Subject: Re: Optimal license for Java projects ...
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 14 Mar 2003 20:03:16 -0800

David Johnson <> writes:

> On Thursday 13 March 2003 09:32 am, Gunther Schadow wrote:
> > - The problem of the BSD license is that it allows commercial
> >    parties to take the source code away and contribute little, and
> >    take away the freedom of their customers to use improved versions
> >    of the free code
> You've completely misunderstood the nature of the BSD license. First, 
> commercial parties cannot take source code away any more than they 
> could take water away from an ocean. It may look like they are, but if 
> you check, the free source code is still there and the ocean isn't any 
> smaller. Second, they can't take away their customer's freedom to use 
> improved versions, because the free source code is still there and the 
> ocean is still huge.
> It seems to me that what you don't want is something much different. You 
> don't want a commercial company being more successful than a 
> noncommercial entity. You whole horrible scenario of MicroToast forcing 
> burnt toast on their customers can easily occur anyway, regardless of 
> license. All MicroToast has to do is to implement their own YML suite. 
> As a reference, I point you to BSD licensed Kerberos. For a few days in 
> history, every GPL advocate in the country was talking about how 
> horrible it was that Kerberos wasn't under the GPL. "If only it weren't 
> under the BSD", they said. But then it turned out that Microsoft didn't 
> use the BSD licensed code to begin with! They implemented their version 
> from scratch! Even RMS had to back track a bit and rewrite an interview 
> he gave(1).
> The point is, your scenario has never occured. But the scenario of 
> MicroToast implementing their own stuff from scratch has happened 
> innumerable times. So licenses alone aren't going to save you.

What about the BSD licensed X Window system?  Several companies
implemented particular X servers for their platforms (e.g., DEC).  The
servers were based on the BSD licensed code, but the platform specific
modifications, and the technical information required to make those
modifications, were kept proprietary.

Obviously you are correct that nobody took away the original free
code.  But this is an example of a proprietary fork in which end-users
suffered.  They could not incorporate improvements to the free X
Window system code on their own systems, because they were not able to
build their own servers.  I was one of those people myself, so it's
not purely abstract.

I don't have anything at all against the BSD license, and I'm not
trying to put it down.  I'm just pointing out what I believe to be an
error in your statement that this ``scenario has never occured

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