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Re: [hackers-il] "Licences Wars"

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  • Nadav Har'El
    ... Thinking of future threats is hard (in the banking business, this is a whole profession, and as you can see lately, the haven t been doing a very good job.
    Message 1 of 12 , Nov 23, 2008
      On Wed, Nov 19, 2008, Shlomi Fish wrote about "Re: [hackers-il] "Licences Wars"":
      > Furthermore, I don't think the FOSS world is under any threat from proprietary
      > software vendors, that can be prevnted if I GPLed all my code. Can you cite
      > any possible substantial threat?

      Thinking of future threats is hard (in the banking business, this is a whole
      profession, and as you can see lately, the haven't been doing a very good
      job. But as they say, "Hindsight is always 20:20", and it's easier to look
      at the past.

      And the experience of the last 20 years indeed shown that proprietary
      software vendor's use of BSD has been a problem to free software. Not a huge
      problem, certainly nothing that could ever kill free software, but a problem
      nontheless.

      Let me give you just a few examples.

      In the second half of the 90s, X-Windows was quite popular - a department
      (in universities, companies, etc.) would have strong Unix workstations
      (from Sun, DEC, SGI, HP and other vendors) and people would have cheaper
      machines showing the output from the strong machine using X-Windows. As
      MS-Windows grew popular, people wanted to use their PC running Windows to
      display X-Windows sessions. But unfortunately, the only X server available
      for Windows was commercial software (Exceed), which could happen because X
      was BSD-licensed and not GPL. Users (at the time, most had corporate or
      university funds - they weren't home users) bit the bullet and paid. It took
      literarly years before a free X server for Windows became available.

      Another example - Mosix. Mosix (if you're familiar with it) was written over
      a *proprietary* BSD variant called BSDI. Because the BSD licence allowed BSDI
      to make it proprietary, and Mosix made the error in judgement (or, more
      accurately, at the time of the judgement there weren't many alternatives)
      of using it, for many years Mosix itself could not be made free software,
      even though the people in the Hebrew University who developed it wanted to
      do so.

      Another less clear-cut example is the massive Unix diversity of the 90s.
      A dozen companies, like Sun, HP, DEC, SGI, AT&T, SCO, BSDI, all created
      their own variants of Unix and spent thousands of man-years on their
      development. On the positive side, the Unix world was thriving because of
      this diversity, but on the negative side, none of these thousands of man
      years went into free software, and Richard Stallman and his friends had
      to spend nearly a decade to replicate all this work. Is it surprising, then,
      that Richard Stallman wanted to invent the copyleft license?

      > > > If they pose a threat (which I don't think they do), then
      > > > no amount of keeping my code GPLed will prevent that threat.

      The GPL is not trying to prevent free software from being destroyed, but
      rather to "force" people and companies into spending their work into free
      software, rather than proprietary software. And I think you can't deny it's
      succeeding. The Linux kernel is the most obvious example - after decades
      where every company created their own kernel or took a BSD-licensed kernel
      and "appropriated" it, in the last decade there is a huge push for all
      comapnies to work together on the open Linux kernel, and all these companies
      are "forced" to contribute their work back to free software.


      > For example, someone integrated my Freecell Solver library in a shareware
      > (without source) game he wrote titled Freecell 3D:
      >
      > http://www.ambermango.com/php/am/f3d/index.php
      >
      > He sells ths game online. It did not do any damage, because there are plenty
      > of Freecell implementations around. I on my part am pretty happy with the
      > open-source PySolFC.

      Let's imagine that you wrote a great freecell solver library, but you suck at
      UI and failed to create a graphical game based on that library, and wish that
      someone created a UI on top of your library. If your library is BSD, someone
      could create this UI but make it commercial and not even you can use it.
      If your library is GPL, this person is forced to either make his code public
      (so you and your friends can use it) or pay you for a new license.
      Which of those scenarios will make you happier? I can't see how the GPL isn't
      better in this scenario.


