Please help me respond to a German user about the GPL

MJ Ray mjr at
Mon Feb 22 22:08:02 UTC 2010

David Gerard <dgerard at>
> More generally: lots of companies think they have to roll their own.
> What can be done to lead them away from this bad idea? e.g. are there
> already essays or other resources as to this? Why do they think this
> is a good idea?

If you don't want to link to his longer papers, David A. Wheeler
has "FLOSS License Proliferation: Still a problem" at

I think Netscape are responsible for this, using their own-branded
license to be free software but give themselves special privileges,
as criticsed by Richard Stallman's On the Netscape Public License

This was bundled up with the Open Source Initiative - I think Netscape
were at the RMS-excluding Freeware Summit that ultimately led to OSI?
So I feel OSI saw the new license and made a clear and overt way for
it to approve new licenses.  OSI talked about that approval process a
lot early on, but has recently acknowledged that license proliferation
is bad:

Seems a bit irritating that Netscape has been omitted from OSI's
history of the issue, though.

debian has been arguing against proliferation for *years*.  The
Debian Free Software Guidelines FAQ number 5 discourages it.
As you know, I think debian usually does the right thing on this.

I've not found anything showing FSF or FSFE advising against writing
new licences.  Maybe it's there, but it's not prominent.  Is this
surprising?  FSF has produced not only GPLv3, but also AGPL, FDL, SFDL
and maybe others while I've not been looking so closely.  The FAQ
isn't a great help - I have met some people that read as an
active encouragement to write a customised licence!

It seems like Ciaran O'Riordan wrote something which was linked from
but clicking "How GPLv3 tackles license proliferation" today just
redisplays the same page for me, and not the column.  It doesn't
seem to be available on the FSFE site, either.

So, personally, I think FSF and FSFE are the weakest groups against
customised licenses just now and could do a lot to help by adding
prominent essays to their sites.

Hope that helps,
MJ Ray (slef)  Webmaster and LMS developer at     | software        |  .... co
IMO only: see |  .... op

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