OVPL Summary, Take 2

David Barrett dbarrett at quinthar.com
Fri Sep 16 07:30:26 UTC 2005

Ok, so given all that discussion, I'll attempt to update my summary:


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).  The OVPL has three primary innovations:

1) The OVPL achieves a similar effect to the traditional "contributor
grant", but without the paperwork.

2) The license-back used by the OVPL is mandatory, unlike the "opt-in"
approach of traditional contributor grants.

3) The OVPL discourages "private groups" by allowing the ID to request
all modifications that have been distributed to anyone.  (Note: Totally
private, undistributed modifications cannot be requested by the ID. 
Further note that under no circumstances is a contributor required to 
notify the ID or anyone else.)

The major objections to the OVPL include:

A) The OVPL violates the OSD due to its inherent asymmetry.

The rebuttal to this 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.

B) The OVPL enables the ID to "freeload" on the community.

The rebuttal to this 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.  In neither case, however, would the sponsors of the 
OVPL be satisfied.

C) The OVPL uses ambiguous language surrounding "distribution".

The rebuttal to this 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 this is really a complaint about 
the ambiguity of many licenses, and not the OVPL specifically.

D) The OVPL forbids "private groups", such as the GPL allows.

The rebuttal is that this is an OSD-compatible feature, not a bug.


Have I missed or misrepresented anything?  How can this be improved?


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