For Approval: Open Source Software Alliance License

Ian Lance Taylor ian at
Thu Sep 25 19:50:08 UTC 2003

Sean Chittenden <sean at> writes:

> > Your arguments about businesses don't make any sense to me since
> > there are certainly a number of businesses happily making money from
> > GPL software.  Here is what my version of what I think you are
> > doing.
> Some, not all.  Just to keep the discussion from thinking that open
> source is copyleft or that the OSSAL wouldn't be useful, let me point
> out the following: Nokia's CheckPoint firewall (often considered the
> best firewall in the industry) isn't based on Linux for a reason.
> Same with Mac OS-X, BSDI/WindRiver, BIG-IP, etc.  Businesses using
> open source doesn't mean businesses using GPL'ed software: there are
> plenty of examples of the BSDL software being true.

You've suggested that some people confuse open source with the GPL,
but I don't think anybody on this list has that confusion.  Certainly
many companies use BSD licensed code, just as many companies use GPL
code.  I don't see that either point proves that the OSSAL would be

> > The reason that some people like the BSD license is that it permits
> > proprietary forks.  They don't usually say it that way.  They
> > usually say that the software is maximally free/open.
> I define free along the lines of the way the BSD crowd does, not along
> the way of the Linux crowd.  Free in terms of rights, not free in
> terms of cost to personal developers.

Oddly, the Linux crowd defines free the same way.  But it's easy to
get into hair-splitting arguments over the meaning of free, and
probably not terribly worthwhile.

> > The OSSAL appears designed to prohibit GPL forks.  It permits
> > proprietary forks, but prohibits GPL forks.  Since the main effect
> > of a GPL fork would be to prohibit proprietary forks of the forked
> > code, the effect of the OSSAL is to prohibit prohibiting proprietary
> > forks.
> Did you mean to say, "prohibit prohibiting proprietary forks?" Your
> wording is rather verbose in the end, but you are correct, the OSSAL
> is designed to prohibit GPL forks and to explicitly permit proprietary
> forks.

I did indeed mean to say ``prohibit prohibiting proprietary forks.''
I think it's fairly important to understand that that is the only
significant effect of the OSSAL.

You say that the OSSAL explicitly permits proprietary forks, but the
BSD license does that as well.  The OSSAL prohibits something very
specific: if somebody takes code under license X, and takes GPL code,
and links them together, and distributes the result, that is permitted
if X is the BSD license, but prohibited if X is the OSSAL license.

Note that if I take BSD code, and link it with GPL code, and
distribute the result, the recipient is permitted to extract the BSD
code and make a proprietary fork of that.  So the BSD license always
does permit proprietary forks of the BSD code itself.

> > This doesn't seem useful to me, but obviously I don't speak for the
> > OSI.
> It's useful if you're a business in that if you use OSSAL software in
> a product, you're never going to have to go back and rewrite that code
> that you depend on if the module author goes copyleft.  In doing so,
> more businesses would likely use and contribute to Open Source.

When I read that statement it is clear to me that that is true of the
BSD license as well.  Can you please explain to me, in words of one
syllable and taking very slow steps, why it is not?

> > Also obviously you can use your license whether or not the OSI blesses
> > it.
> Correct, though as stated before, Open Source is bigger than copyleft
> software.  -sc

Well, yes, I know you're concerned about that sort of confusion, but
the rest of us are not.  For that matter, open source is also bigger
than the OSI.

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