[License-discuss] For Public Comment: The Libre Source License

Lawrence Rosen lrosen at rosenlaw.com
Wed Aug 21 23:33:21 UTC 2019

Russell, please clarify something for me about your opinion about copyright policy: Is any license whatsoever required in order for a private party to copy or modify a work of software, that it has obtained somehow, for her own private purposes? Or, in your view, is at least a minimal license required from the author to do those things?


I assume, at least in the US under current law, that software (source code and binary) is copyrightable as a literary work. And therefore, such a copyright is valid also under Berne, even in Canada, despite your wish that software not be copyrightable for private use.


How can anyone avoid a license for private uses?




On Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 2:16 PM Howard Chu <hyc at openldap.org <mailto:hyc at openldap.org> > wrote:

Fwiw, most of the free software I released in the 1980s, before GPL existed, had the clause
"You are free to use this software but any modifications/corrections/bug fixes you make must
be sent back to me so they may be included in future updates."


In Canada it was still being debated in the early 1980's whether software was covered by copyright law at all.  Printed source code in a book was covered by copyright like any other book, but binaries weren't automatically considered covered.


Until I discovered gnu.misc.discuss back in 1992 I either didn't put any license on what I released, or attempted to dedicate to the public domain (once I had read about copyright law).


I am offended by the notion that someone may benefit from code that I released for free, but
would deny anyone else the benefit of improvements they make (privately or not) to my code.


You would not be alone feeling this way, but until very recently it was understood that such proprietary interests were contrary to Free Software (later Open Source) which was focused on the wider public interests of software users rather than narrowly on the interests of software proprietors.


What the FSF calls "freedom 0" was very specifically intended to not put obligations on pure software use.  There is no obligation to contribute, only a freedom to contribute (freedoms 2 and 3).


There has been an obligation in some licenses for quite some time to make contibutions (public distribution of code) be accompanied by corresponding source code and be licensed under a compatable license, but the idea that private modifications should be forced to become contributions is very new and quite controvercial.  I strongly believe that these forced contributions are contrary to the FSF's 4 freedoms and the OSI's OSD, but it is obvious that this is not yet a decided discussion.


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