Software licenses and releasing Python programs for review

Steve Holden steve at
Tue Jun 7 04:43:12 CEST 2005

max wrote:
> Steven D'Aprano <steve at> wrote in
> news:pan.2005. at 
>>On Mon, 06 Jun 2005 16:12:18 +0000, max wrote:
>>>This is one thing that bothers me about the gpl. It essentially
>>>tries to create 'code as a legal entity'. That is, it gives
>>>rights not to the creator of some code, but to the code itself. 
>>Can you please show me where in the GPL it gives rights to the
>>code itself? Because, frankly, I think you are mistaken.
>>Of course, I might be wrong in this instance, and I always
>>welcome corrections.
>>>For me, the fact 
>>>that corporations are considered people by the law is
>>Ridiculous? I don't think so. Take, for example, Acme Inc. Acme
>>purchases a new factory. Who owns the factory? The CEO? The
>>Chairperson of the Board of Directors? Split in equal shares
>>between all the directors? Split between all the thousands of
>>shareholders? Society has to decide between these methods.
>>(Of course, society can choose to hedge its bets by creating
>>multiple entities that use different rules, such as partnerships,
>>trusts, public corporations, limited corporations, etc.)
>>None of these alternatives are *wrong*, but they all have various
>>disadvantages. The legal fiction that corporations are legally
>>persons is a work-around for these disadvantages, and it works
>>quite well in many circumstances. To call it ridiculous is, well,
>>ridiculous. Ownership is a legal fiction in any case, so it is no
>>more ridiculous to say that a collective entity such as a
>>corporation owns property than it is to say that an individual
>>being owns property. 
>>However, if you wanted to argue that giving corporations all the
>>privileges of legal personhood with none of the responsibilities
>>caused more harm than good, I would agree with you. I take it
>>you've seen "The Corporation"?
> I haven't seen "The Corporation", but yes, I was reaching for the 
> priviledges/responsibilities balance.
>>>Using a license that ends up doing the same thing with code
>>>leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
>>Of course you are free to use some other licence. But without
>>evidence, I do not accept that the GPL attempts to give rights to
> Perhaps 'attempts' is too strong a word. Maybe 'ends up giving' would 
> help my argument more. The best example I can come up with at the 
> moment is programmer A releases a project under the gpl. Programmer B 
> makes a substantial contribution to the project, which pA reads 
> through and accepts. Later, pA decides that he would like to release 
> the project under a more liberal license. To me, whether he legally 
> can under the gpl is a very murky subject, as pB might not agree, and 
> pA, having looked through/thought about pB's contribution might have 
> some trouble proving that he implemented any matching functionality 
> without referencing pB's earlier contribution, which if he did 
> reference it(even by memory), would presumably require him to continue 
> using the gpl.
> I guess my argument is that with multiple contributors, the gpl, in 
> comparison to say, a BSD style license, grants power to the code. If 3 
> people work on a gpl project, they must agree to any changes. If 3 
> people work on a BSD style project, they each can do whatever the hell 
> they like with the code. So, in my opinion, the gpl ends up giving 
> perhaps not rights, but certainly power, to the actual code base.
That argument is bogus if you do what the PSF is attempting to do, which 
is to ask contributors to grant the PSF rights to redistribute under its 
chosen license. After that you can take your contribution and publish it 
in a book, republish it under a different license, whatever. The fact 
that the PSF has a license to redistribute your contribution can't be 
rescinded by your subsequently changing the license you use to 
distribute the software.

How do you manage to equate "must agree to any changes" with "granting 
power to the code"?

> Based on the limited coherence of this answer I probably need to think 
> about it somemore,
> max

Licensing is unfortunately less trivial that we would like it to be.

the-road-t-hell-is-paved-with-good-intentions-ly y'rs  - steve
Steve Holden        +1 703 861 4237  +1 800 494 3119
Holden Web LLC   
Python Web Programming

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