Apache vs. BSD licenses

phil hunt philh at comuno.freeserve.co.uk
Thu Mar 22 14:59:14 UTC 2001

On Wed, 21 Mar 2001 kmself at ix.netcom.com wrote:
> on Tue, Mar 20, 2001 at 11:13:22PM +0000, David Johnson (david at usermode.org) wrote:
> > On Wednesday March 21 2001 06:41 am, kmself at ix.netcom.com wrote:
> > 
> > > > There's a difference between aligning and coinciding. If my goals
> > > > coincided exactly with the FSF, you would be completely right. 
> > >
> > > What differences, specifically?
> > Coincide means to occupy equivalent positions, while align means to be on the 
> > same line. The first is a location and the latter a direction.
> I had in mind a discussion of degrees of freedom in software licensing
> which are of interest to you.
> I've had my own internal debates over the GNU GPL, whether it's "the one
> true way", or merely good enough.  I have yet to provide myself an
> answer I'm satisfied with.
> I'll reiterate:  what Copyleft objectives do you have which are not met
> or satisfied with the current GPL v.2?

I can't answer for David, but I will answer this for myself.

There are three areas were the GPL could be improved, IMO. One is
not very controversial, I hope. The other two are more controverisal,
and there's a case that they could be put into separate licenses.

(1) compatibility with other Free Software licenses. (I'm not
using the term Open Source here, because the FSF aren't going to use
it). At the moment, the GPL is incompatible with any license that in
any way is more restrictive than the GPL. This includes licenses that
the FSF is happy to accept as "Free Software".

(2) allowing time-delayed open source. The BSDL allows code to be
embedded into closed source programs, and the result remaining unfree
forever. I propose that a new license allow embedding into closed
source products, but only if the result becomes open source after
a time delay, say 3-5 years. This is plenty of time for a company
to gain revenue from the sale value of software, and should
result in more software becoming freed, albeit after a time delay.
This license can be thought of as a compromise between the BSDL and 

(3) threats to the legality of free software

At the moment, people who can rightly be considered the enemies
of free software are trying to make free software illegal for some
applications, by using patents or anti-circumvention provisions of
copyright laws. Imagine if they win -- we don't be able to write
or use oepn source media streaming software, for example. Companies
like Microsoft could use this to keep their stranglehold on the 
desktop. I see this as the biggest threat to Free Software: they 
can't beat us on technical quality, so they are going to attempt to
use force to stop us. 

One remedy might be an open source license which says that you
can use this software, provided you don't use software patents
or anti-circumvention laws to stop people using free software.
I've expanded on this idea on my website at

> I share this concern.  I do believe, strongly, that a very conservative
> approach to licensing is healthy, and that a proliferation of licenses,
> compatible or otherwise, is bad -- though incompatible licenses are
> naturally worse.

IMO compatible license are OK. Imagine a world were all Free
Software / Open Source licenses are compatible with each other.
That's the world I'd like to see.

A proliferation of licenses is bad. But how many do we really need?
IMO, about 5:

(i) BSDL-like. Allows encapsulation in non-free programs

(ii) LGPL-like. Copylefts the library, but allows the library's
use in non-free applications

(iii) time-delayed copyleft. See my proposal above

(iv) full copyleft. Like the GPL or QPL.

(v) Copyleft with provisions against agressive use of software patents
and/or  anti-circumvention laws

I think this covers most possibilities.

If all open source licenses were compatible with each other, then it
wouldn't matter much, as anyone could mix and match code from
all these types of licenses, happy that the result was legal and
open source.

People wishing to put open source code into proprietary products would
have to be more careful, but that's no different from the present

> Under this scheme, core, immutable, licensing language is defined.

Would this be based on the language used by the DFSG/OSD?

> Items of variance, which I envision as largely pertaining to identity,
> authoring/versioning authority, and jurisdiction or venue, would be
> identified.

So you could have one license, with optional paragraphs? That sounds
a good idea.

***** Phil Hunt ***** 
"An unforseen issue has arisen with your computer. Don't worry your silly 
little head about what has gone wrong; here's a pretty animation of a 
paperclip to look at instead."
         -- Windows2007 error message

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