[License-discuss] Special rights granted by open-source licenses

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Wed Jan 9 03:11:07 UTC 2019


On Tue, Jan 8, 2019 at 9:14 PM Brendan Hickey <brendan.m.hickey at gmail.com>

Controling forks and privileging certain authors is irreconcilably at odds
> with the OSD (and free software.) .

I agree that the right to fork is part of every open-source license.  But a
license that allows certain people additional rights, without taking away
any of the open-source rights (distribute, copy, make and distribute
derivative works, use, etc.) does not contravene the OSD.  For example, you
can add an additional permission to code licensed under the GNU GPL version
3 that mentions particular persons and grants them the rifght to do things
with the code that not everyone can do.  However, the code remains open
source nonetheless.

As for the impossibly of relicensing FOSS code under a license that doesn't
> freely allow you to do so, I must disagree. About ten years ago Dungeon
> Crawl was relicensed under the GPLv3. Originally it used the Nethack
> license, or something similar. We contacted about two hundred contributors.
> In one case we secured permission from a contributor's estate. It was a
> chore, but we did it.

I believe that that chore was legally unnecessary.  If the contributors
intended their contributions to form an integral part of the work, then it
is a joint work, and (under US law at least), any contributor to a joint
work may unilaterally license the work on any terms, as long as they are
responsibile to the co-authors for the profits, if any.  In this case
presumably there were none.  It may have been good politics or publicity
not to take advantage of unilateral relicensing, of course.

John Cowan          http://vrici.lojban.org/~cowan        cowan at ccil.org
You let them out again, Old Man Willow!
What you be a-thinking of?  You should not be waking!
Eat earth!  Dig deep!  Drink water!  Go to sleep!
Bombadil is talking.
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