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Date:      Mon, 21 May 2001 11:35:38 -0700
From:      David Johnson <>
To:        Seth Kramer <>
Subject:   Re: [dn-core] Re: Perens' "Free Software Leaders Stand Together"
Message-ID:  <>
References:  <000001c0dfb7$949e85c0$> <002501c0e000$57523100$>

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Seth Kramer wrote:
> Humor a newbie.   What exactly is the difference between GPL and Open
> Source?  Further how is the licensing for BSD different from Linux distros,
> or BSD different from Linux for that matter?

I'm extremely biased on this matter, so I'm taking extra effort to be
somewhat objective.

Although the advocates will go round and round over the differences
between "Free Software" and "Open Source Software", they both refer to
the same identical concept. All Free Software licenses are *also* Open
Source licenses, and vice versa(*). Including the GPL.

All licenses have conditions and restrictions on use. The GPL is no
exception. Its main conditions require all derivative works also be
licensed under the GPL. The Linux kernel is released under the GPL.
However, since the GPL would require any software making normal system
kernel calls to also be licensed under the GPL, Linus Torvalds included
an exception.

The BSD license has few restrictions. Basically the only conditions are
that the copyright notice and warranty disclaimer follow the software.

Both FreeBSD and the Linux distributions use a variety of licenses. The
"core" of FreeBSD is under the BSD license, and the "core" of Linux is
under the GPL or LGPL. But once you wander outside of the core OS, there
is a greater mix of licenses. There is some GPL stuff in the FreeBSD
userland, and some BSD licensed stuff in the Linux userland.

There is a certain amount of antagonism between the GPL and BSD
advocates. Much of it centers on philosophical matters irrelevant to the
average developer or user. But to give one small example, I received an
unsolicited message from an FSF member calling me a "fool" because I
used the BSD license, and that surely someone would come along and
"steal" me software :-)

As a user, it doesn't matter what Open Source license the software you
use is under. You have complete permission to use, copy, give away or
sell it. If you are a developer, then you must pay closer attention to
the licensing. You cannot use GPL source code in your BSD licensed
project, but you can do the reverse. It all depends on your goals and
motives. If you want every instance and derivation of your software to
be Open Source, then use the GPL. If you want everyone to be able to use
it without restriction, then use the BSD license.

(*) The APSL was recently approved as an Open Source license, but the
FSF has not, and probably will not approve it. So it is not "officially"
Free Software according to the FSF. However, it meets their written
definition of Free Software, so I consider it as such.


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