Subscription/Service Fees - OSD Intent

David Johnson david at
Tue Mar 27 23:44:57 UTC 2001

On Wednesday March 28 2001 07:28 am, David Davies wrote:

> So back to one of the questions in my original e-mail
> "Is this a practice that is intended to be prohibited?"
> [under the OSD]

I would say that registration fees are intended to be prohibited. 

> If so why isn't there a more specific clause in the OSD to clarify the
> point ?

That's the trouble with a formal legal definition, and possibly why the FSF 
has never made one for Free Software. I have often wondered where the US 
Supreme Court finds some of the stuff it finds in the Constitution, and why 
they don't seem to recogize the clauses that seem obvious to me :-)

The OSD is an attempt to formally define Free Software (*). It was never 
meant, I believe, to be a list of restrictions on licenses. If the definition 
is too broad, then it allows in licenses that are not Free Software licenses, 
and if it is too narrow then it could exclude some Free Software licenses. 

Then there is always the possibility that registration fees never occured to 
the authors of the OSD. You need to remember that Free Software and the OSD 
came out of the Unix milieu, where shareware is all but unheard of, despite 
its prominence in the DOS and Windows community.

> At least one of the annotations (Rationale sections) could be expanded to
> clarify that that is the intention of whichever clause has the effect of
> limiting this action.

I would agree with this. Similar questions have arisen before, indicating 
there is some confusion out there. It's much add to a rationale than to add 
to a clause.

(*) Oh, will I catch Hell for that statement...

David Johnson

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