Public Domain Python

Tim Peters tim_one at
Sat Sep 23 22:32:34 CEST 2000

[Huaiyu Zhu]
> ...
> Now what has this to do with public domain, and with Python?
> Well, I missed Python for many years.  The first time I saw Python
> was from a GPL'ed software [2].  I was beginning to appreciate the
> usefulness of a "freer licence" than GPL, when all of us witnessed
> the current Python licence fiasco.  My reaction is that in the future
> if I put anything valuable out in public I'll only do it under GPL.
> That's the only way to feel safe.

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.

*If* you assign copyright to the FSF too (and they agree to take it), the
FSF promises not to pull that trick, and then you're as safe as the FSF's
promise.  Even GPL fans beat me up for repeating this, but I can take it
<wink>:  if you're going to use the GPL, and doing so because you've thought
about it and understand *why* you're using it, finish the job and assign
copyright to the FSF.  Else you've done nothing of permanent value to
advance your cause.

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.

> 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.

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

More information about the Python-list mailing list