Subject: Re: Meaning of "combined work"?
From: "Jonathan S. Shapiro" <shap@eros-os.org>
Date: Fri, 29 Dec 2000 14:01:08 -0500

> Basically, we define "combination" in terms of "address space", and
> that works well for Unix, Linux, and Windows.  Because we ship a
> library, we're able to draw that line.  I'm not sure whether there's
> a similar distinction that you can make in EROS -- likely not, since
> you're talking about RPC.

The only analogy I can see in EROS is to claim that programs are somehow
"linked" if one holds a capability to another. The difficulty with this is
that it's far too broad. By this definition the entire system is linked.

> Just from reading the description you provided, there is plenty of
> room for interpretation if you wind up litigating the license.

I agree, and I agree that there is a need both to tighten the wording and to
give examples.

Ultimately, however, the problem here is that we really *are* trying to
scope out something that is very slippery, and I can think of cases where
the answer could legitemately go both ways according to circumstances. I
don't think this stuff will be actionable except in the most extreme cases.
My primary goal is to establish a conceptual "frame" around which the
community will form a concensus about what constitutes proper behavior.

In this kind of arena, my belief is that companies do not concede because
they fear that they will lose a hypothetical lawsuit. They concede because
the visibility of *winning* the lawsuit is a total business disassaster that
will result in being shunned by the open source community and publicly
piloried as an organization that "does not play nicely with others." The
cost of this negative publicity is generally enough to enforce compliance.

In spite of my negative words earlier about the vagueness of GPL, I
definitely need to acknowledge that GPL has successfully found a balance in
playing the public opinion card that seems to work, and that it has never
needed to go to litigation (unless that has changed recently). While the
wording and uncertainty makes a lot of people nervous, the fact that it has
never gone to litigation is unquestionably a good metric for measuring the
"success" of the license.

But it also makes clear why people are nervous. GPL gives RMS a very large
public opinion weapon to wield as he chooses. To my knowledge, he has never
done so irresponsibly, but he is *perceived* by many as anti-business. One
of the biggest, rarely vocalized concerns on the part of large companies is
that they will be handing this tool of censure to someone whose motivations
they cannot really comprehend.

> I'd try hard to
> tighten that language up by defining the terms before you ship.

Suggestions would be very welcome. I've been trying with only limited
success.

> Do you have some examples of components that must be open source,
> and those that should be open source?

Yes, and I was already planning to add them. Good suggestion.


Jonathan