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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[1], is a major advocate
 > of converting  copyright licenses  into contracts[2], as  are major
 > media[3] and proprietary software[4][5] 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,               
  Ernakulam, Cochin-682018,               
  Kerala, India.                          

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