I want to reiterate that copyleft is a strategy, not a moral principle. I respect the LLVM developers' decision to use a different strategy for software freedom, even if it isn’t my preferred strategy.
I think this is the nub of it. RMS wants everyone to use his preferred license and regards it as an “assault on GNU” if free software with a different license exists to compete with gcc. Bradley Kuhn appears to take a softer approach, more of a “respect everyone’s choices” approach.
Personally, I release my own open source software under a BSD license and I don’t agree with many of the restrictions of GPLv3. But I’m totally ok with people choosing to use it if they want to. It’s the authors' choice after all. I think RMS has forgotten that other philosophies than his own deserve respect too.
To quote from FSF’s What is free software?:
In the GNU project, we use copyleft to protect the four freedoms legally for everyone. We believe there are important reasons why it is better to use copyleft. However, noncopylefted free software is ethical too.
So, I think it’s less “free software with a different license” and more free software that can be used against the GNU project.
He repeatedly touches on “software freedom” and notes that, right now, the copyleft is the only license that supports software freedom and that doesn’t also help enemies of software freedom.
The other philosophy other than his own that he doesn’t respect is creating non-free software. He thinks software that refuses to help you is bad. Non-copyleft free software is ok, he’s got no problem with it per se. He’s got a problem with all of the proprietary software that LLVM has fostered, though, and hence sees that LLVM’s lack of copyleft is creating a problem.
I really don’t see how preferring non-copyleft free licenses can be justified by anything other than wanting to allow the creation of non-free software. There are a few exceptions, like Ogg codecs, but overall, I wish anti-copyleft advocates were just honest: you guys really want non-free to flourish.
I do think as a community we should be honest with ourselves that copyleft remains the best strategy to prevent proprietary improvements and forks and no other strategy has been as successful in reaching that goal.
What I really want to underline is that in addition to preventing proprietary improvements, this strategy will prevent those improvements at whole. If company wants to do proprietary improvements to software and isn’t allowed to do so, those improvements will be abandoned or company will create completely proprietary competitor. Both are bad, but latter one is truly horrendous as all the future improvements will be forever denied from open source.
I have seen one the worlds biggest companies to to maintain proprietary fork of non-copyleft project. Problem with that approach is that changes will very, very fast become maintenance nightmare where you need dedicated people to rebase your changes on top of upstream. So, little by little getting code pushed to upstream from the proprietary fork became easier.
The lovely thing here is that the amount of work with upstream will probably only increase as management will think upstreaming less and less as a threat when time passes (and when more and more complex features are open sourced). People can change their opinions but trying to force them to do so almost always causes opposite reaction. This is the reason I don’t like copyleft licenses.
Frustrating. I don’t think that FSF/GNU/RMS will ever get past this liberal approach to free software when they don’t consider the structural roots of the problem.
The structural roots of the non-free software problem is capitalism. I think even many copyleft people are too afraid to tackle that problem. And certainly the open source crowd doesn’t even see it as a problem.
Is there a problem in the first place ?
How does the word “liberal” apply to their approach? I can’t follow your use, unless it’s “I’m a conservative, therefore the stuff I disagree with is librul” and that doesn’t usually lead into “structural roots”.
Liberalism and conservatism aren’t exclusive. It’s liberal for many reasons, but not the kind of liberal you’re thinking of.
…that is my question, yes.