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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • Last I heard Linus said no to GPL3 and the kernel. Remains to be seen what happens. Good points.
    • Last I heard Linus said no to GPL3 and the kernel.

      Well, my exact phrasing was "The Linux kernel now faces a similar problem if it would wish to adopt a different licence than the GPL version 2 (and no later version)." What I meant was that if at any given time, they would prefer to use a different licence, not necessarily the GPLv3, they would need to ask permission from all the copyright holders, or re-write their code.

      I know of several projects that have changed licensing this way: Mozilla which converted from the MPL to a triple MPL/LGPL/GPL lice

      • Note that the figure of 905 authors probably does not derive from a full blame analysis, in which case it is quite likely that no code remains from a number of minor contributors, which would make the task somewhat less monumental than that number might suggest.

        • Well, a linewise "blame"/"annotate" feature is not an accurate way to determine ownership. For example, let's say I added a huge patch to the perldoc pods adding several sections, and lots of text. My patch as applied.

          Afterwards, someone noticed that all my lines had trailing whitespace, and submitted a patch to remove them. This patch was submitted, and all of my added lines are now marked as his changed lines. As a result, the line-wise blame command will claim I'm not a contributor, while in fact I

          • You are arguing about specific trees, whereas I am talking about the forest: that it is quite likely that the number of contributors who can actually claim copyright today is probably not quite as high as a thousand people.

  • Since all of my Perl code is useless without Perl itself, I'm quite happy for my code to "adapt" with the changing Perl licenses in the same way that Perl itself changes.
    • I think the problem is the ambiguity. Do you mean any version of Perl? The latest version? And what exactly to you mean by "Perl" anyway?

      Perhaps it is intentionally ambiguous, though. I imagine that most people who use the same as Perl terms are simply not that concerned about how their code is used. Even still, I think it would be nice if there were a URL you could point to and say "there, that is what I mean". Something like: http://www.cpan.org/src/LICENSE [cpan.org]
  • The GPL has held up in every single court case against violators in the US and Germany. (I don’t know what the situation is like in other countries. It may differ there.)

    (In most every case, the defendant demurs and settles before the case is actually tried before court. That’s probably not because they’re afraid that the GPL may be deemed invalid.)

    • By disputed I didn't mean "legally" disputed, and being a non-native English speaker I may have misunderstood it. By disputed I meant that it is:

      1. Controversial.
      2. Not fully understood by many FOSS activists, including not by many people who've licensed their code under it.
      3. That some people dislike it, thinks it complicates matters too much, or think it's not needed to protect free software from abuse.

      A certain Israeli BSD developer noted that sites like gpl-violations.org are "the anti-thesis of

      • Right, then “disputed” was the wrong word. “Controversial” would have been a much better choice.

        programmers should just focus on writing good code, and making sure their software is widely used and supported, rather than pursuing people who supposedly violate it.

        See, that’s an excellent demonstration of your point that nobody really understands licences. (By the same token I cannot in good consciousness claim that I understand them; the most I can say is that I have identi

        • Right, then “disputed” was the wrong word. “Controversial” would have been a much better choice.

          Fair enough. "Controversial" it is. I'm pretty sure I heard "disputed" used for non-legal things, but in this context it might be misleading.

          programmers should just focus on writing good code, and making sure their software is widely used and supported, rather than pursuing people who supposedly violate it.

          See, that’s an excellent demonstration of your point that nobody really understands licences. (By the same token I cannot in good consciousness claim that I understand them; the most I can say is that I have identified more errors in my reasoning than many non-lawyer type people.)

          Well, I read the MIT Licence and understood everything there. Then I realised sub-license means something a bit different than what I thought. I also read the SleepyCat (now part of Oracle) BerkeleyDB licence and it was pretty obvious and easy to understand. It is a GPL-like licence, but from what I understood somewhat more liberal in allowing even non-GPL-compatible, and proprietary source to link against it.

          I read the GPLv2 one day and didn't understand most of it. My (superficial I am sure) understanding of the GPLv2 is by reading what educated people said about it and judging for myself what sounds more logical.

          Again, like I wanted to say, some licences can be interpreted in several different ways by the Law. But one doesn't have to be a lawyer specialising in copyright law to be able to have a more superficial understanding of what a licence entails. It helps though.

          The core thing to understand with licences is that the licence never affects the copyright holder. The copyright holder themself can do whatever they damn well please. What the licence regulates is who has what rights when the work has been distributed by one third party to another.

          In this exchange, the GPL favours the recipient. The MITL favours the distributor.

          Not sure I agree with it. Sometimes people can play different roles.

          That’s it. Neither licence is more or less free; both give one party power over the other, they just differ in which party gets the preferential treatment.

          Also, to come back to this point:

          programmers should just focus on writing good code

          This combines at least two fallacious ideas. One of them is that all the skill necessary to drive a software project to success is programming aptitude. (Not true; thus, the fact that some project devotes effort to track down GPL violators does not at all imply diminished effort in programming.) Another is that time is fungible, ie. time you spend watching TV, say, is interchangeable with time you spend programming.

  • The public domain is mainly a feature of US legislation. Similar costructs exist in other jurisdictions, but not everywhere. F.ex., in Germany, you can say you’re putting your work in the public domain all you want but it won’t be legally binding in court.

    Germany, f.ex., has “author’s right,” not “copyright,” and an author can’t renounce their authorship of their work. The only way for their rights to expire is when they die. However, you can grant usage rig

    • I am not a lawyer or a legal expert, but I too heard that the Public Domain is a problematic concept, especially when it comes to software. There's some widely used software out there that's Public Domain [freshmeat.net] and it seems to be doing pretty fine. (Though in one of the latest FLOSS weekly interviews, the SQLite creator and maintainer said he has been providing a for-pay token commercial licence to SQLite to please the lawyers of some companies which have a problem with it.). Nevertheless, you are right that t

      • Yeah, well, individual developers and the small fish companies tend not to care much (as well they don’t tend to care much about licensing in general). For companies large enough to have a legal department, though, it tends to be a worry.