      --
      Nadav Har'El | Sunday, Nov 23 2008, 25 Heshvan 5769
      nyh@... |-----------------------------------------
      Phone +972-523-790466, ICQ 13349191 |The two rules for success are: 1. Never
      http://nadav.harel.org.il |tell them everything you know.
    • Shlomi Fish
      ... I agree this is a problem. However, if X-Windows were GPLed, then the people who made Exceed and wanted to sell it, would not have made it in the first
      Message 2 of 12 , Nov 23, 2008
        On Sunday 23 November 2008, Nadav Har'El wrote:
        > On Wed, Nov 19, 2008, Shlomi Fish wrote about "Re: [hackers-il] "Licences
        Wars"":
        > > Furthermore, I don't think the FOSS world is under any threat from
        > > proprietary software vendors, that can be prevnted if I GPLed all my
        > > code. Can you cite any possible substantial threat?
        >
        > Thinking of future threats is hard (in the banking business, this is a
        > whole profession, and as you can see lately, the haven't been doing a very
        > good job. But as they say, "Hindsight is always 20:20", and it's easier to
        > look at the past.
        >
        > And the experience of the last 20 years indeed shown that proprietary
        > software vendor's use of BSD has been a problem to free software. Not a
        > huge problem, certainly nothing that could ever kill free software, but a
        > problem nontheless.
        >
        > Let me give you just a few examples.
        >
        > In the second half of the 90s, X-Windows was quite popular - a department
        > (in universities, companies, etc.) would have strong Unix workstations
        > (from Sun, DEC, SGI, HP and other vendors) and people would have cheaper
        > machines showing the output from the strong machine using X-Windows. As
        > MS-Windows grew popular, people wanted to use their PC running Windows to
        > display X-Windows sessions. But unfortunately, the only X server available
        > for Windows was commercial software (Exceed), which could happen because X
        > was BSD-licensed and not GPL. Users (at the time, most had corporate or
        > university funds - they weren't home users) bit the bullet and paid. It
        > took literarly years before a free X server for Windows became available.

        I agree this is a problem. However, if X-Windows were GPLed, then the people
        who made Exceed and wanted to sell it, would not have made it in the first
        place, because they had to make it GPLed. So either they would have
        implemented it from scratch or not at all. It is possible that a different
        group would have created a free X server for Windows, but it is possible that
        no free X server would have been available at all. And if a different group
        could have created a free X server for Windows without Exceed, they could
        have certainly created it with it.

        >
        > Another example - Mosix. Mosix (if you're familiar with it) was written
        > over a *proprietary* BSD variant called BSDI. Because the BSD licence
        > allowed BSDI to make it proprietary, and Mosix made the error in judgement
        > (or, more accurately, at the time of the judgement there weren't many
        > alternatives) of using it, for many years Mosix itself could not be made
        > free software, even though the people in the Hebrew University who
        > developed it wanted to do so.

        Well, the same problem could have been present if Mosix had chosen to use a
        System V-based UNIX (or a different proprietary OS altogether) that never
        originated from BSD-style code (although it did incorporate some code from
        BSD). This is a problem on the judgement of the Mosix developers, not on the
        availability of BSDI by itself.

        >
        > Another less clear-cut example is the massive Unix diversity of the 90s.
        > A dozen companies, like Sun, HP, DEC, SGI, AT&T, SCO, BSDI, all created
        > their own variants of Unix and spent thousands of man-years on their
        > development. On the positive side, the Unix world was thriving because of
        > this diversity, but on the negative side, none of these thousands of man
        > years went into free software, and Richard Stallman and his friends had
        > to spend nearly a decade to replicate all this work. Is it surprising,
        > then, that Richard Stallman wanted to invent the copyleft license?



        >
        > > > > If they pose a threat (which I don't think they do), then
        > > > > no amount of keeping my code GPLed will prevent that threat.
        >
        > The GPL is not trying to prevent free software from being destroyed, but
        > rather to "force" people and companies into spending their work into free
        > software, rather than proprietary software. And I think you can't deny it's
        > succeeding. The Linux kernel is the most obvious example - after decades
        > where every company created their own kernel or took a BSD-licensed kernel
        > and "appropriated" it, in the last decade there is a huge push for all
        > comapnies to work together on the open Linux kernel, and all these
        > companies are "forced" to contribute their work back to free software.

        This is true.

        >
        > > For example, someone integrated my Freecell Solver library in a shareware
        > > (without source) game he wrote titled Freecell 3D:
        > >
        > > http://www.ambermango.com/php/am/f3d/index.php
        > >
        > > He sells ths game online. It did not do any damage, because there are
        > > plenty of Freecell implementations around. I on my part am pretty happy
        > > with the open-source PySolFC.
        >
        > Let's imagine that you wrote a great freecell solver library, but you suck
        > at UI and failed to create a graphical game based on that library, and wish
        > that someone created a UI on top of your library.

