Subject: Admin burden of proprietary licenses.
From: Bob Young <bob@redhat.com>
Date: Thu, 30 Apr 1998 19:12:03 -0300


Some software developers have been wondering what burden a "free for 
non-commercial use" license would have on Red Hat.  Or even a "$0.01 
per copy for commercial use" license might have.

There are a whole bunch of subtle free software model issues that 
result from these kind of semi-free approaches including the inequity 
between the copyright holder and the people who might decide to 
help him debug, or develop his product.  But those can be the subject of 
other threads.

The issue I'd appreciate some feedback on is the simple administrative 
burden of anything but unrestricted free redistribution of the code type 
licenses.

Red Hat (as the example I'm most familiar with) ships the Red Hat 
Linux OS.  A majority of our users think of this as a single multi-tasking 
multi-user OS product.  In fact it is a collection of 500 
different packages (the modularity of the UNIX OS design being a 
very important part of the cooperative development model of this OS).

If our serious large organization customers have to review each of the 
500 licenses to determine which pieces of this OS they can use for 
which purposes, and then either; not use the restricted code, or have 
to contact 500 suppliers to get the license restrictions removed (by 
paying some amount of money)...  well you get the idea.

The result would simply be that larger organizations (like Fermilab, 
the particle accelerator lab, who I was pitching today), would not be 
able to use Linux as the administrative burden of managing a whole 
collection of incompatible licenses would be too great.  It would be 
cheaper for them (in terms of time and legal review) to buy a source 
code license to a proprietary OS, than to  use Linux even if they 
downloaded it at no cost.

This is why I have to assure them that we will continue to dump 
considerable amounts of scarce Red Hat development dollars in helping 
build the gtk libraries to replace the Qt libraries (which has a free 
for non-commercial use type license), and into the Gnome 
desktop to replace the Qt-based KDE desktop (which is much further along 
and is otherwise a perfectly good freely redistributable desktop).


Comments?

Cheers,   Bob.




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