[License-discuss] Open Source Eventually License Development

John Cowan cowan at mercury.ccil.org
Thu Aug 15 03:17:21 UTC 2013

Eben Moglen scripsit:

> Whatever the truth of the adage may be, the point for us is that
> none of this has anything to do with licensing.  Fred Trotter was
> actually asking a question, to which the correct answer is: "You don't
> need a license to make something free software at a certain date in
> the future.  Giving a copy to an appropriate agent, with written
> instructions to publish under, e.g. GPLv3 or ASL 2.0 on the future
> date, is quite sufficient.  Any number of reliable intermediaries for
> such purposes exist, and would provide the service gratis."

This procedure is not equivalent, except in the long run, to the kind
of license Fred Trotter wants, because its effect on particular copies
is different.  Suppose that Alice sells Bob the source code to Yoyomat,
a proprietary program with delayed GPL.  After the term has passed, Bob
may now distribute *that very copy* of Yoyomat freely to Charlie under
the terms of the GPL.  In the scenario you outline, he may not; he must
obtain a new copy from the escrow agent.

> This isn't a matter for copyright licensing, because licenses are, in
> J.L. Austin's term, "performative utterances."  They are present acts
> of permission, not declarations of future intention, like testaments.

But surely the conditions associated with the permission may include the
effective date.  If I post a sign on my land today saying "Hunting and
fishing permitted to all after September 15, 2013", then I may revoke
that permission at any time, but if I *don't* revoke it, surely anyone
can hunt or fish provided it is after the date mentioned.

> There's no point in a copyright holder writing a license that says
> "these are the terms today, and those will be my terms tomorrow."

The transaction costs of doing so are lower.  Granted, I could take down
the existing "No hunting or fishing" sign on September 15 and put up a
"Hunting and fishing permitted to all" sign, but perhaps I won't be
there on that day.

He played King Lear as though           John Cowan <cowan at ccil.org>
someone had played the ace.             http://www.ccil.org/~cowan
        --Eugene Field

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