[License-review] License Committee Report - for board meeting of 2013-04-03

Richard Fontana fontana at sharpeleven.org
Sat Mar 30 14:59:50 UTC 2013

On Thu, Mar 28, 2013 at 06:16:18PM +0100, Hadrien G. wrote:
> Following the comments of Richard Fontana and Bruce Perens regarding
> OSD 9 compliance, I have also proposed ( http://projects.opensource.org/pipermail/license-review/2013-March/000538.html
> ) a wording change which follows Bruce Perens' suggestion of a
> GPL-like wording, so as to clarify which software is covered by the
> license.

Essentially, this is a BSD-like license with the following source code
availability requirement tacked on:

  * Redistributions in any form must be accompanied by information on
    how to obtain complete source code for the software, and any
    accompanying work that is based on it. [subsequent details omitted]

I'm not sure I'd argue this is inconsistent with the OSD, but I am not
sure I understand it.

You start out saying:

> Redistribution and use of this software, or modified forms of it,
> are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

This is similar to the initial wording of most BSD-family licenses,
except that "or modified forms of it" may be your variant of what we
more commonly see ("with or without modification").

If I try to reconcile the two parts of the license I've quoted, I get
this (assume you are giving software under this license to me):

* I can redistribute the software you gave me, unmodified, but
  (assuming I am not distributing "complete source code" as part of or
  along with "this software"), I must then provide information on how
  to get "complete source code" not only for "this software" but also
  "any accompanying work that is based on it". So, okay, there can be
  a situation where I distribute A, your software, and I also have to
  provide "complete source code" for B, which is separate from A, yet
  is "based on" A.

* I can also distribute "modified forms of" "this software" (the
  software you are giving to me) -- this probably means modified forms
  I have made. In this case too I must provide information on how to
  get "complete source code" for "*the* software" (emphasis added) as
  well as complete source code of "any accompanying work that is based
  on it". So I have modified A into A', and there's still potentially
  some separate thing B that is "based on" "the software". I assume in
  this case that "the software" is not what you started out calling
  "this software" but is rather the "modified form" of "this software"
  that I made.

To me the result of all this is an undesirable degree of confusion. In
any case I wonder whether you're certain the license is doing what you
want it to do.  Can you give a concrete example of the second

If you give me A, tell us what a modified form of A would look like,
and tell us what the separate thing B -- the work that is "based on"
(I assume) the modified form of A -- would look like. 

You speak of this being a "GPL-like wording". But GPLv3 explicitly
unifies "modification" with "based on", and I'd say this is strongly
implied in GPLv2 (whereas your license implies they are separate
concepts, without attempting to define either).

- RF

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