Subject: Re: I want terms that are midway between proprietary and GPL
From: (Frank Hecker)
Date: Fri, 28 Aug 1998 13:13:54 -0400

David Welton wrote:
> On Thu, Aug 27, 1998 at 03:36:49PM -0400, Brian Bartholomew wrote:
> >    +-------------------------------------------------------------+
> >    |  I want terms that are midway between proprietary and GPL.  |
> >    +-------------------------------------------------------------+
> Well, a couple of alternatives spring to mind:
> The M(ozilla)PL, which, as far as I understand it, is like the GPL
> for everyone but the original licenser.

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by this.  The Mozilla Public License
(MozPL) requires modifications to be redistributed, like the GPL), but
defines "modifications" in such a way as to limit tainting more than the
GPL does.  Under the MozPL, if you changed source code file foo.c in the
original distribution, you would be required to resitribute those
changes under the MozPL, but if you added a new file bar.c (which might
be called by your new code in foo.c) then you would not be required to
redistribute that new file under the MozPL.  (You could do so
voluntarily, of course.)

> This would allow you to use code for proprietary/payware things,
> but not others.

Yes, the MozPL does permit proprietary add-ons, as described above:
implement the add-on in a separate set of source files, called by hooks
in the original source code.  Only the modifications to add the hooks in
the original code need be redistributed under the MozPL.

However, under the MozPL doing this is possible whether you are the
original developer and licensor, or someone else.  The MozPL makes no
distinction in this particular regard.

The distinction between original developer and others is more
significant in the Netscape Public License, from which the MozPL was
abstracted.  There are clauses in the NPL (in Amendment V) relating to
rights under the license granted to the original developer but not to
licensees in general; those particular clauses are not in the MozPL.

For more information see

> And anyone is free to modify, use, redistribute, sell or do whatever
> with the code.

This is true for core code placed under the MozPL.  However a product
could have a mix of MozPL-ed code and code under a separate license, and
the other license could place restrictions on modification, use,
redistribution, etc.
> Or, you could license software under the GPL, but make sure that
> people who contribute sign over their rights to you.  This way, you
> could provide alternative licensing for those who desired.

This is indeed a possible scheme in theory with the GPL (or with any
other open source license, for that matter).  The problem in practice is
securing the agreement of contributors for you to do this.  (Or, to put
it another way, the problem is finding contributors who are willing to
contribute under such a scheme.)

> Linus has specifically not done this with the Linux kernel, so that
> it would be impossible to buy it out - there are simply too many
> contributors.

Right, and Linus has mentioned in interviews that not requiring
assignment of rights specifically served the purpose of encouraging
contributors to contribute, by ensuring them that their work would not
be redistributed under non-open-source licenses, whether by Linus or
anyone else.

Frank Hecker          Pre-sales support, Netscape government sales