Is the GPL3 good for business?

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Is the GPL3 good for business, the answer of course is 'it depends'.

Most of the companies I've worked for are not in the business of selling closed source software, selling hardware which includes embedded software, or distributing hardware/software which requires DRM. So, under most circumstances it's beneficial for non-product businesses to use GPL'd software. For example, Google has their own Linux distribution which they run on their servers. If they wanted to sell this distribution, they would have to include the source code and fulfill the requirements of the GPL license. Simply by running it on their servers, or building propriety software which runs on Linux, does not force them to open source their software. In most every case, it's good for businesses to use GPL'd software.

The GPL3 adds certain freedoms which will make a small number of companies not want to build software using GPL code or libraries. The obvious example of this is Tivo. The GPL3 may be 'bad' for companies with a business model similar to Tivo's. Tivo, and other such companies, basically have these choices for their embedded OS:

  1. Continue to use GPL2 software
  2. Use GPL3 software and give users the freedom to remove nasty features like DRM which they don't want
  3. Use non-viral open source software usually license under BSD/MIT. (See Apple OS X)
  4. Choose a closed source vender, such as Qt or Microsoft, and pay their licensing / royalty fees

There isn't one best option for every company. Each situation is different. I don't the companies I do work for will be affected by changes in the GPL, mostly because they aren't in the business of selling software. Whether or not free software provides a better ROI is another matter entirely. I think in most cases it does, but Microsoft seems to fund a survey about every month which indicates Windows based software has the highest ROI.

I think the GPL3 is great. I hope to use and contribute to GPL3 software. I think free software benifits individuals, businesses, and society.