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GNU is Not Unix Software

A Software License That's Libre But Not Gratis? 246

Posted by kdawson
from the give-the-customer-what-he-wants dept.
duncan bayne writes "My company is developing some software using Ruby. It's proprietary software — decidedly not free-as-in-beer — but I don't want to tie my customers down with the usual prohibitions on reverse engineering, modification, etc. After all, they're licensing the product from us, so I think they should be able to use it as they see fit. Does anyone know of an existing license that could be used in this case? Something that gives the customer the freedom to modify the product as they want, but prohibits them from creating derivative works, or redistributing it in any fashion?"
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A Software License That's Libre But Not Gratis?

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  • No license necessary (Score:3, Informative)

    by morbiuswilters (604447) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:03AM (#26861111)
    IANAL, but if you are not imposing a EULA, you shouldn't need any kind of license. End-user licenses restrict what can be done with the copy of the software that is owned. Licenses like the GPL restrict what can be done when redistributing the software, but impose nothing on the end-users. If you are not wanting to permit your end-users to redistribute, simple copyright is enough to protect your rights without the need for an additional license. If the software is not being redistributed and you aren't requiring a EULA, then the end-users are free to modify the software as they see fit (or do anything with it, except redistribute) under existing copyright law. So it seems copyright law as-is protects you from redistribution and permits your users the ability to modify the software, without the need of any license.
    • by gnick (1211984) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:15AM (#26861155) Homepage

      Officially I think you're right. I deal with several vendors who license their stuff to us. We are often trying to work beyond what their out-of-the-box COTS customers want, so we often ask for a little bit of flexibility (APIs for developing our own aps - nothing fancy). They usually ask for a NDA [wikipedia.org], which may be a good idea in this case too, but nothing fancy.

      IANAL.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by grantek (979387)

        Depending on how valuable the source actually is, you could go the TrueCrypt/Firefox route and allow redistribution and modification, but use trademarks to protect your "official" version that has monetary value.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by scientus (1357317)

          thats specifically not what the poster wants, the creator wants to ensure getting paid, therefore the licence within firefox and truecrypt that permits copying (under certain restrictions) is not acceptable in this case.

          Also trademark stuff is valid for all software or anything even without copyright law even if things are in the public domain. Firefox etc all do more which is to copyleft [slashdot.org] it, making sure that people have to let each next user also view the original source, AND the contributions that any oth

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by grantek (979387)

            Depends who your customers are - most companies I've seen are scared shitless of using anything that doesn't have a brand name.

            The only way you can "ensure getting paid" is by not giving the client any freedom (or source) at all - the whole point of the open business models is that the customer can pick up your code and go pay someone else to support it, and that's ironically why you can charge a premium.

            Really, this "licensed codebase" is something different, and it's done all the time (like licensing a ga

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by tomhudson (43916)

              Not to pick a fight, but,

              • Parent poster's theory: "The only way you can "ensure getting paid" is by not giving the client any freedom (or source) at all - the whole point of the open business models is that the customer can pick up your code and go pay someone else to support it, and that's ironically why you can charge a premium."
              • Actual practice: "They wrote it, so it's probably cheaper + safer (fewer bugs will creap in alongside the new features wo want to add) for us to get them to modify it than to
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Brian Gordon (987471)
      I would hesitate to rely on copyright law. Since you're a developer you (should) know that everything gets copied everywhere a zillion times in the natural execution of the application code. This may be trivial but file formats and proprietary network protocols or APIs greatly complicate the issue. The way I understand it is that the idea of "licensing out" software instead of just selling it under existing contract of sale law is that you're granted a license to do all that copying and to freely copy creat
      • Plus of course to effect the control that Microsoft etc and (ahem) the GNU project etc want over what people can do with their IP.
      • by sowth (748135) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @01:51AM (#26861489) Journal

        Since you're a developer you (should) know that everything gets copied everywhere a zillion times in the natural execution of the application code.

        How is this different than people use textbooks? People "copy" them into not only their notes, but their brain, "a zillion times." Or music? Any CD player which has skip protection copies the data to a RAM buffer to carry out its function. Any MP3 player copies the data to a decoder chip which probably also is copied to a RAM buffer before it is copied to the D/A converter. I could go on, but if you don't get it at this point, you are either screwing with me or are really stupid.

