That’s not science: the FSF’s analysis of GPL usage

That’s not science: the FSF’s analysis of GPL usage by Matthew Aslett.

From the post:

The Free Software Foundation has responded to our analysis of figures that indicate that the proportion of open source projects using the GPL is in decline.

Specifically, FSF executive director John Sullivan gave a presentation at FOSDEM which asked “Is copyleft being framed”. You can find his slides here, a write-up about the presentation here, and Slashdot discussion here.

Most of the opposition to the earlier posts on this subject addressed perceived problems with the underlying data, specifically that it comes from Black Duck, which does not publish details of its methodology. John’s response is no exception. “That’s not science,” he asserts, with regards to the lack of clarity.

This is a valid criticism, which is why – prompted by Bradley M Kuhn – I previously went to a lot of effort to analyze data from Rubyforge, Freshmeat, ObjectWeb and the Free Software Foundation collected and published by FLOSSmole, only to find that it confirmed the trend suggested by Black Duck’s figures. I was personally therefore happy to use Black Duck’s figures for our update.

I wasn’t real sure why this was an issue until I followed the link to On the continuing decline of the GPL where I read:

Our projection also suggests that permissive licenses (specifically in this case, MIT/Apache/BSD/Ms-PL) will account for close to 30% of all open source software by September 2012, up from 15% in June 2009 (we don’t have a figure for June 2008 unfortunately).

Permissive licenses work for me, both for data as well as software.

Think of it this way: Commercial use of data or software is like another form of commercial activity, the first one is always free. Do good work and you will attract the attention of those would would like to have it all the time.

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