New Open Source License: Single Supplier Open Source License

Richard Schilling rschi at
Sun Jan 25 07:08:11 CST 2004

On 2004.01.24 17:45 Cordula's Web wrote:
> [This is OT for stable@ and wine-devel@, but let's contribute anyway...]
> > # Users have freely available access to source code, documentation just like the GPL.
> Access to source coce, documentation etc... is also possible under the
> BSD license. Under the [L]GPL, it is mandatory.

Under the BSD, and other licenses it's _possible_ but not required to give access to the code - it's up to the developer.  The BSD license and several other Open Source licenses allow deriverative works to become closed and there is nothing the developer can do about it.  With the license I provide, if a developer wants to require their product *and* deriverative works to be open to the public they can.  That's a big difference in the world of licensing.  

The [L]GPL license makes this the submission of changes mandatory, but the problem is that the unrestricted distribution of the software makes it impossible for the developer to enforce the requirement.  And unfortunately, that fact makes the requirement useless.

Strictly prohibiting deriverative works to be distributed in ways unintended by the author is the way to guarantee a product and it's deriveratives remain open source.  Under BSD, there is no such restriction, so the original author has absoutely no say in how "open" deriverative works are.  Under GPL and BSD the developer has absoutely no control or means to keep their work an open source because they cannot remove distribution from people who don't comply.

> > # Users may use, modify, and install the software on as many computers as they want within their organization.
> Right. The number of computers should never matter.

In the context of this license it matters greatly.  Since the end user cannot distribute the software to others outside their organization, this clause clarifies that they can use the product in an unrestricted way within their organization.  It makes the requirement black and white - within your company use the product on all your computers.  But don't let it get to computers outside your company.  That requirement becomes very clear with this statement.

> > # Any changes made by the user and others get contributed back into the base product
> This is the main difference between BSD and GPL, and you're using
> the GPL model here. This is exacly what would prevent commercial
> vendors from adopting this license. But, okay.

Commercial vendors may not want to adopt this license because they can't get a free ride.  I'm perfectly fine with that because I want my company to be a place where Open Source developers can work for real wages.  And, that means the developers on this list.  If you want to volunteer your time so Apple and any other company can earn millions on your hard work then that's your choice - use a different license.

> > # The developer's right to control who provides services using the product is protected.
> That's a tough one. As long as the developer is _actively_ maintaining
> a product, that seems reasonable. But it happens frequently, that many
> developers loose interest in supporting a product. Locking the community
> out would be counter-productive, to say the least.

If a developer really intends to keep their product open source, they can direct others to distribute the work for them.  The point is they retain the exclusive right to make that decision.  Consequently the end users have a very clear choice then - if the developer can no longer develop the software because, say they have a new job, then the end users can offer that person a job to make it possible for him/her to continue working on the product.  Under GPL and other licenses, that person is simply replaced.  That's a huge detrement to the quality of a software product because people skills, not the software are what make a software product great.

> > # The developer's right to control who can distribute the software is protected.
> That's even uglier. Neighter the GPL nor the BSD license would be _that_ 
> restrictive. And see below, in case the developer drops maintenance.

Under this license if a developer wants to let the world distribute their product they can specify it - the point is that developer has the ability to grant and revoke that permission to *distribute*.  But when end users have downloaded the software they can use it indefinitely and modify it for their own use.  

> > # The developer and all contributors retain copyright of their individual works.
> That is already the case with [L]GPL and BSD licenses. What's new here?

The problem with [L]GPL and BSD is that if someone does not turn in their changes then the developer has no recourse to enforce the requirment.  Under this license they can.

> > # The software is always downloaded from the same place by the end user even if it's used as part of a larger product, protecting the quality of the software.
> See above.
> I'd suggest to add a clause of mandatory maintainership, that would
> void the exclusive right of the developer/author to maintain and
> distribute his/her work, if the originator fails to update his/her
> product after some (yet-to-be-specified) time. Orphaned products could
> then automatically fall under the BSD license (or GPL, or anything
> less restrictive as what you're suggesting).

This license would not be appropriate to use if your goal is to create software as purely a volunteer effort.  This license gives an incentive for companies to pay the original developer and contributors for their time to continue developing an open source product, or failing that to pay them for the right to distribute the product and provide services.  If a particular product is truly valuable to an end user, and it was necessary to "keep the product going" then the user has an incentive to pay the developer/contributors for the time they invested, *and* to pay them for their time to transfer knowledge about the product.  Furthermore, by keeping the original developer involved in the transfer of knowledge, the original developer the ability to ensure the quality of training.

> > Please feel free to contact me on or off list about this announcement.
> What are you trying to achieve with this, which can't already be
> achieved through BSD or [L]GPL licensing schemes?

I am trying to make it possible for people to earn a living as Open Source developers.  I am also making it possible for companies that do Open Source development as their primary activiey to provide jobs to those (like those on this list) who invest their time into Open Source products.


> > Richard Schilling
> -- 
> Cordula's Web.

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