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Re: One unclear point in the Vim license

On Tue, Jan 01, 2002 at 01:26:38PM +0100, Bram Moolenaar wrote:
> Henning Makholm wrote:
> I don't see this as a relevant problem.  The person that distributed the
> modified version can ask the people he gave the source code to send me a
> copy.  So he can still delete his own copy (although that's unlikely to
> happen anyway).  Unless all copies are deleted, including the binaries,
> then there is nothing to worry about (the modifications no longer
> exist).

But the license doesn't say these things.  The license doesn't imply
that a person who performed modifications can be in compliance if he
deletes his modifications.  It implies that once you have made
modifications, if the Vim Maintainer asks for them, you'd better be
ready to pony up, or you're committing copyright infringement.

> If someone deletes the sources and keeps the binaries he is in trouble,
> and that's how we want it, right?

I'd have to review the GNU GPL to see how it handles this.  What happens
to me if I am Joe Q. Ignorant User running my GNU/Linux distribution
with no source code on the machine, and I give my friend a copy of my
gcc executable?  What if I use a hex editor to change a byte in it
first?  In either case, upon whom my friend's demand for source code
binding?  Upon me, or upon the GNU/Linux distributor who compiled my
copy of gcc?

> The simplest solution for the person making the changes is that he sends
> me the modified sources just before deleting them.  And that's a nice
> way to allow me have a look at them and perhaps include part of them in
> the distributed version.

I still think this is a bad precedent to set.  It paves the way for
future license to make really unresonable demands of users if ever they
dare to modify their private copies of software.


If you distribute a modified version of the code, you are required to send
Sun Microsystems a copy, including the source code.  When Sun
Microsystems asks for it (in any way) you must make your changes,
including source code, available to them, and include the names and all
contact information you possess for anyone to whom you distributed your
modified copy.

Or even:

If you distribute a modified version of the code, you are required to send
Sun Microsystems a copy, including the source code.  When Sun
Microsystems asks for it (in any way) you must make your changes,
including source code, available to them.  By modifying the code, you
grant Sun Microsystems and its subsidiaries the right to seek and obtain
your credit records.

We don't have a clause in the DFSG that says "No Invasion of Personal
Privacy", but there has long been a vague consensus in the Free Software
community that this is a principle that should be upheld.  I am
uncomfortable with a licensor being able to demand privileged access to
source-code changes.  On the other hand, if you tie the source code and
the binary together in a GPL'ish way, the licensor is not asking for any
unusual privilege to demand anything from the licensees.

Recall the popular misconception -- still heard from time to time --
that using the GPL meant assigning your copyrights to the Free Software
Foundation.  This is false.  When I use the GPL the Free Software
Foundation gains no special priveleges over my code (at least, they
certainly don't if I omit the "or, at your option, any later version"
part).  Likewise, I gain no special powers over the users of my
software.  Yes, they make changes, but those changes have to remain
Free.  Free means Free for the public to use; it doesn't mean that I, as
the copyright holder, serve as a gatekeeper, permitting source code
changes to remain a secret between myself and the modifier.

> I like the idea that the person making the changes is responsible for
> what happens with these changes.

Well, up to a point.

> We can't demand people that get a copy of a modified version to be
> forced to send me a copy.  And I don't like the idea of a modified
> version of Vim being distributed in a closed circle of people anyway
> (it's still allowed though, at least until I find out about the
> existence of it).

No, that not what the license says.  The license doesn't say "it's
allowed until you find out about it."  It implies that doing so is
inherently infringement.

> The problem of the GPL is that it doesn't allow further distribution of
> a program without providing the sources, and thus it's not all that free
> (from the point of view of the programmer).  The Vim license keeps an
> opening for a company to make a modified version of Vim and sell it, if
> he can agree with me on the conditions.

This is a common misconception about the GPL.  You can always negotiate
a different license for such parties *anyway*.

> Thus the Vim license offers more freedom for people making software
> (and provide a way to make money).

As an aside, I don't regard the right of a company selling me a product
to keep secrets from me about the content of that product as a valuable
freedom.  However, if you're not concerned about additives or vermin in
your food, lead in the paint on the walls of your home, or back doors in
the software of your computer, your mileage may vary.

>  And if you want to publish your changed sources, that's allowed
>  anyway, thus users have the same freedom as with the GPL.

I don't think anyone is asking you to remove people's right to publish
their changes.

It sounds to me like what you really want to support are two licensing
schemes; one for people who publicize the source code of their changes
to Vim, and one for people who don't.  You can do this and still be
totally DFSG-free, in spirit as well as letter.

  There are no restrictions on distributing unmodified copies of Vim.
  You can also distibute parts of Vim, but this license text must always
  be included.  You are allowed to include executables that you made
  from the unmodified Vim sources, plus your own usage examples and Vim

  You are allowed to distribute a modified version of Vim when either of
  the following conditions are met:
  1) You make your changes to the source code available to the general
     public, or to those to whom you distributed modified versions of
     Vim, with no restrictions on use, copying, modification, or
     distribution; or
  2) You make your changes to the source code available to the Vim
     maintainer at no charge, and grant him or her a perpertual license
     to use, copy, modify and distribute your changes without
     restriction.  The preferred way to do this is by e-mail or by
     uploading the files to a server and e-mailing the URL.  If the
     number of changes is small (e.g., a modified Makefile) e-mailing
     the diffs will do.  The e-mail address to be used is

G. Branden Robinson                |     If you have the slightest bit of
Debian GNU/Linux                   |     intellectual integrity you cannot
branden@debian.org                 |     support the government.
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |     -- anonymous

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