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User Licenses vs. Contributor Licenses

I'm starting to think that the dynamics of Open Source production are such that user licenses are crap. Yes, I'm saying that everything that we've put into licenses, all the thought, all the drama, all the durm-und-strang, is wasted. You might wonder why. Why, indeed. Consider that all Open Source licenses are a unilateral grant of privilege. That doesn't reflect the reality of the situation. Yes, somebody can take a code drop, but the advantage of Open Source doesn't exist without community. The value is not in the static code, the value is in the relationships between people. Free Software has never been about freedom (pace RMS). It's been about the community formed around software that is open for community contributions and use. So, it turns out that the part of licensing to which we have paid short shrift, contributor licensing, is the most important. It doesn't really matter what rights the users of the software gets. It matters, instead, what the contributor grants to the project. The relationship between the user and the project is a matter of necessity. If a user gives up that relationship, they lose, so there's no need to control that relationship. Anybody else with me on this? Or am I talkin smack?

Comments

"It doesn't really matter what rights the users of the software gets." An amazing insight of the "black is white" school of thought. However, contrary to your previous comment "OSI means freedom, but the FSF will never reconcile its position with the OSI."

You .... didn't totally rip that out of context, did you? NAHHHHHH! OF COURSE you didn't do that. That would be totally sophomoric, wouldn't it? I'm suggesting that putting the code into the public domain (you *do* agree that public domain gives users enough rights, don't you?) (which is essentually unasking the question of "what rights does a user get" by answering "all of them") and concentrating on the contributor agreement may be more pertinent to achieving the Open Source effect that gives us more freedom and higher quality software.

Free Software is explicitly about Freedom, and, to a critical point, the Freedom(s) of the user(s) of the software, not the creator/developer(s). Now, more than ever, I'm convinced of the evil ('dark side') of the OSI stance. Hopefully, the rest of the board doesn't agree with you.

Freedom is necessary, yes, but freedom is not sufficient. For the freedom to be meaningful, it has to exist in a context. You are free to reverse-compile Windows, but you have to do this as an individual, and you cannot share your work. You must lose your social context. That is why I suggest that given the particulsr level of user freedom afforded by every OSI approved license, the context created by the contributor license is what really matters. As for your assertion that the OSI is evil, I invite you to kneel at the feet of St. Ignucius, since you are straying from the path of science and heaading into the thicket of religion. I choose not to follow you there.

User rights are *the* point, without them nothing else matters.

Given that you merely assert that I am wrong, I can dispense with your objection by asserting that I am right.

>> the advantage of Open Source doesn't exist without community Yes, but the community (a group of people) is tethered by a shared understanding of the rights, restrictions and privileges of the code as described by the license. The user license therefore *defines* the activity of the community in many ways: legally, philosophically, morally, socially, politically, etc. Why assume that there are both users and contributors? With Open Source software, the user *is* the contributor. The license effectively enforces that, whether the user ever decides to contribute or not.

"user" and "contributor" are the names of roles, of which any person might play any combination.