Subject: Re: good description of the BSD license and philosophy?
To: None <>
From: Mirian Crzig Lennox <>
List: netbsd-advocacy
Date: 03/09/2003 20:40:18
On Tue, 04 Mar 2003 12:25:56 -0800, Kevin Lahey <> wrote:
>I was talking to some non-technical folks last night about intellectual
>property, and I was trying to describe the difference between the
>GPL and BSD licenses.  I wanted to send some clarifying e-mail this
>morning, and I had no trouble finding some great web pages from
>Stallman describing the virtues of the GPL license in just a few
>paragraphs.  Alas, I had a much harder time finding an analogous
>web page describing the virtues of the BSD license.

The main distinction between the two is one of intent.  The intent of
the BSD licence is to keep free the original art and to encourage (by
not encumbering) derivative art.  In contrast, the intent of the GPL
(as stated in the GNU Manifesto), is to keep the derivative art free
as well, even if it results in fewer derivative works.

Thus, the BSD licence is primarily a vehicle to propagate BSD software
and its associated virtues.  Even if BSD software ends up being
incorporated into a closed-source, otherwise proprietary product, the
BSD community tend to view that situation as a net benefit for
themselves, as it means a better chance at interoperability, and
higher quality overall.  In contrast, the GPL is primarily a vehicle
to propagate the GPL: GNU partisans tend to see value in open source
which trumps any other technical consideration.

It's interesting to note that the BSD philosophy and the GNU
philosophy are both idealistic in nature.  The GNU ideal is free
software, whereas the BSD ideal is elegance of design, and doing
things right.  Of course, this is not an absolute contrast; GNU folks
also tend to appreciate good design, and BSD folks also enjoy the
benefits of free software.  However, given the choice, BSD folks are
much less likely to compromise on elegance and GNU folks less on the
free software ideal, and the BSD and GNU licences respectively reflect
those values.