        That's a lot of if's. When I started working on Freecell Solver, there were
        already plenty of graphical Freecell games, possibly with support for other
        variants of Solitaire. And there were also several open-source ones,
        including some very polished ones.

        As a result, I could have easily integrated my solver into one of them. So
        your thought experiment is not very realistic, although it may be valid in
        the general case.

        > If your library is BSD,
        > someone could create this UI but make it commercial and not even you can
        > use it. If your library is GPL, this person is forced to either make his
        > code public (so you and your friends can use it) or pay you for a new
        > license.

        He could also:

        1. Develop his own Freecell solving library from scratch. That will probably
        be less work than developing a graphical Freecell game.

        2. Write a command line executable that uses the library call it, and process
        its output. This strategy was taken by the PySolFC developers out of
        convenience using my existing "fc-solve" executable.

        3. Write a GPLed server for solving Freecell that the graphical game would
        communicate with using TCP/IP or a different IPC mechanism.

        4. Decide that developing a graphical game only to later release it as free
        software won't be worth his time, and as a result not develop it at all.

        In all of these cases, we won't have a graphical game as FOSS.

        > Which of those scenarios will make you happier? I can't see how
        > the GPL isn't better in this scenario.

        I'd rather have a proprietary derived work than no work at all, or instead
        someone duplicating my effort in creating a BSD or a proprietary replacement
        for my work.

        Regards,

        Shlomi Fish

        --
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        Shlomi Fish http://www.shlomifish.org/
        Interview with Ben Collins-Sussman - http://xrl.us/bjn8s

        Shlomi, so what are you working on? Working on a new wiki about unit testing
        fortunes in freecell? -- Ran Eilam
      • Shlomi Fish
        ... Now that I think of it, I have another vital thought experiment to add to this. If X11 had been initiated under a non-BSD-style-licence, then it is
        Message 3 of 12 , Jan 9, 2009
          On Sunday 23 November 2008 13:51:01 Shlomi Fish wrote:
          > On Sunday 23 November 2008, Nadav Har'El wrote:
          > > On Wed, Nov 19, 2008, Shlomi Fish wrote about "Re: [hackers-il] "Licences
          >
          > Wars"":
          > > > Furthermore, I don't think the FOSS world is under any threat from
          > > > proprietary software vendors, that can be prevnted if I GPLed all my
          > > > code. Can you cite any possible substantial threat?
          > >
          > > Thinking of future threats is hard (in the banking business, this is a
          > > whole profession, and as you can see lately, the haven't been doing a
          > > very good job. But as they say, "Hindsight is always 20:20", and it's
          > > easier to look at the past.
          > >
          > > And the experience of the last 20 years indeed shown that proprietary
          > > software vendor's use of BSD has been a problem to free software. Not a
          > > huge problem, certainly nothing that could ever kill free software, but a
          > > problem nontheless.
          > >
          > > Let me give you just a few examples.
          > >
          > > In the second half of the 90s, X-Windows was quite popular - a department
          > > (in universities, companies, etc.) would have strong Unix workstations
          > > (from Sun, DEC, SGI, HP and other vendors) and people would have cheaper
          > > machines showing the output from the strong machine using X-Windows. As
          > > MS-Windows grew popular, people wanted to use their PC running Windows to
          > > display X-Windows sessions. But unfortunately, the only X server
          > > available for Windows was commercial software (Exceed), which could
          > > happen because X was BSD-licensed and not GPL. Users (at the time, most
          > > had corporate or university funds - they weren't home users) bit the
          > > bullet and paid. It took literarly years before a free X server for
          > > Windows became available.
          >
          > I agree this is a problem. However, if X-Windows were GPLed, then the
          > people who made Exceed and wanted to sell it, would not have made it in the
          > first place, because they had to make it GPLed. So either they would have
          > implemented it from scratch or not at all. It is possible that a different
          > group would have created a free X server for Windows, but it is possible
          > that no free X server would have been available at all. And if a different
          > group could have created a free X server for Windows without Exceed, they
          > could have certainly created it with it.
          >

          Now that I think of it, I have another vital thought experiment to add to
          this. If X11 had been initiated under a non-BSD-style-licence, then it is
          possible it would not have become as ubiquitous as it is in the UNIX world,
          thus making it irrelevant to port it to Windows in the first place. We can't
          tell that for sure, but I think it is a possibility.

          Regards,

          Shlomi Fish (who is now trying to prepare a coherent document out of this
          thread).

