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

Chad Perrin perrin at apotheon.com
Mon Jun 11 23:43:11 UTC 2012

On Mon, Jun 11, 2012 at 03:20:12PM -0700, Rick Moen wrote:
> Quoting Tzeng, Nigel H. (Nigel.Tzeng at jhuapl.edu):
> > Again, whatever your self identification is, your comment and statement
> > are those espoused by one of those camps over the years.
> No, they most certainly are not.  Kindly do not confuse me with some
> bunch of ideologue wankers.  
> > What was the value of this observation?
> That differently licenced derivatives in compliance with your
> requirements are seen as OK if proprietary and hence shut off from 
> sharing under the same terms, but not OK if copyleft and hence shut off
> from sharing under the same terms -- which seems to me a prime example of
> failing to grasp _either_ of the two basic facts about copyright law and
> software I mentioned to Ben Tilly:  (1) People can and do perform pretty
> much whatever screwball actions they wish to perform with their own
> property.  (2) You should take care to understand all of the
> implications of any licence you use, because somebody else definitely
> may, and you'll look really silly acting surprised.

I sent another email to this extended branching thread discussing the
issue of bookkeeping and the problems of perfect consensus as a
requirement for allowing many (fairly typical, I think) public copyleft
projects to contribute code back to upstream projects using different
licenses, as contrasted with the relatively simple case of a business
decision to contribute code from a proprietary project with a single
copyright holder back to an upstream project.  This, I think, very
clearly bears on the disagreement to which you allude.  While I think
Nigel Tzeng may have done an imperfect job of describing this concern to
you, I don't think I have failed to clarify that this seems to be part of
his argument.  Despite this, you have yet to acknowledge that such an
imbalance in the potential for upstream contribution in the proprietary
versus copyleft cases in this discussion when you make comments like the

In short, ironically perhaps, it seems that the legal complexities
involved favor more contribution to copyfree projects from downstream
proprietary projects than from downstream copyleft projects, even
ignoring the obvious disdain many copyleft partisans have for copyfree
licensing (in some cases going so far as to call it "evil" and denigrate
its proponents as tools, shills, enablers, or worse, for the behavior of
economic predators, and other such cockamamie nonsense).  In case you're
tempted to take this amiss, I'm not saying you're one of these copyleft
partisans.  I'm just pointing out that even ignoring the behavior of
people who wish to punish people who choose copyfree licensing policy for
failing to see the Light and join the copyleft Cause (possibly rare, but
noisy extremists), the simple fact of the legal complexities of a public
open source project and the tangle of copyrights involved can ensure far
greater counter-incentives for upstream contribution in copyleft projects
than in proprietary projects.

> Permitting any derivatives satisfying 2-clause, 3-clause, or 4-clause
> obligations means permitting _any_ derivatives satisfying 2-clause,
> 3-clause, or 4-clause obligations.  If licensor didn't intend that,
> then licensor shouldn't have chosen the licence.

I think that people who complain in the case of copyleft appropriations
generally do so not simply because of appropriations equivalent to those
of proprietary projects, even taking the difference in likelihood of
upstream contributions outlined above and elsewhere, but because such
appropriations without upstream contribution tend to come in parallel
with copyleft partisans (sometimes not the same people, but the
perception of individual hypocrisy is difficult to shake, people being
waht they are) scolding those who choose copyfree licenses for enabling
corporate sociopaths (or whatever disparagement comes up) in their
desires to conquer or destroy the world.


1. In Magical Fantasyland, where people are at least nice when taking
advantage of each other, Plagiarism, Inc. forks a copyfree licensed
project as a proprietary product and does not contribute improvements
upstream.  The Busybody Project forks the same copyfree licensed project
as a copyleft project and does not contribute improvements upstream.
Both of them say "Thanks for giving us a leg up, guys!  It's great we
were able to make a good start this way."  The copyfree project
maintainers shake their heads ruefully and think "Well, I'm glad people
like it, and maybe this means that our open file formats and protocols
will get wider use, thus increasing the utility of our software."

2. In the Republic of Realworld, Plagiarism, Inc. forks a copyfree
license project as a proprietary product and does not contribute
improvements upstream.  The Busybody Project forks the same copyfree
licensed project as a copyleft project and does not contribute
improvements upstream.  Plagiarism, Inc. keeps its yap shut and hopes
nobody notices the ISC License embedded in the documentation, accepting
accolades for its excellent software.  The Busybody Project's community
then scolds the maintainers of the copyfree project for being evil
enablers of predatory corporatism.  The copyfree project maintainers say
"What the hell?  Look at what you and that corporation are doing, you
idiots.  You and the corporation are doing the same thing, but *you*
jackasses have the temerity to insult us personally on top of it!"
Following this, Rick Moen crops up on a mailing list and expresses
disbelief that the copyfree project maintainers would have the gall to
object to the behavior of the copyleft project maintainers, saying
something like "If you don't want them appropriating your source, you
should use a different license," as if that in any way addresses their
actual concerns.

This is not, of course, *always* the way such things work out, but I have
seen things go this way (not specifically in regard to Rick Moen, of
course; you just make a convenient example in this case) enough times
that I would have to have been keeping count to be able to ballpark the
figure.  I haven't kept score, so I've got nothing to offer as an
estimate right now.

I'm inclined it's just a matter of you not really looking at the
situation from the perspective of people who have been on the receiving
end of borderline-libelous mouth-frothing allegations of wrongdoing for
using copyfree licenses, rather than maliciousness or stupidity, in case
that wasn't clear.  That's why I've bothered to explain what I've seen
from people on the other side of this matter, in hopes of giving the
situation a little perspective.

> _Unlike_ ideologue wankers, I have no wish to urge any particular
> licensing on anyone, and regard with particular distaste those who do.
> (In the general case, it involves someone else's property and is not
> really my concern at all.)  As I very clearly stated upthread, I regard
> licences as legal instruments to implement the licensor's intentions.
> The intentions should logically dictate owner's licensing strategy: the
> only real tragedy is when people fail to understand their chosen
> licensing's natural and obvious consequences.

Unfortunately (with regard to implementing a licensor's intentions), it's
generally not considered "open source" or even "free software" when a
license gets revoked any time a source code appropriator gets
hypocritically self-righteous, and such a license would be frankly
ridiculous and likely (I think, as someone who is not a legal
professional) unenforceable.

> >
> > Yes, disingenuous. 
> I have no time for someone who gratuitously accuses me of bad faith --
> and also no interest in arguing with you in the first place.  Kindly
> go bother somebody else.  Thanks.

It looks a little to me like you've both been accusing each other of bad
faith.  Maybe it's time to kiss and make up.

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

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