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posted by mattie_p on Friday February 14 2014, @04:04PM   Printer-friendly
from the free-as-in-speech dept.

cculpepper from the forums writes: "Back in the 1980s, Bell Labs decided to make a successor to UNIX called Plan 9. Plan 9 was primarily developed to be simple and to facilitate an environment for grid computing on geographically separated computers. While Plan 9 was open-sourced in 2000, it was released under the Lucent Public License, which was seen as less than ideal by people in the GNU community. The University of California, Berkley has been recently authorized to release Plan 9 under the GNU Public License version 2, a license shared by the Linux kernel, as well as various other projects."

mechanicjay adds: "Plan 9 remains available under a modified LPL (Lucent Public Licence). What sort of difficulties might be had with a dual-licencing scheme?"

Betteridge would suggest the answer to this question might be "None."

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  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Foobar Bazbot on Friday February 14 2014, @07:57PM

    by Foobar Bazbot (37) on Friday February 14 2014, @07:57PM (#92) Journal

    In the "less than ideal" link, RMS quotes and comments on provisions of the Lucent license that made it non-free. A couple tidbits caught my eye in comparison to AGPL:

    You agree to provide the Original Contributor, at its request, with a copy of the complete Source Code version, Object Code version and related documentation for Modifications created or contributed to by You if used for any purpose.

    This prohibits modifications for private use, denying the users a basic right.

    This provision is quite ugly (starting with special-casing "Original Contributor", instead of letting anyone request it), but the aspect RMS objects to is not much different in spirit to AGPL's whole point, to wit prohibiting modifications for private use (without sharing the changes), although AGPL only prohibits it if that use is in any sort of network service.

    Of course AGPL advocates attempt to redefine terms in such a way that off-line use may be "private", but network service use isn't -- however, playing semantics doesn't change the actual truth. Note that RMS didn't bother clarifying or even mentioning such a semantic distinction. The most obvious explanation is that c.2000 RMS actually believed all private modifications, as the term was generally understood, were "a basic right" of users, but c.2007 RMS got so carried away in his war on Google et al. that he was willing to sacrifice the basic rights of users. (Fun Analogy Time: Remember Tron (in the old movie)? Fights for the users, and all that? Well, suppose now he becomes fascist overlord of the users and other programs, ruthlessly forging them into the most effective force he can make to defeat the MCP. It's understandable, but still kinda sad.)

    Distribution of Licensed Software to third parties pursuant to this grant shall be subject to the same terms and conditions as set forth in this Agreement,

    This seems to say that when you redistribute you must insist on a contract with the recipients, just as Lucent demands when you download it.

    This provision is related to the other one, although it might not seem obvious. New-flavor RMS wants to make a distinction between "real" private modifications, and private modifications on a web service. Unfortunately for him, this distinction just does not exist in copyright law (at least in the US). The GPL works as a distribution license -- which means no contract is needed, because distribution of copyrighted works, modified or not, is prohibited by default. The AGPL is also claimed to work as a distribution license; however, the only thing distinguishing AGPL from GPL is requirements that supposedly apply without distribution of the work in question. Since US copyright law, as interpeted by US courts (e.g. Krause v. Titleserv, see this /. comment from 2007 [] for more details), permits modifications of this sort to software (network service or no) without permission from the copyright holder, there's no implicit license acceptance as there is with GPL.

    This is where we come back to the Lucent provision: AGPL could be applied as a contract, or in conjunction with a contract, because that's the only way it could legally restrict such otherwise-permitted acts; this is one reason why Lucent had the contract provisions which so vexed RMS. (Apparently new-flavor RMS still doesn't like contracts and license terms that require further contracts, so he's chosen to completely ignore AGPL's unenforceability problem rather than patch it with a EULA-type contract. Good luck in court...)

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