GPL-compatible vs Free was Re: For Approval: Microsoft Permissive License

Chris Travers chris at
Wed Aug 22 15:56:50 UTC 2007

Donovan Hawkins wrote:
> I never said anything about GPL compatibility. My post was regarding 
> the FSF Free Software Definition and why I thought it created an 
> unfortunately broad meaning to the word "free" with respect to software.

Although I think that the FSF's articulated definition of Free Software 
is good (the 4 Basic Freedoms), you won't get any argument from me 
beyond this.  My views on the FSF are well known here :-).

If the AGPL Draft 2 is considered Free, then, well, there you have it....

The problem is that people think of the definition of Free Software as 
based on what the FSF does.

> It was a poor choice of example to raise in making my point, since the 
> example garnered more attention than the point I was trying to make. I 
> should have simply pointed out why we need to avoid confusion with 
> open source terminology and used the OSI's own work in preserving the 
> Open Source Definition as an example of that effort.

Unfortunately, I am not entirely sure the OSI is off the hook either.  
One of the projects I was working on was looking at changing licenses 
towards something other than the GPL.  Larry Rosen's OSL came up.  
Whatever the license is, it does attempt to use copyright law to enforce 
restrictions on the use of the software (see section 5 of that 
license).  My view is that such a license is far less Free than the AGPL...

In the vast majority of cases, I think that software which is open 
source provides certain freedoms of use to the user but the freedom to 
use the software however one sees fit is not guaranteed by the OSD.  
Thus one seems to be able to place arbitrary *use* conditions on the 
software provided that they are not explicitly discriminatory.  For 
example, if I include in my software license that one may only deploy so 
that it is accessible to other users if I first become familiar with the 
contents of the manual (either by reading it or some other means), then 
how is this prohibited in the OSD?  Can I add sillier conditions to use 
than that?

The OSI does seem to be more consistant in enforcing the standards than 
the FSF,* in my view.  I just wish the standards were a bit higher :-)

* The desire to ensure that the EMACS manual always included political 
advocacy materials (the GNU Manifesto) was the reason behind the 
invariant section clause of the GFDL, according to RMS.  So, does 
Freedom mean Freedom for Everybody?  Or does Freedom of Speech include 
the Freedom to Force Others to Advocate Your Position?

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers
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