        In fact, "copyright" law should have been named distribution rights law because that is what it does. It doesn't really try to enforce copying like you claim it does. It enforces the authors right to control redistributing the material so he or she can make a profit off of his / her work as if that work were a real physical object. If someone copies a work they purchased for their use (as long as they have the material in their possession), that is within the spirit of copyright law. If someone gives (distributes) a copy to someone else while not assigning them the original copy they procured, this is breaking the spirit of copyright law.

        ...and file formats and APIs don't really complicate anything, at least with US law. (Your jurisdiction my vary) Last time I checked the US Copyright Office site, it said names, recipes, numbers and the results of math and the like were not copyrightable. Computer algorithms are the same as "math." Function names and calling them would apply to this category, would they not?

        Obviously anyone can claim what copyright is supposed to be, but this is the way I see it.

        I would also like to point out the constant asinine claims where many "businessmen" say they can micromanage, demand payment, and otherwise control something they have sold to another are an affront to the basic concept of property. Once you sell something, it isn't yours to control!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by akac (571059)

          "but this is the way I see it" means nothing. What matters is how the courts see it, not you.

          As for the last paragraph - that's patently wrong too. Its not the computer code or math that you are copyrighting, it is the entire product of that. Just like nobody can copyright words, but you can copyright a book. It is the collection of words put together that make specific thoughts, ideas, in a particular way.

          And you cannot copy a book or be liable. So you cannot copy a piece of software. That software contain

      • I would hesitate to rely on copyright law. Since you're a developer you (should) know that everything gets copied everywhere a zillion times in the natural execution of the application code. This may be trivial

        And copyright law in most (sane) jurisdiction do consider this trivial too.
        A fine distinction is made between :
        - the several copies made between bought media, computer storage, computer RAM, etc... and all other copies which take part as the normal function of the software.
        - a user making a copy of the physical installation media and starting to sell that one on ebay, without having proper license to do so.

        The first case is just normal function of the way computers work. It's tolerated in a lot of jurisdict

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mdmkolbe (944892)

        The way I understand it is that the idea of "licensing out" software instead of just selling it under existing contract of sale law is that you're granted a license to do all that copying...

        16 USC 117 [cornell.edu] gives you the right to make any copies that are essential to the utilization of the program. No extra license is necessary.

    • by DustyShadow (691635) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:56AM (#26861301) Homepage

      IANAL, but if you are not imposing a EULA, you shouldn't need any kind of license. End-user licenses restrict what can be done with the copy of the software that is owned. Licenses like the GPL restrict what can be done when redistributing the software, but impose nothing on the end-users. If you are not wanting to permit your end-users to redistribute, simple copyright is enough to protect your rights without the need for an additional licenseIf the software is not being redistributed and you aren't requiring a EULA, then the end-users are free to modify the software as they see fit (or do anything with it, except redistribute) under existing copyright law. So it seems copyright law as-is protects you from redistribution and permits your users the ability to modify the software, without the need of any license.

      This is 100% incorrect. Copyright law does not allow some to create a derivative work without the consent of the copyright owner. And when I say derivative, I mean modification. The author of the summary is confused because he or she does not understand that a modification is a derivative work (assuming modification uses the original aspects of the work that the original author created himself.) You are assuming that copyright protects only from redistribution. That is wrong. Here is what the statute says:

      15 USC 106. Exclusive rights in copyrighted works
      Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:
      (1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;
      (2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
      (3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
      (4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;
      (5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and
      (6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

      http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#106 [copyright.gov]

      As you can see, derivative and distribution are two separate rights granted to the copyright holder.

      • by belmolis (702863) <billposer@alum. m i t .edu> on Sunday February 15, 2009 @02:10AM (#26861535) Homepage

        This isn't really accurate. Although it is true that copyright law appears to prohibit the mere creation of a derivative work whether or not it is distributed, in fact some kinds of derivative work are not considered infringing so long as they are not published. If your interpretation were correct, annotating your own copy of a copyrighted book would constitute copyright infringement, which is not the case. You are perfectly free to annotate your books - you are not free to publish your own annotated edition of someone else's book. Similarly, it is infringing to publish a translation of a copyrighted work, but you may make your own translation and keep it for your own use.

        • Well the complicate issue is that copyrights aren't meant to inhibit a person's right to distribute things. Whether or not something is distributed may be legally meaningful, but what the laws are really meant to inhibit is copying (and therefore also the creation of derivative work).

