[License-discuss] Private modification

Smith, McCoy mccoy.smith at intel.com
Fri Aug 9 20:14:37 UTC 2019

>>From: License-discuss [mailto:license-discuss-bounces at lists.opensource.org] On Behalf Of Brendan Hickey
>>Sent: Thursday, August 8, 2019 5:20 PM
>>To: license-discuss at lists.opensource.org
>>Subject: [License-discuss] Private modification

>>What are some good policy arguments in favor of restrictions on private modification? My own impression is that these licenses are so onerous as to discourage any serious use. Are there any significant projects using the RPL or similar licenses?

I’m a lawyer, not a policy person or philosopher (at least not professionally), but I can think of at least 3:

1.       Onerousness (as you have identified).  If you have to make public or disclose all your private modifications, when and how often one must publish the modifications, and what modification quantum triggers the obligation, introduces compliance burdens and complications for the user.

2.       Privacy.  There may be many changes which as a user you may not wish to be made public; forcing you to do so when you have not otherwise made those modifications visible to the public in general or others specifically forces you to give up some of that privacy.

3.       Proliferation of bad, incomplete or nonuseful code.  During code development, there is a reasonable amount of modified code which is undeveloped, untested, bad, or incomplete (pre-beta).  If this code is required to be made public, it potentially increases the ratio of bad to good code accessible to the public.

There are probably other reasons others on the list can enumerate; those just come off the top of my head.

IMHO, AGPL and other licenses like it draw a boundary which reduce these factors (and don’t touch true private modification), by only triggering obligations once the user has given access to their modifications to others.  Some of the more recent submissions to the license approval list don’t draw that boundary in such a way, and do indeed reach toward true private modifications (and push against the concept of Freedom Zero).
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