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Re: [ba-ohs-talk] Re: Rethinking Licensing

James Michael DuPont wrote:
> I am losing my patience with this discussion.    (01)

[Psst.. Don't encourage him... :-) ]    (02)

Yeah, I know the frustration. See:
 http://www.bootstrap.org/lists/ohs-dev/0246.html    (03)

Essentially, it seems as much as Doug originally said OHS would be open
source, it seems to me this particular community is having trouble
making that commitment in actuality (i.e. offering actual code and
content for use under a specific license) because most of its members
and core leadership have historically implicitly or explicitly expected
grant money to directly fund the work and its future enhancement, and
many other participants are here thinking they can make money
proprietarizing the result somehow (or integrating their current
proprietary approaches into it). Otherwise "permission to use" would
have been resolved two years ago.    (04)

In part that is because any community is self-selecting. I've had some
open source or free software developers write to me saying essentially
this community doesn't know how to run an open source of free software
development effort and so they are not participating, and thus their
voice is not hear here (or heard only rarely, such as just now with
you). They move on to other things. I know some people here may think
I'm just muckraking (or paranoid), but I really do want Doug's vision to
succeed (commingled with that of others), and I think some key early
decisions related to UnRevII are blocking that success on a practical
basis (as much as they may have seemed to make sense at the time).    (05)

Unfortunately, this "permission to use" liability indemnification issue
especially as regards software patents has tied my own hands in terms of
contributing OHS code under the GPL or any other free license, which
otherwise might have been the most immediate way around these objections
by just delivering something that works and others might want to use and
enhance. But, I can't in good conscious make such contributions both
exposing myself to damages for possible infringement of bogus software
patents as well as in my opinion unfairly privileging both Bootstrap and
Stanford to do what they like with the code (including keeping it all
proprietary or reselling it to Microsoft) and setting such an example
for others to follow.    (06)

Personally, I have much empathy with the portrait of the starving artist
Eric paints, because no one in today's society wants to confront the
fear or reality of not being able to make a decent income by U.S.
standards while they pursue what they think is an important and socially
valuable mission. Many public school teachers face this reality every
day, and they are true heros even if unsung and not given enough
respect. And the rest of our society is so messed up regarding managing
the public commons that funding alternatives are difficult to find.
Consider this hot news item:
> "OSDN's NewsForge reports that
>            Carnegie Mellon University has started a Sustainable Computing
>            Consortium to improve the quality and security of software. The
>            only news release is that NASA gave CMU $23 million to help
>            create dependable software. SCC members get an internal-use
>            license for SCC software. So taxpayers are paying millions to
>            create proprietary software, and companies get access for a few
>            thousand dollars. 
The UnRevII OHS project has been shaking the NASA money tree to do open
source or free software OHS stuff in one of Doug's self-improving
Network Improvement Communities and what does NASA do? Gives 10X the
money for proprietary works. Obviously something very deep in our
culture is really messed up here. I'm not explicitly blaming NASA
culture here, since they do much great free stuff, just the more general
U.S. funding culture for digital public works it is embedded in and
which spills into it.    (07)

I just wrote something humorous about a satirical presidential speech
defending the need for proprietary laws & related micropayments and I'll
post a link to it when it is up somewhere. Would have posted it here
under the GFDL license if "permission to use" was resolved.    (08)

Obviously, at some point discussion threads that are circular or
repetitive should be ended. Still, I think if a goal is to get more
people to consider the value of free software for various applications,
we must remember that the audience (of lurkers) is often larger than the
person to which we are communicating, and so even if the individual we
are writing to in a public forum may never see the value in what we are
saying, others might (and we may never know who). With that said, I
think Eric's a sharp guy, and makes some good points, and if we don't
have valid answers to each and every point he raises, no matter how
often he (or I :-) raises the same thing, we need to get them.    (09)

Why do I still bother? I don't know, maybe I find lost causes a creative
challenge. Still, Doug's innovative legacy and humane aims deserve
better than to be made part of a new order of repression or to be argued
into the ground.    (010)

Here is one alternative that might be easier to do at first than repeal
"permission to use" for existing lists. Can someone get people with
legal authority at both Bootstrap Institute and Stanford to both agree
in writing that they do not consider UnRevII's "permission to use" to
cover granting them any extra rights to GPL'd OHS code or GFDL'd OHS
discussions & content beyond the rights contributors grant them under
the GPL or GFDL (i.e. indemnification would not apply)? That is, they
need to agree specifically to waivew these rights one one project or
they need prefreably to agree in general that such activities are not
considered "extended" UnRevII activities under "permission to use".
If they can go even that far, we can start an official UnRevII inspired
GPL'd OHS project and a GFDL OHS discussion list & content nucleus and
I'm sure others would help us make it a success (even if some of them
have passed on being involved to date). That is very much in keeping
with the letter and spirit of open source and free software, and Doug's
early statements on free licensing which drew attention to the OHS
effort. And frankly, I think in an ironic twist, Bootstrap, Stanford,
and participants now here will in the end make more money by allowing
this to happen.    (011)

Summary: I'm saying some early decisions like "permission to use" (as
much as they may have seemed to make sense at the time) could be revised
to better allow more bootstrapping to occur, and that is what this
community is supposed to be about. If not everyone here would want to
move in that new GPL/GFDL direction, they are free to move in other
proprietary directions, or start projects under other free or open
source licenses.    (012)

=====    (013)

By the way, on your original point on a self-referential GPL program
that writes out its own source code under a different license
(referenced in "More bad news about the GPL License: Fwd: [Gxl] GCC
Licencing and XML extracts" Wed, 17 Apr 2002):     (014)

I don't think that is legally a problem because the output would be so
similar to the original and so based on it that it would be considered
under the copyright laws as a derived work, and its licensing would then
be covered by relevant law. I remember years ago a related issue coming
up of why GCC compiled programs weren't also under the GPL since their
structures to an extend reflected GCC internals, and the answer was that
the FSF made a special exception in this single case.     (015)

>From there:
> Anyway, the GPL says:
>     ... the output from the Program
>     is covered only if its contents constitute a work based on the
>     Program (independent of having been made by running the Program).
>     Whether that is true depends on what the Program does.
> I've read here on many occasions that the FSF doesn't consider the output
> of GCC to constitute a work based on the program.  I don't know where this
> is stated in print, though.    (016)

So I don't think it is valid to reason from saying since GCC compiled
programs are not GPL, that any GPL system can do this (since other code
would not have this special exemption). Whether that is a loophole with
the GCC code given this exception, maybe, but in practice I doubt it
because the intent of what was happening seems clearly different legally
speaking (but I am not a lawyer, and who knows what a judge would
decide). Note the phrasing above "Whether that is true depends on what
the Program does". Clearly the issues you raise touch on this issue of
what the program does.    (017)

-Paul Fernhout
Kurtz-Fernhout Software 
Developers of custom software and educational simulations
Creators of the Garden with Insight(TM) garden simulator
http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com    (018)