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Software licenses and releasing Python programs for review

 
 
Steve Holden
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      06-04-2005
Andreas Kostyrka wrote:
> On Thu, Jun 02, 2005 at 01:57:25AM -0700, Robert Kern wrote:
>
>>And for thoroughness, allow me to add "even if they have no intention or
>>desire to profit monetarily." I can't explain exactly why this is the
>>case, but it seems to be true in the overwhelming majority of cases.
>>Academic projects with non-commercial clauses languish in obscurity
>>while academic Open Source projects thrive. The contributors to the Open

>
> Well, it's easily explained. (Well at least my motivation in this case)
> I do not touch things that I cannot use "generally" and being a
> "commercial" IT consultant this basically means:
> *) opensource is better than commercial payware.
> (because "for free" (as in beer) is usable in more contexts)
> *) GPL is acceptable for much stuff, because I can install GPL'ed
> stuff for a customer.
> *) GPL is not acceptable for "library" stuff, because as a software
> developer I'm sometimes forced to do "closed" stuff.
> (Yep, even nowadays there are place where it's basically a legal
> requirement.)
>
> Implications:
>
> *) qt is a bordercase: GPL for free, or commercial for pay. Not perfect but
> good enough.
> *) A number of O-R mappers for Python are of no relevance to me,
> because they are GPL. O-R mappers are development libraries.
>

But this would only be a restriction if the code were to be
redistributed, of course. It's stil perfectly legal to use it internaly
without making the modified source available.

> The idea is that I'm mostly not interested in learning tools that are
> not of general use.
>
> So basically, stuff not meeting this criteria, is only interesting if
> it's unique:
>
> *) commercial stuff is only interesting if there is no competing
> open-source project.
> *) GPL'ed "building blocks" are only interesting when there is no
> competing LGPL version. Example: OCR on Linux/Unix. There are no
> perfect solutions there so a GPL'ed solution might be
> ok. (Especially because one can use OCR without linking with a lib
> *grin*)
>
> Andreas


regards
Steve
--
Steve Holden +1 703 861 4237 +1 800 494 3119
Holden Web LLC http://www.holdenweb.com/
Python Web Programming http://pydish.holdenweb.com/

 
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Mike Meyer
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      06-05-2005
Steve Holden <(E-Mail Removed)> writes:
> But this would only be a restriction if the code were to be
> redistributed, of course. It's stil perfectly legal to use it
> internaly without making the modified source available.


I've heard people argue otherwise on this case. In particular, if you
allow an employee to use your GPL'ed-but-not-distributed software,
they are the end user, and have all the rights granted by the GPL. So
they can distribute the software - possibly to your
competitors. Employment contracts can't prohibit this, because the GPL
specifically disallows "distribution" (allowing your employee to use
the software) under licenses that restrict the rights granted by the
GPL.

I don't know whether this would hold water in court. I'd certainly
hate to be the one responsible for a company finding out the hard way.

<mike

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Mike Meyer <(E-Mail Removed)> http://www.mired.org/home/mwm/
Independent WWW/Perforce/FreeBSD/Unix consultant, email for more information.
 
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Robert Kern
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      06-05-2005
Mike Meyer wrote:
> Steve Holden <(E-Mail Removed)> writes:
>
>>But this would only be a restriction if the code were to be
>>redistributed, of course. It's stil perfectly legal to use it
>>internaly without making the modified source available.

>
> I've heard people argue otherwise on this case. In particular, if you
> allow an employee to use your GPL'ed-but-not-distributed software,
> they are the end user, and have all the rights granted by the GPL. So
> they can distribute the software - possibly to your
> competitors. Employment contracts can't prohibit this, because the GPL
> specifically disallows "distribution" (allowing your employee to use
> the software) under licenses that restrict the rights granted by the
> GPL.
>
> I don't know whether this would hold water in court. I'd certainly
> hate to be the one responsible for a company finding out the hard way.


