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Re: New 'Public Domain' Licence

On Tue, Jun 07, 2005 at 06:33:38PM -0400, Raul Miller wrote:
> On 6/5/05, Glenn Maynard <glenn@zewt.org> wrote:
> > No disagreement here (except the implication that non-free use is the
> > only goal--the goal is free use everywhere, and non-free use is just
> > part of "everywhere").  Permissive licenses are close to public domain,
> > and reasons for using the two are similar.
> Change "everywhere" to "allowed for every person, regardless of 
> the restrictions they then impose" and I'll agree with you.
> "Everywhere" is rather silly -- there are many galaxies which will
> never be graced with the presence of software package $FOO..

I'm missing the point of the word-nitpick.  Permissive licenses try to
minimize the obstacles they present to reusing code.

> That said, both copyleft and public domain allow distribution to
> any person.  The distinction is the kind of restrictions which are
> allowed in the context of that distribution.  Public Domain allows
> the receiver to impose arbitrary restrictions.  Copyleft restricts
> the receiver from imposing arbitrary restrictions.

By imposing restrictions itself, which make the code impossible to use
in many projects, ranging from simple GPL-incompatible projects to
outright proprietary ones.

(Hmm.  That sounds a little inflammatory, but isn't intended to be; it's
intended only as a statement of fact, acknowledging the trade the GPL

> > The GPL very deliberately makes a trade: in exchange for less free 
> > use (eg. more restrictions), it tries to encourage "giving code back 
> > to the commons" and all that.  GPL-licensed code is not usable, for 
> > example, in proprietary software; or even in mostly-free programs 
> > that simply have a few GPL-incompatible plugins for interoperability 
> > (eg. OpenSSL).

> It also assumes that the authors of the GPLed content were
> unaware that those restrictions would be imposed on their
> software and that they object.

Er, so you're saying GPL-licensed code is usable in GPL-incompatible
programs, as long as you think the authors won't object?  I'm pretty sure
you don't think that, so I assume I'm misunderstanding something.

> > That's not a bug, of course; it's explicitly intended to discourage
> > proprietary development, and many people who use the GPL actively wish
> > to do so, and don't consider that restriction a problem.  That's fine.
> > But people who don't wish to do so--who, in contrast, don't consider
> > proprietary use of code a problem, and wish to minimize political,
> > practical and legal barriers to reuse--often prefer permissive licenses.
> > If that's your philosophy, then you may well not want to force people
> > to include your 20-line license, either, since that can introduce
> > practical problems.  (I'm not sure why this seems to be a controversial
> > statement; it seems self-evident to me.)
> The situation here is that even though the legal properties of public
> domain works seem self evident, in the general case they are not.

I'm a little confused.  The subthread was about the costs, benefits and
rationale of including a clause that says "this license must be preserved
on all copies", which shows up in the *-BSD and X11 licenses.  Not that I
mind tangenting to other relevant topics, I'm just not sure how we got
there.  :)

> For example, there are cases where an author who has released
> a work into the public domain may not be allowed to have a copy
> of that work.

Do you mean that it's possible that an author might claim to release a
work into the public domain, but not actually have the right to do so
(eg. contractually)?  That's true, but is true of all licenses ...

Glenn Maynard

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