What license to pick...

John Cowan jcowan at reutershealth.com
Mon Oct 2 15:47:02 UTC 2000

Lionello Lunesu wrote:

> So what am I doing here on opersource.org?
> I want to go "open source". I've put it between quotes since it turns out to
> be something different than what I thought. I want to share the source code
> with others. They may use the source code for learning, debugging, hacking.
> I want them to tell me how great it is (it is!) and possibly what could be
> done in a different matter. They are allowed to mess with the code, I don't
> care 'bout that.

Then what you want is for people to improve your toolkit without any possibility
of return either in money or in reputation.  You aren't likely to get much
support from the open-source community.  But perhaps what you need is not
the same as what you (think you) want.  Read on.

> But I don't want hunderds of sites to appear, with
> different versions of our toolkit and different patches and what not. (I've
> had the same experience last week while looking at CVS. Way out of hand!)
> To sum it all up:
>  * Everyone can use our toolkit for any project they want, as long as it's
>    not used commercially. What they do with their binaries and their
>    source code is entirely up to them.
>  * We want to be notified of any changes made in our toolkit.
>  * Only we are allowed to distribute the toolkit and its updates.

First of all, relax and take several deep breaths.

You *will* be notified of patches anyway.  There's no need to demand legal
enforcement of this.  As part of the reputation game, hackers will *want*
to send you their improvements and hope that you incorporate them into the
standard system.

The best bet for distribution is to allow other people to distribute modified
toolkits, but trademark the name and reserve it to yourself.  This is in effect
what is done with Perl under the Artistic License: people can distribute
hacked perls, but they can't call the command "perl".  Also, there is no
reason why you shouldn't allow verbatim distribution (via CD-ROM and the like)
and every reason you should: people will be more willing to use your toolkit
if it's already on their Linux or *BSD systems.

As for "[...] as long as it's not used commercially.  What they do [...] is entirely
up to them", that sounds self-contradictory.  What rights *do* you want to
allow people to have?
> I don't think I've covered all the issues, but then again, I don't think the
> discussion is over yet : )

Hopefully not.

There is / one art                   || John Cowan <jcowan at reutershealth.com>
no more / no less                    || http://www.reutershealth.com
to do / all things                   || http://www.ccil.org/~cowan
with art- / lessness                 \\ -- Piet Hein

More information about the License-discuss mailing list