Well, the FSF at least thinks that internal use within an organization
does not constitute distribution.

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq....cePostedPublic

"""Does the GPL require that source code of modified versions be posted
to the public?

The GPL does not require you to release your modified version. You
are free to make modifications and use them privately, without ever
releasing them. This applies to organizations (including companies),
too; an organization can make a modified version and use it internally
without ever releasing it outside the organization.

But if you release the modified version to the public in some way,
the GPL requires you to make the modified source code available to the
program's users, under the GPL.

Thus, the GPL gives permission to release the modified program in
certain ways, and not in other ways; but the decision of whether to
release it is up to you."""

--
Robert Kern
http://www.velocityreviews.com/forums/(E-Mail Removed)

"In the fields of hell where the grass grows high
Are the graves of dreams allowed to die."
-- Richard Harter

 
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Terry Reedy
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      06-05-2005

"Robert Kern" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:d7u737$8or$(E-Mail Removed)...
> Mike Meyer wrote:
>> I've heard people argue otherwise on this case. In particular, if you
>> allow an employee to use your GPL'ed-but-not-distributed software,
>> they are the end user, and have all the rights granted by the GPL. So
>> they can distribute the software - possibly to your
>> competitors. Employment contracts can't prohibit this, because the GPL
>> specifically disallows "distribution" (allowing your employee to use
>> the software) under licenses that restrict the rights granted by the
>> GPL.

>
> Well, the FSF at least thinks that internal use within an organization
> does not constitute distribution.


The fact that GPL effectively discriminates in favor of large corporations
(and other organizations) and programmers employed by such (versus those
contracting with such), is something I don't like about it. This seems
contrary to the spirit of the thing. It certainly supports the myth that
organizations are 'people'.

What if a whole country claimed to be 'one organization' (as the entire
Soviet Union once was, in a real sense). Could it distribute modifications
'privately' while denying such to the rest of the world?

Terry J. Reedy



 
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Steven D'Aprano
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      06-06-2005
On Sun, 05 Jun 2005 03:57:29 -0400, Terry Reedy wrote:

> "Robert Kern" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
> news:d7u737$8or$(E-Mail Removed)...
>> Mike Meyer wrote:
>>> I've heard people argue otherwise on this case. In particular, if you
>>> allow an employee to use your GPL'ed-but-not-distributed software,
>>> they are the end user, and have all the rights granted by the GPL. So
>>> they can distribute the software - possibly to your
>>> competitors. Employment contracts can't prohibit this, because the GPL
>>> specifically disallows "distribution" (allowing your employee to use
>>> the software) under licenses that restrict the rights granted by the
>>> GPL.

>>
>> Well, the FSF at least thinks that internal use within an organization
>> does not constitute distribution.

>
> The fact that GPL effectively discriminates in favor of large corporations
> (and other organizations) and programmers employed by such (versus those
> contracting with such), is something I don't like about it.


I'm sorry, I don't follow your reasoning here. How does the GPL
discriminate in favour of large corporations? What advantage does the
corporation get that I don't get?

The way I see it, if my left hand and right hand both use the software,
that isn't distribution. And if Acme Inc's accounting department and sales
department both use the software, that shouldn't count as distribution
either, in precisely the same way that there has been no transfer of
ownership when Fred from Accounting takes an unused computer from Sales
and starts using it himself.



> This seems
> contrary to the spirit of the thing. It certainly supports the myth that
> organizations are 'people'.


By law, corporations (and possibly some other organisations) *are* people.
Not natural people like you or I, but nevertheless people. For good or
bad, this is the legal fact (or perhaps "legal fiction") in most
countries, and not a myth.


> What if a whole country claimed to be 'one organization' (as the entire
> Soviet Union once was, in a real sense).


I doubt that was ever the case, not even in a figurative sense. But for
the sake of the argument, I'll accept that (say) the country of Freedonia
might claim the entire population of Freedonia to be a single organisation.

