more worries. This is the increased cost of compliance when copyleft software is brought into an organization. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is just the reality of using open source software under these licenses, and must be weighed in considered as one cost-driver among many.
I don’t really think any of that changes Bradley’s point: the Apache Foundation is really saying that the GPL and the SFLC is worse than the BSA and proprietary licenses.
After getting home from LCA, I thought it was worth writing to the Apache Foundation about this. I tried twice, on 22nd January and again on 1st February. I didn’t receive any response.
From: Anthony Towns
I was at Bradley Kuhn’s talk at linux.conf.au 2015 last week, and was struck by a quote he attributed to the Apache Software Foundation which compared the SFLC’s efforts to enforce GPL compliance with the BSA’s campaigns on software piracy, and then went on to call the SFLC worse. The remarks and slide can be found at approximately the 20 minute mark in the recording on youtube:
Doing a google search for the quote, I found a hit on the Apache OpenOffice.org website:
which although it’s a (somewhat major) project rather than the apache site itself, doesn’t give any indication that it’s authored or authorised by someone other than the Apache Foundation.
I couldn’t find any indication via web.archive.org that that page predated Apache’s curation of the OpenOffice.org project (I wondered if it might have been something Oracle would write, rather than the Apache Foundation). Doing some more searching, I found a svn log that seems to indicate it’s primarily authored by Rob Weir with minor edits by Andrea Pescetti (who I understand is the VP for Apache OpenOffice):
Is this really an accurate representation of the Apache Foundation’s current stance on copyleft licenses, the GPL and the SFLC’s enforcement efforts?
Apparently we now live in a world where Microsoft happily releases GPL-licensed software, while the Apache Foundation happily spreads FUD against it.