For Approval: Open Source Software Alliance License

Sean Chittenden sean at
Mon Sep 29 21:49:32 UTC 2003

> > > > Changes made to the BSD code by the authors of the GPL product
> > > > are changes that are available only under the GPL.
> > > 
> > > Yes, and changes made to the BSD code by the authors of a
> > > proprietary product are changes that are only available to the
> > > authors of the proprietary product.
> > > 
> > > What's the essential difference?
> > 
> > If the changes are outside of the scope of a business's core, then
> > maintaining those changes is expensive and it is in the businesses
> > best interests to release those changes.  The OSSAL prevents those
> > changes from being licensed under the GPL, making those changes
> > available to other widget makers.
> That did not answer my question.  Please try again.
> Your statement also happens to be at least partly false.  The
> copyright holder of code can license it under whatever restrictions
> it chooses.  In particular, the copyright holder can license the
> code to itself under the OSSAL, and to everybody else under the GPL.

Correct, but now the author has to maintain the changes if they want
to keep it licensed under the GPL.  I like some of the wording from a
revised version of the OSSAL that I have yet to publish, which states:

4. If redistributions of source code, in either a textual or
   non-textual form and any contributions made to source code, in
   either a textual or non-textual form, are distributed under an
   inheritive license, source code and its contributions must also be
   distributed under the terms of the OSSAL.

Which prevents exactly what you're implying, but does so by stooping
to the tactics that the GPL uses, which I find reprehensible.  This is
something that I haven't reconciled with myself yet and likely will in
the next day or two (translation: more scotch needeth be applied).

> That is, the copyright holder can release the code under the GPL,
> while still using it in a proprietary product.  You've several times
> mentioned that you are concerned about new modules.  If those new
> modules are not derivative works of the original OSSAL code, but
> merely use an API which it provides, then this can be done with an
> OSSAL project.

Which is fine, 'cause the language itself is going to be distributed
under a contract that requires redistributed modules be available
under the terms of the OSSAL.

> Naturally nobody other than the copyright holder can take this GPL
> code, link it to OSSAL code, and redistribute the result in binary
> form.  However, anybody can take this GPL code and redistribute the
> source, and that same anybody can take the original OSSAL code and
> redistribute the source of that.  Users can link the resuting code
> together, provided they do not redistribute the resulting binary.

Which is what you'd do if you're making widgets...

> So the source code can get released, it can in principle be used,
> and yet it will be under the GPL even though the original code was
> under the OSSAL.  This approach would work nicely in the BSD pkgsrc
> system, though binary packages would not be permitted.

Which isn't very practical for installation CD's in the case of Open
Office or KDE or Mozilla, or anything that takes an appreciable amount
of time to compile.

> This would admittedly be a mildly perverse exercise.  Yet it is the
> type of exercise which you say that you are concerned about.  If any
> ``widget maker'' would go to the trouble of releasing GPL modules of
> BSD licensed code, they could easily go to the only slightly greater
> trouble of doing the same thing with OSSAL licensed code.

Which, now that you point it out, is something I need to think about.
I think I'll resort to having my legal staff ensure that contributions
are released under the OSSAL much the same way the EFF does with
contributions to gcc.

> In practice I don't know of any widget maker who has even bothered
> to release GPL versions of BSD licensed code; it seems like a
> pointless exercise in bad public relations.  Do you know of any
> companies which have done this?

The Linux kernel?

> This type of trick can also be done with the GPL, of course, but the
> results are relatively ineffective because the GPL imposes
> restrictions on any redistribution of GPL code.  The OSSAL does not
> impose any restrictions until a copyleft license enters the mix, so
> the only effort needed is to keep the copyleft license out until it
> is too late.

Point taken, I'll stew on this a bit.  Since the OSSAL operates with
the assumption of reciprocity amongst its users/community, I'm not
sure this is a problem I'd solve with license restrictions.  *still
thinking about this* -sc

Sean Chittenden
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