Legal soundness comes to open source distribution

Rick Moen rick at
Wed Aug 14 08:23:20 UTC 2002

Quoting Russell Nelson (nelson at

> Oh, it's *always* had to be changed.  Anybody could insert
> restrictions on use into a license and ask us to approve it.  Since
> the OSD says nothing about a license not being allowed to have
> restrictions on use, we would have to approve the license.

Or they'll turn you into a newt?  

Russ, on other occasions, I believe you've been among those reminding
people that the OSD isn't a black-box algorithm into which you plug 
candidate licences to determine whether they pass or fail.  Whether
I recall correctly or not, those were words of wisdom.

I would expect that, if someone proposed a licence that satisfied OSD
formalisms but denied rights to software usage, the Board's reaction
would be "Nice try."  And its reaction to allegations that it "has to"
approve such a licence would be "No."  Doesn't that solve the problem?

There will probably always be clever licence provisions to attempt
subversion of the OSD's intent, no matter how many of them get patched.
It would save a lot of time and energy to fall back on the rule of
reason -- and the right of usage is obviously necessary to and implied
by the existing OSD terms.

"Is it not the beauty of an asynchronous form of discussion that one can go and 
make cups of tea, floss the cat, fluff the geraniums, open the kitchen window 
and scream out it with operatic force, volume, and decorum, and then return to 
the vexed glowing letters calmer of mind and soul?" -- The Cube,
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