OpenBSD, Linux, and Free – As in Air

I really like this thread:

“OpenBSD is free as in air,” Theo de Raadt [interview] stated in a recent thread on the OpenBSD -misc mailing list. The discussion began with a note that the Open Sound System [story] had recently been “open sourced” under the GPLv2 and CDDL leading Theo to comment, “noone cares about being Open and Free anymore. They just care about being called Open and Free, and how convenient — a bunch of laywers generated an organization that will label then Open and Free when they are not in fact so.”

This is an interesting statement.

The GPL and BSD licensing camps have always had a core fundamental difference in theory. If GPL is copy-left and Microsoft is copyright then the BSD is copy-center.

What’s nice about the BSD license is that there’s NO complexity. You can turn around and sell the code if you want to and just about do anything you want.

This flexibility allows companies like SUN and IBM to get involved without worrying about many legal implications. I think they’re getting less concerned about the GPL (as witnessed by Java and OpenSolaris) but I doubt they would have become so involved with Open Source to begin with without the BSD license.

It’s really compelling license for a lot of developers. I’m pretty sure Jakarta would have failed if it wasn’t for the BSD license [1].

It seems that the lower things are in the stack the higher the probability that it will be GPL since there’s a greater reward of theft. Java is now GPL. Linux is GPL. MySQL is GPL, Debian is GPL, OpenBSD is not GPL but I think they’ve suffered a bit here. OS X is based on Darwin and while they’ve generally done a good job sharing with the community I think it’s been a bit strained at times.

I sort of agree with Linus here. The Free Software Foundation doesn’t have the divine right of kings to lecture us about freedom.

The GPL is less free than the BSD but might be necessary at times. It acts as a balance against copyright.

1. Java would have failed if it wasn’t for Jakarta so by deduction Java would have failed without the BSD.


  1. I liked the characterisation of “free as in kittens” for Open source tools – you need to take care of them.

  2. Ha…. that’s a good one too… Especially since many OSS tools are far from perfect.

  3. Different Types of Freedom:

    Different types of freedom, protecting different rights important to different people.

    BSD is pure freedom, ripe for abuse and innovation.

    GPL is pragmatic. It keeps everyone on the same playing field.






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