          I agree that it seems like a strange thing these days, when digital copying is so simple. We copy things all the time without thinking of it, so the idea that making copies would be the illegal thing seems crazy. But if you

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Cyberax (705495)

        WRONG!!!

        You are free to create a derivative work of copyrighted material. However, you are NOT free to distribute the end result of your work.

        If you keep modifications in-house then you're OK.

        • I am not sure where you are getting this idea. The Act says "to prepare derivative works" not "distribute derivative works."

          But hey, if you want to subject yourself and your company to the $250,000 statutory damage per violation, go right ahead.

          And before you say it, a derivative work is considered a copy, so 106(3) covers distribution of derivatives as well.

          • by jbolden (176878)

            Copyright law doesn't apply if no copy is made. It is the act of copying that triggers the act in the first place.

        • by j0nb0y (107699) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <003yobnoj>> on Sunday February 15, 2009 @10:00AM (#26863199) Homepage

          And this is why it's not a good idea to get legal advice on slashdot...

          let's review:

          The exclusive rights granted in copyright law are detailed in 17 USC S 106:

          17 USC S 106 Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following: ... (2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;

          The statute uses the word prepare. You will be in violation even if you don't distribute your derivative work. For a case dealing with this specific subject, see Walt Disney Productions v Filmation Associates, at 628 F.Supp. 871. Unfortunately I can't seem to find a copy of it online.

          IANAL

      • by vux984 (928602)

        As you can see, derivative and distribution are two separate rights granted to the copyright holder.

        1) It doesn't really matter. If the copyright holder is ok with them creating a derivate work, then he won't sue them. Its not like the police will intervene and stop anyone from creating a derivative work.

        2) While the author may hold the rights to derivate works, fair use could be used as a defense for a modified/derivative work used within the company made from a legitimately purchased copy.

        So its perefectl

        • 1) It doesn't really matter. If the copyright holder is ok with them creating a derivate work, then he won't sue them. Its not like the police will intervene and stop anyone from creating a derivative work.

          That's my point. Creation of a derivative work is limited to the copyright holder and a right that must be licensed out in order for someone else to do so.

      • This is 100% incorrect. Copyright law does not allow some to create a derivative work without the consent of the copyright owner. And when I say derivative, I mean modification. The author of the summary is confused because he or she does not understand that a modification is a derivative work (assuming modification uses the original aspects of the work that the original author created himself.) You are assuming that copyright protects only from redistribution. That is wrong. Here is what the statute says:

        As you can see, derivative and distribution are two separate rights granted to the copyright holder.

        So, how is it that I can bolt a 750 CFM Holley double pumper and an Edelbrock hirise manifold on my Chevy without GM's permission?

      • by Nuskrad (740518)
        In UK law there's a specific exception that allows modification of software (but not other copyrighted works) unless expressly forbidden in a EULA or other agreement:

        50C.-(1) It is not an infringement of copyright for a lawful user of a copy of a computer program to copy or adapt it, provided that the copying or adapting-

        (a) is necessary for his lawful use; and
        (b) is not prohibited under any term or condition of an agreement regulating the circumstances in which his use is lawful.

        (2) It may, in pa
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tomhudson (43916)

        Every time you load the program into memory, you're creating a derivative work. The copy in memory is NOT an exact binary copy of what's on the disk - in the case of binaries, the loader patches addresses (hence modifying a copy of the "original work"), links to libraries, etc; in the case of scripts, the interpreter creates a modified, derived work when it creates the parse tree from the script, before script execution.

        As you can see, you *have* to have the ability to create derived works, or the program

        • There is a specific statutory provision that covers copies that are loaded into memory. Courts have also ruled this to be fair use.

          And I am pretty sure the Game Genie case was ruled to be a fair use. Fair use doesn't come into play until there is an actual violation. It's been awhile since I've read that case but there is a string of cases that say you are allowed to copy a part of software that is original in order to get to the non-original and non-protectable idea that is behind it, as long as you delete

      • by jbolden (176878)

        There is the original materials clause regarding derivative works. You can utilize materials to produce a derivative work since that doesn't involve copying and thus isn't subject to copyright law.

    • IANAL either, but as far as I am aware, if you don't license your software, your users cannot download or install it as to do so requires them to make a copy.

      This is fine for an old NES game where its always used off the original media but on PCs most people expect to run stuff off their hard disk.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcrbids (148650)

      IANAL, and you should get one.