        And yeah, it would be nice if there was a good licence even simpler than the MIT licence. (I’ve expressed this desire before. [perl.org]) My personal preference is LGPL for applications and large libraries and some hypothetical licence even less restrictive than MITL for

        • I never realised the X11L was not free enough. I thought the WTFPL was a nice joke, but I see that it may make some sense. It's too bad the concept of Public Domain is so much legally disputed, especially when it comes to software.

          Well, I'm still going to use the X11L for what I do, as there isn't a better alternative, and people can interpret it to mean that I basically don't care what you do with it. (As long as one doesn't do terminal PD-violating-things like suing me for copyrights violations that

          • : It's too bad the concept of Public Domain is so much legally disputed,

            It is not "disputed". The whole concept Public Domain *does* *not* *exist* outside U.S. legal system. Proposing it or even talking about it is like arguing for, say, U. S. electoral college (if you don't know, you don't want to know) for other countries. Makes no sense whatsoever.

            And in general, I find software people talking about licenses and other legal matters about as funny as lawyers talking about programming.
            • It is not "disputed". The whole concept Public Domain *does* *not* *exist* outside U.S. legal system.

              Are you sure? According to this wikipedia article about the Public Domain [wikipedia.org], it exists in several other countries besides the U.S. (though the article in question may be wrong). I know many countries (including Israel) have a limited term of copyrights, after which something hapens to the work. Normally, I believed it enters the Public Domain (or "Nahh'lath Haklal" in Hebrew), but I could be wrong.

              And in general, I find software people talking about licenses and other legal matters about as funny as lawyers talking about programming.

              I hope you're not proposing that we must not discuss it. Software Licences affect us all, and abusin

  • Module authors should license their code “under the same terms as Perl $VERSION” rather than the common default of “under the same terms as Perl”. Note the presence of a specific version. This addresses the ambiguity problem.

    Licensing the code differently offers no benefit and should be discouraged, even though other licences may be better than the dual licence along various axes.

    Why?

    Because the licence of Perl itself is not going to change any time soon, and any user who uses

    • … err, as a whole.

    • Hi Aristotle!

      Interesting point, but I still disagree. I think you're making here a fallacy, which is of more general nature, but I'll focus on our example. First of all, sometimes Perl code can prove useful without the perl implementation itself. Often it can be converted to python, Ruby, C, Java or a different language directly, often by copying and pasting code and then modifying it. To say nothing of automated Perl-to-Perl6/python/etc. converters like the one Larry Wall started writing. (He has alr

      • OK, but… what is your point? You tried to give an example… I think it kinda fizzled out at the end? I cannot make a coherent argument for anything in particular from what you are saying.

        My point is pretty simple: that users in companies with legal departments are likely to have a list of approved licences for free software, and that using software provided under a licence that is not on that list will require a lengthy process of evaluation, and that in such a company, if Perl is in use, then

        • Hi Aristotle!

          Sorry for the late response.

          OK, but… what is your point? You tried to give an example… I think it kinda fizzled out at the end? I cannot make a coherent argument for anything in particular from what you are saying.

          What I meant to say was that they can take my code, modify it and sublicence it under a different (possibly proprietary licence). Against, most programs on Linux use the LGPLed glibc, which does not allow that, but as a whole proprietary code on Linux is possible. And you can sublicence X-Windows, XLib, or different BSD licences.

          My point is pretty simple: that users in companies with legal departments are likely to have a list of approved licences for free software, and that using software provided under a licence that is not on that list will require a lengthy process of evaluation, and that in such a company, if Perl is in use, then the dual licence is necessarily already on the list of approved licences. So any module deviating from the Perl dual licence will be disadvantaged because developers looking for code to solve some problem are likely to take some other module or even just roll their own before they go through the bureaucracy of getting a new licence approved.

          So far this is all but fact, not opinion, and therefore not subject to dis-/agreement.

          You may dispute the import of this situation, saying that it is too rare among all the users of your code to care about. Maybe you want to claim that the MIT licence is widespread enough that it will be part of any list of approved licences sooner or later.

          But it’s fact that by licensing code under terms other than those of Perl, you create a real potential to inconvenience some users.

          I see. Well, first of all let me say that I am not against big business. (I'm not pro-it either). However, I believe that stu

          • Replying to myself, I'd like to note that often small companies are also stupid in many respects, which is part of the reason why most Startups fail. But it's probably true, that so far the more a company grew, the more procedures it acquired, and the less agile it has become. As opposed to Paul Graham, I do not rule out the possibility of a large but agile and efficient company, but I'm not sure if it has happened yet.

  • It may not be so obvious to a lawyer but quite obviously "same terms as Perl" means the same terms as already accepted by using the version of Perl you're using the module with.

    If the you prefer the Perl[1234] license and the module works with Perl[1234], knock yourself out. But unless I'm using Perl 1, the Perl 1 license doesn't apply - I never used Perl[123] so I've never accepted their licenses. Haven't used Perl4 at current $DayJob so that doesn't touch *me* there, and we've I think stamped out all

    --
    Bill
    # I had a sig when sigs were cool
    use Sig;
    • It may not be so obvious to a lawyer but quite obviously "same terms as Perl" means the same terms as already accepted by using the version of Perl you're using the module with.

      Perhaps from the practical standpoint this is true -- why would I distribute software that you can't actually use? -- but there's at least one court case active right now where one side is arguing in all seriousness that distributing software under the Artistic License means that you're not interested in protecting your copyright