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GPL-Style License w/ A Twist? 22

Posted by Cliff
from the getting-those-myriad-changes-back-into-the-main-code dept.
txsable asks: "I'm trying to find out if there is a GPL-style Open-source license available with a special twist: that any modifications made, while being allowed to be released as per the terms of the 'normal' GPL, must also be submitted back to the original author for possible inclusion in the main project. I know it seems ridiculous to require by license what should be a common-sense procedure for open-source developers, but I've seen enough projects which were greatly modified from the original project, with features the original project either was working on or had also developed, and it led to confusion and/or unnecessary duplication of effort. Anyone have any suggestions for me (other than writing my own license...I don't speak enough lawyer to make something that reads as bad as a legal document)?"
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GPL-Style License w/ A Twist?

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  • The licensee shall notify the Creator of this program with any changes and shall make available to the Creator such changes at the licensee's expense in the event the licensee releases this product in a modified form.

    But isn't that just more handcuffs?

    Dancin Santa
    • Ah yes. he's proposing the BDSMGPL because the plain old BDGPL isn't wnough for him.
    • but it doesn't really change anything. The changes are freely available to the creator anyway, because of the GPL.. he just wants to be informed about them, rather than have to go looking.
  • Bad Idea. (Score:5, Informative)

    by rjh (40933) <rjh@sixdemonbag.org> on Thursday October 11, 2001 @10:13PM (#2418196)
    1. This would violate the Free Software Foundation's definiton of Free Software. One of the primary freedoms of Free Software is the freedom of privacy. Namely, the right to keep your modifications private, for yourself, and not share them with your neighbor. RMS would certainly prefer that you do share--but he feels it unethical to require that you share. If you do this, then your software, while still being Open Source, will not be Free Software.
    2. Think in the long-term. What happens in ten years when you're no longer active in the community? What if nobody can find you to send you these diffs? In that case, your software cannot be modified and distributed--because without sending you the diffs, the software cannot be distributed!
    3. If you have a clause that says ``you are not required to send me changes if you can't find me'', then people can make whatever diffs they like and not send them on--after all, hey, they looked around their cube for you, you weren't there, so they just went on with business as usual. Yes, that's an extreme case, but it'd be technically legal.
    4. The more complex a legal agreement becomes, the easier it is to subvert. The GPL is already on questionable legal ground; if you add another clause, even with a lawyer's help, you also diminish the likelihood that you can ever enforce this license.
    ... I don't mean to burst your bubble here, but this is just a Bad Idea. Better to leave a note in the README that says ``please, please, please remember to send me diffs'' and not make it a legal requirement of the license than to try and write in your own clause.
    • This is one of the things that pisses me off about the FSF...they feel their definition of "Free Software" is the only definition of free software.

      If software were truely free, you'd be able to do what you wanted and not have to do a damn thing in return. This SHOULD include being able to do what ever you want with the source, including selling a hacked up commercial version without opening your source if you don't want to.

      'Free Software' is just another propoganda title like anything else on the other side. Don't get me wrong, I agree with their principles, but the term is incorrect.

      clif marsiglio
      sonikmatter.com
      • Re:Bad Idea. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rjh (40933)
        If software were truely free, you'd be able to do what you wanted and not have to do a damn thing in return. This SHOULD include being able to do what ever you want with the source, including selling a hacked up commercial version without opening your source if you don't want to.

        Hmm. Let's try rewriting that as,

        If America was truely free, you'd be able to do what you wanted and not have to do a damn thing in return. This SHOULD include being able to do what ever you want with your life, including selling children into preschool prostitution rings if you want to.

        Freedom does not mean ``you can do whatever the hell you want''. That's called anarchy, and while some people would call anarchy perfect freedom, I don't--I call it a damn dangerous place to live. Freedom carries with it responsibilities, the foremost of which is not to infringe upon other people's equal freedoms. My freedom of speech carries with it the responsibility not to use my speech to limit your freedom of speech.

        Free Software, in the FSF's view, needs to carry with it the responsibility that it not be used to deny other people software freedoms.

        Don't like it? Hey, that's fine--not as if you needed anyone's permission to not like it. But please don't call it unreasonable simply because inherent in the GPL is the notion that you must not deny these freedoms to anybody else.
        • Personally, I think the guy's got a point. For a license that claims to be "Free", the GPL has a heluva lot of restrictions. I'd say the LGPL is more Free, and the BSD License is much, much closer to Free.
        • First. Anarchy does not mean 'you can do whatever you want'. It just means a lack of centralized law. What is 'acceptable' behavior is determined by those around you, not by the police/government, that's al. Living in an Anarchy does not mean nobody is allowed to interfere with what you are doing.

          • Anarchy does mean ``you can do whatever you want''. Look it up in the dictionary; anarchy means the utter absence of law and government. Without any sort of law or government, each individual gets to do whatever the hell they want, limited only by the activities of those stronger than them to do whatever the hell they want.

            If anarchy merely meant ``acceptable behavior is determined by those around you'', then democratic governments would be anarchy, since the people around you are the ones who determine the laws, which are the people's method of establishing the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

            Anarchy means there is no law. There is no government. Anarchy means rule by the mob, and if you happen to get steamrollered by the mob, too bad--you have no recourse and the mob has no repercussions.

            If you want to see what your anarchic government looks like in practice, I would suggest looking at Somalia--Mogadishu in particular.
      • RTFM [fsf.org]

        The FSF [fsf.org] considers for example the 3-bullet BSD license free software [fsf.org]. But it is not copyleft [gnu.org].

        • You must be joking:

          The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
          The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1).
          Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
          The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
          The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. (freedom 3).