      I know this is an unpopular opinion, and I'll probably get modded down for this. But seriously, if your enterprise is going to go anywhere, you need competent legal representation from the get go. If you don't have a lawyer on staff or as a partner, you should hunt around and find a decent lawyer who is willing to partner with you for a minority equity stake. Find a reasonably guy who's able to see the long-term potential of your company and is willing to invest the time that i

  • by drDugan (219551) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:09AM (#26861131) Homepage

    um, like, hire a real lawyer. really, dude.

    • by Cadallin (863437) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:22AM (#26861185)

      um, like, hire a real lawyer. really, dude.

      ^ ^ That. Seriously. But secondly, You're asking about EULAs. The GPL is not a EULA. None of the libre/Open Source licenses are EULAs.

      What you want is purely the domain of contract law. The conditions under which you license software you own are between you and the licensee. Plus whatever court has jurisdiction if either of you decides to sue. Hire a lawyer if you're not confident on what provisions are likely to hold up under a judges scrutiny.

    • by seanadams.com (463190) * on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:34AM (#26861229) Homepage

      um, like, hire a real lawyer. really, dude.

      That's real brilliant advice, but the problem is there are astonishingly few lawyers who will have the slightest clue how to answer this question.

      I would suggest that a techie's best bet is to get as informed as possible before taking this to a lawyer, because it's really treading new ground. Can you tell I've been there?

      Slim Devices, and subsequently Logitech, wanted to pursue this kind of license for our firmware, so that we could allow customers to have certain benefits of open source, without enabling competitors to make knock-offs of our hardware products with no effort beyond soldering down the parts.

      Ages ago I came up with the Slim Devices Public Source License [slimdevices.com], which later got rolled into the Logitech Public Source License. Only recently did we actually ship a major firmware product based on it, which is the SqueezeOS platform that underlies the (imminently hackable, linux based) Squeezebox Controller. Customers can see the source code, learn how it works, customize it to their needs, etc, but they are not allow to redistribute without permission. It's not "Open Source" by the official definition, but it's a great compromise IMHO which met our business constraints.

      I searched far and wide for lawyers who understood these technicalities, and even at a major multi-B corporation with an awesome legal team, this was new ground. So educate yourself and check out as many examples as possible, and then find a good IP specialist to help you craft a license, but be prepared to prescribe exactly what you want that license to do.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by rleibman (622895)
        Dude... you absolutely rock, I love my duet and will be buying a boom soon. A very happy customer
      • Treading new ground... not so much. I had a friend do this in the late 90's/2000. And unlike someone else said higher up on this page, you most certainly DO need a license. It will be a separate and different license from the one the original authors hold (obviously). But, it most certainly is necessary.

        To the "asker": I'd recommend looking at the GPL and other restrictive licences to look through things that you both want and don't want. Once complete, take a look and see if you want anything else in

        • There's your license right there (see above). Find a lawyer who isn't afraid of IP to translate it into legalese. That could be the hard part, depending on where you are located, but knowing what you have and what you want to allow is the key. As someone posted earlier though, copyrighting your work but not requiring a restrictive EULA could accomplish what you want, if that is to allow the purchaser to use the product as they see fit (modifying it as needed, perhaps in ways that limit your liability to pro
          • by X0563511 (793323)

            There is no reason the licence needs to be in 'legalese' instead of plain english. Just be careful that there are no loopholes in interpretation.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Taxman415a (863020)

              There is no reason the licence needs to be in 'legalese' instead of plain english. Just be careful that there are no loopholes in interpretation.

              That's what legalese is: removing the loopholes in interpretation from plain English when it is interpreted by the law. Well that and an agreed upon lexicon that the courts and other lawyers have agreed on.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by uvajed_ekil (914487)
        um, like, hire a real lawyer. really, dude.
        That's real brilliant advice, but the problem is there are astonishingly few lawyers who will have the slightest clue how to answer this question.


        That's why I'm going back to school for a law degree and focusing on intellectual property. This is clearly a niche that is growing and will continue to grow but definitely lacks enough "experts," or even many trained practitioners. You are very right, and I hope to capitalize on the fact few lawyers have any softwar
      • by julesh (229690)

        That's real brilliant advice, but the problem is there are astonishingly few lawyers who will have the slightest clue how to answer this question.

        I would suggest that a techie's best bet is to get as informed as possible before taking this to a lawyer, because it's really treading new ground.

