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Re: software licensing

"Derek B. Noonburg" <derekn@aimnet.com> writes:

> Now I'm going to reply to everyone in one big email, so this will
> be fairly long...
> Daniel Martin at cush <dtm12@jhunix.hcf.jhu.edu> wrote:
> > I think this has one of the same problems that early draft versions of 
> > the NPL did.  Namely, I can't give a modified version (say the
> > modification is somehow useful only to JHU students) to my friend
> > without making it publicly available.
> My understanding of the GPL is that it's ok to give modified versions
> to a friend, as long as you include the source code.  This means that I
> could pass copies around to a whole group, without ever making the
> modified source code public.  I don't particularly want to allow this
> "private distribution" behaviour anyway.  (Please correct me if I
> misunderstood the GPL.)

No, you're absolutely right - the Gnu GPL (and BSD license and Perl's
Artistic License and the MPL...) allows this, and my objection to the
RSL was that it does not.  Note that if you take and pass around GPLed
software, however, you can't prevent anyone you give it to from making
your modified version public.

Now - my personal feeling on this is that this kind of "private
distribution" must be allowed for the software to be free.  However, I 
can't find anything in the DFSG that says so.

I do know that so-called "email-ware" (where the author requires
notification that the software is being used) has been considered
non-free when it's come up.

Perhaps the sticky point is point 3 of the DFSG:
3. Derived Works
   The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must
   allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license
   of the original software.

This would seem to mean that if I distribute modified works, I
shouldn't have to do anything different than if I distribute the
original.  And yet, under the RSL, I do.

But I'm on shaky ground if I argue that, as the modified versions I
give to people are indeed licensed under the RSL.  Really, to support
my position one has to twist point 3 incredibly.

My opinion, then, is that it does meet the DFSG but that the DFSG has
some holes in it.  (there's already another known hole involving nasty
"this license is valid until 90 days after I publish a new version"
clauses) *sigh* I'm not looking forward to the flamewar we'll have on
this list when we try to decide whether or not xpdf under this license
goes into main.

I suppose I'd ask then why you feel the need to disallow this private
distribution in the license; as you said, you're counting on
reasonable behavior from the hacker community.  Imagine this scenario,
  Bob wishes to do the private distribution thing with his friends
  and so makes his modifications available on his web server for all
  of an hour while he hand-delivers the disks to the people in his 
  circle of friends.  (Replace "hour" with as small a time interval
  as you want, assuming a very fast Bob)

Perfectly valid under the current RSL.  I also assume that it's
unreasonable behavior as you see it, and that reasonably behaved
hackers would do nothing of the sort.  Now, my question is this: do you 
have some reason to believe that unless you prohibit it in the
license, otherwise reasonably behaved hackers will engage in private
distribution of an evil sort?  (By "an evil sort" I mean for purposes
other than testing modifications that will be made public once testing 
is completed)  My point is that people who are going to be
unreasonable about it can effectively do the private distribution
thing anyway - do you have reason to believe that reasonable people
will too?

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