Subject: Re: For Approval: Open Source Software Alliance License
From: John Cowan <cowan@mercury.ccil.org>
Date: Fri, 26 Sep 2003 08:15:19 -0400

Sean Chittenden scripsit:

> A language who's core is BSD/MIT is of use to
> businesses.  A language who's modules are all GPL is a language of
> little use to a business that doesn't want to have to reinvent the
> wheel.  On the other hand, a language with all of its modules that are
> available under a BSD/MIT license, is of value.  

I suppose you mean that you are writing an interpreter for the language
in question which is meant to be linked to other code by way of
providing scripting or otherwise.  Such interpreters don't tend to be
released under the GPL anyhow (can anyone think of a counterexample?)
but under BSD-ish licenses or mixed-status licenses like the LGPL or MPL.

The GPLed implementation of the C and C++ languages has served software
developers, including those who develop proprietary software, rather well,
I think.  Unencumbered BSD would hardly be practical without it.

> Quid pro quo: three single syllable words that can both be said
> slowly, and do a halfway decent job of summarizing the OSSAL.  The
> BSD/MIT license (which I support enthusiastically), however, can
> almost be summarized as, quid pro throw (as in thrown into the abyss
> without any assurance for getting something usable back in return).

I don't see how the OSSAL offers you any such assurances for your code
in particular:  I can tune it up, add amazing new features, and release
under a fully proprietary license; you get precisely nothing back.
Same story with the BSD, of course.  What it does offer you is ecological
resistance to a license you perceive as predatory.

> From a business's point of view, 

I wish you wouldn't say "business" to mean "proprietary software
development business".  It's confusing.

> its ability to provide some form of quid pro quo for its efforts to
> release code into the wild while still preserving the ability for
> potential competitors to assimilate the code or any modifications made
> by the public.  

But it leaves you utterly unprotected against competition from proprietary
improvements.  Ironically, it is copyleft licenses that do so best, by the
brute force method of making sure there are no proprietary improvements.
I don't see how you can have it both ways.

-- 
Do NOT stray from the path!             John Cowan <jcowan@reutershealth.com>
        --Gandalf                       http://www.ccil.org/~cowan
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