Time to dust off my old blenderartists account and clear some things up.
Ton’s article was an interesting read, and the discussions below it brought up some interesting points both in favor and against the GPL, it’s not all good. Even Ton himself finds this a complicated matter - to quote Ton: “Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer and not a license expert. Just sharing how I see this complex matter.”
I am not a license expert as well, and quite frankly it’s the last thing I’m interested in. I have much more interesting things to work on - adding new features and improvements every day. I must say I’m quite overwhelmed with the success of The Grove, and I guess things like these are now part of it.
There’s some interesting points made in this thread, and I will definitely look more deeply into the GPL to find out. But keep in mind that it’s just me working on The Grove, there’s no big evil corporation behind it, just a single 3D / tree addict trying to crack the code of trees and to create the best addon I possibly can.
You are probably right, Blender is GPL, and therefore The Grove (probably) must also be GPL. If this is correct - it’s not even a choice - it’s one of the perks and disadvantages at the same time of creating an addon for Blender. But I decided to release it for Blender anyway because this has been my workhorse software for twenty years now, and I absolutely love it!
So yes, the only thing I ask of you when purchasing The Grove is not to sell tree models - something that is agreed to when purchasing The Grove, and is not part of any license. Again - I hate the idea of a license and would instead much rather count on people’s good intentions. But the question is… can I put this restriction on The Grove’s output, through an agreement that is separate from its license? I don’t know… A valid point, and an interesting thing to find out.
When reading more in depth into the GPL, I’ve come to realize maybe not. It is still complicated, but you (and Ton) are probably right about that - from what I’ve read I cannot impose restrictions on The Grove’s output. So this calls for changes to be made.
But… it may be much more interesting to know why I added this “restriction” in the first place.
Let’s wind back time. I started The Grove around 5 years ago - it joined my passion for 3D, for trees and for coding. I had been creating architectural renders for around 15 years by that time. The need for trees was a personal thing, and I had been pondering about how trees grow for years. Time to scratch my own itch - I decided to experiment, see how I would approach tree growth. That quickly ran out of control and I got hooked.
After the excitement of finally releasing The Grove to the world - straight away a constant stream of mails hit my inbox, asking if it was okay to sell tree libraries grown with The Grove. The shear number of these e-mails discouraged me and it almost felt that there were more people interested in making a buck then there were actual users. These e-mails still hit my inbox every other day. My first replies were in the lines of what @Renzatic said so well. But then after even a seemingly infinite number of individuals, small and even the big companies - 3D software creators, game engines creators, content library creators, and so on and so forth - kept on mailing, I just grew tired of this. I must say however that these individuals and companies have all gracefully refrained from creating tree libraries with The Grove. That shows that they do understand The Grove’s unique position.
You should know that it was a very real option for me to not have released The Grove as an addon in the first place, but instead to use my algorithm to grow a library of tree models. Arguably it could have been a much more lucrative option, the market for pre-grown tree libraries is probably much bigger than that of a Blender addon.
But the way that The Grove works - it is just too much fun to grow trees in such an interactive way! I decided to release The Grove for everyone to play around with, and to have an unlimited alternative to tree libraries. At an attractive price and I even provide free updates to any new version - The Grove is growing quite fast and I want every one of my users to grow the best trees. You can question if this was the right choice, as the amount of support mails rises with every new release ; )
Using The Grove to create and sell libraries of trees is pretty easy, but you’d immediately be a direct competitor to the software. And if everyone who mailed me had grow their own library of trees, The Grove would have died in no time - it would not have become what it is today. I already spent 5 years of my life on creating this algorithm and I’d like to continue improving it every day.
Let’s be honest, it is very possible to model trees by hand. Would it be easy? Most definitely not. But so is spending 5 years on a growth algorithm. Would your trees be as realistic? Probably not. The Grove is doing an enormous amount of work for you.
Thank you for not “blasting me to the sun”. No need to be over dramatic, I’m not taking away anyone’s freedom just by creating something that people seem to like. It seems that the more popular something becomes, the more people want to make it their own, and this is especially the case for software. This is awesome and I see it as a big compliment. But this is also in harsh contrast with content like 3D models and textures, of which the copyright seems to be respected much more. And this is an important point when it comes to The Grove…
The Grove is in quite a unique place, and I’ve come to realize that there’s a good reason why my fellow tree generator developers also have the exact same restriction in place. It’s not just a simple tool like a hammer - a substantial percentage of the work is being done by the algorithm. Yes you are in control, guiding growth, pruning and tweaking the parameters to create very unique trees… But it’s not just a tool - it’s not like modeling from simple elements like polygons from empty space. It’s somewhere in between a model library and a tool, a strange blend indeed…
I can assure you that none of us (creators of tree software) are fond of restrictions, but it is hard to make a living from creating a tool of which the output is a direct competitor to the tool itself… Think about it…
@Herbert123: I appreciate that you’re wanting to use your trees in games, and don’t want to sell them. Yes, you can definitely use the trees you’ve grown in game engines, no need to contact me, that line was put there for completely different reasons and should never have been there. Please go ahead and ignore it, I will remove it shortly.
@Herbert123: I have to correct you on this quote: “He cannot (1) assert copyright over this add-on (because it is GPL…”. This is not true. The copyright for the code DOES reside with me as the author, and apparently this is even required by the GPL.
@RobWu: Although I am close to the Blender Institute, I do not work there. I work on The Grove full time, have so for the past 5 years and hope to continue to do so for a long time to come.
@Renzatic: Very well said, thank you for this - quote: “Don’t try to undercut them using their own work against them.” I couldn’t have said it better.
I will think about all this and in due time I will update the website and readme file in time. I will still ask users not to create tree libraries, but I realize that I will probably have to rephrase some parts. For now, at least ignore the line about game engines.
Have fun growing,
Wybren van Keulen