new licensing model

Andreas Jellinghaus aj at
Sun Dec 18 20:01:24 UTC 2005

Am Sonntag, 18. Dezember 2005 17:47 schrieb Nikolai:
> Sounds like someone holds a monopoly on what open source is. If so, who
> is monopolist?

the term "free software" is quite vague, and different people have different
ideas - at least in detail - what a free software is. also you can not 
enforce such a vague term in court.

"open source" is by design a trademark, as far as I know, and you may
only use it if the trad mark holder gives you permission to do so.

as far as I know the open source initiative will give permission to everyone
to use their trademark in combination with software that is licensed under
some license that is accepted by the open source initiative. the osi will
accept every license that meets the open source definition, as far as I know,
but I guess the final decission is made by the board.

so the chain is
vendor -> software -> license -> osi definition -> osi board decission ->
granting the right to use "open source" in combination with that software.

not: I'm not a lawyer, I'm not a member of osi. only trying to help as good
as I know.

personaly I like the way "open source" is made a trademark etc., because
that way crooks can't misuse it.

about the other parts:
> “… I believe copyright is not a natural right

well, there was none till about 1700 or so? if you want to read up, I can 
strongly suggest "kicking away the ladder" by Ha-Joon Chang for a historical
discussion how and when various ip laws where build, and to what effect.

> such open source might become a source of wealth for authors, attract 
> new authors and therefore increase innovations and speed of development;

the basic idea for some people including me is: the transaction cost for
distributing money will create a huge amount of work and costs, and thus
very small benefits may get to some authors, if at all.

take a look at the german royality system for musicians: it is nearly 
impossible for any musician in germany to be not part of it. but if he
is, he has to pay thousands of euro to be allowed to publish his own
song as mp3 file on his homepage. unfortunatly if he ever gets some
money (for example from the fees on hardware like cd players, tape
decks, hard drives, mp3 players etc), it will be most likely cents.
and that example doesn't include the stress with all the paperwork.

free software is promoted as "free as in freedom". it doesn't have to
be gratis when you buy it. but it includes the freedom to give copies
to other people without fees or paperwork (well, except those restrictions
in the gpl, but fullfilling those is quite easy). open source has the
same base, it includes "redistribute for free". it is good that way.

once I did cd images for debian, and tried to include non-free software
as alternative, if allowed. for example latex2html - as far as I remember -
included a restriction: they wanted 2 free copies when someone sells cds.
clearly they thought of huge companies like suse or imagemagic that sold
hundrets of thousands of cds. but the text of the license covered every
cd sold. so if I burned a cd for a friend, and he invited me for a drink
to cover my cost, then I would have to burn to extra cds to send to those
guys. also if someone would have burned 10 copies for his local user group -
he would be requires to send two copies to the latex2html guys etc.
well, that clearly wasn't what they had intended, and they changed their 
license once confronted with the bizarre situation. (apologies if I remember 
the wrong software by mistake.)

from my point of view this example shows how even the smalles obligation
beyond the usual free software / open source licenses can lead to a huge
amount of work. to burn a dvd you need to check the license files of 
thousends of packages. or in my case to manage an open source project
I need to know the license of every single file included or used by
the software. well, maybe I made some small mistake, and tomorrow
morning I will get a cease&desist letter from the lawyers of some big
company for misusing their code we reused? might happen.

whether to use software on my servers, give it to friends or customers
or include it in a distribution or use the code in my projects: I want
code with a license where I will not expect any trouble or work. both
the debian free software license as well the open source definition
and the usual licenses - mit/bsd(3), lgpl, gpl - do a very good job
at giving me that.

of course you can argue how a different license group might offer
more with only small extra work. but from my point of view that
is not what the people interested in open source and/or free
software are looking for. they don't want "only small 
problems/paperwork/fees/...", they want none, and have good
reasons to.

well, so much from an interested outsider. sorry to everyone for
spamming this list. again: I'm not a lawyer and not a member of
the board or anything related to the osi or fsf or debian or
anything, only speeking for myself.

Regards, Andreas

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