          --
          -----------------------------------------------------------------
          Shlomi Fish http://www.shlomifish.org/
          Original Riddles - http://www.shlomifish.org/puzzles/

          <mauke> I'm not interested in what you're doing; what are you trying to
          achieve?
          <PerlJam> mauke: I'm trying to achieve world peace and this regex is
          the last thing standing in my way! ;)
        • Amit Aronovitch
          ... In this case, your recommendations are also not free enough. Only license that would work is something like: You can do with this work whatever you like,
          Message 4 of 12 , Jan 10, 2009
            On Sat, Nov 8, 2008 at 7:24 AM, Shlomi Fish <shlomif@...> wrote:
            On Friday 07 November 2008, Amit Aronovitch wrote:
            > On Thu, Nov 6, 2008 at 1:33 AM, Shlomi Fish <shlomif@...> wrote:
            > > Now. The first thing I'll mention is that it is not entirely agreed upon
            > > which
            > > licences are free/open-source and which are not:
            > >
            > > The original Artistic Licence (authored by Larry Wall for dual-licensing
            > > perl)
            > > is:
            > >
            > > * considered non-free (and non-GPL-compatible) by the FSF
            > >
            > > * considered free by Debian.
            > >
            > > * considered non-free by RedHat.
            > >
            > > * considered free by Mandriva.
            > >
            > > * considered open-source by the OSI -
            > > http://www.opensource.org/licenses/artistic-license-1.0.php
            > >
            > > * was considered a contract in a certain judgement:
            > >
            > > http://lwn.net/Articles/246695/
            > >
            > > (Who are you going to believe?)
            >
            > Possibly all. The reason is that "freeness" is not a boolean parameter. Not
            > even a single parameter real-valued scale. There are multiple criteria,
            > possibly contradicting each other. Much like human rights...
            > It is much more practical to talk about specific definitions, such as
            > OSI-free/DFSG-free/FSF-free etc.
            > As your examples clearly demonstrate, these do not comply to a total
            > ordering (in the mathematical sense:
            > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_order ).
            >
            > You should decide how you *want* your work to be distributed and choose the
            > license accordingly (effectively decide which criteria should take
            > priority). CC has a nice mechanism for it.

            Well, generally speaking one should strive for endorsement as free (and
            preferably GPL-compatibility) by everybody. Otherwise, you may be facing
            problems.

            In this case, your recommendations are also not free enough. Only license that would work is something like:
            "You can do with this work whatever you like, even claim that you did it all by yourself, no need to mention me. However, you still have the right to sue me if it does not work".
            The reason you don't find any license like that is because authors normally want to assure at least some of their own rights, and that comes at the expense of the "freedoms" of the end users. The question is how you prioritize these freedoms.

            You actually want "endorsement as free" not really by *everybody*, just by a specific list of organizations which you consider relevant for your beliefs and for the projects you work on.

            As for CC, the standard CC licences
            (CC-by/CC-by-sa/CC-by-nc-sa/CC-by-nd/etc.) are not suitable for software due
            to their attribution clause:

            http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/bsd.html

            In fact, the Creative Commons does not let you choose "software" as the type
            of artwork, when filling their form.

            I'm not sure what you mean, but it seems that the discussion in your link is irrelevant. It speaks about the specific case of attribution in "advertising materials" (you can't make effective ads if they must include 100 attributions).
            The CC attribution clause says only that you must attribute "in the manner specified by the author" - this in itself places no restriction, all depends on what the author explicitly requires.
             

            >
            > > The Creative Commons Attribution (CC-by) and Attribution-ShareAlike
            > > Licences
            > > (CC-by-sa) are considered free (but not GPL-compatible) by the FSF (see
            > > http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/license-list.html#OtherLicenses ), while
            > > the Debian legal team concluded that they were not free.[1]
            >
            > Notes:
            > (1) Version 3.0 CC licenses *are* considered DFSG-free.

            I see. That's god.

