Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Feedback from OSI legal affairs

I've been in contact with OSI legal affairs and told them we in the Eiffel community considered switching to MIT. I asked them for any ramifications. Their response:
The only substantial legal difference I would ask you about is that the MIT license says "free of charge" and the EFLv2 doesn't mention this at all. Is the "free of charge" verbiage OK with the community? I don't think it precludes people from charging for software if they offer something more such as support, etc.

EFLv2 also suggests things that the MIT license doesn't (it suggests distributing changed software needed by a program that is distributed) but since it doesn't REQUIRE that people do this, and people can still do it if they want, I see no legal difference there.

I don't see any issues with combining the licenses. Is there something specific that you're concerned about?
So basically combining MIT with EFLv2 libraries isn't an issue. She mentions two other issues we might want to think about.

This was surprising:

> I don't think it precludes people
> from charging for software if they
> offer something more such as
> support, etc.

This seems to imply that the code can not be sold. If I understand EFLv2 then nothing prevents me from making a copy of Gobo and selling it.

But the MIT license seems to cover this already:

> ... to deal in the Software
> without restriction, including
> without limitation the rights to
> use, copy, modify, merge, publish,
> distribute, sublicense, and/or
> sell copies of the Software
The main thing that would hinder you from selling Gobo, Brian, is that people might not want to pay for it when they can get it for free.

So you would have to provide some value-added service.

This has always been the case with the GPL, for instance.
OSI legal affairs don't seem to have read the license text very carefully. As Brian points out, the MIT License explicitly permits sale of copies of the software. The payment doesn't even need to be for something "extra" like media or support.

The "free of charge" clearly refers to the granting of permission (license) to deal in the software. So you can give the software to someone or you can sell it to them, but either way you give them permission to modify/redistribute/etc without further payment.
Regarding EFL2's encouragement to publicly release modified source, anyone who wishes to can add a similar encouragement outside of the MIT license, e.g. in the README file. Something like this:

"If you distribute a binary program that depends on a modified version of this package, you are encouraged to publicly release the modified version of this package."

It's non-binding so it wouldn't affect the licensing in any way.
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