Licensing

108 views
Skip to first unread message

Arthur Johnson

unread,
Aug 9, 2011, 3:53:05 PM8/9/11
to Kod.app
Hi.

I recently found Kod and finds it very interesting. It's definitely a
really cool app. I was happily surprised when I noticed that the
source code is available on GitHub, but then I found that it's
technically not open source. I was first interested in contributing to
it but now I feel a bit discouraged after I realizing that.

I understand that Kod is a fairly new application and that everything
may not be set in stone yet, so I'm kindly asking what the reasoning
is behind that and if there is a possibility that it is relicensed
under an open source license in the future?

- Arthur

Chris Mear

unread,
Aug 9, 2011, 5:08:03 PM8/9/11
to kod...@googlegroups.com

Some background to your first question:

Rasmus' announcement of publishing the source code for Kod:

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/kod-app/i8gNGJMvXpk

Hacker News thread on Kod's license:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2039658

Motivation behind Brief's license, which Kod's is based on:

http://blog.robrhyne.com/post/1043407467/selling-open-source

Chris

Arthur Johnson

unread,
Aug 10, 2011, 12:50:34 AM8/10/11
to kod...@googlegroups.com
On Tue, Aug 9, 2011 at 11:08 PM, Chris Mear <chri...@gmail.com> wrote:
Some background to your first question:

Rasmus' announcement of publishing the source code for Kod:

 https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/kod-app/i8gNGJMvXpk

Hacker News thread on Kod's license:

 http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2039658

Motivation behind Brief's license, which Kod's is based on:

 http://blog.robrhyne.com/post/1043407467/selling-open-source

Chris

Thanks, that made it more clear.

It's unfortunate that neither Rasmus or Rob (although I'm sure are great programmers) have very little understanding of what the term open source means. Just the public presence of the source code does not make it open, at least according to the definition which most people and governments rely on.

I wish you all the best.

- Arthur
 

Dirk Geurs

unread,
Aug 10, 2011, 3:08:02 PM8/10/11
to Kod.app
Hi Arthur,

On Aug 9, 9:53 pm, Arthur Johnson <arthurxjohn...@gmail.com> wrote:
> I was happily surprised when I noticed that the
> source code is available on GitHub, but then I found that it's
> technically not open source. I was first interested in contributing to
> it but now I feel a bit discouraged after I realizing that.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding something here, but isn't the only added
restriction that we are not allowed to sell Kod for profit? At least
not without any significant modification. And if so, what is your
practical objection to that? Unless you're planning and developing
some commercial fork of Kod, I don't see why this would stop anyone
from contributing.

- Dirk

Alberto Piu

unread,
Aug 10, 2011, 5:32:48 PM8/10/11
to kod...@googlegroups.com
Hi Dirk,

I have a few doubts:

1. Who decides that a modification is a significant modification?
2. The creator of Kod is allowed to sell Kod at any moment?
3. User contributions are now part of Kod. Does that mean that they are now part of
the "whole" mentioned here?

“The Software and/or source code cannot be copied in *whole* and sold
without meaningful modification for a profit.” [1]

Then:

4. Kod is not open source.

I don't know if I can call this a "practical objection"--but that's enough for me.

Alberto

[1] Emphasis by me.

> --
> You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google
> Groups "Kod.app" group. To unsubscribe from this group, send email to
> kod-app+u...@googlegroups.com (More info at http://groups.google.com/group/kod-app)

Agos

unread,
Aug 10, 2011, 5:42:54 PM8/10/11
to kod...@googlegroups.com
What fundamental freedom do you feel it's negated by the current licensing scheme? What "canonic" definition of open source are you implying/referring to? You're a bit vague on the details.

Arthur Johnson

unread,
Aug 10, 2011, 5:44:47 PM8/10/11
to kod...@googlegroups.com
On Wed, Aug 10, 2011 at 9:08 PM, Dirk Geurs <dirk...@mac.com> wrote:
Hi Arthur,

Maybe I'm misunderstanding something here, but isn't the only added
restriction that we are not allowed to sell Kod for profit? At least
not without any significant modification. And if so, what is your
practical objection to that? Unless you're planning and developing
some commercial fork of Kod, I don't see why this would stop anyone
from contributing.

