Subject: Re: Software Licensing
From: Thomas Lord <>
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2006 14:38:36 -0700

Russ Nelson wrote:
> Scott Capdevielle writes:
>  > Keep in mind that I distinguish between open source and free software.  
>  > Open is very good for innovation but reserves the right to get 
>  > royalties.
> How do you reconcile the ability to demand royalties with the Open
> Source Definition?

Perhaps with something that starts like this (institutionalizing things
like Ghostscript, ransom, etc.):

              The Free Software Precursor License
                       DRAFT 27-Sep-2006

         Copyright (C) 2006 Thomas Lord (

  Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies
  of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.


  Free software licenses such as the GNU General Public License
  are designed to guarantee all recipients of a program the
  freedoms to use, copy, modify, and share the program, or any
  modified version of the program.  That is an important and
  valuable outcome for a programming effort but it creates a
  practical problem for some programmers who would like to
  develop free software.  Once a program becomes available to
  the general public under a free software license, the
  copyright owners have given up all exclusive rights that,
  under other kinds of license, would produce revenue for the
  copyright holders.  In other words, publicly available free
  software is a non-rival good which is great for users
  freedoms, but lousy for financially rewarding programmers for
  their creative work per se.

  The problem extends beyond copyright and includes patents.
  When an inventor who holds a software patent permits that
  patent to be practiced in a free software program, he has
  given away the rights of exclusion that would allow him to
  derive revenue from the practice of that patent in that
  program or in any program derived from that program.

  The purpose of this license is to create a balance that is
  fair to the users of a program, but that also enables authors
  and inventors to secure, for a limited time, such exclusive
  rights to their free software creations that they can be
  financially rewarded for having made their effort.

  Accordingly, when this license is applied to a program:

    0) At the time of initial release, everyone is free to use,
       copy, modify, and share the program non-commercially and,
       under the terms of this license, for research whose
       primary aim is to improve the program or develop other
       software under this same license.

    1) A specific date is declared, after which everyone
       is free to use, copy, modify, and share the program
       without restrictions against commercial activity.
       We encourage authors and inventors to declare a date
       that is much sooner than the expiration of relevant
       copyrights and patents.

     2) A specific price is declared which, if paid to the
        copyright holder, will cause the program to immediately
        be licensed to everyone for free use, copying,
        modification, and sharing.

     3) Modifications distributed to the program prior to the
        date on which commercial restrictions are lifted may be
        distributed to the copyright holders under any agreed
        upon terms or may be distributed to the general public
        under terms that include a reciprocal, not commercially
        restricted license to the copyright holder.

     4) One year after commercial restrictions are lifted from
        this program, everyone has the right to distribute
        this program, or modified versions which they have
        created, under the commercially restricted form
        of this license, setting a date not to exceed
        10 years after which commercial restrictions will be
        lifted.   The copyright holders of this program may
        make such distributions at any time.

  We acknowledge that this license does not, prior to the date
  on which commercial restrictions are lifted, satisfy the
  commonly used definitions of "free software" or "open source".
  We acknowledge that some members of the free software and open
  source communities will criticize to this license on that basis.
  We respectfully refuse those criticisms on the grounds that
  we believe, using this and similar licenses, the public will
  benefit from a greater enjoyment of software freedoms, because
  more and better free software will be created.   We take
  special note, for example, that numerous significant free
  software programs which the public enjoys today became free
  software precisely because they were developed as non-free
  software, and the public rights either purchased or granted
  with the passage of time.

  We acknowledge that it is possible to use this license
  abusively, such as by setting an unreasonable date for
  unrestricted release or an unreasonable price.   We believe
  that a proper and sufficient public response to such abuses is
  to simply ignore programs so released.

  Finally, we encourage the continued development and use of
  open source licenses which are compatible with this license.
  That is to say, we encourage open source software to be
  released under terms that permit its combination with programs
  under this license, even during the period of commercial