We are looking for an open source license that...

Karsten M. Self kmself at ix.netcom.com
Sun Nov 10 04:52:11 UTC 2002

on Sat, Nov 09, 2002, Chris F Clark (cfc at world.std.com) wrote:
> 1) requires users to return to us modifications made to the code for
>    incoporation into a future version (whether they otherwise
>    distribute those changes or not).

Why?  There are those (though by no means all) who argue that this is
contrary to open source definitions.  Many of those who don't share this
view _still_ feel that such a requirement is counter to norms within the
free software community, and tends to greatly _reduce_ third-party
participation, as they are excessive intrusions of privacy.  

Apple and Sun licenses exist with such clauses, they've been widely and
strongly criticised.

I'd very strongly suggest you reconsider this requirement.

> 2) allows us to distribute code under other non-open source/non-free
>    licenses (including the user contributions we have folded in).

Look into dual licensing.  See the Mozilla project, TrollTech/Qt, and
OpenOffice.org / StarOffice for examples.  This generally involves
copyright assignment by third-party contributors.

It also reduces your ability to gain from free software contributions,
particularly those licensed under the GPL (roughly 70-80% of all free
software), as you would have to individually negotiate with authors to
secure rights to use such code in proprietary products.

> 3) prevents users from distributing our code in a non-open source
>    manner (so we can compel those who wish to do so to buy the
>    non-open source version).  We would prefer a license that also
>    prohibits for-profit (or commercial) use in a non-open source
>    manner, but that looks like a non-achievable goal while still using
>    an open source license, since such a license would discriminate.


>    (Most of our customers use our software to develop in-house, not
>    for resale software, so we will certainly "leave some money on the
>    table" with this strategy, but that's okay.  A license that
>    considered redistribution within a company as distribution would
>    also be a plus for the obvious reason.)

If you can get over your hangups with requirement #1, either the GNU GPL
or Mozilla Public License might suit your needs.  Both are well
established and well respected.

Also balance the direct revenue losses with potential increased market
and mindshare possible via free software.  This is a role tacitly
supported by allowing a level of unlicensed software use in proprietary
models [1].  If you were to adopt a free software license, you could see
your product distributed, at little or no direct cost to you, through
mainstream GNU/Linux distributions such as Debian or Red Hat, providing
potentially greatly enhanced exposure.

> Does such a license exist?  I get the impression from reading this
> group that several license writers are close to having developed such
> a license.  We are not interested in developing such a license
> ourselves and want to use someone elses.
> Our situation--we have a non-open source piece of software that we
> have been selling since 1990.  Over that time, we have repeatedly
> considered releasing either an open source version of the software or
> a non-commercial "gratis" version or both.  We will release an open
> source version at the beginning of the year, if we can find an
> acceptable license by then.

There are middle grounds which allow you to disclose source without
taking a fully open-source tack.  I'd suggest you take a look at
companies such as Netscape/AOL, IBM, Sun, and RealNetworks, to see what
their interests in free software were, and how this influenced their
licensing choice(s).  I'll note that a combination of terms, often
including the GNU GPL, was selected by a number of these companies.

Another tack might be the Sleepycat license, which allows both free
software distribution _and_ a proprietary commercial software business
model, suited to infrastructure software.



1.  See my essay "On Software "Piracy", Lies, BSA, Microsoft, Rocks, and
    Hard Penguins" 

Karsten M. Self <kmself at ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
   Reading is a right, not a feature
     -- Kathryn Myronuk                           http://www.freesklyarov.org
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