Re: draft for new Vim license
Branden Robinson wrote:
> 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.
Not completely true. The GPL does allow distributing a modified version
without source code, but with some way to obtain the source code
somewhere. My draft license doesn't allow that, it requires that the
changes are always included (for the relevant alternative). It's a
subtle difference, but it does help to make sure the changes are easily
The GPL does not allow adding changes that use a license incompatible
with it. This a company that wants to keep his changes secret would
have to use the alternative license. To avoid that every company has to
contact me and negotiate, I would have to allow the most common cases in
the standard license. I think this quickly becomes equal to the draft I
> 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 GPL does allow someone to refuse giving me the source code changes.
He can't be forced to distribute his copy to anyone.
I would have to convince one of the people who received the changes to
send me a copy. The GPL allows them to do that, but I still have to
find someone who will send me a copy. They might all refuse (e.g., when
they are all in the same organisation).
Although this is a bit unlikely to happen, I like the principle that the
person who makes the changes must send me those changes when I ask for
them. I don't want to hunt them down. Thus allowing someone to use the
GPL for the modified Vim may cause a problem for me. It might result in
making the changes inaccesible for me.
I understand why the GPL doesn't include this requirement, since it is
hard to apply to software that was made by a group of people. And it
puts a person (or group of people) in a privileged position, which some
people might not like.
Now, the draft Vim license also has a bit of this problem. That's one of
the reasons I'm not sure I want to use it. A difference with the
GPL is that I require that the changes are always included in the
distribution. I thought this would reduce the disadvantage a bit.
After all, who actually uses a written permisison to obtain the source
code? Or even checks the source code is actually available? For most
people (real users, not software developers like us) it means you get
binaries and use them and never worry about the source code.
Another problem that I'm worried about is that many people will think
Vim _is_ GPL. It will be mentioned in lists in magazines and on web
sites. We would have to check and request correction where it's wrong.
Perhaps it would help to give a good name to the dual license. GPL++
> 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.
Including the GPL actually makes it a lot more complicated. It's hard
to read and even harder to understand. How often does RMS have to
correct wrong ideas about the GPL? It's not so clear what the GPL
really means. I can't say I fully understand it.
Writing my own license has the risk of making a mistake, causing a
"hole". But at least it was intended to be right and I can make
corrections when needed (without changing the intention of the license).
I can't change the GPL when I discover it has a disadvantage that I
really don't like.
> 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.
As I already said, it's allowed to compile, but you might not be allowed
to distribute the result. That's actually the main problem of the GPL I
don't like. But the dual-licensing would solve that.
> 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?
Currently it would not be allowed to distribute a Vim with a change that
falls under GPL, because the license says that the maintainer must be
allowed to include the change in the official version of Vim. A change
under the GPL conflicts with that, thus additionally you would have to
permit me to include the changes in the official Vim. That's a sort of
dual-licensing already! :-)
In the dual-license situation you do get this problem. A fork of Vim
might appear where a GPL'ed change has caused the whole to become GPL,
since the alternative license can't be used together with the GPL'ed
With the draft license I sent there is the same problem, except that the
changes must always be included. That's stricter than the GPL (which
allows distibuting binaries under some conditions). That makes sure the
changes have a much wider distribution and it will be easier for me to
see them. But I'm not sure that is sufficient...
> 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.
Copyright belongs to the person who wrote it. Depending on the countrly
you are in, you mostly don't even have to put your name on it.
Transferring copyright requires a written and signed paper. An e-mail
with some vague statement won't be valid. However, nobody really cares
about what the official rules are. Only very few contributions have the
name of the author in them and are considered part of the whole.
> 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. ;-)
MicroSoft says software without GPL is better! :-)
CONCORDE: Quickly, sir, come this way!
LAUNCELOT: No! It's not right for my idiom. I must escape more ... more ...
CONCORDE: Dramatically, sir?
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