[linux-elitists] RPM non free?

Don Marti dmarti@zgp.org
Thu Apr 8 11:52:10 PDT 2004

begin Karsten M. Self quotation of Tue, Apr 06, 2004 at 10:49:29PM -0700:

> Larry will be speaking at SVLUG tomorrow, and while I can't make it,
> grilling him on the issues raised by the OSL and RPM licensing,
> particularly in light of the three tests below, would be strongly
> welcomed by me.

(-1 elitist point for passive voice.)  

I asked Larry about the contract vs. license issue.
(No, I didn't ask why he's calling a contract
a "license", thereby requiring people to start
qualifying "pure" or "bare" licenses.  I guess that's
just what happens when you invent power lawnmowers,
electric guitars, or email.)

These are not necessarily the best arguments for
contract, but they're the ones that I understood best.
I'm also not covering OSL vs. GPL -- this is _just_
a list of benefits from going with a contract instead
of a "bare" license.

1. When software is under a bare license, only the
copyright holder has standing to sue for infringement.
Use a contract, and Red Hat can become a party to a
contract with anyone who gets a copy of your code
from them, and can sue without your involvement
or permission.

2. A bare license is revocable.  (Larry didn't go
into detail on this, so I don't have anything to say
about this.  I'm sure someone can point list readers
at a thread where people have already had an argument
about this.)

3. Attorneys fees -- "In any action to enforce the
terms of this License or seeking damages relating
thereto, the prevailing party shall be entitled to
recover its costs and expenses..."  Under copyright
law, you might get costs, and you might not.

4. State court, not federal.

I don't see why an automated download or mirroring
facility can't be extended to make a "reasonable
effort under the circumstances" to check the
recipient's assent to any number of contracts.

For example, the software update client could check
the ~/.license-acceptance directory owned by you or
the /etc/license-acceptance directory owned by root
for the text of the licenses you or your company
accept, and send the server a hash of the file.

>     1.  The Desert Island test.

Two desert island dwellers can form the contract
required by OSL without having to send it off the island.

>     2. The Dissident test.

If Unfreedonian contract law states that no contract
exists unless the parties file a copy with the
Ministry of Peace and Love, then Unfreedonia-based
distributions could make their users comply with this
"reasonable" (under Unfreedonian law) requirement,
and ensure that the government has a record of who's
getting copies of what.

>     3. The Tentacles of Evil test.

Larry does point out that the OSL is "perpetual".
Actually somewhat better than the "Hey, we love your
GPL software you released less than one year ago --
we'll give you a bunch of money to come work for us,
sign this patent application, and reimplement it"

Oh, crap, is this list turning into debian-legal?

Don Marti
http://zgp.org/~dmarti                          Learn Linux and free software 
dmarti@zgp.org                            from the experts in California, USA 
FOAF: http://zgp.org/~dmarti/foaf.rdf     http://freedomtechnologycenter.org/

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