Public Domain Python

William Tanksley wtanksle at
Sun Sep 17 02:18:59 CEST 2000

On Sat, 16 Sep 2000 03:24:26 -0400, Tim Peters wrote:
>[William Tanksley]

>> Well, if they [CNRI] can't retroactively change licenses in the future,
>> than why are they being allowed to change them retroactively now?

>Sorry, but I don't know where you get the idea that they are.

Seems pretty obvious to me.

>They've made vague noises about their putative ability to *terminate*
>rights under the CWI license (see the License FAQ), but nothing about
>changing the terms.

Terminating a previously offered license and offering an alternate license
is exactly what I mean by changing license; I don't think there's any
effective difference, except that "changing licenses" is quicker to say.

I *am* glad to read that they believe that this is their right only under
the CWI license; I'm not sure I follow their logic, and I hope they don't
reinvent their logic for their new, improved license.

>> Why isn't BeOpen basing 2.0 off of 1.5.2 instead of 1.6, to avoid
>> the legal wrangling?

>For one thing, Python would have lost 16 months of intense community work by
>backtracking to 1.5.2.

Yeah, that's true -- I was silly to not mention that.  That's a good

>> Do you see how frightening this looks?

>That I do.  But most people have gotten over it by now, and I certainly
>appreciate your efforts at keeping everyone frightened <wink>.

Anytime.  ;-)

Sorry about the alarm.  I just have been through a lot getting Python in
some use at my workplace, and I'm thinking how much HARDER it would have
been to do that after this license fight.

Maybe if we all *sound* really confident about this license not changing
*this* time, perhaps nobody will notice the change.  (I'm not doing very
well at sounding confident.)

>> Add in the fact that the term most under dispute specifies a UCITA state,
>> a state in which software licenses are RIDICULOUSLY slanted in favor of
>> copyright owners and against licensees, and you see another reason to
>> worry.

>Read the license, Billy.  Talk to a lawyer (*we* certainly have).  Find a
>basis for assigning probabilities to these fears.

>> ...and, thinking like my boss, I won't take the risk -- I'll go with a
>> language without the risk, like Perl.

>Then someday I expect you're going to rethink your notion of risk <0.9

<0.9 +/- 0.1 wink>.  Thankfully, my boss was clever enough to notice the
obvious Perl-risk.  I don't know what I would have done if he hadn't -- I
would have probably done those projects in Perl :-).  I've had to do worse
ones in Perl (ugh) while at school.

My boss doesn't want to find a basis for assigning probabilities to fears;
that costs money.  He'd rather preserve clearly defined areas of
uncertainty and doubt -- by which I mean he'd rather pick a license which
had never been challenged and was used by a lot of people.

A for reading the license -- I have.  I also read the previous license,
and it didn't lead me to expect the Spanish Inquisi^W^W^Wany license
change.  I hope that the current license lacks all vulnerability.  I hope
that no one associated with Python makes any kind of similar decisions; I
hope that CNRI is the only 'person' qualified to make that kind of change.

I wish they hadn't.

>> And it *looks* like a serious risk; after all, the community *appears* to
>> be allowing them to change the licenses of 1.3 through 1.5.x
>> retroactively.

>Again, I don't know where you get the idea that CNRI is doing this.  I don't
>have any trouble understanding why you think the community is passive,
>though -- they overwhelmingly are.  I expect that most who actually read the
>license went "huh -- looks pretty good!".

The interesting thing about my brand of paranoia is that I don't mind the
new license; I'm concerned by the FSF's dislike of it (but not seriously
concerned); my big worry is the question of how they got to do this, and
whether they're going to do it again.

It's mildly reassuring to see them claim that they won't do it again.
Very mildly, since I have next to no reason to believe them.

The only things that kept me quiet for so long is:

 - we have good people working on the problem
 - even in the worst case, I personally can ignore the problem and keep
   using Python.

There, I feel much better.  Whew.

>they-should-have-seen-the-first-draft<wink>-ly y'rs  - tim

the-party-of-the-first-part-r00lz-ly y'rs

-William "Billy" Tanksley

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