        That's very strange, because I've seen this kind of license several times in my experience as an IT consultant. Your license seems to differ a little from what I've seen before, so I suspect your goals were slightly d

      • That's real brilliant advice, but the problem is there are astonishingly few lawyers who will have the slightest clue how to answer this question.

        What a load of crap. I regularly participate in negotiations with lawyers who specialize in software licensing, and every single one I've met would be capable of constructing an equitable agreement to address the OP's situation.

        Believe it or not, techies are not the only people who can be are smart, or competent at their chosen profession. And not all lawyers are

    • First, there is no reason NOT to be. He asked a VERY legitimate question. In fact, it is one that I am surprised that has not be done so far. When you think about it, many of us want open source to succeed, but many of the small companies do not want to supply their competitors either. Until ppl get over their fears about OSS, something like this would be useful.
      Second, The guy was wondering if there was a license that would handle this. Turns out that there really is not. So, yes, it is possible that a la
      • by tverbeek (457094)

        I am surprised that has not be done so far.

        Don't be, because it has been done. Giving clients the source code to modify was fairly common in ye olden dayes, back before hardware became a standardized commodity and software became a mass-market shrinkwrapped product. When a client licensed software, they might buy a support contract which would get them X amount of customization, or they'd get the source code and support it themselves, or both.

      • by ray-auch (454705)

        > He asked a VERY legitimate question. In fact, it is one that I am surprised that has not be done so far.

        This has been done plenty of times before - just probably not on /. because it isn't really a free/open-source thing to do.

        I have licensed several commercial products from other parties with full source and modifcation rights before - but I would regard all the cases as being "commercial / proprietary" software vendors, rather than anywhere near the FOSS world.

        If the number of customers is small I wo

    • by tverbeek (457094)
      A competent contract lawyer who works in the field of software licensing can easily help with this. All the OP needs is a business-to-business software license with a provision that the client gets the source code to modify for their own use as needed. It's something that's been done since long before the GPL or BSD license came along. But a tech looking for an off-the-shelf license to modify and use is a bit like a lawyer downloading the Linux kernel source and trying to hack it to run on his homebrew h
  • by dyfet (154716) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:14AM (#26861151) Homepage

    Like many people, you seem to assume incorrectly that copyright law, as defined historically, can be used to artificially control what people do with something they have received and use in their own privacy in the first place. You actually do not have to do anything outside of existing copyright law as it is historically understood and intended to accomplish what you desire. This is why the GNU General Public License, as a copyright license, has to explicitly offer the right to sub-license (distribute) original or derivative works.

    Now some evil companies try to attach additional restrictions using common contract law to claim additional rights they do not actually have under copyright to deprive people of their existing and even constitutional rights (and what can in many situations be considered contracts of adhesion), and the results of these bastardizations are what is often called things like eula's.

    • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:55AM (#26861293)

      as it is historically understood

      Why is it that you couldn't just say "as it is currently understood"? Obviously because it's not understood that way anymore. Copyright today bears very little resemblance to old copyright law. IANAL, but I read a book [wikipedia.org] once.

      • I, too, deplore the changes in copyright law, like the ridiculous extensions. (What it is now? Life + 70 years?) And... Gawd... not to mention the abomination that is the DMCA.

        Copyright laws were distorted from their original purpose, which was to promote the creation of original works for the public good, to what it is now, which is more like a guaranteed profit factory at the expense of the public. Not good at all. Things were better before the changes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:16AM (#26861159)

    which was the name of Microsoft's family of "not quite open source" licenses a few years back. Several products allowed you to examine the source code but do little else. I don't think they even allowed you to modify and recompile it in those days, but they've since replaced it (IIRC) with the "Microsoft Permissive License" which might be less restrictive.

    One product I remember was Rotor, a sample implementation of the .Net Common Language Runtime (similar to Mono but not as comprehensive). Another was the WTL Win32 GUI framework, which was an alternative to MFC based on ATL (Active Template Library).

    Slashdot was even more heavily anti-MS a few years ago and there used to be withering sarcasm at any mention of "Shared Source"... not so sure about today.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Brian Gordon (987471)

      Slashdot was even more heavily anti-MS a few years ago and there used to be withering sarcasm at any mention of "Shared Source"... not so sure about today.

      That's because it was a pathetic attempt to Extend to the free software community and gain some brownie points with the snowballing number of people who think they're evil. In this case it's someone legitimitely interested in giving freedom and flexibility to his clients but not giving up his business by just giving his product away.

