Subject: Re: Simple Public License, draft
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 1 Sep 1999 20:38:15 -0400

   Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 19:56:11 -0400
   From: Justin Wells <>

   On Wed, Sep 01, 1999 at 05:27:52PM -0400, Ian Lance Taylor wrote:

   > It's very hard to determine whether two products compete with one
   > another.  I wouldn't call a license which puts that burden on me
   > ``simple.''

   I agree.

   I tried to deal with that in this license by defining "competes" 
   to mean "has the same purpose", and including at the top of the 
   license an explicit statement of what the purpose is. Effectively, 
   preventing non-GPL use of the software that matches that stated

   Maybe it would be better just to say that directly in the license 
   rather than trying to define "competes". Something like, "You agree 
   not use our software to create software that has the same purpose, 
   as defined above."

If I understand you correctly, in your sample, the relevant clause is
``Its purpose is to provide a development framework and script
language to assist with the development of servlets and web

What if I copy your license and say ``Its purpose is to let you
generate HTML using a Java program.''  Does that purpose compete with
your purpose?  Who can say?  Perhaps I think it doesn't and you think
it does.  How do we know who is right?

Suppose I declare and even honestly intend a particular purpose which
does not compete, but it turns out that the program can still be used
for a purpose which clearly competes, and people start using it in
that fashion.  Is this legal?  Am I at fault?  Do I have any
liability?  Who can say?

   > Suppose you simply release the source under the GPL, and make it clear
   > that you will permit a nontransferrable source license which fewer
   > restrictions on a case by case basis?

   This is exactly what I do now, and it's getting in the way of progress:
   it makes accepting contributions rather cumbersome. 

   Worse, what if I leave the scene? Then there would be nobody around
   authorized to maintain the non-GPL version, and nobody to grant
   the case-by-case exceptions. The project should be able to survive
   without me, given enough interest from its users.

Well, the project would survive as a GPL program, but presumably you
want more than that.  I suppose you could add a sunset clause to the

Frankly, I think the ambiguities about ``competition'' are enough to
ensure that nobody will able to use the proposed license in non-GPL
mode unless you are around anyhow to explain what does and does not
count as competition.