Best base license to pick?

John Cowan jcowan at
Wed Feb 9 22:23:54 UTC 2005

Lawrence Rosen scripsit:

> I think your alternative 1 goes slightly too far. I suggest the following:
>        "An open source license must permit modified works 
>         to be distributed." (Or see, instead, Open Source
>         Principle #3.)

I was simply paraphrasing my reading of the first sentence of OSD
clause 4.  I invite you to offer an alternative reading of it.  I also
draw your attention to the following language from the Rationale:

# Accordingly, an open-source license MUST guarantee that source be
# readily available, but MAY require that it be distributed as pristine
# base sources plus patches. In this way, "unofficial" changes can be
# made available but readily distinguished from the base source.
# [Emphasis in original.]

> The form of modified works should not be dictated by the licensor. The
> notion that a license would restrict me to "pristine+patches" or
> distribution in "modified form" is an attempt to legislate a technology
> alternative that a downstream licensee shouldn't have to accept. 

The GPL already requires that modified works be delivered as (or with,
or in a pinch with an offer for) source code, which is defined as
"the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it."  This
is clearly dictating the form of the modified work.

You could argue that pristine+patches is not "the preferred form", and that
the GPL bans it; it clearly bans patches-only, as the upstream vendor
may no longer have the version of the source code that the patches apply to.

John Cowan  jcowan at
Big as a house, much bigger than a house, it looked to [Sam], a grey-clad
moving hill.  Fear and wonder, maybe, enlarged him in the hobbit's eyes,
but the Mumak of Harad was indeed a beast of vast bulk, and the like of him
does not walk now in Middle-earth; his kin that live still in latter days are
but memories of his girth and his majesty.  --"Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit"

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