Yet another 'What License Is Best For Me?'

Matthew Flaschen matthew.flaschen at
Fri Jan 19 03:28:40 UTC 2007

David Favro wrote:
> [...] I still don't agree about the use of the
> word 'free', which has a number of established and abstract meanings in
> the English language (70 according to
>, so enforcing one very
> specific set of conditions as the only valid usage is essentially
> hijacking an existing word, thus making it extremely difficult to
> express other concepts that normally would, in the English language, be
> articulated by utilizing this word -- but I don't want to quibble over
> words here.

You make a valid point.  However, the FSF's definition of "free
software" is by far the most used definition, among people who
consciously choose a definition.  Thus, I accept it (even though it may
be a poor choice of words), and urge you to do the same.  If you simply
mean no charge, use "gratis".

> However, what's a little galling about the definition isn't the clause,
> it's what is stated as the *rationale* for the clause: "we eliminate the
> temptation to throw away many long-term gains in order to make a few
> short-term sales dollars."  That hurts me, because it connotes
> short-sighted greed on my part, yet I don't want to make *any* dollars,
> I don't want to sell the software, and I specifically want to prohibit
> anyone else from selling it!

We understand your perspective.  This part of the Definition will not
change, but the rationale conceivably could.  The important thing is
that the license you want is not open source.

> That doesn't change a word of the _______ license (what name to
> use?)


 that I proposed, so I clearly understand that it still violates
> the first clause of the 'open-source' definition because it prohibits
> sales, but holy moly, that 'rationale' is a little offensive!  I really
> think that you should consider removing that phrase "short term sales
> dollars" because it just doesn't apply to someone like me, who
> specifically wants the software *not* to be sold, and for exactly and
> specifically that reason, you say that the person has "sacrificed [...]
> for short term sales dollars".  That prohibiting sales can sacrifice
> anything for sales dollars is nonsensical, and I hope you can see how
> its connotations might rub me the wrong way.

I think the clause was written in the expectation that companies would
try to make software licenses that allowed only them to sell the
software.  You are probably right that most people who still want to
prohibit commercial distribution want to do it wholesale (i.e. for
themselves and redistributors).  The rationale might be improved by
borrowing some ideas from .
For example, it could say (my words):

"There's nothing wrong with any company selling open source software.
It lets them support themselves without harming users, who are still
free to share the software without paying royalties."

> As a separate issue, you might also want to clarify "If we didn't do
> this, there would be lots of pressure for cooperators to defect."  I
> just can't understand what this means -- defect to what?  Are you in
> some kind of war?  What are you guys talking about?

Some would say it's a war :)  I believe it means defecting to
proprietary software.

Matthew Flaschen

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