A prototype License Wizard up and running

Chuck Swiger chuck at codefab.com
Sat Apr 9 20:08:43 UTC 2005

John Cowan wrote:
> Chuck Swiger scripsit:
>> I know of people who want to release their software and ensure that 
>> other people who modify that source to make derivative works are 
>> required to also make their changes publicly available-- in which case, 
>> the GPL is a good choice.  I'd suggest rewording Q2 based on that.
> I considered that wording but rejected it.  The GPL does more than
> restrict the behavior of people who modify the GPLed source, it
> (purports to) restrict the behavior of people who reuse the source
> unmodified.

Sure, but any license beyond a simple permissive license imposes some 
restrictions, even upon those who reuse the source unmodified.

The thread on patent termination clauses and the ASPL leaps to mind, here....

> I've changed it to "Do you want to ensure that your code is only used in 
> Open Source programs?"

Good.  That seems to be an improvement, although the miscibility of some Open 
Source licenses with all other Open Source licenses is not guaranteed.

>>Being able to create private modifications of a program without 
>>releasing your changes strikes me as a privacy issue which can be 
>>important, but many licenses permit that, not just the BSD license.  
>>I'd mention the MIT/X11 license there, as well. 
> I have added language about private modifications, and changed the
> BSD recommendation to a BSD or MIT recommendation.

OK, thanks.

>> A grid of "is license X compatible with license Y" would be more useful 
>> and less obviously biased than asking people about the degree of GPL 
>> compatibility they need in every other question.
> The GPL is the dominant license in the FLOSS ecosystem, and compatibility
> with it, for good or bad, is a very important consideration.  I love
> the AFL, and I'd like to see every "copycenter" license switch to it
> tomorrow, but the FSF has declared it incompatible with the GPL, and it
> ain't gonna happen.

"Dominant license"?  Hmm.  [1]

I recall people on the GNU lists who felt much the same way.  I don't mind 
people who prefer and advocate the GPL-- it is a good license, and is 
definitely one people should consider-- but I'm willing to object when people 
switch from recommending the GPL to advocating the GPL so strongly that they 
dismiss reasonable alternatives from consideration.

I don't believe that is the position you hold, John-- the initial version of 
your wizard selected what seemed to be pretty reasonable assortment of the 
popular licenses, after all-- and I apologize if I seem to be setting you up 
to defend a position that is not the position you actually have.

However, a user trying to select the best license for them using the license 
wizard, should be presented with questions that evaluate that user's 
requirements and preferences, without an obvious bias towards one specific 


[1]: The GPL is the most commonly selected license developers have chosen for 
projects at SourceForge.  A quick scan over the "top ten downloads" gives 5 
GPLs, one LGPL, two or three Pythons (depending on how you classify 
Bittorrent), and a BSD.  Going by SF downloads, one would conclude that the 
GPL is in first, Python is second, and BSD is a distant third.

While I like Python a whole lot, I doubt the ~10 million downloads of P2P 
sharing software genuinely represents a larger userbase than the number of 
people using the ASPL in Apple's MacOS X.  (Or should OS X count as ASPL + 
BSD, optionally plus GPL + Artistic + Python if one installs the dev tools?)

And then there's what?, ~200 million people using the zlib code from Mark 
Adler and Jean-loup Gaily in Windows and almost elsewhere else, for that 
matter.  There's also the IPFW code from Luigi Rizzo, used for the firewall in 
newer flavors of Windows, as well as in OS X, is BSD-licensed, so how does one 
count that?

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