Two new licenses - OVPL & OVLPL

Alex Bligh alex at
Sun Apr 10 14:12:56 UTC 2005

--On 10 April 2005 05:31 -0700 Andy Tai <lichengtai at> wrote:

> While not specifically aimed at, the
> question can be asked, over similar licenses, why
> should contributors give specific privileges to the
> initial developers?  Shouldn't  everyone in the
> general public, the initial developer and other
> contributors alike, be equal?  If you want to maintain
> a proprietary version and you are interested in the
> contribution of someone, shouldn't you negotiate with
> him separately to license his code for non-open source
> commercial use?
> Isn't that the real fair way to everyone?

That's undoubtedly the fair way if one is starting from scratch. However,
under some circumstances, the situation starts asymmetric. The initial
developer (ID) may have put several hundreds of man years into the code
base. The quid-pro-quo of making it available, is the ability to be able to
continue to use the code base for commercial purposes, with code, file
etc., compatibility between trees. They are also going to end up
as maintainer. The way that gets paid for is through the existence of
a commercial tree.

IE when you consider "Fair", you have to first consider that the code at
present is closed source. Forcing the ID to BSD licensing it (say), or for
that matter GPL licensing it, would be "Unfair" to the ID. They
would not chose to do that in many circumstances, unless they get some
enhanced benefit. This is the additional license grant.

You ask "why should contributors give specific privileges to the initial
developers?". I think that question needs to be asked the other way around
for preexisting projects, because it's the initial developer that's going
to decide the license. So the question is: "if an initial developer is only
prepared to open-source an existing code base on the basis that they get
specific additional privileges, why should anyone else contribute their

>From the FAQ:

Q. What is all this about an additional license grant to the Initial
Developer? Why would I want to contribute to an open source project under a
license with this term in?

A. Clause 3.3 of the license gives an additional license grant to the
Initial Developer to use any modifications a contributor distributes in
future versions of the licensed software, whether distributed under this
license or any other license. This allows an Initial Developer to use your
contributors in their 'closed-source' product as well. Similar terms exist
within the QPL at 3(b), and within the Sun Community Source License at
2.2(b), 3(b). We acknowledge that some potential contributors might be put
off - they may see this as the Initial Developer being allowed to
'unfairly' exploit their contribution. There are three counter-arguments
here: firstly, in the circumstances in which we envisage the OVPL/OVLPL
being used, the Initial Developer would probably not have released the code
under an open source license at all, unless they had the 'quid-pro-quo' of
being able to benefit from modifications in their closed source variants;
secondly, the Initial Developer can only benefit from this term if the
modifications continue to be present in the open-source variant, thus
ensuring continued availability to the community; and thirdly, this allows
the Initial Developer to keep the closed-source and open-source variants of
a project 'in sync', avoiding file-format and feature incompatibility
between variants. Equally we expect the Initial Developer will in general
continue to contribute code to the open-source variant.

Q. I can see the additional license grant has benefits for the Initial
Developer. Does it have any benefits to the rest of the Open Source

A. Yes - it makes relicensing, and subsequent dual licensing far easier.
The Initial Developer, as he is given an unrestricted license to the code
(so long as he continues to make it available under the OVPL/OVLPL) can
also sublicense it, including any modifications. This allows the Initial
Developer to subsequently decide to license the code under a new license
(perhaps the GPL, or a BSD license) without having to contact and gain the
permission of each individual contributor. Of course, the software will
still be available under the OVPL/OVLPL as an alternative. Many vendors
wish to make a transition to Open Source gradually, and this license helps
them do that, which in turn helps the Open Source community.


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