OSD modification regarding what license can require of

Matthew C. Weigel weigel at libcom.com
Mon Mar 18 00:36:38 UTC 2002

On Friday, March 15, 2002, at 12:04 a, Russell Nelson wrote:

> Hrm.  I think that the GPL was simply acclaimed as an Open Source
> license.  I'm not sure it actually qualifies as such, now that I see
> this note.  OSD#3 says that the license must allow modifications.  We
> have always interpreted that to mean that the license may not disallow
> modifications.

I think that the correct interpretation - the one which most 
accurately reflects the spirit of free software- is that which 
reflects that there are more and less appropriate restrictions on 

The purpose of the GPL restriction is to ensure that the user is 
aware of the license under which the program is available.  It is 
not substantially different from the requirement that files that 
have changed be prominently marked as such; there is a restriction 
on modification that you can not modify something without marking 
it as modified.

This is also not substantially different from restricting 
modification from removing copyright notices. These are

The purpose of other licenses (that have not been approved) that 
restrict modification has generally been to get around the spirit 
of OSD#7.

> We have never removed OSI approval for any license, so I'm sure that
> the GPL is in no danger of not being an Open Source license.  However,
> I'll take a good hard look at any license which doesn't permit any and
> all modifications to a program.

I don't think this is the right approach.  If the OSD precludes the 
GPL, in your opinion, then either your opinion or the OSD needs to 
change such that that is not the case. If a future revision of the 
GPL fails because of this opinion, something is wrong; if a future 
revision of the GPL passes because an earlier version passed, 
something is wrong.

All licenses should at all times be passable by the OSD; this is 
why it is my opinion as well that licenses should be certified or 
not based on the spirit of open source, so that as the OSD is 
refined licenses that were certified become uncertifiable.

> If it's in the documentation, such a notice is displayed.  It
> says nothing about that notice having to be displayed by the software
> itself, whereas the GPLv2 specifically says that the program must
> display the message.

This is a false dichotomy. The documentation is part of the 
software when it is included in the package and under the same 
execution of a license. Restrictions on modification to documents 
are restrictions on modification full stop.

weigel at libcom.com

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