- Dirk

Hi Dirk.

That's actually a really good question. The answer is that I have experience with other projects which in the past have had similar licensing terms and in the long run it has always done more harm than good. It usually works out just fine when it's only a few geeks on a mailing list but as the project matures things like this tends to cause all sorts of problems. One of the most famous examples of this is actually the Linux kernel which initially had a very similar licensing term.

First of all there are political issues related to using a license which has not been approved as an open source license, especially when playing nice with other open source projects. Kod itself it built on top of a lot of other projects and it's possible that at a later point someone will similarly build something else on top of it. This becomes much harder with a questionable license and it's therefore not seen by the community as good behavior.

It may sound like it's a very small and simple restriction but it will actually make it a lot more complicated and that takes us to the more practical issue and that it is that the meaning of it is just not well formulated. There's not a clear definition of what constitutes a meaningful modification or even what it actually means to make a profit. It's not clear what effect this has on open source projects which incorporates Kod in part or as a whole. All this adds up into a lot of questions and grey ares which Alberto summarized very well while I was writing this. That's one of the reasons why we have things like the OSI. People have tried doing this before and the reason why no one is doing it anymore is because it always fails. You can't eat the cookie and still have it left.

That's why I don't like this kind of licensing. It's not that I want to make a commercial fork, but that the long-term gains that you have to throw away in order to prevent someone from doing that just isn't worth it.

- Arthur 

Agos

unread,
Aug 10, 2011, 6:07:26 PM8/10/11
to kod...@googlegroups.com
"There's not a clear definition of what constitutes a meaningful modification or even what it actually means to make a profit."

I don't think that a formal definition of meaningful modification is really needed, as the only thing that this license is going to stop are verbatim copies being sold. Anything more than cosmetic is easily "meaningful". As for "making a profit", I think that the dictionary definition can be enough.


"It's not clear what effect this has on open source projects which incorporates Kod in part or as a whole."

Let's be practical: if it's incorporated in part, it's fine. And why would a desktop application be incorporated as a whole?

"You can't eat the cookie and still have it left."

I think that you're reading a bit too much in this license. They're just (trying to) prevent a behavior which is damaging to the end user. Every contribution, fork, or other intervention *in good faith* will never have problems.

Arthur Johnson

unread,
Aug 10, 2011, 6:36:26 PM8/10/11
to kod...@googlegroups.com
On Wed, Aug 10, 2011 at 11:42 PM, Agos <ara...@gmail.com> wrote:
What fundamental freedom do you feel it's negated by the current licensing scheme? What "canonic" definition of open source are you implying/referring to? You're a bit vague on the details.

I refer to the Open Source Definition which is the definition which most people, companies and governments around the world use when they define the term open source[1]. Although the term is not trademarked it's the most canonical definition that exists.

It's essentially a list of ten rights which every open source license has to fulfill. The licensing scheme used by Kod violates the first right which says that you can't restrict someone from distributing the software, either by selling or giving it away.

- Arthur

Alex Chaffee

unread,
Aug 12, 2011, 3:02:12 PM8/12/11
to kod...@googlegroups.com
And why would a desktop application be incorporated as a whole?

Several distinct applications have been built on top of Eclipse (for example http://www.aptana.com/products/radrails and http://www-01.ibm.com/software/lotus/products/dominodesigner/eclipse.html) and also on top of Eclipse libraries (see http://www.eclipse.org/community/rcp.php). Some are commerical and some are open source. 

I think the parallels between Kod and Eclipse are pretty compelling. They're both GUI IDEs and both are (or at least aspire to be) open source. You should check out their license(s) and see how they solve that specific problem you're worried about (of someone merely renaming and selling Kod wholesale).

> I think that you're reading a bit too much in this license. They're just (trying to) prevent a behavior which is damaging to the end user. Every contribution, fork, or other intervention *in good faith* will never have problems.

