[License-discuss] Open source commons

Lawrence Rosen lrosen at rosenlaw.com
Fri May 31 20:44:14 UTC 2019

[In response to Kevin, I have changed the subject.]


I appreciate learning John Cowan's opinion about the "commons" that is/are created by open source licenses, but I wish to differ from his conclusions.


Almost all copyleft licenses are compatible with each other for aggregations ("collective works") because of OSD #1 ("the license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources"). But none of them are compatible with each other for joint "derivative works" without dual licensing. Fortunately, such joint derivative works are exceedingly rare in practical computer programming. 


This entirely compatible commons includes software under the MPL, Eclipse PL, LGPL, and OSL 3.0 licenses. For those licenses, there is only one commons. This is true even if you link the programs statically or dynamically, use class inheritance, or even (if the Supreme Court agrees) copy header files and standard software APIs from one licensed copyleft program to another.  


The only exceptions are the GPL/AGPL licenses. These create separate commons that are incompatible with other licenses ONLY because the licenses are interpreted by FSF to include static linking and other forms of independent program interaction as a form of derivative work rather than of simple aggregation. This is an FSF license interpretation problem, not an actual problem based on copyright law. FSF is entitled to interpret their own licenses, but not to foist those interpretations on other licenses. They can choose to reject the one open source commons software for their own licenses but not for others.


Despite what John says, you can aggregate the one open source commons created by MOST copyleft (and permissive) licenses to your heart's content without fear. Bravo for open source!


Best, /Larry



From: John Cowan <cowan at ccil.org> 
Sent: Friday, May 31, 2019 8:27 AM
To: license-discuss at lists.opensource.org
Cc: Lawrence Rosen <lrosen at rosenlaw.com>; masson at opensource.org
Subject: Re: [License-discuss] License licenses




On Fri, May 31, 2019 at 1:11 AM James <purpleidea at gmail.com <mailto:purpleidea at gmail.com> > wrote:


FWIW, I only consider about five different licenses for new projects.
Not because they're necessarily better than OSL (I never investigated
that deeply) but because I am against license proliferation, and the
existing five are good enough. 


I have a more specific reason for disliking the OSL.  The GPL creates a separate commons from

all the permissive open source licenses together because any programs with GPL components

must (according to common understanding) be released under the GPL.  In fact there are

two such commons, one for GPL-2-only and the other for GPL-2-upgradeable plus GPL-3.


The OSL also creates its own commons, one that is never going to catch up in size and richness

with the GPL's.  Furthermore, there is a separate commons for the Non-Profit OSL, and apparently

for each version of both.  Therefore I would always discourage people from using it despite its impeccable

FLOSS Buddha-nature.  This does *not* apply to the AFL.


But if 1(c) in both the OSL and the NPOSLwere modified in a new version 4 from:


with the proviso that copies of Original Work or Derivative Works that You distribute or communicate shall be licensed under this Open Software License




with the proviso that copies of Original Work shall be licensed under this Open Software License, and Derivative Works that You distribute or communicate shall be licensed either any version of this Open Software License or of the Non-Profit Open Software
License or in the alternative under any version of the GNU General Public License


(or words to that effect), I would withdraw my objection.


This can already be achieved on a case-by-case basis by multiple-licensing language like "licensed under the

OSL version 3.0 or, at the user's option, under any later version of the OSL, under the GNU GPL version 2, or

any later version of the GNU GPL", but most people aren't going to bother with that.  I'd like it to be an

inherent part of the OSL.



John Cowan          http://vrici.lojban.org/~cowan        cowan at ccil.org <mailto:cowan at ccil.org> 
Normally I can handle panic attacks on my own; but panic is, at the moment,
a way of life.                 --Joseph Zitt


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