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Re: Automake: use of modified Perl modules & GPL

From: Richard Stallman
Subject: Re: Automake: use of modified Perl modules & GPL
Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2001 10:22:11 -0600 (MDT)

    Personally, I don't care if people use the GPL, AL, BSD or make up their
    own... it is open source and it is not demo
    or commercial-ware, etc. 

I think you and I are talking at cross purposes--addressing two
different questions.  This miscommunication has continued through
several mssages.

The question you are talking about is "Which licenses should be
allowed on CPAN?"  That is an important question, but it is not the
question that we have raised.  The question we are talking about is,
"Should CPAN clearly state the license of each module?"

To address your question, I think CPAN should insist that licenses
qualify as free software as well as open source.  In this way, it
could give its support to both movements and would be unfriendly to
neither movement.  Some open source licenses are not free software
licenses, which means CPAN's current policy permits non-free software.

But putting that question aside, and getting back to the one we were
talking about, CPAN's actual practice does not agree with your idea of
what it should be.

As a factual matter, CPAN now hosts modules which are neither open
source nor free software.  If a module does not clearly state a
license, it is neither open source nor free software.  To make the
actions of CPAN fit its current policy would be a major improvement.

    Were we to get into the business of requiring licenses we would also have
    to do the task of checking for and possibly removing items that are of
    potential legal liability.

I think you will find, if you ask a lawyer, that (1) these legal
obligations already apply to you, and (2) insisting on an explicit
license in each module does not make things any worse.

    Also, we would need to pay someone to do this job since it would be quite
    a task to track people down and get all the licenses in order.

If you wanted to fully solve the problem in a short time, hiring
someone might be necessary.  In my previous message I proposed an
approach that is more gradual and does not require hiring anyone.

However, if CPAN would like to have someone clean up the situation
fully and rapidly, if the only aspect that seems difficult is finding
the money to do it, maybe the FSF could provide that.  We could
legitimately do so, if CPAN is willing to agree to insist licenses
must be free software as well as open source.

Either one of these approaches could be used without changing the
legal structure behind CPAN.

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