[License-discuss] a Free Island Public License?

Clark C. Evans cce at clarkevans.com
Sat Dec 17 18:59:58 UTC 2011

On Fri, Dec 16, 2011, at 10:51 PM, Bruce Perens wrote:
> The author should back up and state a list of goals, 
> rather than present the argument as pseudo-legal drafting.


My primary objective is that software ported to provide
compatibility with proprietary platforms be done in such 
a manner that the free software emulators of those 
platforms become sufficiently good to run the ported work.
I think this would increase the willingness of authors
to contribute their works as free software; at the same 
time I think it would provide a motivator to ensure that 
free software emulations of proprietary platforms (like
Wine) are fully functional replacements.

Why do I think so?  The value of a platform isn't intrinsic, 
it is rather proportional to the software that runs on it.
Hence, when free software is ported to a proprietary platform, 
the author of the free software is unwittingly contributing 
to the financial value of the proprietary platform's vendor
without any equivalent value exchange.  Since I realize it
is not in the spirit of "free software" to explicitly ban
the use of a proprietary platform, I think the next best 
thing that you could ask for in return is proper emulation.

A previous attempt at accomplishing this objective used a
modified GPLv3 less the system library exception.  However, 
I don't think this neatly encapsulated the idea and might 
not even be strong enough to accomplish the objective.

My secondary objective (tightly related) is to somehow
address the well known "work around" to the GPL where
you wrap your proprietary functionality as a web service 
API and then call it from a derived work.  To me this
fails since it doesn't license the "the whole of the work, 
and all its parts, regardless of how they are packaged".

For an example of this "work around" please see an example
of this approach [1].  The informal consultation of two
intellectual property attorneys seem to concur with the
response to this question -- that even if the GPL linking 
affects shared libraries, it certainly does not extend to 
web services; Web API "work around" is simple & effective.

This second attempt at a license takes a different approach
from the GPL, implicitly not exempting system libraries
but also making a test (and license name) that I hope 
would render useless these sort of application topology
copyleft work-around.

I think the opening of the license itself nicely encapsulates 
both of these goals in a succinct way:

  This software is licensed for any purpose excepting the 
  right to make publicly available derived works which 
  depend exclusively upon non-free components.

I hope this expresses my intent clearly.  I had presented
an earlier proposal on debian-legal [2] that was much less 
well developed.  I expressly omitted my objective here so 
that the license idea itself would be taken up on its merits 
without diving into a discussion if my goals are worthy.

I think there are lots of reasons to disagree with my 
objective, however, the question for me is if this general
approach is acceptable pathway to an open source license.



[2] http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2011/11/msg00025.html

More information about the License-discuss mailing list