OVPL summary

David Barrett dbarrett at quinthar.com
Wed Sep 14 08:28:47 UTC 2005

David Barrett wrote:
> I agree 100%.  If the board truly hasn't been following the issue and 
> hasn't made any decisions, then they deserve an accurate summary of the 
> real concerns.

Being the kind samaritan that I am (and being over-eager to get the OVPL
approved), here's my attempt at a *concise* summary: (Please excuse the
imprecision; anything shorter than the OVPL will, by necessity, be less


The OVPL binds all contributors with a strong "copyleft" clause, with a
single exception made for the the "initial developer" (ID) who is exempt
(and thus able to relicense the combined work, including contributions,
without restriction).

This is similar in effect to the common "dual licensing" arrangement,
with two major exceptions:

1) The OVPL is weaker than dual licensing because it does not transfer
copyright to the ID (which is not legally possible in the US without a
physical signature), and
2) The OVPL mandates contributor grants, whereas dual licensing merely
requests them.

There are three primary objections to the OVPL:

A) The OVPL violates the OSD by granting the ID unique privileges.
B) The OVPL enables the ID to "freeload" on the community.
C) The OVPL requires private changes be made public.

The rebuttal to (A) is that other OSI-approved licenses also grant the
ID special privileges, though the OVPL certainly goes further than any
other.  Furthermore, given that the "dual licensing" tactic is embraced
as open-source compatible, and given that the OVPL produces an
effectively equivalent result, the OVPL's goals should likewise be
embraced as open-source compatible.

The rebuttal to (B) is that the "freeloading problem" is a non-event;
contributors choose to contribute under the conditions of the license or
not.  A community that perceives the ID is freeloading should stop
contributing.  However, at least two compromises have been offered to
address this freeloader concern:

i) Allow contributors to "opt-out" of the ID license-back, thereby
requiring the ID to obey the copyleft should he accept the contribution.
ii) Allow contributors to submit code under the BSD license.

In other words, in the event of freeloading, contributors could (i) bind
everyone (ID included) by copyleft, or (ii) release everyone from
copyleft.  In both cases, the ID's exclusive exemption from copyleft
would be negated.

The rebuttal to (C) is that the OVPL's language surrounding disclosure
requirements is not materially different than the OSI-approved CDDL or
indeed many other licenses, and thus (b) is really a complaint about the
ambiguity of many licenses, and not the OVPL specifically.

Regardless, a more detailed and comprehensive summary was published to
this list on 2005/7/27 by Alex Bligh titled "Re: OVPL and open ownership
- summary of discussion".


Anyway, that's my take on the situation.  I rather agree with Mark
Shewmaker that further debate isn't valuable until the actual decision
makers elect to participate.  But in the meantime, can you offer
improvements to the above summary?  How can it be made more fair, 
comprehensive, and concise?

-david (OVPL's #1 fan, but not a sponsor)

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