Subject: Re: EROS license
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 27 Jun 1999 11:16:45 -0400

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

   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.

You're right.  One could use significant patches as a tactic to
convince somebody to change their behaviour.  I probably wouldn't do
so myself, but one could.

RMS is a revolutionary.  I am not.  I greatly admire what RMS has done
and is doing, but I don't kid myself that I would do the same thing,
at least not at this point in my life.

    > 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.

Of course; I assume that you are just commenting, and that you do
understand my point.

    > 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.

Remember that the paragraph quoted above was in an argument I was
presenting as an example, not one I necessarily believe myself.  I
know it's an overly tricky form of discussion.

It's not clear to me that the incentive question is crying out for an
answer.  After all, we have free software programs that are much
larger than BitKeeper.  Cygnus invests more in free software every
year than Larry and his angels have invested in BitKeeper (at least,
so I assume based on the number of employees).

You have argued on other occasions that open source software is so
clearly superiour that customers will start to demand it.  If that is
true, then we do not need any additional incentives.

BitKeeper is not open source software anyhow: copies of BitKeeper are
required to have to logging code built in, and they are required to
pass the testsuite.  So it's not really an example of the kind of dual
licensing we are talking about.

It's true that I have no current plans to use BitKeeper.  If it is
really significantly more useful than CVS, I would recommend
purchasing it for corporate use on proprietary software if the
occasion arose.  But I doubt I would use it for a free software
project under the current license (I've told Larry this).  In any
case, Larry is solving the rather serious problems of Linux kernel
development; I don't have those problems.  For me, CVS works fine.