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Choosing a default open source license (
3 points by aw 3893 days ago | 9 comments

1 point by rocketnia 3892 days ago | link

Sorry for being the complainer who changed your default license. :-p For one thing, after that time we talked about this, as I tried to justify my complaints, I ended up feeling way more comfortable with the Artistic License 2.0. Mostly though, I'm just really hard to please when it comes to licenses. I'll demonstrate. :-p

(Note from my future self: Since I'm not going to get around to this later in the post, I just want to say that I like your metric of choosing a license based on how easy it is to understand. ^_^ )

I still have a pretty fundamental objection to the AL 2.0: It doesn't let a branching project become its own thing. Even if it ends up having little in common with the original, you can't distribute "Compiled forms" without providing instructions for obtaining a copy of the original.

Aside from that, for all I know as a non-lawyer, a project that's grown completely out of its roots might have to be fully documented! :-p

  ...provided that you clearly document how it differs from the Standard
  Version, including, but not limited to, documenting any non-standard
  features, executables, or modules...
I'm troubled by the idea of licenses that try to define compilation. The AL 2.0 defines the "Compiled" form as "the compiled bytecode, object code, binary, or any other form resulting from mechanical transformation or translation of the Source form." What happens if someone refactors the code in an IDE?

Here, the spirit of the license is what counts (I assume), and there's a clear line. But some projects horribly blur that line. GCC needs a special exception to the GPL so that the C runtime pieces it includes with executables don't pollute those binaries with GPLness. In a language where people program by writing languages, do all their languages need exceptions like the GCC's? What about exceptions nobody's even dreamed of yet, to deal with all new kinds of code modularity and transformation?

As far as I know, the only consistent source-ownership stance someone can take if they want to make great strides in program modularity and transformation is a permissive one. There's no option. All the nonpermissive free software licenses I've looked at assume too much about the languages they'll be applied to, but it's hardly their fault; somehow they have to distinguish maintainable programs from obscured programs, everyday engineering from reverse engineering.

This isn't something I expect to be solved on the technology side, say by making reverse engineering so incredibly easy to do that there's no reason for free software advocates to object to compilation or obfuscation. Software-as-a-service isn't amenable to inspection this way. And I hardly expect to solve the problem socially or economically by convincing everyone in the world that it's valuable to choose permissive licenses. The easiest solution is probably a particular kind of license after all.

Whatever licenses these are would have to maintain their source-ownership stance even as their projects evolved new and unexpected kinds of modularity and transformation. Permissive licenses basically do this (as I said), and a maximally nonpermissive license (comparable to the AGPL) would have to start with a seed like this, and get more specific and legalesey:

  You are allowed to distribute and license this product only under the
  following conditions:
   - You expect a large market of people will promptly have a reasonable
     way to obtain technology and knowhow comfortably substitutable for
     that you actually used to develop the product. This includes any
     source code.
   - You expect that your lessees will promptly have permission
     comfortably substitutable for the permission you actually exercised
     to develop, distribute, and license the product.
   - You give your part of that permission immediately and indefinitely.
   - You don't refuse to distribute and license this product to any
     potential lessee on the basis of how possible it is for that lessee
     to obtain that technology, knowhow, and permission.
   - You allow your lessees to develop modified versions of this
   - You require your lessees to accept these terms as you did.
  This license continues to apply to a product if it is modified,
  including actualizing the product by performance or execution.
Note that if a license like these lines actually comes to exist, I probably won't even use it myself most of the time. I'm just frustrated at having a lack of good options.


2 points by waterhouse 3891 days ago | link

In my case, you may consider anything written by me to be released into the public domain. I don't accept the notion of intellectual property rights[1].

Now, I would consider it dishonest to post a project with large parts of code taken from someone else's work without giving credit, and I am inclined to respect others' feelings and wishes. So you probably don't have to worry about me doing things you don't want with your ideas. But there is no way that I'm going to pretend that downloading my source code means agreeing to a binding contract with me, for which I get to prosecute you in court if you break it. If someone insisted that I use a license, I'd probably go for the WTFPL:

[1] I explain my thoughts in some detail:


1 point by thaddeus 3891 days ago | link

Can't say I agree with your thoughts so far. And I am not sure how we as a society would benefit from ditching IP notions.

I get the sense you believe that it's a huge waste of time a nothing more than a money pit for legal expenses. I believe if they went away then the openness that we are experiencing in this day and age would dry up.

When a house craftsman comes to my house and builds me a stairwell, I can't take his work and re-sell it. If I could, then he would quickly go out of business.

You speak of being "somewhat creative" in order to get compensation, but the reality is that the playing field becomes so uneven that the dived between the rich (in this case often the corrupt) and poor becomes greater. That's not a good thing.


1 point by waterhouse 3891 days ago | link

> I am not sure how we as a society would benefit from ditching IP notions.

Indirectly, by having a more consistent legal system. As I said, I believe pretty strongly in property rights, and I believe IP is inconsistent with property rights. Debate about either of those things is probably way off topic for the Arc Forum, even more so than it would be for Hacker News.

As for the rest of your arguments, they're all of the form "there are unfortunate consequences". I can take each one of them and argue that it wouldn't be as bad as you think--sometimes because it'd be bad for some people for a while, but people would adapt and we'd all probably be better off at the end of it--as is usually the case with technological revolutions. I could explain myself in more detail and give examples, and in fact I began to do so, but, again, this is probably not the place for such a debate. Suffice to say that I have reasons for my opinions; I've done a lot of reading, thinking, and arguing on the subject (with myself, with the things I read, and with friends); and in an extended debate, you'd probably concede that at least my reasoning made sense even if you didn't agree with some of my premises.

Well, I've stated my opinion, and beyond that, the matter has little practical importance. As I said, I'm inclined to respect people's wishes, and if I copy and paste anyone's code here, it's little trouble for me to copy and paste the text of the copyright and license or whatever as well. (It would only be a problem if you were using the GPL or something, which I believe is supposed to require me to release my entire project under the GPL.) And it certainly shouldn't be a problem when I give code to you guys.


1 point by thaddeus 3891 days ago | link

It's fair to say this is not arc language topic, so I will try to not extend it. It really is an interesting topic. For the record, I am not against your ideas, I just not able to marry the ideas up to the results.


1 point by rocketnia 3891 days ago | link

I for one would like to hear more about how sustainable your ideas are, maybe over email. ^_^


1 point by rocketnia 3891 days ago | link

I can't say I like the concept of encouraging openness through censorship (which is basically how IP works, right?), but I think you're spot on there. I don't know the reality, but the rich have better marketers to determine how best to profit off of an idea and how best to make that profiting seem polite to the original creator. There are already times someone makes a deal with Hollywood and doesn't like the result; I don't think that's distinguishable from someone who doesn't get to have a say in any deal in the first place.

It would be nice if there were another option like the anarchic politeness waterhouse describes, but I think IP is the natural next step from that, being a law system to help courts encourage/enforce politeness on behalf of people who don't have enough marketing dollars or military power to encourage it themselves.


1 point by Pauan 3892 days ago | link

Yes, I agree. I use the MIT/X11 license, or the LGPL depending on what I'm doing. Both should be compatible with Arc's license.


1 point by aw 3889 days ago | link

Rewritten from top to bottom. (So earlier comments may or may not still be applicable...)