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Postings from January 2001
Re: licensing issues
From: Ben Tilly
January 12, 2001 20:25
Re: licensing issues
Message ID: LAW2-F77reBBsQwY6YH000035df@hotmail.com
"David Grove" <email@example.com> wrote:
>"Ben Tilly" <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> > "John van V" <email@example.com> wrote:
> > >
> > >Actually, this the ~only~ obvious thing here. What I
> > >just learned from the GNU/FSF/UWIN/MinGW issue is that
> > >perl ~is~ legally defined as an operating system.
> > Defined by who? I am curious here.
>I believe, if I'm following this correctly, John is referring to the
>fanaticist rants of GNU/Debian and their leaders where GNU is designed to
>be a complete operating system (currently perhaps more correctly termed an
>"operating environment" for realism). It is a stated goal of the free
>software / GNU movements to eventually reject any and all commercial
>software or anything that is not totally GNU. They are currently "using"
>the Linux kernel because it temporarily suits their goals, and hope
>eventually to replace even that core.
Also while the GNU project is using Debian to get HURD off
of the ground, I don't know of anyone who is saying that
Debian should ever stop supporting Linux. If there are
people who say that then they certainly don't reflect the
majority opinion of the Debian users and developers that I
> > >So we are all learning here. I am in the perl business,
> > >and I know that litigation will kill my business.
>Until Perl can be freed of its commercial dependencies and control, this
>risk - and not just risk but outright, factual harms already committed and
>those pending to be committed - will continue to exist.[...]
Good rant. Is it relevant at the moment?
>The GNU license as it stands, and even the AL, can't stand up to this.
>These licenses are designed for different purposes. They are not prepared
>for commercial entities to purchase controlling interest in the software
Perl's Artistic License cannot stand up to much. It is
Swiss Cheese. I don't think that is relevant at the moment.
>We need a licensing scheme that protects both the interests of the public
>who uses perl and the interests of commercial entities who desire to
>profit from the use of perl, but is powerful enough to withstand the now
>successful efforts of those commercial entities to control the language
>and thereby entire markets [...]
Is that under discussion at the moment? I tried to come
up with a proposal last summer. It was not particularly
well received and I got busy with other stuff.
> > They don't have the same economic and technological goals.
> > Larry Wall wants to help people get jobs done with a mimimum
> > of inconvenience so long as nobody tries to claim his hard
> > work as theirs. The FSF wants to destroy proporietary
> > software. Those goals both result in free software but are
> > not the same and in many key respects are not even very
> > similar.
>These goals are no different in an environment where the former is not
>enforced, and, rather, is encouraged.
They *ARE* different. Very much so. And the decision to
go GPL only is not easily reversed at a future date.
> > Very specifically, the FSF actively wishes to inconvenience
> > people who are developing proprietary products. Larry wants
> > to be nice to them by default. This is a huge philosophical
> > divide.
>Larry wants to be nice to everybody by default. That's not a legal
>safehouse. If you're too nice, you get stepped on, and perl has a lot of
>footprints right now.
Until Larry publically changes his mind, I am not going
to tell him to believe other than he does.
> > >Also, I am speaking for others here, who are on this list but
> > >are not speaking up. Not me :)
> > Let them speak up then.
>Damn spiffy I'll speak up! There are few of us left. Most of us have given
>up and moved to PHP or Python or Ruby by now, rebuffed by "higher ups" who
>attack them for speaking out of line with the collective.
The only one whose licensing status that I know about is
Ruby. It is today legal to ship only as GPLed software.
When the RE engine gets replaced it will be a dual GPL
Artistic license like Perl, except with a very early
version of the Artistic license.
>You guys _have_ heard these arguments for some years now from multiple
>sources, not just John and not just myself. That they speak one at a time
>and are rudely rebuffed one at a time in this manner is a tragedy. John,
>however, will NOT speak alone here; and I absolutely resent your using the
>same tactic against him that you've used against myself: I resent your
>using it at all. He does not speak alone, will not speak alone, and is in
>a company of many others who since 1998 have spoken up and spoken out only
>to be smacked square in the face by elitist nonsense and laziness. We must
>treat everyone's concerns with equal dignity and respect, or stop
>pretending to be attempting to make a "perl for the people": at the point
>where we don't consider the dangers in improper licensing, and that lack
>of consideration receives a stamp of approval from above, "perl for the
>people" becomes as much a farse as "one perl" was. The current licensing
>scheme sucks, and will lead nowhere but into further trouble. John _is_ a
>bit tangented at the moment, but the core of his arguments are completely
>sound, and his fears are completely founded, even though he is expressing
>different sides of the same coin. Perl needs licenses that grant freedom
>to the community WHILE controlling corporate monopolists.