> Could it distribute modifications
> 'privately' while denying such to the rest of the world?


Freedonia is a country. Unless some other country takes them on, they can
do whatever they like within their borders because they make the laws.

Of course, they may run foul of international law, and may suffer the
consequences, which may range from angry words in the UN to trade
sanctions to a blockade all the way to invasion (although probably not
over some random piece of GPLed code).

But this is hardly a problem unique to the GPL. What if you publish code
under the BSD licence, and Freedonia rips your copyright notice out of
it and tries to pass it off as their own creation? What if Microsoft
licences Freedonia some software under Shared Source, and they promptly
modify and distribute the source code?

When nation states decide they are beyond the law, or subject only to
whatever laws it is convenient for them to follow, no licence will protect
you.


--
Steven

 
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max
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      06-06-2005
Steven D'Aprano <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in
newsan.2005.06.06.16.00.26.364108@REMOVETHIScybe r.com.au:

> By law, corporations (and possibly some other organisations)
> *are* people. Not natural people like you or I, but nevertheless
> people. For good or bad, this is the legal fact (or perhaps
> "legal fiction") in most countries, and not a myth.


s/myth/legal absurdity/

This is one thing that bothers me about the gpl. It essentially tries
to create 'code as a legal entity'. That is, it gives rights not to
the creator of some code, but to the code itself. For me, the fact
that corporations are considered people by the law is ridiculous.
Using a license that ends up doing the same thing with code leaves a
bad taste in my mouth.

max
 
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Steven D'Aprano
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      06-06-2005
On Mon, 06 Jun 2005 16:12:18 +0000, max wrote:

> This is one thing that bothers me about the gpl. It essentially tries
> to create 'code as a legal entity'. That is, it gives rights not to
> the creator of some code, but to the code itself.


Can you please show me where in the GPL it gives rights to the code
itself? Because, frankly, I think you are mistaken.

Of course, I might be wrong in this instance, and I always welcome
corrections.

> For me, the fact
> that corporations are considered people by the law is ridiculous.


Ridiculous? I don't think so. Take, for example, Acme Inc. Acme purchases
a new factory. Who owns the factory? The CEO? The Chairperson of the Board
of Directors? Split in equal shares between all the directors? Split
between all the thousands of shareholders? Society has to decide between
these methods.

(Of course, society can choose to hedge its bets by creating multiple
entities that use different rules, such as partnerships, trusts, public
corporations, limited corporations, etc.)

None of these alternatives are *wrong*, but they all have various
disadvantages. The legal fiction that corporations are legally persons is
a work-around for these disadvantages, and it works quite well in many
circumstances. To call it ridiculous is, well, ridiculous. Ownership is a
legal fiction in any case, so it is no more ridiculous to say that a
collective entity such as a corporation owns property than it is to say
that an individual being owns property.

However, if you wanted to argue that giving corporations all the
privileges of legal personhood with none of the responsibilities caused
more harm than good, I would agree with you. I take it you've seen "The
Corporation"?


> Using a license that ends up doing the same thing with code leaves a
> bad taste in my mouth.


Of course you are free to use some other licence. But without evidence, I
do not accept that the GPL attempts to give rights to code.



--
Steven



 
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Andreas Kostyrka
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      06-06-2005
On Sat, Jun 04, 2005 at 11:49:28PM -0700, Robert Kern wrote:
> Well, the FSF at least thinks that internal use within an organization
> does not constitute distribution.

Well, the problem are contractors. It's very important (for example in
Germany) for a number of legal reasons that contractors are separate
from the organization.
This basically makes it a case of distribution.

And while the GPL FAQ claims that this is not a problem, it seems only
to handle the easy case: Company X gives a "standard" SP to
contractor C, and C returns SP2.

While this is okay, the problems start when X discovers that it wants
to distribute SP2 to contractor C2, because it has to do this under
the GPL. Contractor C2 might by free will refrain from distributing
SP2, but putting that as a requirement on paper would violate the GPL.

