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Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2012 22:22:27 +0100
From: Szabolcs Nagy <>
Subject: Re: License survey

* Rich Felker <> [2012-02-21 12:16:14 -0500]:
> 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

but i don't think sharing is "the right thing"

sometimes it's important sometimes it's not

i think licensing cannot protect against abusers
in general, so i mentioned the wall of shame

(i imagined wall of shame to be an objective source
of information: list of contributors, users, donators,
related projects, corporations, etc
from which somehow it becomes clear when someone uses
the project for personal gain without contributing
back anything

i'm not saying that it's practical/possible
to maintain such a list, but if it were there
then i could decide *myself* who i consider bad

to me this information seems more useful than the
legal protection: i can base future decisions on it
(legal protection allows me to sue, but who has
the resources to do that?)

right now the *author* tries to fix every
possible abuse in advance through licensing
so the author has a huge responsibility
when chosing the license
(instead of doing productive work))

> 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...

well this is another issue: many organizations are evil

organizations which are designed to compete
for the privatization of knowledge will
inevitably abuse public information

i don't want to fix this in the license
i don't think it can be fixed
(but i want to know it when it happens)

> > 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].


a license is either open to abuse or it limits
some legal uses along with the abusive ones

i'd like to err on the unrestricted side and
then fix the abuses with other tools

software licensing turns every author into moral
judges over what is right or wrong and then
hardcodes the judgement which will limit legal
uses just as well as abusive ones with no good

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