[License-discuss] Open Source Eventually License Development

fred trotter fred.trotter at gmail.com
Thu Aug 22 04:36:36 UTC 2013

Excuse me for my absence, I am having trouble managing a substantial
increase in my inbound email. I must beg forgiveness twice since I know
full well that so many on this thread receive much more email than I do.

To remain productive, I would like to remind everyone what my goals are
here: I want to create a trusted mechanism for doing this that the
community will tolerate. I am not trying to convince anyone here that this
is a good idea. I am not convinced that this is a good idea myself. I do
know that this is happening, however. Monty is recommending this method for
companies that he invests in and my investors are demanding the same for my

I would also like to point out that my current strategy includes 3
licenses, not just a single special proprietary one.

1. The OSE License (what Monty and I are building) - un-revokable
2. The current license - a proprietary license that sets restrictions -
revokable... currently...
3. The target license - a FOSS license that is automatically reverted to on
a particular date. - un-revokable

Eben is pointing out, (if I understand him correctly) that if the
proprietary license is revoked, then the promise to covert to FOSS cannot
be maintained.

But the whole point here is to try and create an umbrella license, the OSE
license, that makes the transfer to the FOSS license something that cannot
be revoked on a whim. I presume that this should be possible in the same
way that people rely on the GPL to not be "revokable", i.e. as long as the
licensee is honoring the terms, the licensor cannot just revoke.

There are two paths that I see as viable to ensure that this
revoke-proofing works:

1. We write the OSE in such a way that it remains en-revokable,
independently of the contents of the proprietary license, which could be
2. We write a set of acceptable proprietary licenses that can be used with
the OSE, preventing people from writing custom revokable proprietary

I apologize for calling my license a "proprietary" license. It confuses the
issue. Nothing in the OSE itself either speaks against or in favor of
software freedom. In fact if the "current" license is the AGPL, and the
"target" license is the MIT license, it is entirely possible to use the OSE
without ever using a proprietary license at all. What makes the OSE
"freedom friendly" is the fact that the target license, at least, must be a
libre license, and that there is a reasonable limitation to the duration of
the proprietary license.

As Monty explains, we expect that OSE code will come with sourcecode, which
means that it will enable a community of "customers" to exchange and
improve code. This seems like an important practical issue that several
brought up. I think it should be explicitly in the license (I think it
already is in Business Source)....

Could we please refocus on making this discussion into an actionable list
of things that I should or should not add to the OSE license to make it
better? It is sometime hard to translate the abstract discussion into todo
list items...


Fred Trotter
Blog: http://radar.oreilly.com/fredt
Twitter: https://twitter.com/fredtrotter
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