Choosing an open source license (NewsForge)
Posted Jul 26, 2004 22:38 UTC (Mon) by JoeBuck
Parent article: Choosing an open source license (NewsForge)
I don't think that Lawrence Rosen, despite his legal expertise, really gets it. He complains that the GPL's "works based on the program" standard is vague, and advocates instead that copyright law be used to define a derivative work. Accordingly, he wrote a license, the CPL, requiring all derivative works to be licensed under the CPL. The result is a vastly more viral license than the GPL! The GPL has a "mere aggregation" exception, the CPL does not.
Why is this a problem?
- A CD-ROM is a derivative work of every program and data file on the disk. It therefore appears illegal to bundle a CPL work on a CD-ROM along with any file that has a license that conflicts with the CPL, which includes the GPL together with many other licenses.
In addition, the indemnification language in the license means that any rational commercial distributor should not touch CPL-licensed software with a ten-meter pole. If you're, say, Cheapbytes, you commercially distribute CD-ROMs containing thousands of programs for, say, $5 each. Why should such a distributor be forced to indemnify the software developers? The effect is that, while the original author offers no warranty, the commercial redistributor must offer a warranty against many possible types of mistakes, no matter what a trifling amount of money they charge.
Fortunately, I haven't seen any significant work distributed under this badly flawed license.
The GPL has withstood the test of time, and has been recently upheld as valid by a German court. It's a solid foundation, and Mr. Rosen has not succeeded in improving on it.
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