Just found via slashdot an interview with Eric Raymond at ONLamp.com on his keynote speech at a conference in Brazil. Raymond is reported to have said: “We don’t need the GPL anymore. It’s based on the belief that open source software is weak and needs to be protected. Open source would be succeeding faster if the GPL didn’t make lots of people nervous about adopting it.”

Interesting, but I can’t agree. The key point about the GPL or equivalent licence is that it prevents free-riding: capturing of open source work into a commercial product that takes but doesn’t give. That makes the flow of ideas and information and expertise one-way: from open source to closed source.

Even in the case of a small open source group competing against an equal-sized commercial effort, it would tilt the stakes heavily in favour of the commercial group. It would be akin to the commercial group being able to play poker while seeing the open source group’s cards. They capture all the good work, and give nothing back.