Subject: Re: brands, trademarks, and the GPL
From: "L. Peter Deutsch" <ghost@aladdin.com>
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 1999 07:29:26 -0700

> So really my new question is: why do you care about older versions and
> the possible evolution of their licenses ?

I will give you a hypothetical situation.  I don't think it will occur, but
it gives you the idea.

Let's suppose that rms passes from the scene.  The new leadership of FSF
decides that the GPL is too rigid, and they issue a new GPL that is a very
liberal Open Source license -- no restrictions on commercial use or
distribution, or on combining with proprietary material.  Let's suppose that
company Z is a major licensee of the commercial version of Ghostscript, for
integration into a proprietary product.  Ghostscript has continued to
evolve, but in ways that company Z doesn't care about.  (Realistic example:
the progress is in areas related to color and to on-line publishing, and all
company Z cares about is conversion of PostScript and PDF for
black-and-white fax transmission.  There have been major licensees of
exactly this kind, including Aladdin's first and for several years largest
licensee.)  When the new GPL is issued, company Y takes the older
Ghostscript and offers to support it for 1/3 the license fee charged by my
business.  Company Z switches to using company Y, since they now no longer
need a commercial license from Aladdin, the copyright holder.

You could argue -- in fact, I'm pretty sure rms would argue -- that it is
better for the world as a whole if this *does* happen.  I feel it is unfair.
The Ghostscript business has prospered while playing by FSF's rules, making
the software available under an almost-Open-Source license immediately and
under the GPL with a delay, while taking advantage of the propagative (:-))
nature of the GPL, which makes GPL'ed components unattractive to makers of
proprietary products.  I do not wish to be in a position where the FSF can
change those rules in mid-flight and put me and 5 (soon to be 7) other
people out of business.  Once I choose the rules I play by, I don't want
another entity changing them without my consent.  (Everyone has to deal with
the possibility of changes in the law, of course, but I don't want to add
more risks of that kind.)

-- 

L. Peter Deutsch         |       Aladdin Enterprises :::: ghost@aladdin.com
203 Santa Margarita Ave. | tel. +1-650-322-0103 (AM only); fax +1-650-322-1734
Menlo Park, CA 94025     |        http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~ghost/index.html