License Counseling

Karsten M. Self kmself at
Tue Aug 28 04:46:29 UTC 2001

on Mon, Aug 27, 2001 at 08:48:00PM -0700, Greg Herlein (gherlein at wrote:
> > > I wish to release a program, and make it open source, everything is 
> > > modifiable program and documentation, but other developer's have to report 
> > In addition, your license burdens people who want to modify the
> > software for their own use.
> > 
> > Instead, you should *encourage* people to send your their
> > patches, and you will find that they are mostly happy to do so,
> > because by working their patches into the official distribution,
> > they will not have to apply them over and over as you issue new releases.


> Fundamentallyu, if Daniel wants to release his code and/or docs
> under the license he described, then he should be able to IMHO.
> If the conditions are too burdensome for the distributions then
> they don't have to include it.  They have the choice - they do
> not have to include it, any more than he has to license it in
> such a way that they can include it more easily.
> Why should Daniel be pushed to release under a license other than
> what he wants?  If it's his copyright (and/or he has releases
> from contributors) then let him do what he wants - it's his to
> make that decision.

He's welcome to do as he pleases, with two caveats:

  - There are legal and/or commonly understood meanings of the terms
    "Open Source" and "Free Software".  The proposed licensing terms
    skirt the borders of one and fall outside the scope of the other.

  - My own response to Daniel's post made similar suggestions.  These
    are strategic, not legal, recommendations.  Assuming the project is
    intended to become at least somewhat widely used, adopted, adapted,
    and improved by others, history suggests that using one of the more
    broadly adopted free software licenses will be a better means to
    this end.  
I already pointed at Sun's experience with the SCSL license, Apple trod
similar ground IIRC.  More recently, the ipfilters package used by
OpenBSD has been dropped, and a ground-up reimplementation begun[1], due
to licensing issues with the older package.  OpenBSD previously gave us
OpenSSH for similar reasons.

The Plan9 OS was released by AT&T about a year ago last summer under a
license best described as funky.  While I wouldn't blame the license for
the deafening silence [2] that's followed the Plan 9 release, adoption
of a novel license has almost certainly hurt rather than helped the

Licensing does not exist in a vacuum.  It answers to the law [3], as
most of us are aware.  It also answers to social and economic realities.
People and organizations are more than welcome to choose whatever
license they wish, but they should be aware that this choice may have
significant impacts on any possible success of their project.   Many
newcomers to the free software arena are numbingly unaware of these


1.  Progressing nicely, and possibly ready to be included in the
    mainstream OpenBSD package by the end of this year.

2.  I'm sure that silence has just ended for me ;-)

3.  In its various international incarnations, yet another item to

Karsten M. Self <kmself at>
 What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?             There is no K5 cabal     
   Free Dmitry! Boycott Adobe! Repeal the DMCA!
Geek for Hire              
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