          These are 'Freedoms' just as much as my 3 (starting with 0 because were talking about geeks) bulleted items:

          Freedom 0: The Freedom NOT to have someone else tell me what to do with the software.
          Freedom 1: The Freedom to make modifications without others asurping its control.
          Freedom 2: The Freedom to Sell this software without restriction.
          Freedom 3: The Freedom to what ever I god damn want with it.

          So, Odd, you are wrong. My freedoms listed above are just as valid and just as much propoganda as the GPL. Its no secret that I like the BSD license better, but thats because I like those freedoms more than I like the 'freedoms' associated with the GPL.

          If I release something GPL'd, it sure as hell ain't going to be about Freedom (and I have released several apps this way), its going to be about restricting my competitors so that they cannot use my software agaist me. With the GPL, I can still have my copyrighted code, yet anyone competing against it with the GPL'd code have to overcome several barriers.

          The first is that if they release anything, I get access to their modifications. If they keep it in house, I don't get that, but they most likely won't. They will have to release the code along with the software. The client has no reason to buy from them because they have to give the software away for free...as such, they won't make money off of this where as I can with my future modifications -- I keep the GPL'd software is always a version behind to ensure that I can pay rent. My customers also get the code and the agreement that within XX # of Months or the Next Revision, the code given to them will revert to GPL, so they don't have to worry about me kicking over or anything :-)

          As you can see, I can use the GPL in very twisted, in what some would say non-ethical, ways...and they certainly ain't freeing. Its more Binding than it would have been IMHO. If I wanted it to be free, I would have BSD'd the stuff.

          clif
          sonikmatter.com
          • You do not consider Copyleft software to be Free. That's a valid opinion, and that is what differs between you and the FSF, but you should keep in mind that the FSF still considers BSD software to be Free.

            You wrote "If software were truely free, you'd be able to do what you wanted and not have to do a damn thing in return." My point was just to point out that some software which is Free FSF-style is also Free by your definition. You are not completly opposed.

  • Clarification (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Lish (95509)
    Do you mean:
    "If you modify this code, you must submit changes back to the original author"
    or:
    "If you modify this code and release the modified code for public use, you must release the modified source to the public and submit changes directly to the original author"

    Basically, does someone have to send you changes they made if they are not releasing the modified code in general? I am not clear from the wording you used.
    • Define 'public'.

      Giving it to a friend is private or public?
      Giving your girlfriend access on your computer with the modifed application, private/public?
      A teacher giving it to his pubils. private/public?

      There is nowhere yet any difference between priavte and public use.

      And honestly the basic idea behind all this send to the original author does not work. You'll have to try to read actually what copyright laws say. If you're maintaining a OpenSource project under the GPL, and somebody submits you a patch, then -HE- is the actuall author of the patch, and still -HE- "owns" all the stuff he made, he only enables you (the "original" author) to use his patches under the terms of the GPL, or else he would not have been allowed to at it at all, a give and take.

      Now if your license had an addon that required people to send the defs to the 'original' author, it would actually also per-se mean he would have to sent it to -all- authors.

      I know in the case of FSF projects facts are a little different, since the FSF takes over copyright-transfer agreements, but actually today this is the exception not the rule.

      I think one of unwritten basic GPL principles is that the project starter (the one you think of the "original" author) does not have any special rights than any other 2nd level project maintainer or any hobby code contributer.
      • It's quite simple.

        Private: for my own personal use.
        Public: anyone else.

        Just like with music. I can legally copy a CD onto a tape to use in my car. I cannot legally copy a cd onto a tape to give to a friend.

        Just modifying the code does not require you to release modified source. Modifying the code and releasing modified binaries does. The only change with this new license is that it requires you to send the modified source to the original author too. I don't see the problem.

        Don't like the license? Don't modify and rerelease modified binaries.
        • But take in example Linux, linux is copyrighted by an huge number of individuals, is Linus Torvalds the original author? What about Alan Cox? He also coded plenty of it, what about subsystems that were completly coded by someone else?
  • APSL (Score:3, Informative)

    by Pathwalker (103) <hotgrits@yourpants.net> on Friday October 12, 2001 @01:55AM (#2418700) Homepage Journal
    You might want to check out the Apple Public Source License [apple.com]
    It is pretty close to what you want, although it is not GPL compatable [gnu.org].
    If you are writing your own, it might be a useful starting point.
    There is a nice list of other licenses here [gnu.org] - always a good spot to start exploring.
  • I have recieved many many patches to my own LGPL software (fltk) adding all kinds of features that people needed.

    I think in general anybody adding a feature for their own use wants to see their code in the main version. They don't want to have to keep patching it with their modifications every time you make a new version. They also worry that you will provide that feature in a different way and get credit for your idea. Also they worry you will change the code such that their modifications can't work or have to be rewritten.

    I also think anybody who does not want to contribute back to the original code is not going to be stopped just because of a clause in the license.

    So I would ignore this. Make sure it is easy for people to contact you and respond to any patches sent (even if you don't put them in).

  • Mozilla is basically licensed this way. All code is licensed under the GPL and LGPL, and also the Mozilla Public License. So, when used under GPL/LGPL terms, it is totally compatible with other GPL/LGPL free software, and when used under MPL terms, AOL can incorporate it into the proprietary Netscape product.
  • I think a lot of people (me included) still get confused regarding the GPL (or other licenses.. but let's talk about the GPL), and open-source projects.

    If I start a project to build Gnu-App-X.. and release it, and someone submits some changes to me... and I incorporate those changes into the product.. those changes are not the 'property' of the submitter.. they were given to me, for inclusion in my project. I would guess that I now 'own' the resulting work. I can still re-license if I want. The GPL has nothing to do with this situation, though many probably think it does.

    THE GPL only comes into play when someone other than me wants to distribute the software.

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