Subject: Re: Licenses vs. public domain
From: Ben_Tilly@trepp.com
Date: Mon, 29 May 2000 11:37:31 -0400


Karsten wrote:
> > I ask because several of the popular existing licenses are barely
> > distinguishable from public domain.
>
> Which?  Artistic comes to mind.  None others off the top of my head.
>
How so?

Read it again.

It is called the Artistic License because with it Larry Wall retains
complete artistic control of Perl.  It allows anything that does not
infringe on that control.  However it is illegal for Microsoft to try
and take the source, modify it, and then sell that as Perl.

This is not, incidentally, a hypothetical example.  IIRC at one point
Microsoft did indeed take Perl, and port it to Windows from Unix (as a
move to help them break into the web market).  They spun off a small
company (or hired them to do the work, I don't know and I am sure that
I am about to be corrected anyways) call Hip Communications for this
purpose.

Hip, for obvious reasons, did not want to give up their changes.  Even
worse, they could not do so because Microsoft had incorporated some of
their intellectual property to allow Perl to be integrated into IIS.
(Look up PerlScript.)  OTOH they most assuredly were not meeting
either the GPL or the Artistic licenses - not even close.  This was
the cause of some...unpleasantness shall we say?

As things worked out the situation did get resolved peacefully.  The
upshot was that the Microsoft stuff got moved into PerlCRT.dll, the
changes that had been made were integrated back into the main Perl
(resulting in perl 5.005), Hip changed its name to ActiveState, the
pumpking who shepherded all of this through was hired by ActiveState
(and has continued to do good work), and ActiveState has since been
far more careful about respecting free licenses.  Oh right, and all
sides agree that they will let bygones be bygones and there will be
no lawsuits over past transgressions.

So you see, the Artistic License rather different from public domain
both in theory and in practice.

Cheers,
Ben