[License-discuss] Ethical open source licensing - Persona non Grata Preamble

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Fri Feb 21 15:52:54 UTC 2020

On Fri, Feb 21, 2020 at 10:21 AM VanL <van.lindberg at gmail.com> wrote:

But think about OSD #5, which prohibits discrimination against people or
> groups, or OSD #6, prohibiting discrimination against fields of endeavor.
> It is true that the PNGL would not vary the permissions granted, but it
> would be a clear statement of discrimination against those groups,
> including a declaration that they will be treated differently in the
> acceptance of contributions.

Lots of people are already treated differently, it just flies under the
radar.  There are individuals I won't accept patches from, and in some of
my software I don't accept them from anybody, because they are generally
messy workarounds on top of a fairly delicate algorithm.  And there are
programs like the Stalin compiler for Scheme (it optimizes your code,
brutally) that are perfectly FLOSS but don't get patches even from the
original author: it's good enough for him as it is, and you can use it or
fix it as you like.  There isn't even a mailing list.

 2. If the preamble can be changed, it seems like it would just be part of
> overall licensed content. Thus the permissions granted by the license would
> allow change and redistribution without the preamble or with a different
> preamble.

The FSF licenses can be copied freely but can't be changed by anybody but
the FSF: they do not fall under their own license.  Many other licenses are
like this too.

> 3. This seems like it would present a proliferation concern. Is the
> PNGL-Oil a different license than the PNGL-ICE? Even if a PNGL was
> submitted and approved by the OSI, would the OSI approve all PNGL-family
> licenses?

I should think a templated license would be practical; we already have the
BSD license and a weak policy against licenses that mention specific names
other than the copyright owner.  Here there would be a blank for
"person/group" and for "reason", and permission to add new versions of that
clause as often as desired, but not to remove anything.  The rest of the
license remains under the control of the steward.   That deals with your
point 4 as well.

Another practical point is how many licenses we need apart from
templating.  Do we need copyleft, file-copyleft, and permissive variants?

John Cowan          http://vrici.lojban.org/~cowan        cowan at ccil.org
                I am a member of a civilization. --David Brin
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