Public Domain Python

Huaiyu Zhu hzhu at
Mon Sep 25 21:01:59 CEST 2000

On Sat, 23 Sep 2000 16:32:34 -0400, Tim Peters <tim_one at> wrote:
>Safe from what, though?  The copyright holder can change a license any time
>they feel like it, and the GPL has no magical power to prevent that.  It's
>just a license, no better or worse in that respect than any other.

Safe from the knowledge that, whatever the copyright holder may or may not
change the licence to, everything that had been licenced as GPL will retain
a GPL forever.  If I'm not satisfied with the new licence, I could just fork
from there with the GPL I already got.  A user who got a GPLed code is
guaranteed a perpetual right to do anything with it compatible with the
licence he got with it, not with any future or additional licences. 

[snip discussion of assigning copyright to FSF]

Yes, this would be useful for fighting licence violations.

>Or you can put your stuff in the public domain, which, by removing copyright
>entirely, prevents anyone (including you!) from ever asserting copyright on
>it.  It also prevents you from telling anyone else what they can do with it.

That's another alternative.  But it requires giving up copyright.

>> If Python had been GPL'ed from the very beginning, would it be better or
>> worse off? This is anybody's guess, but it is sure that its licencing
>> would be much more stable and simpler than it is today.
>Sorry, but so long as CNRI remained the primary copyright holder, *nothing*
>about Python's licensing status would be different today.  They could still
>put a new license on 1.6, and there's nothing anyone could do to stop that.
>It's not the license that makes the rules, it's the copyright holder:  a
>license merely tells you how they felt about sharing their rights in the
>past; it can't stop them from changing their mind later.

Here's a scenario: Suppose Python had been GPLed with CNRI as copyright
holder, and CNRI announced that 1.6 would have a different licence.  The
developers could take the CVS tree at that time and release 1.6 under GPL.
If the developers can't do that due to employment contracts, anybody else
could do it.  Then when they move to BeOpen they could start from the
competing 1.6 under GPL.  (Here 'GPL' is a generic term including 'LGPL'.)
The only code CNRI could prevent others from using under GPL are those that
have not been published under GPL.  If they are ever going release these
codes that has to be GPL'ed as well (if it falls under derivative work).

>illusory-safety-isn't-really-better-than-none-ly y'rs  - tim

With GPL, what you see is what you get - there's no illusion to something
free that could be reclaimed by the owner in the future.


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