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Re: draft for new Vim license

On Sat, Jan 05, 2002 at 02:16:32PM +0100, Bram Moolenaar wrote:
> I don't have a problem with that.  It's just that it must be clear that
> this modified version of Vim (or compiled with a GPL'ed library) has
> more restrictions than the Vim license mentions, since the GPL applies
> as well (since it "contaminates" all the code it was compiled with).
> It's up to the distributor of the modified Vim to make this clear.
> Can't do this in the Vim license, it would be too confusing.

Can you explain again why you don't want to dual-license Vim under the
GPL and some other license?

As I recall, your objection to the GPL is not that it places too few
restrictions on Vim, but that it places too many on it.  (You feel it is
too hard for companies to make money off of Vim if the GPL is the only
license that applies to it.)  This is exactly the sort of situation that
dual-licensing solves.

It seems to me that you want Vim to be attractive to two different
audiences, with different goals:

1) The Free Software community, which includes Debian and the Free
   Software Foundation; these people's highest value is the right of the
   individual to use, modify, and distribute software.
2) Proprietary software companies, which find that they are able to
   command more money in the marketplace for software whose code is
   not accessible, freely modifiable, or freely distributable.

The GPL is a very attractive license to audience 1).  It's well
established, in wide usage, and people have a lot of experience with it.
It also, as far as I can tell, does not grant people permission to do
things with Vim that you don't want to have, such as making secret
changes to the source code, refusing to give them to you or anyone else,
and selling this modified Vim commercially.  That is why I do not
suggest using the MIT or BSD licenses.

The existing license on Vim 6.0 is, presumably, attractive to audience
2) because businesses can modify Vim with secret code as long as they
come to an agreement with you.

I do not think a dual-license strategy will be, or should be,
objectionable to anyone.  Here's why:

1) The contributors to Vim should not object to dual-licensing under the
   GPL because they have already agreed to license their changes under
   the Vim license, which is similar in intent.  The only contributors
   that I can see who might be offended by such a proposal would be
   those who don't *want* the users of Vim to be able to receive source
   code to modified versions.  Do you have any contributors who feel
   that way?  I would suspect not, since you make all of Vim's source
   code, including the changes of your contributors, available to the
2) It should be appealing to you because it allows you to make the Vim
   license as simple as you want it.  You expressed concern with making
   the Vim license much longer than it currently is.
3) It should be appealing to your users because they can use whichever
   license suits them.
4) It should be appealing to Andrew Haylett and Alessandro Rubini, who
   are the copyright holders of the GPM library, which is GPL'ed.  At
   present, linking Vim with the GPM library is not permitted under the
   GPM library's license.

The only downside is that you may have contributors who assert copyright
over their changes and want to license their code only under the GPL.
If you don't want to maintain two different versions of Vim (one GPL'ed
and one not), you'd have to reject such contributions.  However, *you
already have that problem today*.  If I write a patch to Vim and GPL it,
what will you do?

As a matter of practice, you might want to ask people who contribute
code to Vim -- and who want to retain copyright on it -- to license
their code under the MIT or 2-clause BSD licenses.  (I can provide you
with copies of these if you don't have them handy; they are very short
and very simple.)  Alternatively, you could require that the copyright
in changes to Vim be assigned to you.  Given that your name is the only
one that appears in Vim's debian/copyright file, I assume this is how
you already operate.

Finally, as a completely irrelevant aside, I think that RMS is not
strongly advocating application of the GPL to Vim because he'd rather
you used a non-free license on Vim so people have one less excuse not
to use GNU Emacs instead.  ;-)

G. Branden Robinson                |      Mob rule isn't any prettier just
Debian GNU/Linux                   |      because you call your mob a
branden@debian.org                 |      government.
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |

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