Can GPL be enforced in China?

Summary:The question of the enforceability of the GPL came into question during a presentation by Taiwen Jiang, the XOOPS maintainer. XOOPS is basically a home grown China, well actually Asian, open source system.

The question of the enforceability of the GPL came into question during a presentation by Taiwen Jiang, the XOOPS maintainer. XOOPS is basically a home grown China, well actually Asian, open source system. Recently, XOOPS has picked up a champion to help them grow their community and breach the commercial side of development.

I highly recommend you go through the presentation that I have linked above for a more thorough understanding of this--and, mainly, theChinese open source community. The XOOPS project gives some very interesting insights into some of the challenges the open source community faces in China, namely, recognition of the GPL. Taiwen Jiang had mentioned that in exploring the legal recognition of GPL in China is at best a grey area, but at most unrecognized due to limited government regulations and confusion of whether or not GPL requires copyright since it is interpreted as free.

However, taking this into account, what does this GPL dilemma mean to the IP rights of the open source community as a whole? Firstly, this is a pretty good reason for why there are not more contributions being made to the community, from China, as obviously, many small companies, and perhaps larger OEMs are too involved in profiting from the Community and not building it up. A bit of a 'Commons' dilemma if you ask me.

Secondly, Taiwan Jiang made an interesting argument, that if legal recognition is not going to be given to those that have contributed their time to the betterment of the community then why should they contribute at all. Obviously, recognition is not the main reason for why developers open source their work, though there is some vanity in it. But, if the bulk of the benefactors of a project are taking and not giving back, then the project is more likely to die, as is the case of many projects in China.

Chinese officials have a long way to go to understand what "free" means. Until they do, developers in China are going to find a better way to cooperate and ensure the longevity of their projects. XOOPS is managing to stay alive and grow, but there are some commercial interests behind them.

Topics: Software, Open Source, Operating Systems

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