License Proliferation

Alex Bligh alex at
Sun Sep 4 20:10:22 UTC 2005

> I understand why you are saying that. But this is exactly what I think
> would not
> be the case. Trying to force the concepts of both "open" and "free"
> licenses under
> a single umbrella will always be trouble. Both are cool, but not the
> same. Both
> are companions, but unfortunately only one is compatible with the other.

We must be at cross purposes. What are the definitions of "open" and "free"
you are using?

>From you second sentence, I am guessing (but see below) that you are
referring to reciprocal licenses as "open" here, and what Larry calls
academic (or BSD-esque) licenses are "free". Whatever one's views on these
license types, I think that is not the common use of the terms, and only
going to cause confusion.

I don't think you can use the word "open" in a manner that *excludes*
BSD-esque licenses (academic licenses) - I think there's simply no
precedent for that. (or indeed excluding reciprocal licenses).

I don't really like the word think "free" is a great term for license
taxonomy, as:
1. To many people it implies "does not cost money". That includes
   binary-only freeware...
2. ...but to the FSF et al. it implies a political statement (no
   problems here), which does not result in a set of OBJECTIVE criteria
   (which means whilst it's useful, it doesn't help with license taxonomy).
It's thus confusing, and adds nothing, but in any case I fail to see how
you could describe either the GPL, or the BSD license, as non-free (which
you seem to imply above)

I don't like the word "compatible" (which implies symmetry) either though
I can hardly criticize you for that "only under license type can
code be relicensed under the terms of the other" is presumably the
point you are trying to make.

>> The GPL not being a recommended license would conceivably be a
>> maintainable
>> position, if carefully explained. (For instance, if the GPL 2.0 was not
>> a recommended license, but 3.0 was, that would clearly be an acceptable
>> position).
> Yes. Hopefully, if we fast-forward a few years, "open" and "free" code
> will be
> bi-directionally compatible. Making the distinction now would help us get
> there.

... but now I am totally confused. Assuming I guessed right what
you mean by "free" and "open", how will code that continues to be licensed
only under a reciprocal license ever be relicensable under an academic


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