Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Matt Asay agrees with me

He didn't even know this, but Matt Asay and I agree that the freedom(BSD) > freedom(GPL). Matt sums up nicely what I've been writing recently:
Forcing people to share's one's version of freedom is not...free.
This is exactly how I feel. And some people might say, "Well, that's fine. But how can we all co-exist with differing versions of freedom?" And to that I would say, by having the kind of legal system which enables a variety of contracts which convey those different freedoms and stipulations over our creations.

Some bonus cherries with this approach is that people are dynamic. Their values and opinions are in a constant state of flux. Many (most?) people tailor their principles to match circumstances. Under the variety-of-contracts system, people can use different contracts at different times on different projects for different purposes. Like Asay thinks of the GPL, I think a CC-BY-NC-SA licensed product is like a bomb for a (would-be) competitor.

So someone can tactically employ CC-BY-NC-SA and CC-BY-ND simultaneously to create a dual-license business model. Imagine that - more variety among licensing principles and terms makes good business sense.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

fun followup

As a fun followup to my previous post, I thought I'd illustrate the same point using this very cool Creative Commons comic. After reading the comic, you should have a clearer idea of what the CC licenses are all about, right? In addition, I like the spectrum perspective shown in the opening and closing panels, as well as the 2nd-to-last panel explaining "Public Domain."

So here are the (rough) analogies I draw:

Copyright => Copyright EULA's
CC:Share-Alike => GPL, EUPL, etc.
Public Domain => LGPL, etc.

As I see it (and maybe Creative Commons sees it...?), Public Domain, and not GPL, is the extreme opposite of Copyright. With that in mind, my order of preference is from most-free to least-free:

1. Public Domain, LGPL, etc.
2. GPL, EUPL, etc.
3. Copyright, Windows Vista License, etc.


I also just read a descriptive scenario whereby new CCPLv3-SA licenses are incapable of ENFORCING their copyleft doctrine down the chain of recipients.

See, if I was Sam, I would just put work A into public domain and stop worrying about it. And if first recipient, Dave, wraps it in TPM, creating d[A], then that's Dave's work now. 2nd-recipient Bob may like d[A] more, but it's up to Dave to give him permission to modify d[A]. Bob can always come get A from me with no strings attached.

Friday, October 13, 2006

closing [loopholes|business models] in OS licenses

I started out by reading Matt Asay's take on the EUPL. And I read just about every article or post to which he linked. Asay says that the GPL, for better or worse, "leaks like a sieve." I can only conclude from his statement, "I really like the way it [EUPL] closes the ASP loophole without closing off everything else, as well" that Matt dislikes at least the ASP "loophole" in the GPL.

(Disclosure: As an employee of SourceForge.net, I am dependent on an ASP model, like Google's or Yahoo's, for my livelihood.)

But I'd fall into the camp which thinks the "leakiness" of the GPL is a positive rather than a negative. In fact, I think even the GPLv2 is a bit too strict for my liking. As I understand it, when you distribute (old-school) any software which you received under a GPLv2 license, you must license your own modifications under GPLv2. Emphasis added to stress this point - any mechanism that sets up a "you must _____" condition places an inhibition on the recipient, not a freedom.

Apparently, the HPL, EUPL, and GPLv3 take this same inhibition and make it even more invasive. Under these, when you "communicate" (new-school) any software which you received, you must license all of your own modifications under the same license. The "communicate" term is defined in every license (or an equivalent principle is established) to prevent a person or corporation from using such licensed software to distrubte services (SaaS) without releasing all their own modifications or enhancements to the software.

I'm fine with these kinds of licenses, I suppose. I just don't happen to share this kind of perspective - feeling betrayed or cheated if someone enhances my software but doesn't give their stuff back to me. IMO, their work and labor went into those enhancements so I'm fine with them licensing their stuff however they want. I rest easy knowing my stuff will always be LGPL and (theoretically) usable by anyone. I'll admit this a pretty individualistic perspective. But then isn't the open-source community just made up of individuals. Why do we need someone like the EU or FSF to tell us how to feel, or what's best for ourselves?

I think the majority of people in the open-source community don't mind that Google and Yahoo (and SourceForge) modify some open-source software but don't distribute all those modifications when they "communicate" that software via their SaaS websites. Combine that with the fact that some of these extra-invasively-viral(?) licenses prevent other business models besides just the ASP one, and I can't imagine these licenses will be very popular. (Indeed, GPLv3 has already been ranted upon by more than a couple open-source supporters.)