[License-review] Approval: Server Side Public License, Version 1 (SSPL v1)

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sat Nov 10 05:50:51 UTC 2018

Quoting Bradley M. Kuhn (bkuhn at ebb.org):

> The fundamental problem IMO is that we are reasonably sure that MongoDB
> plans to abuse the copyleft system with the SS Public License -- refusing
> themselves to be bound by it while using it as a lever to force "customers"
> into buying proprietary licenses.

Seems plausible, yes.  The cited justification for ripping out AGPL 3.0
section 13 and replacing it with a radically maximalist source-access
provision (per Mr. Horowitz: 'AGPL has not resulted in sufficient legal
incentives for some of the largest users of infrastructure software,
such as international cloud providers, to participate in the community'
rings hollow, to me, especially since, as you point out, MongoDB, Inc.
have indicated no inclination to be bound to it, themselves, only to
require others to be.

> I realize the OSI, under its own current rules and historical precedents,
> seems trapped into evaluating the SS Public License in light of its
> stand-alone text and the text of the OSD, and cannot easily separately
> evaluate possible uses of the license and condemn those (although I wish the
> OSI would do so). 

I would suggest as a remedy insisting on applying the OSD in light of
its substantive intent rather than mechanistically.  (I'll elaborate,

> I don't think "business users on all sides" want the SS Public License.
> Exactly *one* business (and their paid law firm lawyer) are in control of
> and advocating for the SS Public License.  I don't see anyone else giving
> support to the SS Public License. 


I posed a similar question concerning Kyle Mitchell's recent attempt to
use militant recasting of copyleft principles to advance the interests
of business legal-client interests he declined to identify (that I
strongly suspect are proprietary-software ones).

Getting back to my overall point, I think all the regulars here know
that the oldest trick in the book is to encumber third party deployment
or commercial usage to the point where competing commercial users and/or
authors of derivative works are so dissuaded that they either go away or 
purchase proprietary licences -- and awareness of this was in the
background, I would imagine, when Bruce Perens wrote the wording of DFSG
and OSD, such that the concept is inherent in several OSD clauses'
wording.  In other words, I'm unconvinced that OSD compliance evaluation 
is insufficient, if done in context of awareness of the larger context.

SSPL's blatant expansion of copyleft obligation to frankly ludicrous scope 
runs headlong into OSD #9 ('License Must Not Restrict Other Software'),
such that I don't think it's even necessary to consider whether it also 
violates OSD #5 ('Discrimination against Persons or Groups'), which
honestly it probably does incidentally while applying a wrecking ball in all
directions, e.g., third-party use of a SSPL-covered stack seems to be
unlawful on any OS kernel unavailable under SSPL terms (as 'all programs
that you use to make the Program or modified version available as a
service' must be thus available), so users preferring the Linux,
Illumos, or Apple Darwin xnu kernels for their application stacks are
out of luck.

We saw a streams of licences badly encumbering third-party commercial
use -- the early 'badgeware' initiatives -- and then trying to hustle
OSI into approving those on alleged mechanistic OSD-compliance grounds
despite mandatory commercial advertising on every user-interface page
_obviously_ encumbering third-party commercial user to the point, in my
view, of subtantively violating OSD #6 ('Discriminating Against Fields of
Endeavor'), and I urged that they be rejected on that basis (among
others).  I think the _current_ effort to hustle OSI into ignoring 
context is equally obvious and equally easy to say 'no' to, without
IMO the need to cite submitters' motives as the reason, i.e., I think
OSD's framing is adequate to the task.

Cheers,                                         I could maybe do one pilate.
Rick Moen                                       -- Matt Watson (@biorhythmist)
rick at linuxmafia.com
McQ! (4x80)

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