Subscription/Service Fees

Seth David Schoen schoen at
Tue Mar 27 23:56:38 UTC 2001

David Davies writes:

> Maybe I don't get some key part.
> I wasn't thinking of any form of copying restriction, only having it clearly
> stated in the license that if you continue to use the software you are
> required to pay $x to xyz inc.
> There is no way to stop user A giving it to user B, and in fact that action
> is likely to be actively encouraged as it is with shareware.  
> However, if the license clearly states an obligation to register and pay a
> subscription fee then users who are complying with either the legal or moral
> implication of the license will often pay.

Some people think that copyright law doesn't actually allow you to
prevent people who have a legal copy of the software from using it in
any way they like.

D. J. Bernstein, author of qmail, is a well-known proponent of this

The usual assumption in the free software community has been that
probably software _can_ be accompanied with a legally binding license
which even regulates non-copyright activities.  But people don't
necessarily think that this is a good situation, just that this is the
way the courts or the industry are going.

Professor Bernstein points out that there is no consistent legal
precedent in the U.S. for licenses to regulate use.  Free software
licenses mostly don't attempt to -- although some licenses claim to be

I think the uncertainty around this question prevented the OSD from
specifically saying that the license must not forbid the program from
being used for any purpose by anyone who has a copy.

Seth David Schoen <schoen at>  | And do not say, I will study when I
Temp.  | have leisure; for perhaps you will
down:   (CAF)  | not have leisure.  -- Pirke Avot 2:5

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