the restrictions imposed by freedom

May 31st, 2001

I’m working on a new project. Tomcat/JSP/Servlets/Oracle. There is a need for some synchronous RPC from client to middle layer. I’ve been considering XML-RPC and SOAP, but have decided for a few reasons to use Microsoft’s Remote Scripting with Erik Hatcher’s Java servlet. Time is of the essence, the specifications and tools for the other technologies are not mature, and another criterion that’s new to the game – intellectual property considerations.

It’s 1998. You want to add some new functionality to your commercial web application. You hop on the net, search Altavista, and find a few Perl CGI implementations, a couple of shareware COM objects, some commercial executables and COM objects. You decide which gives the functionality you want and you come to a pricing arrangement with them from zero to hundreds of dollars depending on the licensing, and you include its functionality in your offering, maybe add credits to your help page.

Roll forward to 2001. You want to add some new functionality to your commercial web application. You hop on the net, search Google, and find a few Perl CGI implementations, some COM objects and Java classes, some commercial packages, and a whole raft of projects on SourceForge. This time, though, it’s a minefield of GPLs, LGPLs, BSDs, Mozilla and Apache Public Licenses, homegrown licenses, et al. Using a product may impose upon you perpetual requirements impacting source release, documentation, distribution, splash pages, derivatives… the list goes on.

I’m not likely to convince my clients that they should open-source their heavily invested competitive vertical market solution in order to take advantage of the defacto reference implementation of this technology because it’s covered by the GPL. Time being a consideration, I’m not going to wait until the legal department has had a chance to investigate the implications of ten different types of licenses. So, we find a commercial implementation, build it ourselves, or use another technology that doesn’t burden us with these issues.

Am I naive in thinking that I was much more free (read:unfettered) when I could just buy the damn thing and then use it?

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