Subject: Re: Discussing a license
From: John Richard Moser <>
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2006 21:48:21 -0400

Hash: SHA1

Zak Greant wrote:
> Thanks for writing!
> On Jul 28, 2006, at 12:42PDT (CA), John Richard Moser wrote:
>> Hash: SHA1
>> I'm writing up my own license but don't particularly have legal council
>> to seek and am not sure if I want to submit it for approval.  I have a
>> draft already; where would be the best place to discuss such things?
> New licenses place additional burden on software distributors and users.
> In fact, the Open Source Initiative even has a working group dedicated
> to helping address the issue of license proliferation
> (
> Are you sure that your license:
> a) doesn't duplicate an existing license
> (

(there's a draft at )

I had a very difficult goal in mind when I started:

 - Produce a weak license, one that tries to keep the original code but
not to grab modifications (yes this was inspired by the GPL AND the BSD

 - Prevent the proprietorization effect RMS talks about in "The X
Windows Trap"

To this end I basically worked backwards from the BSD license towards
the GPL; my target was a BSD license plus:

 - Any protocols or file formats being supported can not be propriety

I ended out with a little more, targeting in the same spirit.  Addressed
some kind of "Protective Encapsulation" (DRM) with a "Null Protection"
(a format capable of DRM that can be used without DRM is said to have a
Null Protection, one where its Protective Encapsulation is null),
allowing the DRM-related code to be proprietorized but still requiring
the Null Protection code to be open.  Also I said something about patents.

I think I may have actually missed the spirit of my license; I allow
those things to be "released under this license" or "in the public
domain," but releasing the modifications to the public domain doesn't
require releasing the source code.  There's also a weird copyright thing
going on where any modifications released under "this license" confer
separate copyright to the copyright holder of the source (in other
words, you own your copy of the code, and I also own a copy of the code,
we both have copyright to them as if they're two separate but identical

> b) meets the open source definition?
> (

Maybe.  Probably.

It does not satisfy section (2) insomuch as it does not say that the
licensee must also distribute source code; but nor does the BSD license
(which says you may distribute source or binary and doesn't make you
redistribute the source).

Section (7) is an I-don't-really-know thing.  "Modifications to the
Source may be released under the terms of this or any other license; or
to the public domain." probably needs some work, as it does not cover
releasing modified binaries.  Perhaps I should say something about
binary code that is under a different license having to be present in
different modules (i.e. different files, such as plug-ins or .so files)
and clearly marked.  This would allow users to strip away the closed-up
parts and easily rewrite drop-in replacements at least.

I should probably take another look at this.  I'm just trying to allow
modifications to be closed but keep people from running off with the
source and adding interoperability hurdles such as closed file formats
and protocols.  This would land in the BSD camp of people who don't mind
you using their code; but would prevent the "embrace and extend" hacks
where you pick up an open product and then add proprietary features that
totally screw interoperability.

> c) is needed?

The only "needed" licenses are the ones a lot of people use.  That being
said, there is nothing that fills the BSD/MIT philosophy of just giving
it all away while quelling the GPL fear of having the open source
version become useless because it can't talk to the proprietary ones.

Aside from that there's that copyright reciprocation thing...
> --Cheers!
> --zak

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