AW: For Approval: German Free Software License

Axel Metzger metzger at
Wed Nov 24 13:13:28 UTC 2004

Hello Bernhard, hello everybody

Bernhard Fastenrath wrote:

>>>This allows the license board to change the terms of
>>>the license in any way they desire, even in a way that is no
>>>longer compliant with the OSI definition of open source software,
>>>which should be sufficient to make the license unacceptable for
>>>the OSI.
>>>This clause is also very likely unacceptable as both the licensor and
>>>the licensee give up control of the content of their contract.
>>>To leave the interpretation of 'required and reasonable' to a court
>>>seems to overstrain the court as these terms are subject to
>> Please see also my long comment on this point in the answer to Chuck
>> There is one substantial new point in your remark. You are suggesting
>that a
>> license cannot be considered as an Open Source License if one is not sure
>> about the exact terms of future license versions. I do not agree to that
>> point of view. If a new license version would not meet the requirements
>> the OSI Definition then this new license version should not be certified.
>> do not see why license version 1 should be infected by a (misleadingly!!)
>> presumed non-compliance of license version 2. BTW: We will make it clear
>> the statute of the license board that every new license version will meet
>> requirements of the OSI definition.
>I would like to suggest that this is insufficient as the statute of the
>license board is subject to change while licensees and licensors using
>the GFSL have entered a binding agreement that can be modified by the
>license board.

You answered only to my last argument. My first and major point is that OSI
should treat the non-compliance of license version 2 if this case will occur.
I do not see that this is a problem of version 1. 

I do not see any legal guaranty that FSF will meet any criteria of the
OSI-Definition when writing the GPL V3. Did this hinder OSI to certify GPL
V2? No. 

>> This remark touches a difficult point. We (i.e. the lawyers engaged to 
>> write the license and the Ministry) proofed this question in-depth. 
>> First of all, it's a contractual issue - therefore the choice of law 
>> clause in section 10 is applicable. Hence, German law governs the 
>> question if a third party can change the provisions of a long-term 
>> contract. Here is a major difference to the GPL/FSF-case. The FSF is 
>> licensor AND license authority (i.e. the entity entitled to change the 
>> terms of the license) at the same time.
>That is only true for software published by the FSF. I wrote several
>programs myself that have been made available publicly under the GPL.
> currently hosts 1855 programs that are not published by
>the FSF but which probably contain a high rate of software that is
>distributed under the GPL anyway. probably has much more to
>add to this.

I agree - but for some important components the FSF has both hats on its
head. And this is where the legal problems begin. We try to avoid this
problem by creating a neutral representative authority.


More information about the License-discuss mailing list