OSD modification regarding what license can require of user

Mitchell Baker mitchell at mozilla.org
Thu Mar 14 07:14:23 UTC 2002

Bruce Perens wrote:

>From: John Cowan <jcowan at reutershealth.com>
>>To be concrete, suppose I provide a "fast grepping" service.
>Grep is an over-simple case, which might lead you to trivialize the problem.
>Consider Evolution, OpenOffice, or GNU Emacs. Postulate that someone makes
>a way for somebody to use one of those programs as if it were running
>natively on their computer, without ever activating the "distribution"
>terms of the GPL. And that same someone makes significant enhancements
>which he does not disclose in either source or binary form.
>Consider this from the perspective of the creator of Evolution,
>OpenOffice, or GNU Emacs. This person has put an immense amount of work
>out in the public with the expectation that improvements that are widely
>used would be distributed, and thus would be returned to them. And they
>aren't. Is this fair to them? I contend that this sort of activity should
>be placed outside of the covenant represented by the GPL. Richard and
>Eben don't necessarily agree with me - yet.

It would be unfortunate if the OSD prohibited people from agreeing with 
the view Bruce espouses here.  Physical distribution of copies was a 
primary way for providing access to software not long ago, this is 
becoming increasingly untrue.  Limiting the OSD to only those licenses 
which focus on distribution will lead to a rigidity based on past 
conditions.  The Mozilla Public Licenses still focuses on distribution, 
in large part because the community is still unsettled about this.  But 
I would hate to see the OSD changed so that the MPL could not try to 
cover the situation Bruce has described.  Richard and Eben may not agree 
wrt the GPL.  But other communities of developers may find an ASP 
provision important, even critical to their world.  

There's clearly no good answer yet.  But why prohibit people from 
finding one?

>One thing that we learned in deploying the OSD is that the world would
>surprise us, and that the language would end up being more important than
>we thought. I don't want to be surprised as much the next time around.
>	Thanks
>	Bruce
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