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Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2012 12:16:14 -0500
From: Rich Felker <>
Subject: Re: License survey

On Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 10:59:17AM -0600, Bobby Bingham wrote:
> On Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 9:42 AM, Szabolcs Nagy <> wrote:
> > [...]
> > i'd encourage sharing third party improvements
> > (and try to make it easy)
> > but would not try to enforce it
> > (except may be by publishing evildoers on a wall of shame)
> >
> This sounds like a contradictory position to me.
> The whole point of a license is as a place for you to spell out your
> requirements for others to use/redistribute the software.  If you want
> them to share their improvements, that's exactly the sort of thing
> that belongs in the license.

Indeed, especially with corporate users. If you treat sharing
improvments as The Right Thing to do, but don't spell out a
requirement to do so, then people improving the source in a corporate
environment have their hands tied. They may want to share their
improvements, but without a legal requirement to do so, they're going
to have a really hard time convincing their boss and/or legal
department that it's a good idea. Ideally "It will save us having to
maintain our own tree internally and resolve conflicts merging
upstream changes." would be a good enough reason, but I think that's
wishful thinking...

> It sounds odd to me to use a license allowing others to keep their
> improvements closed, and then to shame them for actually following the
> license.

I'm uncertain whether I agree with this or not. All free software and
open source definitions seem to exclude any license that puts
restrictions on use based on field of endeavor (e.g. using the
software in controversial settings the copyright holder disagrees
with), but I would still feel perfectly comfortable shaming somebody
who used free software to censor the internet or track down dissidents
for imprisonment and torture.

In short, I think there's some merit to saying: I acknowledge that
it's not my right or responsibility to impose condition X on use of
code, because if we as a community tolerated that, everyone would come
up with their own pet conditions and combining code from different
projects would become impossible. But you're still a bad
person/company if you do [thing condition X would have prohibited].


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