[License-review] Approval: Server Side Public License, Version 1 (SSPL v1)

Kyle Mitchell kyle at kemitchell.com
Sat Nov 10 08:32:51 UTC 2018

On 2018-11-09 21:11, Rick Moen wrote:
> Quoting Bradley M. Kuhn (bkuhn at ebb.org):
> > The fundamental problem IMO is that we are reasonably sure that MongoDB
> > plans to abuse the copyleft system with the SS Public License -- refusing
> > themselves to be bound by it while using it as a lever to force "customers"
> > into buying proprietary licenses.
> Seems plausible, yes.  The cited justification for ripping out AGPL 3.0
> section 13 and replacing it with a radically maximalist source-access
> provision (per Mr. Horowitz: 'AGPL has not resulted in sufficient legal
> incentives for some of the largest users of infrastructure software,
> such as international cloud providers, to participate in the community'
> rings hollow, to me, especially since, as you point out, MongoDB, Inc.
> have indicated no inclination to be bound to it, themselves, only to
> require others to be.

Mongo apparently intend to participate by making new source
available under the terms they propose.  They have in fact
done so, at pace, since applying SSPLv1 to their database.

Providing MongoDB as a loss leader, at the core of their
business, they have every incentive to see it improved under
the terms they propose.  What else does participation mean?

Moreover, to your later point, why does any of this matter?
The license isn't licensor-specific.  Anyone could choose it
for new work.  Mongo mention that attracting other licensors
is part of their aim in submitting.

Apart from its position as license steward, of what
particular relevance is MongoDB, Inc., among licensors?  Was
AGPL approved because reviewers approved of Affero?  Because
they approved of Funambol?

Debian has the tentacles-of-evil test.  Ignore the proposing
party, and assume the worst licensor you can.  Microsoft
used to be a popular choice.  Now I hear mostly Oracle.  If
Oracle relicensed Berkeley DB under SSPLv1 tomorrow, would
it be open source?

> > I don't think "business users on all sides" want the SS Public License.
> > Exactly *one* business (and their paid law firm lawyer) are in control of
> > and advocating for the SS Public License.  I don't see anyone else giving
> > support to the SS Public License.
> Concur.
> I posed a similar question concerning Kyle Mitchell's recent attempt to
> use militant recasting of copyleft principles to advance the interests
> of business legal-client interests he declined to identify (that I
> strongly suspect are proprietary-software ones).

There are no copyleft principles, any more than there are
screwdriver principles.  Copyleft is just a tool.

Implementations of copyleft in license terms may or may not
serve particular principles.  OSI has approved copyleft
licenses designed to serve the FSF's principles.  And also
copyleft licenses designed to serve business principles.
Some of the latter were weak copyleft designs, weak in ways
that FSF had no use for.  Others were strong copyleft
designs, stronger in ways that FSF had no use for.

I don't think anyone's arguing that SSPLv1 be approved as
AGPLv4.  This is clearly a license Mongo has written on its
own principles, and not in projection of FSF's.  But OSI
hasn't given FSF any kind of patent-like privilege to make
open source copyleft licenses.  Anyone can write one.

I can only speak to Mongo's intent from what Eliot and
Heather have written.  But I can speak for myself for
License Zero.  Mongo applied SSPLv1 to its own work
irrespective of approval, and I applied my own license to
much of mine, likewise.  I submitted L0-R for review not for
permission to use or recommend it, but to hoist the whole
burden of defending the license onto my own back.  By doing
so, I hoped to avoid a chaotic, decentralized, inefficient
network of debates on myriad projects, one by done, all over
GitHub, with developers less equipped to handle questions.

The more I took, on and off list, the gladder I was of that
decision.  I had and have no desire to subject the people I
was trying to serve to the same elective inquisition.
Especially a wholly inapposite one.

Kyle Mitchell, attorney // Oakland // (510) 712 - 0933

More information about the License-review mailing list