Re: Apple and Open Source

From: "Ean R (dot) Schuessler" <ean(at)novare(dot)net>
To: rms(at)gnu(dot)org
Cc: spi-general(at)lists(dot)debian(dot)org
Subject: Re: Apple and Open Source
Date: 1999-03-23 19:24:32
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I, personally, cannot reach a solid decision on the Apple license and
would like to bounce some ideas off of you to see if it can solidify
my thinking. It strikes me that the notification clauses, while
inconvenient, do not render the software proprietary. You still have
complete freedom to modify the code and use it for whatever purpose
you care to. In some ways, depending on Apple's future behavior, this
could be seen as a tool for increasing freedom. If Apple agressively
redistributes the modifications that they are notified of then a very
large amount of software may become publicly available from their

The patent clauses are curious and I can see the danger in the fact that
Apple can keep you from ever getting a chance to fight a patent in court.
On the other hand, Apple has granted use of an unknown number of patents
for use in free software. This seems like a good thing. Is your arguement
with the way they have coupled the license issues with the patent issues?
I suppose I can see the danger in that, they have made the copyright an
extension of the patent. Hmmm. ?

On Sat, Mar 20, 1999 at 03:01:16AM -0700, Richard Stallman wrote:
> * Disrespect for privacy.
> The APSL does not allow you to make a modified version and use it for
> your own private purposes, without publishing your changes.

> * Central control.
> Anyone who releases (or even uses, other than for R&D) a modified
> version is required to notify one specific organization, which happens
> to be Apple.

> * Possibly of revocation at any time.
> The termination clause says that Apple can revoke this license, and
> forbid you to keep using all or some part of the software, any time
> someone makes an accusation of patent or copyright infringement.
> In this way, if Apple declines to fight a questionable patent (or
> one whose applicability to the code at hand is questionable), you
> will not be able to have your own day in court to fight it, because
> you would have to fight Apple's copyright as well.
> Such a termination clause is especially bad for users outside the
> US, since it makes them indirectly vulnerable to the insane US
> patent system and the incompetent US patent office, which ordinarily
> could not touch them in their own countries.
> Any one of these flaws makes a license unacceptable.
> If these three flaws were solved, the APSL would be a free software
> license with three major practical problems, reminiscent of the NPL:
> * It is not a true copyleft, because it allows linking with other
> files which may be entirely proprietary.
> * It is unfair, since it requires you to give Apple rights
> to your changes which Apple will not give you for its code.
> * It is incompatible with the GNU GPL.
> Of course, the major difference between the NPL and the APSL is that
> the NPL *is* a free software license. These problems are significant
> in the case of the NPL because the NPL has no fatal flaws. Would that
> the same were true of the APSL.
> At a fundamental level, the APSL makes a claim that, if it became
> accepted, would stretch copyright powers in a dangerous way: it claims
> to be able to set conditions for simply *running* the software. As I
> understand it, copyright law in the US does not permit this, except
> when encryption or a license manager is used to enforce the
> conditions. It would be terribly ironic if a failed attempt at making
> a free software license resulted in an effective extension of the
> range of copyright power.
> Aside from this, we must remember that only part of MacOS is being
> released under the APSL. Even if the fatal flaws and practical
> problems of the APSL were fixed, even if it were changed into a very
> good free software license, that would do no good for the other parts
> of MacOS whose source code is not being released at all. We must
> not judge all of a company by just part of what they do.
> Overall, I think that Apple's action is an example of the effects of
> the year-old "open source" movement: of its plan to appeal to business
> with the purely materialistic goal of faster development, while
> putting aside the deeper issues of freedom, community, cooperation,
> and what kind of society we want to live in.
> Apple has grasped perfectly the concept with which "open source" is
> promoted, which is "show users the source and they will help you fix
> bugs". What Apple has not grasped--or has dismissed--is the spirit of
> free software, which is that we form a community to cooperate on the
> commons of software.
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Ean Schuessler Director of Strategic Weapons Systems
Novare International Inc. A Devices that Kill People company
--- Some or all of the above signature may be a joke


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