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proposed improvements to PostgreSQL license

From: Ned Lilly <ned(at)greatbridge(dot)com>
To: PostgreSQL Hackers <pgsql-hackers(at)postgresql(dot)org>, PostgreSQL General <pgsql-general(at)postgresql(dot)org>, PostgreSQL Announce <pgsql-announce(at)postgresql(dot)org>
Subject: proposed improvements to PostgreSQL license
Date: 2000-07-03 15:09:21
Message-ID: 3960ACA1.C911664A@greatbridge.com (view raw or flat)
Thread:
Lists: pgsql-announcepgsql-generalpgsql-hackers
Greetings all,

I'm sending this to -announce, -hackers, and -general; apologies for
the cross-post.  Replies should automatically go to -general, which
is the best forum for this discussion.  But I wanted to make sure
the largest possible audience of PostgreSQL users had a chance to
comment...

Several weeks ago, we announced the formation of a new company
called Great Bridge, which will professionally market and support
open source software solutions based on PostgreSQL.  As we said at
the time, we've been working since late last year to understand the
software itself, the needs of business customers who might be
inclined to use PostgreSQL, and of course the dynamics of the
PostgreSQL development community.  Our team met with the six members
of the PostgreSQL core steering group in March, and had a good and
open exchange about each other's plans for the future.

One issue that has always been a source of uncertainty - I think for
all of us - has been the license under which PostgreSQL is
distributed.  As we've said publicly on Slashdot, ZDNet, and other
forums, we're big fans of the current Berkeley license; we find it
more "open" than other open source licenses, in the sense that the
user/hacker has almost total freedom as to what he wants to do with
the code.  We've also found, through some rather extensive market
research, that the business community (to which we'll be selling
products and services) vastly prefers it over GPL, or hybrids like
Mozilla, etc.  I don't want to re-start that debate here - the
consensus in the PostgreSQL community over the past few years seems
to be that the Berkeley style license is best suited for the
continued development of PostgreSQL.

What we'd like to propose is a general tightening up of what the
existing license is *supposed* to be doing in the first place -
protecting the developers who worked on the code, and ensuring that
the code stays open source in perpetuity.  Rusty Friddell, the
general counsel of Great Bridge's parent company Landmark
Communications, explained our views on this to the core group in
March, and they expressed an interest in our going ahead with some
research on how the license might be improved.  So Great Bridge went
ahead and engaged two outside law firms to work on it, and we now
have something we're ready to present to the community.  We've
included the core group in early looks at some of the thinking, and
we all feel it's now ready for a full-fledged debate in the broader
hacker world.

I'm including below two things - 1) a note from Rusty explaining a
bit more about what we're trying to do, and 2) the proposed text of
the license itself.  I'll monitor the discussion on the -general
list, and if anyone has any specific questions for Rusty, I'll be
happy to channel them to him.

Thanks,

Ned Lilly
VP Hacker Relations
Great Bridge, LLC

-----

text of note from Rusty Friddell, general counsel of Landmark
Communications, Inc.:

What follows is a suggested addition to the existing Berkeley
license governing the use of PostgreSQL.  The changes are suggested
mainly to address and deal with the many contributions by the hacker
community to the work of the original licensor, the University of
California.  Unlike other open source licenses (GNU, Mozilla,
Interbase), the original Berkeley license does not take into account
that over time a lot of different individual developers and perhaps
some corporate contributors, would have individual copyrights on
substantial portions of the code.

This deficiency has two adverse affects.  First, the contributing
developers are not afforded the protection of the exculpatory
language in "bold face."  Certainly, having given of their time and
creativity without compensation, the developers should be extended
this coverage as clearly as possible.  Second, and admittedly of
significant importance to Great Bridge, the commercial proliferation
of PostgreSQL could be hindered if business users are concerned that
the license might not cover the substantial additions and
improvements made to the code over the last few years.

In developing the new language, the resources of two intellectual
property law firms, one East Coast and one West Coast, were tapped.
No less important was my education by the core group as to what was
good about the existing license.  As a result of the former, you
will see some minor language clean up.  From the latter, you'll note
a pretty strict adherence to the "short and sweet" approach of the
original Berkeley license, particularly as compared to the
lawyer-friendly (that may be an oxymoron) GPL and Mozilla licenses.

No discussion of this type should be without controversy, so I throw
you the following red meat:  the choice of state law has been
selected to cause the application of the Uniform Computer
Information Transactions Act (UCITA) to the usage of the software.

(Pause for outrage to subside.)

Now, I ask that you suspend your initial reaction for a moment and
consider the following.  As to this license, you are not on the
receiving end of an attempted screwing at the hands of some evil
empire desiring to take advantage of defenseless consumers.  You are
the volunteer creators and improvers of this product who, without
remuneration, are providing sophisticated business users with an
alternative to proprietary database software.

