[Python-Dev] License cleanup

James C. Ahlstrom jim@interet.com
Wed, 15 Sep 1999 08:20:54 -0400

Greg Stein wrote:
> On Tue, 14 Sep 1999, Guido van Rossum wrote:
> > I believe the text of the license and forms we use is quite
> > uncontroversial; these very same words have been used for JPython for
> > quite a while.  The words are all on the web:

Oh boy, this is really going to cause trouble.  Where's my flame suit...

> The BSD-ish license that Python has always used is much more preferable. I
> dislike the regulation of the "Python" name, the requirement to
> prominently discuss modifications made, and the revocation clause. I might
> find other items, but that is from a quick read using Lynx on a tiny
> monitor...

I guess I am used to reading license agreements, and I am not very
worried about the new one.  Before we all get upset, lets remember
that Guido works in a large company with lots of lawyers, and he
trapped between a group of Internet geeks (hey, I like Internet
geeks) and his buracracy.

And remember that lawyers respond better to specific proposals
for language changes than philosophical discussion.

First off, the license is not revokable.  It is only revokable
on breach.  If a license can not be revoked on breach it doesn't
really mean anything.  This is totally standard.  Suppose someone
else claims to own Python and starts selling "The True Standard
Python" for $100.  Suppose they change the standard library names
so software only runs on their version.  CNRI should be able to
revoke their license to use Python.  This is something we would
all want CNRI to do.

The protection of the Python name is a necessity.  That is really
all CNRI has, since the license gives away use of the software itself.
If CNRI doesn't own "Python" then it can't object when someone else
claims they own it.  Don't we want them to object?
The license doesn't say you can't use "Python", it sayes you
can't use it in a trademark sense.  I think that means you can say
"I am teaching a course on Python, which is CNRI's software" but not
"I am teaching a course on my Python, all rights reserved".  Actually
this is a little unclear, perhaps (4) could be made a little clearer.

Paragraph (3) is a little troublesome.  I seems to mean that if
you ship a modified Python, you must say it is modified.  I
presume it doesn't mean that you must describe your own code
in the event it incorporates Python.  Really, we need to know what
CNRI wants us to do here.

On the contributions side (wetsign.html) it says you are contributing
software free of third party claims "to the best of your knowledge
and belief" not "represents and warrants" which is different.  CNRI
really has to be told that as far as you know, you didn't steal the
software you are contributing.  This is reasonable.  Actually I
might like to see a warranty disclaimer "NO WARRANTIES etc." like
the license paragraph (5) and (6).  I am not sure I need it since
the contribution is free, but I usually ship free software with
a disclaimer for "fitness for any particular purpose etc.".

This is a pretty weak license agreement.  Remember that if it is
too weak, it prevents CNRI from defending Python against others
who would claim they own it or who claim they are the true source
of the language design (paranoia department: Microsoft's Python++).
We want CNRI to defend Python, right?

Jim Ahlstrom