Unless you're a lawyer, you can't actually claim that about this license. Over the past 20+ years, lots of smart, well-intentioned FLOSS people have hashed out legal, political, and practical details you couldn't even dream of in your worst nightmares. :-)

 - A

Dirk Geurs

unread,
Aug 13, 2011, 9:01:07 AM8/13/11
to Kod.app
Hi everyone,

On Aug 10, 11:32 pm, Alberto Piu <piu.albe...@gmail.com> wrote:
> “The Software and/or source code cannot be copied in *whole* and sold
> without meaningful modification for a profit.” [1]

I agree that this statement is somewhat ambiguous, but I think it is
safe to say that Kod may be copied and modified in whole (forked),
just not sold. I think this is reasonable considering the fact that
people would attempt to make money of it in de App Store.

On Aug 10, 11:32 pm, Alberto Piu <piu.albe...@gmail.com> wrote:
> 1. Who decides that a modification is a significant modification?
> 2. The creator of Kod is allowed to sell Kod at any moment?

I don't know the license doesn't mention the rights of Kod's creator.
Personally I'm not worried that Rasmus would misuse his position to
profit of others people work. I think it's more likely to happen the
other way around. But I can see why other people are worried. I just
haven't had any bad experiences like that (yet).

On Aug 11, 12:07 am, Agos <arag...@gmail.com> wrote:
> I think that you're reading a bit too much in this license. They're just (trying to) prevent a behavior which is damaging to the end user. Every contribution, fork, or other intervention *in good faith* will never have problems.

Exactly! That being said allot op people seem to be worried about the
license. There would be no harm in clarifying it if that's holding
them back from contributing.

On Aug 10, 11:44 pm, Arthur Johnson <arthurxjohn...@gmail.com> wrote:
> That's why I don't like this kind of licensing. It's not that I want to make
> a commercial fork, but that the long-term gains that you have to throw away
> in order to prevent someone from doing that just isn't worth it.

Thanks for your clarification. Now I can see where you are coming
from. However I do think there is a distinction between middleware
(the linux kernel) and a deployable application (Kod) in that the
latter is much easier to exploit commercially without much effort.
That's why I think it's a good idea to restrict selling copies of Kod
as a whole.

There must be similar open source projects with the same issue. And I
agree that a standardized license would be preferable over a custom
one.

On Aug 12, 9:02 pm, Alex Chaffee <ale...@gmail.com> wrote:
> I think the parallels between Kod and Eclipse are pretty compelling. They're
> both GUI IDEs and both are (or at least aspire to be) open source.

Good point. I'll look into the Eclipse license, there must be a
similar restriction in there that's prohibiting just selling a copy
without 'meaningful modification'.

Let's see if we can get these political issue's out of the way, so we
can get some actual meaningful work done. Because so far only
superficial stuff has be contributed.

- Dirk

Dirk Geurs

unread,
Aug 15, 2011, 10:33:11 AM8/15/11
to Kod.app
Hi,

I checked up on the Eclipse license and apparently I was wrong, you
can sell eclipse for profit without any meaningful modification. This
is what their FAQ has to say about it:

> Can I take a Program licensed under the EPL, compile it without modification, and commercially license the result?
> Yes. You may compile a Program licensed under the EPL without modification and commercially license the result in accordance with the terms of the EPL.

I also browsed through some of the licenses approved by the Open
Source Initiative. One license in particular caught my eye. As the
author of the license explains:

> Non-Profit OSL 3.0
> There is also a new Non-Profit OSL 3.0, identical to OSL 3.0 except that: Under Non-Profit OSL 3.0, Licensor disclaims certain warranties and limits liability from certain types of damages. Those differences are summarized in § 17 of the Non-Profit OSL 3.0, a section that does not appear in OSL 3.0 or AFL 3.0. Because of § 17(a), only non-profit distributors may use the Non-Profit OSL 3.0 license.

http://www.rosenlaw.com/OSL3.0-explained.pdf

Correct me if I'm wrong but this seems like a license that prohibits
commercial redistribution while being approved by the Open Source
Initiative. This seems similar to the custom license Kod currently
has.

What doe you think, would this be a good fit for Kod?

- Dirk
Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages