[Qgis-developer] QIGS GPL -> LGPL - Tigers, Lions and Bears Oh My!
tech_dev at wildintellect.com
Thu Nov 17 01:48:59 EST 2011
On 11/16/2011 09:38 PM, Nathan Woodrow wrote:
> I would like, if I may, raise the topic of the current licensing of QGIS. One
> thing I have been thinking about lately is if we should change the licence
> from GPL to LGPL. I understand the motivation to use GPL at the start, as
> Qt was only GPL but now that it is LPGL that is no longer an issue.
> I raise this issue because I believe in order grow/improve the project
> letting people build and sell apps built on top of QGIS would be a great
> way to get support and development for/into the project. I have had a few
> companies I have talked to here in Australia saying they are interested in
> QGIS and that deploying solutions built onto the QGIS libs would
> possibility be a good move for them (and me as a client), but then I think
> that QGIS is GPL and that kills their business model.
> Projects like PostGIS and uDig are all under the LGPL and seem to get along
> fine in this regard. A sub department in the state government here builds
> custom solutions on top of uDig, they don’t sell their software (ASFIK) but
> there is nothing stopping them from doing so.
>>From my understanding of the LGPL. If someone takes the QGIS libs and
> builds an app on it, they are allowed to sell their product and not release
> the code however if they make any changes to QGIS then they have to release
> the changes. To me this is a WIN-WIN situation. We can keep QGIS
> open/free and still stop people selling a modified version of QGIS as their
> own but people can still build apps to sell to clients; at the same time if
> Company A starts building onto QGIS and runs into a issue (say lack of rule
> based labels) I think they would be more likely to support that development
> as it helps their bottom line.
> While I can see the use of GPL, and I’m all for free all the way up and
> down (in a perfect world), if I was a business owner looking to invest in a
> product I wouldn’t touch it. Where as I would be happy to build onto
> something like uDig (not that I’m going to) knowing that I can sell my
> solution, giving the clients what they want, but not having to open my code
> P.S I am aware that licensing is a nothing topic that can cause flame wars,
> so play nice ;)
> - Nathan
Just to clarify, so everyone knows, nothing in either the GPL or LGPL
licenses prohibits the sale of QGIS by a vendor. In both cases the code
of the QGIS libs would however need to be made available to anyone who
The key difference is whether a QGIS plugin, custom C++, or Python app
based on QGIS libraries would need to release their code for the part
they write separate of the QGIS core. In either scenario code that
modifies the core QGIS code must be released if the product is given out
freely or sold.
I see 2 different business models here:
1. Create closed source add-ons or custom variants of QGIS. In this case
the QGIS portion is still FOSS as always but the custom portion
essentially exists under standard proprietary licensing: pay for a
license which may or may not include time limits, support rights, number
of machines your allowed to run it on, etc. This model tends to rely on
quantity of licensing.
Example: Mac OS X
2. Create open source add-ons or custom variants of QGIS. Once paid for
the product is now contributed to the community, or available for the
community to build upon. The payday is the one time commissioning of a
specific feature (ie plugin) and the reputation of being available to do
such custom work (aka future work). Keep in mind you only have to
provide the source code to whoever hired you, it's up to them to decide
on public release. Often times this method can charge more upfront.
I would debate if LGPL has hurt uDig. I have heard some mumblings that
it may be one factor in the lower uptake of uDig when compared against
other FOSSGIS desktop applications(also debatable). It would also be
good to think about whether you consider QGIS to be a GIS application
library or a Desktop application and if both which role is more important.
I'll avoid the nit picky details that all authors who have contributed
to QGIS would have to agree to the relicense, and that even then it's
still possible for QGIS to fork with one copy staying GPL and another
becoming LGPL if anyone at all in the community disagrees.
Another angle to take, what clarifications would best help businesses
understand how to operate in world where the model is #2. Sticking with
business model #1 isn't looking to be a great long term choice in the
industry, not to mention the issues around stagnation - see the book
PS: I'll ask around if anyone has studied the relative success of LGPL
vs GPL specifically for end user GUI applications.
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