Subscription/Service Fees - OSD Intent

Randy Kramer rhkramer at
Thu Mar 29 19:18:25 UTC 2001


And, if that is too much work, maybe (and I say maybe because I think
there may be some legal risks) someone could create a plain language
statement of the intent of open source.  

By this, I mean something like:

"It is the intent of the open source licenses to promote blah blah blah
-allowing software to be distributed at no charge
-preventing anyone from charging for open source software
The approved Open Source licenses have been approved on the basis that
we (the OSF or whatever) believe the terms of the approved licenses
achieve the objectives stated above."

(Maybe this is already done somewhere??)

I have occasionally heard that, in the legal profession, it is sometimes
considered an advantage to never change the language of a law or
agreement but allow the interpretation of the language to evolve.  I
don't know the reasons for this -- I may have been given some reasons
once, even by a lawyer -- IIRC, one viewpoint is that if the language is
not changed there may be a stronger case to say such and such agreement
is based on a long line of precedent which has never changed. 

And maybe, if an amendment is made to an Open Source license to
explicitly prohibit charging for Open Source software, it opens the door
to an argument that licenses before the amendment allowed the charging
of fees.

But, if so, we can do better, can't we?


Randy Kramer

Lou Grinzo wrote:
> I'm sure I'm going to get beat up for suggesting this (as happens every time
> I offer the idea, it seems), but what the heck...
> I've contended for a long time that the primary problem with open/free
> licenses is that they're not specific enough.  Look at this conversation
> thread that's been running for days.  We have a bunch of intelligent,
> honest, and genuinely interested people here who are having a hard time
> figuring out just what in the world the GPL and/or the OSD mean.  How the
> heck are average computer users or people who aren't as benign in their
> outlook on OS supposed to interpret these documents?
> My solution is for some group of people (like us) to collectively assemble a
> list of every permutation of activity we can think of involving
> software--sell it modified/unmodified with/without source, linked/not linked
> with non-free/open SW, bundled/not bundled with other software, etc.--and
> then have the licenses that care about where such lines are drawn include a
> list that explicitly says something along the lines of, "Subject to the
> other terms and conditions of this license, you are granted the rights to do
> the following things with this software.  You are not granted the right to
> do anything with this software that is not explicitly mentioned below unless
> you make separate arrangements with the original author(s)."  [list of
> activities]  Obviously some licenses, like the BSD license, would not
> benefit from changing, since it's so wide open to begin with.
> Perhaps I'm just a simple-minded programmer and writer, but I think this
> would help clear up matters a great deal for everyone involved if the
> licenses said exactly which rights they did and didn't grant, so no one had
> to divine what the spirit of the license was, or go ask RMS what the GPL
> really means, etc.  Yes, it would take some work, and yes, it would probably
> need some revising as we collectively think of some details only after we've
> all had a chance to think about it for some time, but in the long run
> wouldn't that be far better than perpetuating all this confusion?
> Take care,
> Lou
> -----Original Message-----
> From: phil hunt [mailto:philh at]
> Sent: Thursday, March 29, 2001 5:57 AM
> To: license-discuss at
> Subject: Re: Subscription/Service Fees - OSD Intent
> On Wed, 28 Mar 2001, David Johnson wrote:
> > On Thursday March 29 2001 03:25 am, Eric Jacobs wrote:
> >
> > > It is this sort of illogical argument that will prevent this issue from
> > > ever coming to rest. Let me offer an analogy.
> >
> > I did manage to pass logic in college. However, I don't always do so well
> in
> > English. Let me restate what I meant:
> >
> > Software that requires a registration fee is possible, and exists. Such
> > software cannot be considered Open Source, however.
> What about software that require registration (e.g. by email), but not
> a registration *fee*? Can that be Open Source?
> --
> ***** 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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