Who have you confused me with?
As for the validity of John's argument, I think he seriously
misunderstands the goals of the FSF. I think he does not
understand why the licenses are the way they are. After he
understands that there are a lot of questions he can ask.
(Such as what licensing would be appropriate for Perl.) But
that isn't his question, or even closely related.
His question is why Perl cannot simply borrow from the GNU
project, and why the GNU project would do something that is
causing him grief. Even if Perl does straighten out its
own licensing situation I don't think that it will wind up
with the GPL. Instead it will continue to be one-way
compatible with the GNU project. You can use Perl in the
GNU project, but cannot embed GNU software in the core of
> > >So perl is bigger than GNU because it is no longer glue but
> > >moldable resin structure. This will be true in the public
> > >perception as well.
> > I doubt you understand what the GNU project is.
> > The objective of the GNU project is to create a world in
> > which proprietary software has been completely replaced by
> > free software. Creating an operating system, utilities,
> > libraries, and so on are necessary to the overall goal, but
> > the goal is all software, not just some.
>That's fine. 'ls' can be GNU. However, placing Perl under plain GNU is
Why so? Richard Stallman would *LOVE* it if Perl was placed
under the GPL. Some key Perl developers would love the
chance to borrow some GPLed code. (Simon Cozens in particular
has wanted to do that.) It would result in a licensing
situation that is much better understood, one in which most
of the specific actions that you object to would be very
clearly violating license items.
It would also impose restrictions that many would be bothered
> > >No time like the present.
> > Memorize this. Licenses reflect goals. In the real world
> > license conflicts usually are the result of conflicting goals.
> > To the extent that goals truly oppose each other, the
> > licenses cannot be brought into agreement.
>Memorize this: Licenses reflect goals. In the real world, the interests of
>Perl and perl and the Perl community remain unprotected and unenforced.
I think I have heard this from you before...
> > Before you can negotiate the issues beneath the licenses
> > you need to understand the goals of the people involved.
>Before you can understand them, you have to listen to them. Listen to Red
>Hat, SuSE, FreeBSD, and even Debian, who refuse to accept 5.6 because it
>just plain isn't "ready for prime time". (You wanted to hear some voices?
>I think you're ignoring some big ones.) Listen to the people who are being
>hurt and deceived by corporate interests who have their hands into the
>Perl pot up to the shoulder blades.
You know having you not have a clue who you are talking to
is getting really annoying. Hello David, my name is Ben
Tilly. I am the guy who flamed Tom Christiansen on p5p
last March saying that 5.6.0 *was* appropriate but it was
HIGH TIME for 5.6.1. I am the guy on PerlMonks who keeps
on telling people that 5.6.0 sucks and they should wait
for 5.6.0. I have raised a few interesting questions
about ActiveState on the Ruby talk list.
But until on Larry Wall makes statements to me in private
(AFAIK he doesn't know me or care who I am) or in public
saying that his goals are different than I understand
them to be, I won't say that *HIS* language should be
licensed under anything other than what he wants.
The question here had nothing to do with Perl's
licensing. It had to do with why the FSF is not being
generous with gcc when their non-generosity was affecting
Perl on a particular platform. The fact is that the FSF
is not generous for reasons that they have made very
public, and the inconvenience for some Perl folks doesn't
matter to them. All that changing Perl's license would
mean is that Perl would become as nasty as the FSF folks,
which does zilch for the problem he brought up.
> > >Speaking for "most perl people " is a dangerous thing to
> > >do. Speaking to people is how I got interested in this
> > >issue. What I have learned is taht people are not
> > >comfortable w/ the schism between all the different
> > >licenses and a few are downright disturbed.
>When confronted with the issues, the primary advocates of the "absence of
>license" work for the entities at hand, or are underenthused about
>technopolitical issues outside their own little world. I've found this out
>the hard way. On the other hand, discussing the issue in open forum is a
>good way to get yourself and the people you're talking with banned from
>the open fora, because those fora are controlled by precisely the
>interests the conversations seek to embattle.
