FOR APPROVAL: WhizbangApplicationCompany Public License 1.0

Brian Behlendorf brian at
Thu Nov 16 21:24:53 UTC 2006

On Wed, 15 Nov 2006, Nicholas Goodman wrote:
>> Use-Case 1:
>> Let's say I develop an application offering 50 different
>> functionalities, 5 of them using third-party software under
>> WhizbangApplicationCompany Public License (aka APL-like license). Can
>> you please imagine my user interface? I would have to have 5 (!) lines
>> of text and logos at the end of each of my screens with links back to
>> the third-party software authors. I haven't seen any software's
>> graphical user interface looking so "funny" and I hope OSI won't
>> enforce us going this way by approving such a license.

Have you ever seen section 2C of the GPLv2?

   c) If the modified program normally reads commands interactively when
   run, you must cause it, when started running for such interactive use
   in the most ordinary way, to print or display an announcement including
   an appropriate copyright notice and a notice that there is no warranty
   (or else, saying that you provide a warranty) and that users may
   redistribute the program under these conditions, and telling the user
   how to view a copy of this License. (Exception: if the Program itself
   is interactive but does not normally print such an announcement, your
   work based on the Program is not required to print an announcement.)

If there was an application that met the conditions above, that 
incorporated the GPL-licensed works of 50 different copyright holders into 
the same application, the above could be interpreted as requiring the 
publication of a copyright notice listing all 50 different holders and 
their licenses.  Since the GPL is OSD-conformant (or better phrased, the 
OSD was carefully designed to allow the GPL to be OSD-conformant), the 
user interface experience issue you bring up can't be enough on its own to 
argue against OSD certification.

It seems a high bar to set that if an otherwise compliant candidate 
license creates simply burdensome conditions later on, that such a license 
should not be certified as Open Source.  As a really silly example, a 
license clause that required me as a licensee to do ten push-ups for each 
copy I distributed would not, as I read the OSD, cause an otherwise 
compliant license to become non-compliant.  However, a project with such a 
license would presumably fail in the marketplace.

Seems like there's the pressure of not just being OSD-conformant, but 
successful in the marketplace, that would drive most companies away from a 
license term that places unreasonable burdens upon end-users.  If I were 
designing such a license, I might require instead that there be an "About" 
link or interface button on every screen or interactive element, and that 
"About" link must mention the original author and include a particular 
copyright notice and, if a graphical interface, a logo.  Such a box could 
include much other content, of course, and would not disrupt the user 
experience in the way you're concerned.

On the other hand to my "successful in the marketplace" argument, those 
same companies may be happy to place an unreasonable burden in their "Open 
Source", so as to create demand for an alternative, commercial, but 
unburdened license.  This is the whole "dual license" model in a nutshell, 
and unsurprisingly it disincents outside contributions.  The argument is 
that the value of those lost outside contributions is smaller than the 
value of the revenue associated with the alternative license.  This might 
make for some unhappiness and confusion, but is no more unfair (IMHO) than 
a licensor choosing to GPL-license a work that others would prefer to see 
under a non-copyleft license.


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