Subject: Re: [was Cygnus] now Ghostscript and Aladdin
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 23 Jun 1999 14:20:55 -0400

   From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
   Date: Wed, 23 Jun 1999 16:07:48 +0900 (JST)

   The real issue is not what you or I would do, except as examples.  (I
   shouldn't have phrased things as though I were trying to change your
   personal policy; I wasn't.)  The issues are first, do more people feel
   one way or the other, and how strong is the bias?  Second (probably
   more important), which type of person contributes more good code, and
   how much more?  And finally, does the bias matter in the context of a
   particular project?

I have no deep insight into what other people choose to do.  I've seen
people complain about dual licenses.  On the other hand, some people
work on Mozilla.

I'm not trying to answer your questions in general.  I originally
responded to your general comment that you didn't think a dual license
mattered as long as one variant was libre.  I personally don't agree.
I don't know what other people think.

If I were starting a new free software project, and I wanted
significant contributions from the net, I certainly would not use a
dual license.  However, there are many reasons to start a free
software project other than the hope of significant contributions--
often a vain hope in any case.

       Ian> I'm not inclined to worry about hypotheticals.

   Sure you are.  That Peter would not publish your code under the
   Aladdin license, or the GPL if you chose, is very much a hypothetical,
   indeed, a counterfactual.

Hmmm, something has gone astray here.  I never meant to say that Peter
wouldn't publish my hypothetical patch.  I said that it would be
``non-free and effectively hidden.''  You were correct in objecting to
``effectively hidden.''  But I believe it would be temporarily
non-free, and that is all I meant (I should have said something like
``non-free and effectively, temporarily, useless to the free software
community'').  You indicated that I could require it to be under the
GPL, but that is more awkward for all concerned.  Rather than increase
awkwardness, I would most likely simply not bother to submit the

       Ian> I don't see it.  I see your footnote about the FSF
       Ian> assignment, but to me the assignment says the code will
       Ian> always be free for some definition of free.  In the binutils
       Ian> assignment form, the paragraph in question is this:

   Omitted, looks familiar.

   "Free?"  I don't see it.  It says that it will be redistributable
   under the same terms that the FSF distributes.  It's not even clear to
   me that the FSF is required by that language to let third parties
   _compile_ the machine-readable source code (which it must distribute),
   as long as everybody is allowed to redistribute machine-readable
   source code that nobody is allowed to compile.  There is no definition
   of "permitted use", and as long as the FSF needs the freedom to revise
   the GPL, I suspect there cannot be a legally binding definition there.

According to Dan Bernstein, once you have a copy of source code for
which you did not sign a contract, you are permitted to do whatever
you like with it provided you do not redistribute it (which would
violate copyright).  The FSF is guaranteeing that you will be
permitted to redistribute it.

But that's just a legalistic argument.  I agree that you have made a
legalistic argument that the code assigned to the FSF might become

   I think it is plausible, although unlikely, that a future FSF board
   could adopt an Aladdin-like license, and use the assignments to change
   the entire corpus of FSF-assigned GNU software to AFPL.

I don't find that to be plausible.