license that allows modifications only through central authority.

John Cowan cowan at
Mon Jun 26 13:24:43 UTC 2006

Greg London scripsit:

> A creative interpretation of bullet 3
> >The license must allow modifications and
> >derived works, and must allow them to be
> >distributed under the same terms as the
> >license of the original software.
> would say such a license would qualify as
> meeting the OSD, because such a license
> would allow modifications, but only through
> the central authority, and these derivatives
> would be distributed under the same license
> that only allows derivatives through the
> central authority.

No way.  #3 guarantees the right to make derivatives and the
right to distribute derivatives.  (#4 qualifies this to the
extent that the licensor may require changes to be distributed
in the form of patches, but let's neglect that for now --
nobody does that except the obsolescent QPL license.)

The right to distribute is implicitly the right to distribute
to anyone, not just the right to distribute to someone (namely
the original author).  The terms of distribution of the original
software included the right of anyone to get source (under #1
and #2), and so must the terms of the derivative works.

Even a restriction to require notifying the original author
of a derivative work is too restrictive: people who make distros
don't want to deal with hundreds of these change-control notifications,
especially when the notification address (email, web form, or whatever)
can go stale.  The most an original licensor can do is to require
people who distribute changes to make the changes publicly available.

Furthermore, all this is simply beating the air.  People who make
patches don't want to hoard them or fork the work in general.  They
*want* to tell the original distributor about the patch so that it
can be incorporated into the next rev of the original work.  In
this way, the modifier isn't responsible for integrating the patch
with each new release.  In the medium-to-long term, hoarding patches
is not worthwhile, and neither is trying to force people to do
what their natural inclinations are anyway.

Samuel Johnson on playing the violin:           John Cowan
"Difficult do you call it, Sir?                 cowan at
 I wish it were impossible."          

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