Subject: Re: good description of the BSD license and philosophy?
To: Kevin Lahey <>
From: Richard Rauch <>
List: netbsd-advocacy
Date: 03/05/2003 03:04:02

One problem with what you ask for is that the GPL is often portrayed
as "protecting the developer" in some sense.  *All* licenses do that,
though, so saying that the Berkeley-style license protects the
developer sounds a bit silly.  To not say it can leave a careless
reader with the impression that the Berkeley license provides less
protection, after comparing a "short list" of both license's features.

Then again, protecting the developers (*all* of the developers, not
just the original developer) is arguably the unifying theme of the
Berkeley I'll risk being a bit silly:

The Berkeley-style license protects the authors of works, even
when the works are made widely available in source form.

No one can take away your rights to something that you create
unless you sign them away (explicitly or implicitly).  When you
license code under a Berkeley-style license, you have not given
away your rights of access to the code at all.   You protect your
association with the work and maximize the appeal for others to
make further extensions.  This sharing is maximized because:

Not only does the Berkeley-style license protect the original
author, it protects derivatives as well.  The license recognizes
that if you add something to a system (however big or small), it
took some time and effort to make that addition.  (I might call
this "fairness"; everyone is entitled to rights over what they have
created, big or small.)  You are free to do with your addition as
you see fit.  You can even take the whole and distribute it in
closed-source form.

One might say that a major aspect of the Berkeley license is one of
trust.  Not necessarily trust that derivative developers will do
with the work only what the original author really wanted (e.g.,
derivatives may be released in binary-only form).  But rather
the trust is a superior product will eventually eclipse an inferior,
or stagnant, product.  If the only way to take a product beyond
its current limitations is via a commercial venture, then so be
it.  But a project that was created and licensed under an open
source license can be reasonably expected to continue to mature.
If it is sophisticated enough to draw commercial development, then
it is reasonable to expect that it will continue to develop under
the original license and will be difficult or impossible to bury
by closed-source derivatives.

In short, to me, it's about trust and fairness, while also suiting
the needs of an open source community.  These are the things that
set it apart from others, IMHO.

  "I probably don't know what I'm talking about."