I submit that your efforts should be exempted from any potential
liability.  The original Berkeley language sought that result, and
would likely suffice in most states under most circumstances.  The
application of UCITA simply ensures the result that the original
language attempts to achieve.  Much of the rest of the UCITA is
simply inapplicable to this product - the risk that big brother will
reach into your computer and remove Postgres for failure to pay
license fees is simply not present where we're dealing with a free
product.  End of manifesto.

Two states have adopted UCITA - Virginia and Maryland.  Maryland has
an October 1, 2000, effective date, but requires that its laws will
only apply if there is a reasonable connection with the state.
Virginia has an effective date of July 1, 2001, but does not require
a connection with the state and thereby gives somewhat greater
assurance that UCITA will apply to all Postgres-related dealings,
wherever they occur.  The fact that Great Bridge is based in
Virginia is really a complete coincidence.

The revised license also anticipates a concern which many people
raised in a comment to the Great Bridge announcement, and which came
up again in the recent Berkeley DB discussion.  It was the mutual
determination of Great Bridge and the PGSQL core group that, while
none of us wanted to see the software taken private, an attempt to
legislate, through the license, that every modification anyone made
had to be contributed back to the public use, would be poorly
received and would possibly discourage the use by businesses who
might want to make certain improvements for their internal use
only.  Accordingly, the compromise is that no such "poison pill"
type language has been added to the original Berkeley text, although
we have provided that once a contribution to the PostgreSQL project
has been voluntarily made, it is subject to this license and is
irrevocable - which seems to provide the open-source perpetuity that
everyone is looking for.

-----

[To be integrated with the software in such a way that this license
must be seen before downloading can occur]


PostgreSQL Data Base Management System (formerly known as
Postgres95)

This directory contains the _______ release of PostgreSQL, as well
as various post-release patches in the patches directory.  See
INSTALL for the installation notes and HISTORY for the changes.

We also have a WWW home page located at: http://www.postgreSQL.org

-------------------------

PostgreSQL is not public domain software.  It is copyrighted by the
University of California but may be used according to the following
licensing terms:

POSTGRES95 Data Base Management System (formerly known as Postgres,
then as Postgres95).

Copyright (c) 1994-8 Regents of the University of California

Permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute this software and
its documentation for any purpose, without fee, and without a
written agreement is hereby granted, provided that the above
copyright notice and this paragraph and the following two paragraphs
appear in all copies.

IN NO EVENT SHALL THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA BE LIABLE TO ANY
PARTY FOR DIRECT, INDIRECT, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL, OR CONSEQUENTIAL
DAMAGES, INCLUDING LOST PROFITS, ARISING OUT OF THE USE OF THIS
SOFTWARE AND ITS DOCUMENTATION, EVEN IF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SPECIFICALLY DISCLAIMS ANY WARRANTIES,
INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF
MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. THE SOFTWARE
PROVIDED HEREUNDER IS ON AN "AS IS" BASIS, AND THE UNIVERSITY OF
CALIFORNIA HAS NO OBLIGATIONS TO PROVIDE MAINTENANCE, SUPPORT,
UPDATES, ENHANCEMENTS, OR MODIFICATIONS.

-------------------------

Copyright ( 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by various contributors (as
identified in HISTORY) (collectively "Developers") which may be used
according to the following licensing terms:

Worldwide permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute this
software and its documentation for any purpose, without fee, and
without a written agreement is hereby granted, on a non-exclusive
basis, provided that the above copyright notice, this paragraph and
the following paragraphs appear in all copies:

Any person who contributes or submits any modification or other
change to the PostgreSQL software or documentation grants
irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide permission, without charge, to
use, copy, further modify and distribute the same under the terms of
this license.

IN NO EVENT SHALL ANY DEVELOPER BE LIABLE TO ANY PARTY FOR DIRECT,
INDIRECT, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES, INCLUDING,
WITHOUT LIMITATION, LOST PROFITS, ARISING OUT OF THE USE OF THIS
SOFTWARE AND ITS DOCUMENTATION, EVEN IF THE DEVELOPER HAS BEEN
ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

THE DEVELOPERS SPECIFICALLY DISCLAIM ALL WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR
IMPLIED INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF
MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, NEED, OR QUALITY,
AND ANY IMPLIED WARRANTY FROM COURSE OF DEALING OR USAGE OF TRADE.
IN ADDITION, THERE IS NO IMPLIED WARRANTY AGAINST INTERFERENCE WITH
ENJOYMENT OR AGAINST INFRINGEMENT.  THE SOFTWARE AND DOCUMENTATION
PROVIDED HEREUNDER IS ON AN "AS IS" BASIS.  NO DEVELOPER HAS ANY
OBLIGATION TO PROVIDE MAINTENANCE, SUPPORT, UPDATES, ENHANCEMENTS OR
MODIFICATIONS TO OR FOR THE SOFTWARE OR DOCUMENTATION.

The foregoing shall be governed by and construed under the laws of
the State of Virginia.

BY USING THIS SOFTWARE YOU AGREE TO THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS.  IF
YOU DO NOT AGREE TO THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS, YOU SHOULD NOT USE
THIS SOFTWARE.


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