Loomio
Fri 20 May 2016

Alternative decision question for GPL/MIT

CF
Cam Findlay Public Seen by 333

We've been considering the point raised about the decision questions for the tree in order for agencies to select between GPL and MIT from the default set.

At present the question is:
>"should a person who adapts the code and distributes it to others be required to license the adaptations for re-use by others"

We put forward here an alternative based on @donchristie 's et al. feedback.

>"if a person adapts the code and distributes the adapted code to others, would it be beneficial to government, taxpayers and society to require that the adaptations (e.g., enhancements) are made available for re-use?"

We also put forward a further footnote for consideration alongside this alternative wording to ensure agencies are aware of their options:

>"Agencies should note that, even if an agency decides to apply the GPL to its source code, the agency can always allow particular developers to use it under different terms if the agency wishes (as long as the agency is the copyright owner). It is conceivable, for example, that a New Zealand-based proprietary developer may wish to use the code in commercial software for which it has a strong export market. In that sort of case, the agency may be happy to allow the developer to use the code under more permissive terms (i.e., without a sharealike obligation)."

I've raised a pull request on GitHub to this affect, I'll amend after discussion here before merging in should we opt to go with this.

https://github.com/opendatanz/nzgoal-se/pull/21/files

Thanks again for the great input all. :thumbsup: Should have a first revision in document format once these last few points have been worked through.

DL

Dave Lane Fri 20 May 2016

I think the proposed question is still misleading. It doesn't trigger the self-interest of the developer reading this by actually explaining the realistic outcome of licensing the technology under the MIT license... which is that someone else could take the codebase, and compete against the original authors with a proprietary version, with proprietary changes/improvements... Ultimately, that's the realistic threat, but the words above make it sound to the author undertaking the licensing decision that selecting the GPL is effectively being generous to others at the author's expense.

At the very least, I think the following changes make it more relevant (although it's still pretty subtle):

"if someone derives new software from the code - for example, by extending its capabilities or incorporating it into another code base - and then distributes that software to others, would it be beneficial to you (the author), the government, taxpayers, and society to require that the adaptations (e.g., enhancements) are made available for re-use?"

DL

Dave Lane Fri 20 May 2016

Also, regarding the footnote, I think "to use the code in commercial software" isn't what you mean - it should be "to use the code in proprietary software". As you know, there's nothing non-commercial about open source software.

Additionally, I think the final sentence

"In that sort of case, the agency may be happy to allow the developer to use the code under more permissive terms (i.e. without a sharealike obligation)."

would more appropriately be

"In that sort of case, the agency can make the code available to the developer under different terms, e.g. without the obligation to share the source code of derived versions."

The use of the term "permissive" suggests general freedom, but in fact, it is very context-specific freedom: only from the perspective of the developer creating a derivative work. It's not "permissive" from anyone else's perspective (e.g. users, students, society), in fact it's quite the reverse.

CF

Cam Findlay Sun 22 May 2016

Thanks @davelane - agree with footnote wording, changing commercial to proprietary.

For the question wording, is there a more concise way we can say this?
Conscious we'll have to cram this into the tree diagram :smiley:

CF

Cam Findlay Fri 27 May 2016

@davelane myself and @opendatanz have had a crack at making the decision question more concise while trying to keep the points your raise intact, may still need work and a legal eye over. Let me know what you think.

"Do you want everyone, including your agency, to be able to re-use any distributed adaptions to the source code by others in the future?"

I think all facets of society benefit getting code open under FOSS licences for re-use, so have used “everyone" here over listing a select set of sub-groups. Also added "including your agency" in brackets to get the author to think about whether they, themselves and agency would want to maintain openness of others adaptions (addressing your point on proprietary competing forks).

NZGOAL-SE is policy for government that has externalities for society so think appropriate to use the phrasing "your agency" here.

We went back and forth on a number of phrasings for the outcome wanted and settled on “able to re-use any distributed adaptions to the source code by others in the future”, breaking that down:

"Re-use" implies I can openly access the source code also might be to simply “use” a copy of the software or it might be to further adapt it again.

"Adaptions" covers code that enhances or is incorporated into derived software (see the Adaptions Principle in the policy)

Ensured we included the term “distributed” as this is what triggers GPL (not considering things like AGPL here as this is address elsewhere in the policy).

Used “future" as what we are talking about here is what happens in the future to the released source code over just the initial release.

It's a very tricky thing to roll into a single question and I think we might be close to a workable wording that meets on some common ground. :thumbsup:

CF

Cam Findlay Mon 30 May 2016

After some further back and forth we have workable phrasing to go forward with.

"Would you like everyone to be able to re-use other people's distributed adaptations of the source code in the future?"

Reasoning is same as above, it's a better rephrasing of the initial version put forward with a legal eye over it.

See https://github.com/opendatanz/nzgoal-se/pull/21

DC

Don Christie Mon 30 May 2016

Hmm. Still not right. I was talking to a local government body last week
who were really annoyed to have invested in some 3rd party software
development only to find themselves charged for the ongoing use of that
software. GPL protects from that.

I think you could make it pithier:

"Would you like to see yours and other peoples enhancements freely
available for re-use in the future?".

Cheers
Don

GP

Grant Paton-Simpson Mon 30 May 2016

Heh - this will never fly but it would be nice to be able to say:

"Would you be happy to invest in some 3rd party software development
only to find yourselves charged for the ongoing use of that
software?"

K

Kay Wed 6 Jul 2016

Sounds like use of valuation data for rates. Who owns the data, and who pays for re-use. Stats NZ make data available without charge and companies repackage and sell it. The charge is for the skills used, not the data itself.