a proposed change to the OSD

Nathan Kelley phyax at runbox.com
Sat Oct 26 04:18:39 UTC 2002

To OSI License Discussion subscribers,

> From: Russell Nelson <nelson at crynwr.com>,

> I'm going to propose a change the Open Source Definition at our board 
> meeting next Thursday.  It is simply this:
> 0) A license may not restrict use or modification of a lawfully 
> obtained copy of a work.
> Anybody have problems with this?  Does this have any problems?

We need to clarify to what extent this goes.

If this is simply stating that an OSI-certified license must allow 
people to use and modify copies of Open Source works they have received 
lawfully, then it won't make a large difference to the existing license 
landscape, since no-one here that I know of would give props to a 
license that contained such restrictions.

If, however, this clause goes further into saying that no conditions 
can be imposed on the use or modification of copies of Open Source 
works that people have received lawfully, then we have to contend with 
a number of license invalidations (by this I mean licenses no longer 
being OSD-compliant). As has already been noted, the GPL and LGPL 
licenses, which are perhaps the most widely-used of all, could be 
invalidated by this.

Perhaps adding the term 'reasonable' to the clause would help. However, 
this means that, in addition to evaluating the terms of submitted 
licenses and their implications, we would also have to evaluate the 
intended application of those licenses. I doubt that we could agree on 
whether or not that falls within the purview of this list.

We are back at the familiar crossroads, where one path leads to the 
moral high ground, and the other leads to practical feasibility. Until 
this issue is clarified, we won't know which path to take, but I 
suspect the latter is the well-beaten one.

Cheers, Nathan.

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