[License-discuss] proposal to revise and slightly reorganize the OSI licensing pages

Chad Perrin perrin at apotheon.com
Mon Jun 11 14:57:21 UTC 2012

On Fri, Jun 08, 2012 at 08:18:16PM -0700, Rick Moen wrote:
> Quoting Ben Tilly (btilly at gmail.com):
> [...]
> > However if someone downstream re-releases under a copyleft license,
> > there is essentially no chance of changes downstream of that ever
> > being re-released under a permissive license that can be reintegrated
> > back into the original project.
> To be deliberately flip, the big difference is:
>   A derivative instance released under a copyleft licence cannot be 
>   reintegrated into the original permissive-licensed product.
> versus:
>   A derivative instance released under a proprietary licence cannot be
>   reintegrated into the original permissive-licensed product.  (Because
>   it's -- hey! -- proprietary.
> But wait, you say, you're missing the point!  There's a non-zero
> positive chance the derivative under a proprietary licence will
> eventually be contributed back under the permissive one.  Could happen.
> Whereas, derivatives initially released under a copyleft licence are
> basically never made available under a permissive one.  (Except, oh,
> many driver codebases of which that's the case, including aic7xxx SCSI
> if memory serves.)

These are generally exceptional cases that require either copyright
assignment or carefully controlled maintenance of contribution records
and continued contact with contributors.  In cases where contributions to
the downstream copyleft project are accepted from all comers (within
reason) without a lot of bookkeeping -- as is the case with many open
source projects -- the ability to contribute substantial code from the
downstream copyleft project to the upstream copyfree project starts
evaporating, not only because it may be difficult to get people to
consent to their code being contributed to a copyfree licensed project
when they intended it for a copyleft project, but also because the
project maintainers may not have any easy way to identify and contact all
the contributors with affected contributions in the first place.

In many cases, it may even be difficult to track contributions
themselves, regardless of the contributors.

Meanwhile, in proprietary downstream projects, there is a single
copyright holder, almost by definition.  This entire problem of trying to
figure out whether you have the legal "right" to contribute to upstream
pretty much doesn't exist.

> Permissive licensing implies right to create derivatives under licences
> you don't like and reuse in ways you don't approve of, because that's
> somebody else's property (derivative of yours, but needing to satisfy
> only your minimal conditions), and some guy actually read your licence,
> correctly understood its permissive nature, and acted accordingly.

Ben Tilly appeared to be addressing more than this simple legal status of
copyfree licenses and other "permissive" licenses.

Chad Perrin [ original content licensed OWL: http://owl.apotheon.org ]

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