Subject: Re: license submission: qmail
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 07 Jun 2001 09:58:26 -0700

Brian Behlendorf <> writes:

> ESR and I exchanged some private email on the subject of Darren Reed's
> "clarification" of his terms on the ipfilter code to deny the distribution
> of modified derived works; he pointed out that clause 4 of the OSD states:
>    4. The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in
>    modified form only if the license allows the distribution of "patch
>    files" with the source code for the purpose of modifying the program at
>    build time. The license must explicitly permit distribution of software
>    built from modified source code. The license may require derived works
>    to carry a different name or version number from the original software.
> I think this is a flaw in the OSD - what it means is that those authors
> who place their software under such a license effective make forking
> impossible.  Why?  Because a project aimed at building a derivative work
> may not have a shared code tree, making collaboration impractical enough
> to effectively prevent a fork.  This allows for pragmatic window-dressing
> and bug fixing by repackagers like Debian and other linux distributions,
> but it does not really provide for the same checks on power between
> developers that are really what open source is all about.

I don't like the clause either.  But I think it permits forking in
principle.  It just makes it harder.  I agree that it seems to
prohibit the currently popular CVS based development environment.  But
it doesn't prohibit the possibility of developing a different one, in
which a checkout fetches the original tarball and a set of patches,
and a commit consists of sending a diff back to the server.

> The other terms of clause #4 are met by DJB's requirements on package
> builders that he states on that same page.  The other clauses in the OSD
> are also not violated.  Clause #3 would be in question, but #4 seems to
> allow exceptions to #3 - which seems to fly in the face of the rationale
> of #3: "people need to be able to experiment with and redistribute
> modifications".
> Thus, I submit that either qmail's license be approved as an
> OSD-conformant license, or OSI consider whether clause #4 needs, er,
> "clarification".  It's hard to argue that neither is the case.

So you are saying that the question here is what limitations clause #4
permits on this sentence: ``The license must explicitly permit
distribution of software built from modified source code.''  After
all, DJB requires his approval for any such distribution.  The intent
of clause #4 is presumably that permission beyond adherence to the
license itself is not required, and so DJB's license would not adhere.