      • That's because it was a pathetic attempt to Extend to the free software community and gain some brownie points with the snowballing number of people who think they're evil. In this case it's someone legitimitely interested in giving freedom and flexibility to his clients but not giving up his business by just giving his product away.

        I thought it was for 'academic' purposes, to demonstrate how real operating systems worked.

        Sure, it might be somewhat nefarious to indoctrinate the youth and academics... however, the Extend/Embrace/Extinguish accusation always struck me as being completely paranoid, as the same logic could just as easily be applied to any good deed, regardless of what the motivation might have been.

        Occam's Razor would most naturally lead to the conclusion that Microsoft wanted to clean up its image by making a few small co

      • by wrook (134116)

        legitimitely interested in giving freedom and flexibility to his clients but not giving up his business by just giving his product away.

        I just want to modify that statement (I hope you don't mind modification and redistribution of your comment :-) ).

        by not giving up his business plan by just allowing redistribution

        While it is true that there are some businesses who haven't figured out that they need to charge for their work, I think they have mostly died out. Charging for your product is one way to make money. Using this method you must create artificial scarcity of your product so that you can charge for making a copy (which is virtually free). Thus you must restrict your customers from making their o

    • Several products allowed you to examine the source code but do little else.

      That product was Windows Vista. [ubuntuforums.org]

    • I don't think anyone objected to Microsoft giving customers source code; it's certainly an improvement on their previous practice of not doing so. What irked people was the term "shared source", which was seen as an attempt to confused the term "open source" by introducing a similar-sounding phrase without the same rights attached to it.

  • Not much needed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zerth (26112) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:18AM (#26861165)

    Slap a big "You can't distribute our code or your modifications" on it.

    Seriously, though, you don't need much of license to cover "hack it, don't share it". It is the copyright/patent crazies that add the "can't decompile, modify, etc". The default state of copyright is you buy it, you can bang on it, you can set fire to it, but you just can't make copies or derivative works.

    All you really need to make clear is that you consider patches, mods, etc to be derivative works and remind them that they can't share them.

    That will last until somebody makes the first User Group list, but at least you tried. Make sure you get enough money up front, because your consulting money will dry up after enough users feel overcharged that one gets into the fixit business.

    • That will last until somebody makes the first User Group list, but at least you tried.

      The model of selling source code with the product has worked for decades on IBM computers. On the other hand, the computers have serial numbers and a portion of the licensed code without source code checks for the serial number, so there is more than trust going on in stopping redistribution of the source code. (Obviously attempts can be made to bypass that.)

      The billions of lines

  • You have been able to buy dBASE based accounting software that comes with source code for years. Some even allowed you to sell modules you developed based on this source - I don't know the details of that... perhaps you paid more for the license which allowed the selling of said modules, perhaps you paid per copy sold. I imagine a little research would turn up the info.

    You can probably easily do what you wish, but you are not likely to (let's say you will not) find a Free license as Free licenses are define

  • Terms & Contracts (Score:4, Insightful)

    by logicnazi (169418) <logicnazi@gmail . c om> on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:21AM (#26861183) Homepage

    I don't remember the exact definitions but I seem to remember that any modified copy of the product that your customers create, even if it is never distributed, counts as a derived work.

    Now if you are really going to be selling this software as a commercial product I think it's a mistake to do so without getting some legal advice. The fact that you are selling your product (instead of giving it away) may very well create implied rights of action, e.g., state or federal law may allow customers to sue you for damages if your product causes data loss or otherwise fails to live up to expectations. Therefore failing to get legal advice might open you up to liability.

    Of course there are probably generic software licensces that are prewritten but the genericity usually comes from the fact that they cover your ass by restricting the customer's rights as much as possible. Still, if you look you might find something.

    What you really seem to want is a licenses that give the customer the rights to use the work and create derivative works as they see fit but not to redistribute the work or any derived works. Since you should be getting legal advice anyway this would be trivial for a lawyer to arrange.

    • by mark-t (151149)

      I don't remember the exact definitions but I seem to remember that any modified copy of the product that your customers create, even if it is never distributed, counts as a derived work.

      While technically correct, if it is never distributed or offered for distribution in any way whatsoever, there is no capability whatsoever to enforce what people do in private. Such private copies are, even though unauthorized, generally implicitly exempt from copyright infringement.

  • Wait, what? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:23AM (#26861193) Homepage Journal

    gives the customer the freedom to modify the product as they want, but prohibits them from creating derivative works

    Modifying the product is creating a derivative work.

