Subject: Re: brands, trademarks, and the GPL
From: Paul Rohr <>
Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999 09:19:39 -0700

This is one of a number of threads who've "inherited" this massive CC list, 
so after this post I'm going to do my part and trim it back to FSB and 
active participants unless I get private mail from others who want to stay 
on the thread.

At 02:08 PM 9/30/99 +0900, Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
>It's a net gain to a heterogeneous community, if the various licenses
>are well crafted and not proliferated excessively.  Optimal
>proliferation will be increasing in heterogeneity, and decreasing in
>transaction costs, including both writing and reading legal costs as
>well as enforcement costs that accrue to the variety (and not the mere
>existence) of licenses.

I am by no means an advocate of the "one true license" who argues with other 
such advocates.  There do need to be a few such well-understood licenses to 
cover the range of rights and permissions people want.  However, I think the 
YAOSL phenomenon is more pernicious than you suggest.  

Without ongoing advocacy *against* YAOSLs, the slope from your ideal of 
three licenses towards thirty or more is very slippery indeed.  

Opening the source to a particular product has effects on two scales.  
Locally, you now have access to the guts of that program so that you can 
tweak or improve it.  More globally, all of the code used also becomes 
available for use in other programs -- provided the license is compatible, 
that is.  

How does YAOSL proliferation affect these two scales?  As Bruce pointed out 
elsewhere in this thread, it may help locally, because more providers may 
accelerate their willingness to release code at all, if you allow them to 
fine-tune the mix of permissions they'd prefer in the form of YAOSL.  As 
someone who entered the Open Source business by drafting YAOSL, I can attest 
to how tempting it is to do "just a little" legal work up front to create 
terms more favorable to your intended business model. 

However, proliferation definitely reduces benefits on the latter scale.  
Individual software developers don't want to have to act as lawyers, and 
it's easier and safer to write a new implementation rather than reuse an 
existing one with an unfamiliar license.  Given the complexity of YAOSLs, 
each pairwise combination may or may not have a clean overlap of rights and 
permissions which allows code under those licenses to be safely mingled.  
I don't see how more heterogenous proliferation will result in lower 
transaction costs here, given the finicky unpredictability of legal advice.  
Indeed, I'd expect the converse.  

So which factor dominates -- local or global?  

The willingness of individual developers to add code to a particular project 
is one of the unique values of the Open Source community that *everyone*, 
including the most profit-minded businesses, wants to leverage.  The 
potential benefits of releasing code under an Open Source license aren't 
realized until someone else actually takes advantage of the rights granted.  

Thus I'll argue that even on the local scale, any YAOSL-derived benefits are 
likely to be greatly limited by the kinds of license FUD running through the 
minds of potential developers.   

>It's pretty clear to me that we need at least _three_ licenses for
>this community:  non-copyleft free, copyleft free, and

As I've tried to suggest above, figuring out how to unify that third license 
is a doozy.  :-)