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Re: software licensing

Daniel Martin at cush <dtm12@jhunix.hcf.jhu.edu> wrote:

> 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.

Ok, I don't really want to be in a position where I'm violating the
spirit of the DFSG, even if I'm not strictly violating the letter of

Here's what I was trying to accomplish.  For example, say a company
took xpdf, made some changes and then distributed it to all of their
branches to be used in their commercial workflow.  As long as no one
distributes the binary outside the company (and their employees will
be under contractual obligation not to), they're not required to
release the changes to their source.  I consider this a proprietary
use (and will happily sell them a license which would explicitly allow

As you pointed out, the company could get around my current RSL draft
by simply putting the changes on their web page for five minutes while
they did the distribution.

So there are actually two issues here:

1. I want to disallow something that the GPL allows - "private

2. The RSL, as written, doesn't do a very good job of disallowing

> 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.

I don't much like the idea of email-ware, either.

But I can make a similar argument against the GPL.  If I want to
distribute this free software in binary form, I'm required to provide
source code on request (forever?), even if I'm using a plain vanilla
version, whose source code is available on a zillion well-known ftp
sites.  This is important to me because a number of people want to
distribute xpdf (in plain vanilla form) on CD-ROMs, and this is
something I would like to allow, without any annoying "must
distribure, or at least offer to distribute, source code"

> *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.

That's why I'm posting this -- I'd like to get this thing to the point
where there's no question that it meets the DFSG.

> 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?

Right - people who are going to be unreasonable will do whatever they
want with the source code, and I'll likely never even know about it.

My goal is to encourage reasonable people (or companies) who want to
make changes to xpdf to either (1) make the changes public (in some
way) or (2) pay for a proprietary license.  I know this goes against
the GPL, at least to some extent.

- Derek

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