License Proliferation

Chris Zumbrunn chris at
Mon Sep 5 10:28:18 UTC 2005

First, just to save bandwidth and avoid responding with similar wording 
to several message:

When I used the term "free" I meant the orwellian freedom...

"free" == "Freedom as defined by RMS" == copy-left

I thought on this mailing list this would not create confusion. 
Obviously I was wrong.

When I used the term "open" I meant "Freedom as defined by the rest of 
us; you know, the absence of
restrictions on activity", as Russell put it.

On Sep 5, 2005, at 9:43 AM, David Ryan wrote:

> This discussion I believe started because of discussions of whether a 
> license should be approved based on its compatibility with other 
> licenses.  You will never be able to place code from any strong 
> copy-left license into BSD software. I think compatibility with other 
> licenses in its class would be helpful and encouraged.  However, some 
> ideals may never allow compatibility.

Sublicense != Relicense

Only the copyright holder can relicense code under a different license. 
If you include code that you received under a BSD license in your 
larger work that you license to me under a proprietary license, then 
the code you included is strictly speaking sublicensed by you to me and 
is still BSD. You can only sublicense, not relicense. I could take that 
code and do with it whatever
the BSD allows. The fact that you most likely will not be providing me 
with the source code, since it is part of your proprietary larger work, 
is just a technicality.

Basically, what I was arguing is that the OSD could be amended with a 
clause that prohibits licenses to dictate the license of larger works.

> There seems to be two camps growing on the list.  The Darwinian camp 
> who believe that aslong as a license is conformant then let it out in 
> the wild and fend for itself.  If it is successful then more people 
> will use it, may even improve it. If the license is not succesful it 
> will be limp off into a corner of the internet and die.

Yes, but even the Darwinists need to ask themselves what exactly the 
licenses need to conform to. The OSD, of course, but that can be seen 
as a moving target.

> The other camp believe that the OSI have a strong duty to uphold a 
> higher standard and make it easier for businesses and individuals to 
> understand open source licenses.  This should be achieved by raising 
> the bar of what needs to be achieved to get a license approved.

I believe even the Darwinists can agree with this, depending on exactly 
how the bar is raised. After all, they seem to have agreed to put it 
where it is now.

> My preference is the Darwinian one.  The biggest deciding factor 
> behind this is that as a developer I believe it is my choice to decide 
> how I will release my software.  Making my software open source is one 
> of a number of options.  I can choose to keep it on my PC and not 
> share it at all,  I can choose to create a commercial business and 
> sell the software as closed source, or I can choose to make my 
> software available with source code.  If I make it available with 
> source code, there are plenty of both OSI approved and non-approved 
> licenses to choose from.  In the end it is my choice.  [...]

Exactly, just because you pick a license that is not OSI approved, does 
not mean it is not open source. It might just never have been submitted 
for approval or/and it might disagree with the OSD definition of open 
source. So far the OSI has tried to prevent
the latter from happening by keeping the OSD synonymously with "open 
source". In fact, that seems to have been a major goal of OSI so far.

> One of the common arguments for the other camp is that companies are 
> going to throw their hands up and say enough.  Please, let them do it. 
>  The solution will likely be that only a select number of licenses 
> will be chosen by them.   If my software license doesn't conform then 
> I need to choose if I want to change it to meet their select license, 
> or just as possible, decide I don't mind that they won't accept the 
> software.  Each business are also likely to have different 
> requirements for their license approval.  I think the OSI performing 
> that function is premature and unlikely to meet everyones goals.

True, but another argument by "the other camp" is that easing code 
reuse should be a goal of the OSI and that this is the true motivator 
for license tiering and non-proliferation efforts. I'm saying, if that 
shall be true then the OSI needs to amend the OSD accordingly and move 
the GPL to the second tier of licenses that no longer meet the new OSD.


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