Re: contracts vs. licenses, OSI, and Debian (was: The QPL licence)
Branden Robinson said on Tue, Apr 27, 2004 at 05:45:39PM -0500,:
> On Sun, Apr 25, 2004 at 07:29:57PM -0400, Nathanael Nerode wrote:
> > To veer off the subject a little, we don't like licenses which
> > engage in too much contract-like behavior, because they're
> > usually non-free. In particular, any license which requires that
> > you agree to it in order to *use* it -- since use is not normally
> > restricted by copyright law -- is trying to be a contract, and is
> > also non-free.
> Indeed. Larry Rosen, who is an attorney and is the legal advisor
> to the Board of the Open Source Initiative, is a major advocate
> of converting copyright licenses into contracts, as are major
> media and proprietary software companies.
> I personally think this explains a great many of the divergences
> between Debian's assessment of licenses and OSI's.
In law, you cannot impose obligations on anybody without their
consent. `Acceptance' is required/necessary only if the license
imposes an obligation on user. Asking the *user* to contribute back
his `in-house' modifications, a hallmark of at least a few of OSI
licenses, imposes an obligation on him. Naturally, proponents of such
licenses require that the license is a contract.
The GNU/GPL, OTOH, does not impose an obligation on *use*. Obviously,
the FSF does not require it to be `accepted'. The policy of certain
package installation software, (typically on non-free platforms)
insisting on the display of licenses (even in case of the GPL) and
asking the user to accept them, is therefore, IMHO inappropriate.
Mahesh T. Pai, LL.M.,
'NANDINI', S. R. M. Road,