    My company is developing some software using Ruby. It's proprietary software â" decidedly not free-as-in-beer â" but I don't want to tie my customers down with the usual prohibitions on reverse engineering, modification, etc. After all, they're licensing the product from us, so I think they should be able to use it as they see fit.

    Look into selling them a copy of your software, instead of a license to use a copy of your software. US copyright law does permit people who actually own a copy of software to make certain kinds of modifications (don't recall what exactly), make the needed copies to actually use it (disk -> ram, etc), and such.

  • by drolli (522659)

    mathworks has been doing that for decades now. They are extremely friendly when a customer gives them a bug report and tells them the place in their code where the bug is buried.

  • immunity (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Deanalator (806515) <pierce403@gmail.com> on Sunday February 15, 2009 @12:34AM (#26861225) Homepage

    You might want to check out Immunity.

    http://www.immunitysec.com/ [immunitysec.com]

    They sell CANVAS, an exploitation framework. A subscription is pretty expensive (that is, dirt cheap compared to core impact), but it comes complete with python source code, and the licence they use gives full rights to modify any of the code as you need to (sort of a requirement for exploit frameworks).

    • by mrcaseyj (902945)

      A company that sells an exploitation framework doesn't have to have a very good contract. They don't have to go to court to get their money. They just tell their customers to pay and they pay. Because something bad might happen to their computers if they don't pay.

  • by pthisis (27352) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @01:15AM (#26861375) Homepage Journal

    Something that gives the customer the freedom to modify the product as they want, but prohibits them from creating derivative works, or redistributing it in any fashion?"

    This question shows a total lack of understanding for what "libre" software is.

    A license along those lines would not be "libre but not gratis". Being freely redistributable and allowing derived works are core parts of "libre" software.

    All the common definitions of "libre" software (OSF, DFSG, etc) include statements like:

    "Free Redistribution

    The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale."

    and:

    "The license must allow modifications and derived works"

  • by sentientbrendan (316150) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @01:22AM (#26861397)

    Obviously Sun used to do something similar with Java.

    The Python IDE I use, Wing, also allows you to access their source so you can recompile on various platforms.

    Historically, AT&T unixes were distributed with source.

    Really, I've always found it weird that proprietary software companies seem to think it's important to keep the source code super secret, as if it were some kind of trade secret. Having the source available for recompile and modification is handy for the user, whereas the risk that someone will copy past your source code is somewhat minimal. After all, integrating different source bases is an enourmous amount of work, and fairly easy to detect after the fact.

    • by ADRA (37398) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @05:56AM (#26862135)

      > important to keep the source code super secret

      The reason will most likely be listed below:

      1. End users making their own changes but still complaining about error that may or may not be a result of their unauthorized modifications

      2. Afraid that other competitors will 'leverage' your investment in development using legal or illegal means.

      3. They don't want anyone to know that they 'leveraged' your investment in development to further their own product using legal or illegal means.

      4. They didn't bother to patent anything and they're relying on being hidden to keep their trade secrets safe.

      5. They license another developer's code which has the exact same limitation, and instead of negotiating with the upstream dev for source distribution rights or reimplementing the needed functionality themselves, they just choose to do nothing.

      Anyways, many development environments/frameworks allow for source distribution because customers want to know why an obscure function 3 stack steps into your API routine is throwing ugly errors at you. With clear-and-open source, a developer could use a debugger and realize that they screwed something up before having to contact support with an obvious (to the original dev) problem.

      Outside development libraries/frameworks and free products, a full source dump of any given product is pretty rare, at least from my experience.

  • To clarify ... (Score:2, Informative)

    by duncan bayne (544299)

    When I wrote:

    but prohibits them from creating derivative works, or redistributing it in any fashion?"

    I meant to imply the redistribution of derivative works there.

    Obviously, modifying the software in-house counts as a derivative work, and I'm okay with that - just not with the idea that customers would then onsell or give away the modified product to other potential customers.

    • Obviously, modifying the software in-house counts as a derivative work, and I'm okay with that - just not with the idea that customers would then onsell or give away the modified product to other potential customers.

      Just selling source code and not granting any license at all would probably accomplish that in practice if not strictly by law. In-house modifications are arguably fair use, and even if not it's basically unenforceable law anyway.

      Personally I'd want to go one step further. I'd like to allow (a

  • You do not need any "licenses" at all. Just retain all copyrights, and SELL (rather than license) the product to your customers.

