From: r...@gnu.ai.mit.edu (Richard Stallman)
Subject: Effects of the GPL
Date: 5 Jul 1993 01:33:42 -0400
Organization: GNUs Not Usenet
The Objective C part of GCC was written by NeXT and donated to the
FSF. Based on discussions at an earlier date, I believe that NeXT
donated this code because of the fact that the GPL did not permit
making it proprietary.
There's no way to be certain what NeXT would have done in another
world. But I have seen numerous occasions where other companies have
donated improvements to GNU software, and only one occasion where a
company refused when asked.
By contrast, there are many proprietary versions of X windows, BSD,
and other non-copylefted free programs. It is quite common for
companies to make improvements that never become available to the free
I am therefore convinced by my experience that the GPL is one of the
crucial factors that made GNU software as good as it is.
Using the GPL also helps remind people of the ethical issues about
sharing and changing software, and about the practice of trying to
stop other people from sharing and changing software. Making people
think about cooperation, and about right and wrong, is important in
its own right.
Every society functions only to the extent its members are willing to
cooperate voluntarily much of the time. We have seen that forced,
planned cooperation is a failure (look at Russia). We have seen that
selfishness and the "invisible hand" are a failure (the US is full of
examples, ranging from RSA Inc. to the homeless people on the
streets). To have a happy, prosperous society, we need to encourage
the will to cooperate.
The GPL is my way of doing this. Making software public domain does
not address the problem, because it lets selfish people do their
selfish thing without ever a moment when they have to think about
right and wrong.