The biggest problem is that the both Adobe and Nvidia are reluctant to give away their intellectual property. Nvidia undoubtedly feels, for example, that its competitors would get some insight into Nvidia hardware and use this to their advantage. Nvidia engineers have also stated in the past that their proprietary driver include licenced technology that simply can't be opened. But similar issues haven't stopped Sun Microsystems from opening the vastly larger Java, one of the more successful open source stories.

When it comes to the future, there's still a lot of work to be done. Free software has been incredibly successful in getting thousands of applications built, distributed and used. But it hasn't done such a great job of broadcasting the message that made the building the code possible.

This means that if you want to help free software in the future, you can help by spreading the message. What seems obvious is that a philosophy that was originally intended for software development has broadened into a political idea with a global ambition.

This is especially true of Richard Stallman, who has become a full-time activist, where software freedom is only one aspect of the ideas he likes to evangelise. This is reflected in how he'd like to see free software succeeding in the future: "In the long run, whether we keep or lose our freedom depends on our values.," explained Richard.

"That's true in computing just as in every other area of life. If you value freedom enough to make a small sacrifice for it, you can reject proprietary software and insist on free software. (Nowadays a large sacrifice, such as writing an operating system, is generally not required because we have done it already.) But if you won't accept an inconvenience to save your freedom, you're headed for the gutter."

Four alternatives to the GPL

Apache Licence 1 & 2
The main difference between these licences and the GPL is that they allow for the development of free software as well as proprietary software. Modified versions of software released under the Apache Licence don't need to inherit the same licence, and the developer doesn't have to release the source code.

BSD-style Licences
These licences place very few restrictions on how the code can be used, and includes proprietary and commercial use without necessarily making any commitment back to the original project.

LGPL
The Lesser General Public Licence permits developers to link to proprietary code against LGPL-licensed code. This allows proprietary software to be developed using LGPL code, but without the same restrictions that the GPL places on how that code can be used.

Mozilla Public Licence
Primarily used by the Mozilla foundation for its software. MPL can be combined with proprietary code and is judged incompatible with the GPL by the Free Software Foundation. As a result, Firefox has subsequently been relicensed to include GPL and LGPL.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

First published in Linux Format, Issue 114

Now read our interviews with Samba's Jeremy Allison and Former Fedora Project Leader Max Spevack

Sign up for the free weekly TechRadar newsletter
Get tech news delivered straight to your inbox. Register for the free TechRadar newsletter and stay on top of the week's biggest stories and product releases. Sign up at http://www.techradar.com/register