    You own the copyright so they can not make derivative works, or copy and distribute the product, etc. But they can do whatever they want, internally, with the product they purchased, just like a book.
  • Topic title and summary do not agree, since libre != proprietary, at least going by the FSF definition.

    Kudos for the interest in having license terms less draconian that we see with most commercial software, but this does not make software "free/libre".

    Not a lawyer here, but it seems to me as copyright holder, one can write any license terms at all so long as the licensee is willing accept them (and they are lawful; no clauses calling for sacrificing virgins, etc).

  • EVERY CUSTOMER ALREADY HAS THE RIGHT TO MODIFY ANY PRODUCT HE BUYS AND DISTRUBTE THIS MODIFICATION.

    Lets examine this because with software and media we have allowed ourselves to forget this.

    Cars, the eternal slashdot metaphor for everything, are a prime example. I am allowed to buy ANY car in the world, modify it in any way I want and sell it. THE ONLY restriction in this case is that it must be road safe but this has NOTHING to do with what the original manufacturer wants. There is a HUGE industry that m

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by BeaverCleaver (673164)

      I hate replying to car analogies, but here goes:

      You can buy a car and do whatever you want with it, but this will void the warranty and the manufacturer will not support you if it breaks down.

      You can sell the car, but NO WAY are you allowed to copy the car and sell those copies. Say if you own a car factory, you're not allowed to buy one Ford F100, then reverse-engineer it and sell identical copies as Ford F100s. Nor are you allowed to change, say, the colour of the upholstery, then sell the whole thing as

    • by ADRA (37398)

      I seriously doubt you can buy a ford, rip out its innards and re-sell the product with different parts and still legally call it a ford. You don't have the right to sell something that you've changed and keep the same naming unless the manufacturer has through contract or permission given you the right to use their trademarks. Generally Ford or the like don't care when you make some tweaker variation of their cars, but if you happen to make mods that end up in fatalities and you can be damn sure that they'l

  • Modifying it is creating derivative works.

  • Microsoft already provide this, with their "shared source" license. Have a read of it.
  • The described situation is very common, especially for web applications and for enterprise applications that are supposed to be used in the long term. There is absolutely no magic here and it's actually legally a "well known" situation (no need to invent anything new).

    Simply sell your software as any other proprietary software (pick up any legal contract that suits you) and add a clause that says something like: "the buyer shall receive complete copy of the source code of the applications together with tool

  • Just put some wording like this in the files:

    Copyright 2009, Duncan Bayne. ... what you are asking for is basic copyright protection. In the absence of a license, but with the presence of a copyright notice you are permitting the person/entity that you provided the copy with to take a work and use it anyway they see fit with the restriction that they are not permitted to distribute a copy to any other party.

  • Seems like you want to sell it with commercial license + NDA over the source code. .
  • Radiator (a commercial Radius server) is provided with source code. Their license is at http://www.open.com.au/license.html [open.com.au]. I just read it (again), and the legalese seems rather complete, you just have to remove the sentence saying that derivative works are not permitted, and replace it with something saying that the Licensee is permitted to modify the work for his own use as he sees fit but that any such modifications are to be considered part of the licensed work and may not be distributed to anyone exce

  • Its all free as far as i'm concerned.

  • Something that gives the customer the freedom to modify the product as they want, but prohibits them from creating derivative works...

    "Modifying the product" is "creating derivative works". You want to grant them permission to create derivatives but not grant them permission to distribute copies of either the original or the derivatives. You may also want to require them to keep the source code confidential. I strongly suggest that you consult a copyright attorney with experience with software licensi

  • I was thinking recently that I'd like something similar to this, though I wouldn't call it a "libre" license. The idea is that anyone who purchased the software would get full source code and a license to make any changes without restriction, and they could distribute the software, with or without changes, to anyone who purchased a license. Furthermore, they could resell licenses. So if the base license cost $10, they could make changes and sell the modified software for $15, as long as they turned over
  • The kind of restrictions you are asking for, will by definition make the software non-free (in the GNU sense of the word; in other words, non-Libre, non open source).

    The goals you have in mind can be accomplished quite simply; it was being done *long* before open source became popular. Simply provide them the source code under NDA.

    Or if you want to throw a few irony logs on the fire, you could provide them the software under one of Microsoft's "shared source" licenses that we all love to mock so much, beca

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