Subject: Re: EROS license
From: Russell Nelson <>
Date: Sun, 27 Jun 1999 00:21:03 -0400 (EDT)

Ian Lance Taylor writes:
 >    From: Russell Nelson <>
 >    Date: Sat, 26 Jun 1999 15:30:50 -0400 (EDT)
 >    Ian Lance Taylor writes:
 >     > Another person made the same comment in private mail, so clearly I
 >     > should not have mentioned payment, as that is merely a side issue.
 >    I'll make the same point, then, without referring to payment.  You
 >    didn't address my suggestion of creating a "poison pill" contribution.
 > I guess I didn't think it was relevant.  Just to comment on it, I
 > think sending in a contribution which can not be used is merely
 > obnoxious.  It would be easier and more polite to just not bother to
 > send in the patch at all.

But the whole point is power and control.  The original developer has
it, and you don't.  By creating a contribution which cannot be used
--by the original developer's choice-- you help him realize that his
choice is counter-productive.

I mean, isn't that what Stallman has been doing for fifteen years?
Been creating a contribution which "cannot be used" by the viral
nature of the GPL?  You're right -- it would have been easier and more 
polite for RMS to just not bother trying to change the world.

 > What difference does it make if my feelings aren't rational?

Because someone might not free their code.  This whole scenario only
occurs when someone has a big contribution to make -- e.g. Netscape's
Mozilla.  If they don't get the benefit of people working on their
code, you get Windows code instead.  That's totally proprietary with
no ability to fix the code.

 > When I explicitly reserve the right to gather up everybody's
 > contributions and use them in ways that nobody else can, it's pretty
 > clear that some of us are more equal than others.

Well, given the circumstances (a major contribution of code by a
single party), there's no escaping that fact.  Even if the original
creator puts the code in the public domain, they still know more about
the code than anyone else.  And since they wrote the majority of the
code, their name is on the majority of it.

 > A key privilege in any free software project is the ability to fork.
 > While a dual license need not prohibit a fork, it certainly gives it a
 > weird conceptual complexity, another cause for concern, albeit
 > arguably irrational.

Yes, I agree that this might be a problem if the license does not take 
this into account.

 > I believe that we should all be free to fix problems in our software,
 > which among other things means having the source code.  I believe that
 > people who withhold the source code from us are acting against the
 > best interests of society.

Right, well, how do you incent someone to make a big investment in a
piece of software?  Larry McVoy is wondering the same question.  His
answer is to always supply the source, but impose a use license on his
code which requires everyone to publish their changelogs.  Of course,
if you don't want to do that, you have to pay him to escape that
clause through Larry's ability to dual-licensing.

So it sounds like you won't like BitKeeper for the same reasons.

 > Of course, not all FSBs are the same.  For example, I think it was a
 > reasonable business decision for Cygnus to release eCos under a dual
 > license.  I don't think the goal of eCos is to encourage third party
 > contributions (although no doubt Cygnus will happily accept them); I
 > think the goal is to blow away royalty based RTOSes, such as those
 > sold by Cygnus's competitors, via an extreme form of price-dumping.

Yeah, I've never quite understood the difference between free software
and dumping.  For those people who aren't blessed to live in the US,
we have this thing called antitrust.  If you sell a product for much
more than the competition, you've obviously got a monopoly otherwise
competition would bring the price down.  If you sell a product for the
same as your competition, you've violating antitrust laws which
prohibit price-fixing (collusion between vendors to support a price).
And if you sell a product for much less than the competition, you're
dumping product on the market in the hopes of putting your competition 
out of business.

The only thing that makes it tolerable is that most other countries
have even worse governments than ours.

-russ nelson <>
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