Re: How might I convince my school not to use this product?
Elizabeth Fong wrote:
> My school is looking into installing Stanford's Coursework application for
> managing online course sites:
High school, community college, university?
> However, its license seems to be decidedly non-free, and I'm trying to
> convince my school not to use it. This is for the following reasons:
> 1.) It requires Sun's JRE
Note that there are several alternative JVMs and class libraries it
might work with. If it needs Swing (the most common reason to require
Sun Java instead of Free Software Java implementations), you might try
SwingWT, a Free Software Swing implementation on top of IBM's SWT
library. If you need a technical reason to suggest an alternate JVM,
you might mention that SwingWT is _much_ faster than Sun's Swing, and
that the alternate JVMs are often much faster than Sun's JVM, especially
GCJ which can compile to native code.
> 2.) It requires Oracle, and has limited support for Free alternatives
> (experimental support for Postgre only)
Support has to start somewhere; if you want them to use it with a Free
database, it would have to support one well. You might try working on
the PostgreSQL support, since you say the school is still just looking
into the program. Depending on how far along the support is, you might
be able to get it working well before they actually decide to deploy it.
> 3.) Its license (http://getcoursework.stanford.edu/license.html) is
This seems like the major problem, but see below.
>> Open Source License
This is obnoxious, since the license is not an Open Source license.
>> Copyright © 2004 Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University
>> License Agreement
>> By obtaining and/or copying the application or source code for
>> CourseWork, you agree that you have read, understand, and will
>> comply with the following terms and conditions of the License.
>> Title and copyright in CourseWork and any associated documentation
>> will at all times remain with the Board of Trustees of the Leland
>> Stanford Junior University (Stanford). Subject to the terms and
>> conditions of this Agreement, Stanford hereby grants to any person
>> obtaining a copy of CourseWork a nonexclusive, royalty-free license
>> under only any copyright interest Stanford has in CourseWork to
>> use, copy, modify, merge, publish, perform and/or distribute copies
>> of CourseWork, and to permit persons to whom CourseWork is
>> furnished to do so
> Doesn't say anything about distributing derivative works - one has
> the right to create them, but not to distribute them. In addition,
> doesn't specify that derivative works have the same license applied.
Use, copy, modify, and/or distribute is generally considered to mean
that you may both modify and distribute the software, unless the
copyright holder states otherwise (such as with UW and Pine, which does
not allow you to distribute modified versions). This clause seems Free
>> CourseWork may not be distributed in any form for a fee.
> Clearly not Free, since it doesn't allow charging for the time/media
> for making a copy
More than that: Free Software licenses must not restrict the amount that
can be charged, or limit it to the time or costs of making a copy. This
clause is definitely non-free, but it appears to be the only non-free
clause in the license.
>> Distributions of CourseWork in source code and/or executable form
>> must retain all copyright notices in the Software as furnished by
>> the Licensor, this list of conditions, and the following
>> disclaimers in the code, documentation and/or other materials
>> provided with the distribution.
>> Neither the names of Stanford, nor the names of any contributors to
>> CourseWork, nor any of their trademarks or service marks, may be
>> used to endorse or promote products derived from this Software
>> without express prior written permission of Stanford.
> I forget whether this is permissible for DFSG-free.
This is perfectly fine, since even without this clause, you cannot claim
someone endorses or promotes a product without their permission. From
the sample BSD license at http://www.debian.org/misc/bsd.license :
> 3. The name of the author may not be used to endorse or promote
> products derived from this software without specific prior written
Problems only arise when someone says "you cannot use my name in any
way", since that would also prevent you from writing an article about
the product, or stating that your distribution contains the product.
>> Except for the license granted you under Stanford's copyright
>> interest in CourseWork, Stanford retains all right, title and
>> interest in CourseWork and any intellectual property rights in
>> CourseWork. Without limiting the foregoing, no license is granted
>> you or any other party under any patent owned or held by Stanford.
> In other words, all your modifications are belong to Stanford. Wonderful.
This clause states that they aren't granting you any rights other than
those in this license, and that they still hold all rights to
CourseWork, meaning the product they distribute. I don't think this
clause says they hold the rights to changes you make to CourseWork.
>> COURSEWORK IS PROVIDED AS IS AND WITH ALL FAULTS. THERE IS NO
>> WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED. ALL WARRANTIES ARE
>> EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMED INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO ANY WARRANTIES OF
>> TITLE, MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR PARTICULAR PURPOSE,
>> NONINFRINGEMENT OR ARISING OUT OF A PARTICULAR COURSE OF DEALING.
>> YOUR USE OF THE SOFTWARE IS AT YOUR OWN RISK. IN NO EVENT SHALL ANY
>> LICENSOR BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY,
>> WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, RELATING TO,
>> ARISING FROM OR IN CONNECTION WITH SOFTWARE OR ANY USE OF THE
>> CourseWork is provided under the terms of this license without
>> support, and with no commitments stated or implied, for technical
>> assistance, modification or upgrade from the Licensor.
> Standard no warranty stuff
Yes, no problems here.
> Any suggestions? Alternatives I might suggest?
Rather than approaching your school to recommend against the product, I
would suggest approaching the copyright holders to request that the
license be made fully Open Source. The only clause preventing this
license from being Open Source is "CourseWork may not be distributed in
any form for a fee.". You could mention that removing this clause would
allow GNU/Linux distributions like Debian to distribute it as Free
Software, which would increase the ease of installation and usage. You
could also point out that since anyone can obtain a free (as in cost)
copy from the CourseWare site, others are unlikely to be able to
successfully charge for the software itself, only for supporting
services, which their license does not prohibit. Others on this list
have experience with approaching copyright holders asking for Free
licensing, so they may have some advice on how to do this carefully.
If you can succeed at getting the program to be Free Software, the only
remaining problems are the dependencies on Sun Java and Oracle. Besides
the reasons mentioned above for using alternate tools, you could offer
to help maintain and improve the program for your school, if you can do
so using Free tools. Also mention that given some time to work on the
PostgreSQL support, you can save them the cost of Oracle licenses and
ongoing support costs. Getting them to use Free supporting tools will
probably require significant work on your part. Also, if there are any
faculty members that support Free Software / Open Source, talk to them
and see if they will support you, since that will carry a lot more weight.
If you want alternatives, a quick google for
online course software "open source"
turns up many different systems.
- Josh Triplett