Subject: Re: A company's appeal to the community
From: <kmself@ix.netcom.com>
Date: Sat, 15 Jan 2000 23:42:04 -0800
Sat, 15 Jan 2000 23:42:04 -0800
On Sat, Jan 15, 2000 at 10:46:30PM -0500, Frank Hecker wrote:
> Jonathan Ryshpan wrote:
> > (2) BigTech has licensed code from BibbleCorp and BobbleCorp.  BobbleCorp
> >     is objecting to the release of its code along with BigTech's.
> > 
> > KS> AFAIK, yes.
> 
> This sounds similar to the problem that Netscape had when releasing
> Communicator source code -- the Communicator source code contained a
> fair amount of source code directly or indirectly licensed from others
> that had become mingled together with the Netscape-developed source
> code. Netscape was able to sublicense this code to Netscape OEMs and
> others under conventional proprietary license agreements, but of course
> did not have rights to publicly release it. (I remember seeing an
> internal document generated during the Mozilla source code
> "sanitization" effort, and the number of Communicator source files with
> at least some third party source included was quite large.)

Yes, it's probably similar to this.  I heard Mitchell Baker of Mozilla
talking about the issues involved in settling legal compliance issues
in codebases.  From what I could make of it, free software, as free
software, is a huge efficiency generator just in the way that it
streamlines this process.  Even the current situation with license
proliferation seems better than the proprietary angle.

[...]

> I'm not sure exactly what kind of "pressure and/or persuasion" (to quote
> Karsten Self) would prove most effective in solving this problem. The
> third-party licensors have a right to license their software as they see
> fit, and in many cases they would have to drastically change their
> business model to release their source under libre terms. It's not an
> easy sell, especially since from their point of view everything was fine
> until "BigTech" wanted to make changes.

I think the influence is some sort of drawing public eyeballs and
commentary to the fact that the obstruction is going on.  The specifics
(who's involved, what's desired) haven't been delved into yet.
I think that what's mostly wanted is some rounding up of voices who'd
be supportive of the prospect.   The concern at the company is how this
request would be received.  Which you answer immediately below.

> But to answer Karsten Self's original questions:
> > - Is there interest in supporting this company?
> 
> Of course.
> 
> > - What if any preconditions would be attached to such support?
> 
> I think mainly that "BigTech" end up releasing its software under an
> OSD-compliant license. It's not clear to me that we're in a position to
> be demanding lots of preconditions, given that we don't have any
> plausible evidence yet that we can in fact help "BigTech" in its
> dealings with its licensors.

A set of steps -- say choosing from one of the existing OSD licenses
rather than something not OSD compliant or drafting a new license,
public statements WRT issues in free software.  For example, I'm running
a second thread on issues involved in the DeCSS case.  While I don't
think this itself need be a condition, there are points raised in
copyright and Uniform Commerce Code law over the past few years which
are concerning.  Corporate moxie saying "we don't stand for this" would
be cool.

IBM made several concessions to the Apache group when the two decided
to work together.  I'm thinking of something along those lines -- we're
not coming up with an unnumbered bank account and a dollar ammount, but
some clear, dispositive, and scheduled steps which serve the general
interest of free software, and which would affirm the committments
being made.  

I do believe that once the software is licensed, that there will be
a very limited ability to turn things around again.  Deciding to "go
open source" has a bit of the same qualties as driving over a cliff.
There's a point of no return.  This is something the company's struggled
with internally, and appears resolved on.  They're just not too keen on
getting shot to pieces on the way over.

> > - What if any concerns are there about rallying to the support of a
> > company which has not yet made a broad and firm commitment to free
> > software?
> 
> Well, none to my mind. Every company has to start somewhere, why turn
> away from helping one get further down the road?

I think that's going to be reassuring for them.  Thanks.

> Frank
> -- 
> Frank Hecker            work: http://www.collab.net/
> frank@collab.net        home: http://www.hecker.org/
> 

-- 
Karsten M. Self (kmself@ix.netcom.com)
    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?

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