[kmself at ix.netcom.com: Re: We are looking for an open source license that...]

Chris F Clark cfc at world.std.com
Sun Nov 10 17:29:48 UTC 2002

Thank you, Karsten for your thoughtful reply.

> 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?  .... [much snipped]

The reason for 1 (quoted below) is not so much as to receive the
modifications although that would be a side benefit, especially in
terms of making our software more portable (it currently runs on a
variety of *nix platforms and the Windows family).  

It is more to discourage commercial users from using the open source
version.  We make a certain profit by being the sole provider of this
software and we cannot afford to have that revenue stream dry up

However, we do not wish to deprive open source developers the bounty
of our labor and have no qualms their using our tool to build open
source programs that they give away.  We just don't want some
corporation using the open source version for proprietary software and
avoiding paying us our rightful license fees.

Note, in particular, our product is a "tool" that is used to build
other programs and as such, one does not generally incorporate our
product into the resulting open source software, except for the
run-time library, which we have always provided in source code.

This is the strongest argument for us distributing a "gratis" version.
We can then restrict distribution to individuals (and not
corporations) and allow them free use of the library under any open
source license.  However, we can not then label the product as open
source.  Moreover, we have to control the distribution (to make
certain that the distribution restrictions were met), which as you
have noted would limit mind share.  

And yes, I agree that the GPL would be the license of choice, IF only
it would consider distribution within a company as redistibution and
had a stronger requirement for compelling releasing sources.  Many of
our customers use our product because it gives the a technical edge
over similar products.  They use the product for in-house tools that
never see the light of external users eyes.  We are very frightened of
losing that revenue stream if these users can get a free version that
offers the same advantages.

The closest analogy I can think of to our situation is "Rational
Rose".  It is a great tool and one that I would expect my employer to
provide if I could show true need for it.  However, one can often get
by with hand-drawn pictures on whiteboards, word documents, and
scattered comments in the source code to achieve a fraction of the
same effect and do so with little expenditure.  Therefore, it is
difficult to justify, although I am certain that those companies that
use the tool receive competitive benefits from doing so.  If Rational
gave away Rose as open source, how many $2k per seat licenses would
they sell?  Would the world be a better place if they did?  (I think
my life as a developer would improve.)  The question is, is there a
way to give away ones product and still sell it at a premium?

BTW, our current model is done on a pre-signed license basis (i.e. we
publish the license up front and require acceptance before we ship and
bill for the product) and our software does come with a limited
warantee, in particular that it is free of third party IP
infringements, with the relief that if such an infringement is claimed
we will provide a non-infringing version or refund the purchase price,
as well as a standard 30 day "no questions asked" return policy.
(We've had about a 1% return rate since 1990.)

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