OSI enforcement?

Donovan Hawkins hawkins at cephira.com
Wed Jan 9 05:49:56 UTC 2008

On Tue, 8 Jan 2008, Rick Moen wrote:

> Is there actually _anyone_ who asserts that copyleft licences are always
> a desirable choice, or who asserts that simple permissive licences are?
> I don't think anyone at OSI does -- and FSF definitely doesn't, either.
> (FSF has recommended one or the other, in different cases.)

FSF recommends LGPL in a few cases where promoting a standard is more 
important than locking out proprietary developers. LGPL isn't exactly 
permissive in the sense that BSDL is, but it's "permissive enough" for 
many proprietary applications.

It's also my understanding is that it is considered polite not to GPL 
changes made to a BSDL program (such as drivers used by the Linux kernel).

As a practical matter, you should always use the license used in the 
community you are developing in or you'll cause problems. Silly to have 
plug-ins use a license that is incompatible with the main app.

The first one is a genuine case of the FSF believing that LGPL is the 
right license for the job, but it is rare and the LGPL is a far cry from 
permissive (royal pain if you wanted to slice and dice the code instead of 
link to a library). The latter two are practical concessions...my 
impression is that the FSF would recommend GPL for those as well if they 
could get the whole community to switch.

I guess now that you mention it though, I could see some bending being 
done by people. I'm personally very fond of permissive licenses, but as I 
think about it I also mostly work on more reusable sorts of things. I'm 
pretty indifferent about the license used for regular "applications", 
though I'd still prefer to see fewer licenses so there could be more 

I suppose my opinion on the greatness of the divide is influenced by more 
vocal people online which tend to have more extreme positions. I could 
believe there are more middle-of-the-road positions amongst the silent 

> A licence is a grant of permissions that, in context of applicable law,
> is a legal instrument that carries out the copyright owner's intentions
> concerning a covered instance of his/her creative work.  I think most
> (sane) people would conclude that the particular legal instrument that
> will prove desirable depends on the circumstances and the copyright
> owner's intentions.

I don't know if the circumstances vary that much from one program to the 
next (example?). As for the copyright owner's intentions, well...wouldn't 
that be the philosphical divide I was talking about? ;-)

>> Legally there is no restriction on using GPL sofware in commercial works,
>> but it requires you to release the source code to your work and allow it
>> to be given away for free by anyone who wishes. Practically speaking that
>> means you cannot sell your work (or at least, can't sell it more than
>> once).
> Are you willing to wager money on this assertion, Donovan?  ;->

Ok, I spoke too broadly. It's basically the shareware model: they don't 
have to pay but they "should". You can get money from very honest people 
who think you deserve it, and you can get money from very stupid or lazy 
people who don't know I'm giving your software away for free on my site. 
I'm not one to pin my hopes on honest people, but stupid people are a 
time-honored profit maker.

Still, I'd claim this only works for fairly low-priced software. Start 
charging $50+ and you'll find people willing to hunt around a bit. As 
evidence, I'll point to the massive number of people downloading movies, 
games, and even MS Windows...at least my offering of your GPL program for 
download is legal!

If it isn't impossible to sell what others give away for free, it's 
certainly very difficult...on par with selling ice to Eskimos, and for 
much the same reasons.

Donovan Hawkins, PhD                 "The study of physics will always be
Software Engineer                     safer than biology, for while the
hawkins at cephira.com                   hazards of physics drop off as 1/r^2,
http://www.cephira.com                biological ones grow exponentially."

More information about the License-discuss mailing list