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Re: draft for new Vim license

Branden Robinson wrote:

[many parts cut away]

> > The GPL does not allow adding changes that use a license
> > incompatible with it.
> No license allows doing things with a program that are incompatible with
> its license.  This is a tautology.  The relevant questions are: Does the
> restrictions the license places on the user run afoul of the Debian Free
> Software Guidelines?  Does the license on the software conflict with
> that placed on other software that the former integrates?

I wasn't thinking specifically about Debian.  If I understand the GPL
correctly, it requires additions to a program to be licensed with the
GPL again.  So you can't add some secret code and give the executable to
someone else, using your own license for the added part.  Many companies
run into practical problems with this.  The example of linking with the
GPM library shows that it's not even secret code, but also an
incompatible license that prevents distribution.  Well, enough about why
I don't like using GPL as a single license.

> In actual fact, though, the interpretation of the GPL you should be most
> concerned about at present is that of Andrew Haylett and Alessando
> Rubini.  Perhaps you could ask them to add a rider to their license on
> the GPM library to explicitly permit linking with Vim?

That's a very specific solution to a generic problem.  I'll try to make
the Vim license GPL compatible, but I'm not sure if this is possible
without compromizing too much.

> > 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.
> Perl is dual-licensed, and I don't see magazines getting this wrong.
> I'm happy to help you write text to go at the top of the Vim license
> document to try and make this crystal clear.  I don't think this should
> be a stumbling block for you.

I've seen Perl been referred to as "free", "freeware" and "covered under
the open-source, free Artistic License".  Just a few quick searches on
the net.  Seems it's missing the GPL remark in quite a few places.
There are also places where they got it right.

> > Perhaps it would help to give a good name to the dual license.  GPL++
> > perhaps?
> I think this would cause even more confusion than it would avoid.
> People might think it's a new version of the GPL from the FSF.

Well, wouldn't that be a good idea? :-)

> However, one of the major principles behind Free Software is the act of
> letting go of absolute control over your work.  If you're not
> comfortable with that principle, then you should not seek acceptance of
> Vim as Free Software.

Another goal is to be responsible for the work that I've done.  I feel
I'm responsible for providing Vim users with a very good program.  Thus
I'll use a license that helps making that possible.  Being able to
include changes that various people made is part of that.

Freedom as such isn't really my main goal with Vim.  But it's nice to
allow people to us the Vim code as much as this doesn't conflict with
other goals.

> Yes it is.  I think that's a point worth pondering.  You are shifting
> the burden of dual-licensing onto your contributors.  You might get more
> contributors if you're willing to allow distribution of Vim under the
> GPL, because there are a lot of developers out there who are comfortable
> writing code under the GPL, and probably fewer who are comfortable
> writing code under the "Vim" license ("what's that?").

I have never heard from someone who said he would help developing Vim if
it would use another license.  I do have heard from people who would
like to include Vim inside another program (e.g., and IDE), and this
would be made impossible by the GPL (as a single license).

> So does your (existing, actual) license, actually.  It allows
> distributing the binaries without any obligation to give anyone but you
> the changes to the source code.  If you elect to collude with someone
> who modifies Vim to keep the changes secret, your license is actually
> much weaker than the GPL.  The users of the modified Vim have no
> recourse to obtain the source code for their modified version.  And they
> may not even have the option to use the official version; perhaps they
> are in a work or school environment which harshly punishes the
> installation of "unauthorized" software.

Yes, that's one of the reasons to make the Vim license a bit more
"free".  In practice, however, this has never caused any problems.  The
requirement that someone must be willing to give me the source code and
I'm allowed to include it in the official release is quite strong.

> > 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...
> Sufficient to achieve what, exactly?  Omniscience of all source-level
> changes to Vim that are made?  Such a goal is simply not going to be
> reconcilable with the Debian Free Software Guidelines.

One problem is that it allows someone to add copyrighted code to Vim and
sell it.  I would not be allowed to include that code in the official
Vim, if the license doesn't give me permission to do this.  I can still
see the source code, because they must include it in their modified

Again, in practice this will be hardly ever a problem.  In case it
really does happen, the code can probably be rewritten to avoid the
copyrights.  The source code usually provides enough hints to do that.
That should be possible, since I require that someone making changes
can't restrict the development of the official version.

> > However, nobody really cares about what the official rules are.
> I disagree.  Debian, and more specifically SPI, does not want to get
> sued for copyright infringment, or for "contributory infringment" which
> is a legal doctrine popular in the U.S. that says even if you aren't
> doing anything inherently wrong, we don't like you anyway and we're
> going to take you down.

Ah, so Debian has written and signed permission from all copyright
holders?  Don't think so...  I don't know how valid the copyright and
license remarks in the files are.  There are quite a few files without a
license that makes clear copying is allowed.

> > Only very few contributions have the name of the author in them and
> > are considered part of the whole.
> Your existing copyright document implies that you are the sole copyright
> holder.  If this isn't true, please correct it.

Where does this say so?

There are three kinds of people: Those who can count & those who can't. 

 ///  Bram Moolenaar -- Bram@moolenaar.net -- http://www.moolenaar.net  \\\
(((   Creator of Vim -- http://vim.sf.net -- ftp://ftp.vim.org/pub/vim   )))
 \\\  Help me helping AIDS orphans in Uganda - http://iccf-holland.org  ///

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