RE: It's Dave Winer's turn to get savaged by RMS

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From: Fielding, Roy (
Date: Fri Sep 15 2000 - 21:24:22 PDT

> About "proprietary" vs. "commercial": Apache is commercial. IBM, among
> others, sells it. It was built by commercial developers who were
> working for money. But it's not proprietary. Gopherd is noncommercial
> software developed and released by a university, and could not actually
> be used for commercial purposes, last I heard. But it is proprietary.

That lacks some clue. "Apache httpd" is owned by, and thus is a
proprietary product of, the Apache Software Foundation. It consists of
software non-exclusively licensed to the ASF by many developers, some
of whom were paid to do so by other companies, but the vast majority of
whom were working voluntarily on a community project. The software within
Apache is not proprietary, but the package of software called "Apache httpd"
is proprietary.

Apache is not, and has never been, commercial. There exist companies
that sell other packages that are based on or contain much of Apache,
but they are prevented from calling such packages Apache. The ASF does
not support any of those packages, though many of those packages support
the developers who do support Apache.

Gopherd is a commercial product of the University of Minnesota -- they
sell commercial licenses (or at least did so in the past). It is also
proprietary, since they exclusively own the code base called Gopherd.

The FSF has many proprietary (exclusive right to license) projects and,
AFAIK, no commercial ones.

> Someone on FoRK said that "proprietary" and "commercial" were mutually
> exclusive; I think they meant something like "orthogonal", because a
> lot of software is both proprietary and commercial.

They are othogonal issues, except for the minor detail that it is difficult
to sell (commercial) something that you do not own (proprietary). It is,
however, possible to license things for which you only own the right to
a non-exclusive license, muddying the water a bit.

> About the ASF license: AFAIK, RMS doesn't have any issues with the ASF
> license; it's just that it's written in such a way that you can't
> legally link it with GPL-licensed code. It would certainly be possible
> to change the GPL to accommodate it, but I doubt that this is a high
> enough priority that the FSF will do it.

There is no restriction in the ASF license that makes it illegal to link
it with GPL-licensed code. Any claims to the contrary are an invention of
the person making the claim and not of any legal fact, adjudicated or not.

What is not allowed is the modification of the licensing requirements within
the ASF code simply because it has been linked with GPL code. That, BTW,
is a legal fact as far as copyright law is concerned -- combination of one
work with another work does not change the copyright of either work, but
does require that the terms of copying both works be obeyed for those parts
that are redistributed as a combined work.

There is absolutely nothing whatsoever stopping GPL-based projects from
using code that is based on the ASF (or BSD/Artistic/Python/MIT/...) license
other than some personal opinion held by RMS. However, using the code
does not imply the right to modify the license on the code.


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