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Re: help with crafting proper license header for a dual-licensing project



On Sun, 27 May 2007 14:24:21 -0700 Don Armstrong wrote:

> On Sun, 27 May 2007, Francesco Poli wrote:
> > On Sun, 27 May 2007 02:43:41 -0700 Don Armstrong wrote: 
> > > On Sun, 27 May 2007, Francesco Poli wrote:
[...]
> > If you consult a dictionary you won't find any reference to the FSD
> > or to the DFSG in the definition of the adjective "free".
> 
> Of course, but the usage of free there is merely an extension of its
> actual english meaning.[1] We use "free" in our conversations about
> licensing and software because of the meaning that it already
> posseses, not the other way around.

The first meaning can be:

>From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48
[gcide]:

  Free \Free\ (fr[=e]), a. [...]
     1. Exempt from subjection to the will of others; not under
        restraint, control, or compulsion; able to follow one's
        own impulses, desires, or inclinations; determining one's
        own course of action; not dependent; at liberty.
        [1913 Webster]

>From WordNet (r) 2.0 [wn]:

  free
       adj 1: able to act at will; not hampered; not under compulsion or
              restraint; "free enterprise"; "a free port"; "a free
              country"; "I have an hour free"; "free will"; "free of
              racism"; "feel free to stay as long as you wish"; "a
              free choice" [ant: {unfree}]

A piece of free software is not "able to act at will", nor is it
"exempt from subjection to the will of others".
Rather, some important freedoms are granted over a piece of
free software.
So you are right that the technical meaning is related to the
common one, but some interpretation and stretching has to be
done in order to go from the latter to the former.

Likewise, the first meaning of "proprietary" can be:

>From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48
[gcide]:

  Proprietary \Pro*pri"e*ta*ry\, a. [L. proprietarius.]
     Belonging, or pertaining, to a proprietor; considered as
     property; owned; as, proprietary medicine.
     [1913 Webster]
  
>From WordNet (r) 2.0 [wn]:

  proprietary
       adj : protected by trademark or patent or copyright; made or
             produced or distributed by one having exclusive rights;
             "`Tylenol' is a proprietary drug of which
             `acetaminophen' is the generic form" [ant:
{nonproprietary}]

A piece of non-free software belongs to a proprietor, in the sense
that a monopoly over it is held by the copyright holder.
On the other hand free software (even when copyrighted) grants enough
freedoms that everyone has the right to fork it and adapt it to his/her
own needs, even against the will of the original copyright holder: in
this sense we could say that a piece of free software is not really
"owned" by anyone (even though there are still copyright holders).

A piece of non-free software is aggressively and excessively
"protected by trademark or patent or copyright".
Free software can still be protected by copyright, but in a way
that grants enough freedoms to everyone: in this sense it's not
"proprietary", because enough actions covered by exclusive rights
are permitted to everyone.

> 
> > Please bear in mind that we are talking about technical meanings
> > that have to be defined in their field: a non-technical dictionary
> > won't help.
> 
> The word "proprietary" has a perfectly well defined meaning in this
> field. It means closed or exclusive. That people mistakenly conflate
> it with being non-freeness has little to do with its actual meaning.
> 
> Things that are non-proprietary are perfectly capable of being
> non-free. See for example the works in non-free for which we actually
> have source code. They are clearly not proprietary, but are definetly
> not free.

I still cannot see why "proprietary" should mean "with secret source
code": its basic common meaning is "owned by a proprietor" and does
not refer to closeness or secrecy.

> 
> > I've sometimes seen the closed/open distinction used to refer to the
> > availability of source code (which is a necessary, but
> > non-sufficient, condition for freeness).
> 
> It can refer to that, but it can also refer to specifications,
> standards, protocols, goods, etc. Exclusivity is nearly a synonym for
> proprietary.

Yes, exclusivity.  When enough actions covered by your exclusive rights
are permitted to everyone (as in Free Software), you have really little
exclusivity left.
That's why I don't think the use of the term "proprietary" as a
synonym of "non-free" should be considered so strange or awkward.

[...]
> What you're attempting to do is not comparable; it's inventing new
> definitions for words which are not commonly or historically agreed
> upon.

It's not me.  I'm not trying to invent new definitions, as I am not
the only one who uses the term "proprietary" as equivalent to
"non-free".  Many others seem to do so: one notable example is RMS
and the FSF (I'm certainly *not* claiming that RMS is always right,
he's very far from being always right actually, but, in this regard,
I think his terminology is not bad).


-- 
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..................................................... Francesco Poli .
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