Are you sure that you know why you got banned? I am someone
who has spoken out before saying that Perl needs to clean up
its licensing mess. And right now I am getting annoyed with
>And I'm not just miffed at the lack of attention this has gotten, I'm
>outright pissed. I'm not just a Perl advocate and programmer, I'm someone
>who has been and continues to be in a position of listening to the
>community, and needing to pay attention to it. I see them being hurt, and
>it's infuriating to see our "leaders" take no interest in it at all.
Question: Am I a leader? I don't consider myself one. But
perhaps you know something I don't?
> > Good. The schisms are bad. They result in duplication of
> > effort. They inconvenience people. A significant fraction
> > of developers who want to develop free software do not care
> > about license issues. And continue to not care until they
> > see how it affects them and people who want to use their
> > work.
>I'm unclear about who's arguing what here. Ben, you seem to be pulling
>down your own arguments.
Perhaps that is because I was NOT saying what you thought
I was? (And wasted quite a bit of energy tearing into me
I was trying to *explain* what the different positions of
the people involved in different parts are. Facts. Not
opinion. The above was the only statement of opinion in
the piece you flamed.
Here, for the record, are my opinions on open source
licensing for what it is worth. (Essentially nothing
unless someone wants to listen to me, or I want to write
something significant and make it open source.)
Licenses are a pain in the butt. But they are a tool to
allow the copyright holder to make their work fit their
goals. Like Linus I believe that whoever writes it gets
to choose. If you don't like the choice then tough
titties. I believe that whoever chooses should have a
clear understanding of what the consequences of their
choice is. And others shouldn't stand around telling
the copyright holder that they are doing the wrong thing
just because the copyright holder doesn't want to do what
However licenses seem to me to be an unnecessary evil.
Given the current legal climate they are needed. But
the majority of copyright and patent law is (IANAL and
this is US specific) a clear abuse of the Constitutional
grant to Congress of the *limited* power to establish
Personally if I wrote something it would either be
fairly small and BSD, or if I devoted a lot of energy
probably GPLed. The times that people wanted to borrow
some of my code I told them to go ahead - even when I
knew it was going in a proprietary project.
> > Richard Stallman very strongly does not want that to happen
> > and has written a number of essays laying out exactly what
> > he believes and why he would never agree to what you are
> > suggesting. If you try to deal with Richard and the FSF
> > with the belief that their goals have any relation to your
> > goals, you will fail to convince them and be baffled at why
> > you failed.
>This is true. You're dealing with total fanatics, John. They don't just
>believe in free software. We're almost talking about some freaky kind of
As I said I am trying to explain facts, not opinions.
>But, Ben, I'm not sure that John outright said we should attend that
>particular church. In fact, I see him asking for discussion, and little
>more. I do see him pointing out issues that have yet to be addressed.
John said that he thinks the GNU project and Perl have the
same goals and he thinks the GNU project should give him a
break. I am telling him that they do not have the same
goals and there is no way that they are going to feel
inclined to give him a break.
Perl's licensing was not really at issue since what he
wanted was for the FSF to modify their behaviour. Which
has nothing to do with Perl.
> > >Any hoo, licensing by design is a high noise / low signal
> > >topic. I was ~not~ my idea I wish I was as good at coding
> > >as activist politics :)
>I wish I was good at diplomacy. But yadda yadda forget diplomacy when
>you're speaking to the deaf guy trying to cross the street in front of the
>Mack truck. You gotta get in there and do some pushing, yanking, or at a
>minimum yell at the people around him to stop him.
You know it might help if you figured out what the person
you were talking to was talking about before launching
into a tirade.
>Am I a fanatic? Yes. I am fanatical and frantically emphatic that the
>interests of the perl community should strongly outweight the interest of
>the corporate entities that control it. I have been eagerly awaiting
>decisions, or any signs of hope, to trickle down to show that these
>issues, well recognized and completely admitted to during the RFC frenzy,
>will receive attention and action. What seems to be rolling downhill,
>however, is the same old thing.
I think there is inertia. Unless and until Larry is
willing to address the licensing issue not much is going
to happen either way. If he wants to talk to me I will
have plenty to say. But I don't think that will happen
any time soon.
In any case if you want action on that it is better to
start by saying that and not take threads that are at
best tangential to what you want to talk about and try
to make them out to be about your issues.
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