Subject: Re: For Approval: Open Source Software Alliance License
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 28 Sep 2003 17:56:20 -0700

Sean Chittenden <> writes:

> > > Changes made to the BSD code by the authors of the GPL product are
> > > changes that are available only under the GPL.
> > 
> > Yes, and changes made to the BSD code by the authors of a proprietary
> > product are changes that are only available to the authors of the
> > proprietary product.
> > 
> > What's the essential difference?
> If the changes are outside of the scope of a business's core, then
> maintaining those changes is expensive and it is in the businesses
> best interests to release those changes.  The OSSAL prevents those
> changes from being licensed under the GPL, making those changes
> available to other widget makers.

That did not answer my question.  Please try again.

Your statement also happens to be at least partly false.  The
copyright holder of code can license it under whatever restrictions it
chooses.  In particular, the copyright holder can license the code to
itself under the OSSAL, and to everybody else under the GPL.  That is,
the copyright holder can release the code under the GPL, while still
using it in a proprietary product.  You've several times mentioned
that you are concerned about new modules.  If those new modules are
not derivative works of the original OSSAL code, but merely use an API
which it provides, then this can be done with an OSSAL project.

Naturally nobody other than the copyright holder can take this GPL
code, link it to OSSAL code, and redistribute the result in binary
form.  However, anybody can take this GPL code and redistribute the
source, and that same anybody can take the original OSSAL code and
redistribute the source of that.  Users can link the resuting code
together, provided they do not redistribute the resulting binary.

So the source code can get released, it can in principle be used, and
yet it will be under the GPL even though the original code was under
the OSSAL.  This approach would work nicely in the BSD pkgsrc system,
though binary packages would not be permitted.

This would admittedly be a mildly perverse exercise.  Yet it is the
type of exercise which you say that you are concerned about.  If any
``widget maker'' would go to the trouble of releasing GPL modules of
BSD licensed code, they could easily go to the only slightly greater
trouble of doing the same thing with OSSAL licensed code.

In practice I don't know of any widget maker who has even bothered to
release GPL versions of BSD licensed code; it seems like a pointless
exercise in bad public relations.  Do you know of any companies which
have done this?

This type of trick can also be done with the GPL, of course, but the
results are relatively ineffective because the GPL imposes
restrictions on any redistribution of GPL code.  The OSSAL does not
impose any restrictions until a copyleft license enters the mix, so
the only effort needed is to keep the copyleft license out until it is
too late.

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