Basically having a GPLed internal program limits what a company might
do with it in the future

Andreas
 
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max
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      06-06-2005
Steven D'Aprano <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in
newsan.2005.06.06.16.52.03.904880@REMOVETHIScybe r.com.au:

> On Mon, 06 Jun 2005 16:12:18 +0000, max wrote:
>
>> This is one thing that bothers me about the gpl. It essentially
>> tries to create 'code as a legal entity'. That is, it gives
>> rights not to the creator of some code, but to the code itself.

>
> Can you please show me where in the GPL it gives rights to the
> code itself? Because, frankly, I think you are mistaken.
>
> Of course, I might be wrong in this instance, and I always
> welcome corrections.
>
>> For me, the fact
>> that corporations are considered people by the law is
>> ridiculous.

>
> Ridiculous? I don't think so. Take, for example, Acme Inc. Acme
> purchases a new factory. Who owns the factory? The CEO? The
> Chairperson of the Board of Directors? Split in equal shares
> between all the directors? Split between all the thousands of
> shareholders? Society has to decide between these methods.
>
> (Of course, society can choose to hedge its bets by creating
> multiple entities that use different rules, such as partnerships,
> trusts, public corporations, limited corporations, etc.)
>
> None of these alternatives are *wrong*, but they all have various
> disadvantages. The legal fiction that corporations are legally
> persons is a work-around for these disadvantages, and it works
> quite well in many circumstances. To call it ridiculous is, well,
> ridiculous. Ownership is a legal fiction in any case, so it is no
> more ridiculous to say that a collective entity such as a
> corporation owns property than it is to say that an individual
> being owns property.
>
> However, if you wanted to argue that giving corporations all the
> privileges of legal personhood with none of the responsibilities
> caused more harm than good, I would agree with you. I take it
> you've seen "The Corporation"?
>


I haven't seen "The Corporation", but yes, I was reaching for the
priviledges/responsibilities balance.

>
>> Using a license that ends up doing the same thing with code
>> leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

>
> Of course you are free to use some other licence. But without
> evidence, I do not accept that the GPL attempts to give rights to
> code.
>
>

Perhaps 'attempts' is too strong a word. Maybe 'ends up giving' would
help my argument more. The best example I can come up with at the
moment is programmer A releases a project under the gpl. Programmer B
makes a substantial contribution to the project, which pA reads
through and accepts. Later, pA decides that he would like to release
the project under a more liberal license. To me, whether he legally
can under the gpl is a very murky subject, as pB might not agree, and
pA, having looked through/thought about pB's contribution might have
some trouble proving that he implemented any matching functionality
without referencing pB's earlier contribution, which if he did
reference it(even by memory), would presumably require him to continue
using the gpl.

I guess my argument is that with multiple contributors, the gpl, in
comparison to say, a BSD style license, grants power to the code. If 3
people work on a gpl project, they must agree to any changes. If 3
people work on a BSD style project, they each can do whatever the hell
they like with the code. So, in my opinion, the gpl ends up giving
perhaps not rights, but certainly power, to the actual code base.



Based on the limited coherence of this answer I probably need to think
about it somemore,
max

 
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Andrew Dalke
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      06-06-2005
max:
>> For me, the fact
>> that corporations are considered people by the law is ridiculous.


Steven D'Aprano wrote:
> Ridiculous? I don't think so. Take, for example, Acme Inc. Acme purchases
> a new factory. Who owns the factory? The CEO? The Chairperson of the Board
> of Directors? Split in equal shares between all the directors? Split
> between all the thousands of shareholders? Society has to decide between
> these methods.


Getting off-topic for c.l.py. Might want to move this to, for example,
the talk thread for
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_personhood
which is
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Corporate_personhood
and read also
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporation

Andrew
(E-Mail Removed)

 
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