9. GPL Advantages and Disadvantages

A common reason to use the GPL is when modifying or extending the gcc compiler. This is particularly apt when working with one-off specialty CPUs in environments where all software costs are likely to be considered overhead, with minimal expectations that others will use the resulting compiler.

The GPL is also attractive to small companies selling CDs in an environment where "buy-low, sell-high" may still give the end-user a very inexpensive product. It is also attractive to companies that expect to survive by providing various forms of technical support, including documentation, for the GPLed intellectual property world.

A less publicized and unintended use of the GPL is that it is very favorable to large companies that want to undercut software companies. In other words, the GPL is well suited for use as a marketing weapon, potentially reducing overall economic benefit and contributing to monopolistic behavior.

The GPL can present a real problem for those wishing to commercialize and profit from software. For example, the GPL adds to the difficulty a graduate student will have in directly forming a company to commercialize his research results, or the difficulty a student will have in joining a company on the assumption that a promising research project will be commercialized.

For those who must work with statically-linked implementations of multiple software standards, the GPL is often a poor license, because it precludes using proprietary implementations of the standards. The GPL thus minimizes the number of programs that can be built using a GPLed standard. The GPL was intended to not provide a mechanism to develop a standard on which one engineers proprietary products. (This does not apply to Linux applications because they do not statically link, rather they use a trap-based API.)

The GPL attempts to make programmers contribute to an evolving suite of programs, then to compete in the distribution and support of this suite. This situation is unrealistic for many required core system standards, which may be applied in widely varying environments which require commercial customization or integration with legacy standards under existing (non-GPL) licenses. Real-time systems are often statically linked, so the GPL and LGPL are definitely considered potential problems by many embedded systems companies.

The GPL is an attempt to keep efforts, regardless of demand, at the research and development stages. This maximizes the benefits to researchers and developers, at an unknown cost to those who would benefit from wider distribution.

The GPL was designed to keep research results from transitioning to proprietary products. This step is often assumed to be the last step in the traditional technology transfer pipeline and it is usually difficult enough under the best of circumstances; the GPL was intended to make it impossible.

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