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From Ian Kluft <>
Subject Re: the NPL
Date Mon, 09 Mar 1998 08:26:25 GMT
> From: Brian Behlendorf <>
> I've been spending some time going over the Netscape Public License [...]
> If we were interested in using a chunk of code from the code
> base, for example a I/O library or x-platform threading library, how could
> we do that given that our license is much less restrictive than the NPL?

Nope.  Not without Netscape specifically granting pieces of code to be
placed under the Apache license.

There is no legal way to remove restrictions from a software's license
without going to the author and getting a new license.  Copyright laws
give authors that privilege.  (i.e. the reward for creating a new work is
ownership of it.)

It's the same problem that Apache has had with GPL'ed code.  GPL itself is
incompatible with the Apache license because it's much more restrictive.
To get around it, you'd have to get the authors to give you a new license,
find another source, or write it yourself.  It's no different with the
current NPL draft.  (I wouldn't expect that to change, see below.)

On the other hand... it looks like Netscape's people have been
working with other free software groups like Debian (a.k.a. Software in the
Public Interest, now a non-profit organization).  If Netscape likes some
Apache code, you may be able to get some opportunities from the goodwill
created by that.

Keep in touch with them.  That's probably the best you can do...

> All in all I'm *very* encouraged by the NPL.  If they remove or mitigate
> section 5, as it sounds like they might, then I see a lot of developers
> being interested in working on it.

It looks like Section 5 is intended to protect whoever wrote whatever code.
Right out of the gate, Netscape will be the "Initial Developer" for all of
the code.  But as net.people add new subsystems, the term "Initial Developer"
will apply to the new authors for their subsystems, and assigns them the
same privileges that Netscape reserves for its own code.  I think Netscape
is significantly breaking new ground just saying that.

But don't forget, Netscape is a publicly-traded corporation with the usual
business obligations to its stockholders and employees.  It looks like they
balanced all sides very well for their unique and hopefully precedent-setting
circumstances.  But if you try to look at their perspective, reducing
restrictions to the equivalent of the Apache license (which basically gives
away the code for any use except claiming ownership) would be in conflict
with their obligations as a business.  So I'd guess they'd never loosen
it that much.

[As usual, any opinions expressed here represent myself, not my employer.]
Ian Kluft  KO6YQ PP-ASEL                                  Cisco Systems, Inc. (work) (home)          San Jose, CA

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