            Hmm... I though you were an atheist ;-)

                   AA


          • Shlomi Fish
            ... This seems a bit contradictory. And who would be happy with such a licence and not with, say, the X11L? ... I see. ... Well, I have yet to hear of an
            Message 5 of 12 , Mar 3, 2009
              On Saturday 10 January 2009 21:27:50 Amit Aronovitch wrote:
              > On Sat, Nov 8, 2008 at 7:24 AM, Shlomi Fish <shlomif@...> wrote:
              > > On Friday 07 November 2008, Amit Aronovitch wrote:
              > > > On Thu, Nov 6, 2008 at 1:33 AM, Shlomi Fish <shlomif@...> wrote:
              > > > > Now. The first thing I'll mention is that it is not entirely agreed
              > >
              > > upon
              > >
              > > > > which
              > > > > licences are free/open-source and which are not:
              > > > >
              > > > > The original Artistic Licence (authored by Larry Wall for
              > >
              > > dual-licensing
              > >
              > > > > perl)
              > > > > is:
              > > > >
              > > > > * considered non-free (and non-GPL-compatible) by the FSF
              > > > >
              > > > > * considered free by Debian.
              > > > >
              > > > > * considered non-free by RedHat.
              > > > >
              > > > > * considered free by Mandriva.
              > > > >
              > > > > * considered open-source by the OSI -
              > > > > http://www.opensource.org/licenses/artistic-license-1.0.php
              > > > >
              > > > > * was considered a contract in a certain judgement:
              > > > >
              > > > > http://lwn.net/Articles/246695/
              > > > >
              > > > > (Who are you going to believe?)
              > > >
              > > > Possibly all. The reason is that "freeness" is not a boolean parameter.
              > >
              > > Not
              > >
              > > > even a single parameter real-valued scale. There are multiple criteria,
              > > > possibly contradicting each other. Much like human rights...
              > > > It is much more practical to talk about specific definitions, such as
              > > > OSI-free/DFSG-free/FSF-free etc.
              > > > As your examples clearly demonstrate, these do not comply to a total
              > > > ordering (in the mathematical sense:
              > > > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_order ).
              > > >
              > > > You should decide how you *want* your work to be distributed and choose
              > >
              > > the
              > >
              > > > license accordingly (effectively decide which criteria should take
              > > > priority). CC has a nice mechanism for it.
              > >
              > > Well, generally speaking one should strive for endorsement as free (and
              > > preferably GPL-compatibility) by everybody. Otherwise, you may be facing
              > > problems.
              >
              > In this case, your recommendations are also not free enough. Only license
              > that would work is something like:
              > "You can do with this work whatever you like, even claim that you did it
              > all by yourself, no need to mention me. However, you still have the right
              > to sue me if it does not work".

              This seems a bit contradictory. And who would be happy with such a licence and
              not with, say, the X11L?

              > The reason you don't find any license like that is because authors normally
              > want to assure at least some of their own rights, and that comes at the
              > expense of the "freedoms" of the end users. The question is how you
              > prioritize these freedoms.

              I see.

              >
              > You actually want "endorsement as free" not really by *everybody*, just by
              > a specific list of organizations which you consider relevant for your
              > beliefs and for the projects you work on.
              >

              Well, I have yet to hear of an organisation that doesn't consider the X11L as
              a usable licence. But who knows?

              > As for CC, the standard CC licences
              >
              > > (CC-by/CC-by-sa/CC-by-nc-sa/CC-by-nd/etc.) are not suitable for software
              > > due
              > > to their attribution clause:
              > >
              > > http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/bsd.html
              > >
              > > In fact, the Creative Commons does not let you choose "software" as the
              > > type
              > > of artwork, when filling their form.
              >
              > I'm not sure what you mean, but it seems that the discussion in your link
              > is irrelevant. It speaks about the specific case of attribution in
              > "advertising materials" (you can't make effective ads if they must include
              > 100
              > attributions).

              I see.

              > The CC attribution clause says only that you must attribute "in the manner
              > specified by the author" - this in itself places no restriction, all
              > depends on what the author explicitly requires.

              Hmmm... interesting. In any case, the FSF does not consider CC-by and CC-by-sa
              as GPL-compatible. And I'm not sure the CC attribution clause (while taking
              into consideration its difference from the original BSDL advertising clause)
              is GPL-compatible. And the Creative Commons still recommends using one of the
              more standard (and older) software licences for licensing programs rather than
              one of the CC licences.

              Regards,

              Shlomi Fish

              --
              -----------------------------------------------------------------
              Shlomi Fish http://www.shlomifish.org/
              "Humanity" - Parody of Modern Life - http://xrl.us/bkeut

              <mauke> I'm not interested in what you're doing; what are you trying to
              achieve?
              <PerlJam> mauke: I'm trying to achieve world peace and this regex is
              the last thing standing in my way! ;)
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