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A Software License That's Libre But Not Gratis?

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the give-the-customer-what-he-wants dept.

GNU is Not Unix 246

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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fp! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26861109)

fp

No license necessary (3, Informative)

morbiuswilters (604447) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:No license necessary (3, Informative)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861155)

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:No license necessary (2, Insightful)

grantek (979387) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861405)

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:No license necessary (3, Informative)

scientus (1357317) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861591)

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 other developer makes, if they distrobute it.

Re:No license necessary (2, Informative)

grantek (979387) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861645)

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 game engine to create your own game), all you need is a suitable NDA to keep anyone leaking the code to the public.

Re:No license necessary (1, Insightful)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861257)

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 created files in proprietary (new) formats across networks and on their hard drives.

Re:No license necessary (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861265)

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.

Re:No license necessary (3, Insightful)

sowth (748135) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861489)

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:No license necessary (1)

scientus (1357317) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861599)

its the best the person can do, the only way to make this stronger if to have some soft of death clause in a pre-agreed contract before buying that states that if the user distrobutes the software they breech contract and have to pay consequences above and beyond copyright law.

However illicit copying of some types of software is much less prevelent than mega-apps. Also Businesses are less likely to do such a thing, and if the software was custom, there are few with the source so it would be fairily easy to establish evidence against the infringer and eill likely be easier to determine damages.

Re:No license necessary (5, Interesting)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861301)

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.

Re:No license necessary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26861529)

What about fair use? Unlike math theorems, laws aren't necessarily true statements in isolation.

Re:No license necessary (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861575)

Fair use may apply to some personal or educational uses but according to the summary, this is concerning a commercial use. Although those sometimes qualify for fair use, it is quite rare.

Re:No license necessary (4, Informative)

belmolis (702863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861535)

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.

Re:No license necessary (1)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861965)

you may make your own translation and keep it for your own use.

Do you have a citation for that? It does seem odd that copyright law prohibits making translations, even if you don't distribute them, but that's always what I've read. Perhaps this was an oversimplification.

Re:No license necessary (1)

scientus (1357317) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861609)

it depends how deritive works are defined, in this instance modifications of the souce could be considered a use of the software and the main way of using it.

of course copyright law was not created for practical tools. it was designed for art that is largely static after creation, and has been strung in interesting ways to apply to source code and object code. It might be necicary to make clear some rights that copyright law does not in the pre-arraged pre-purchace aggreement.

Re:No license necessary (1, Informative)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861629)

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.

Re:No license necessary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26861933)

Keep them "in house" on the computer of the person who created it. It may constitute distribution if you distribute it internally to other users, install it on a computer where they can reach it...

Re:No license necessary (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861693)

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 perefectly ok to buy a book, and highlight the passages you like, and cut out the pages you don't like, creating a derivative work, regardless of what the original author wants.

(Its not ok, to turn around and start renting those copies out... however, as the blockbuster case determined, but that is a separate issue.)

Re:No license necessary (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861739)

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.

A company won't do it without written permission though, otherwise the copyright holder could change his mind at any time.

Re:No license necessary (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 5 years ago | (#26862011)

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?

Re:No license necessary (1)

scientus (1357317) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861581)

yep, copyright law does all of this, the user can use the software in any manner, but not create copies beyond what is required to use it, nor distribute it, its all very clear and easy.

The user can create derivative products in the strictest sense, but without permission is unable to distribute them unless the part he is distributing has none of the original copyrighted material. (or gets permission)

Re:No license necessary (1)

moderators_are_w*nke (571920) | more than 5 years ago | (#26862025)

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.

And your asking slashdot why? (-1, Flamebait)

allaunjsilverfox2 (882195) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861115)

A basic search will turn up a lot of licenses, how can you be so lazy that you can't type something into Google but are able to submit a Slashdot story?

Re:And your asking slashdot why? (5, Insightful)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861129)

If it is an interesting question, more than just the poster can benefit from the answer.

Re:And your asking slashdot why? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26861267)

Interesting or not, it's still a Slashvertisement by and for one of kdawson's cronies and their product.

Why was this modded troll? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26861825)

This story is just another in a long line of slashverts!

Ya know, /. has a history of it, and it's not like it's a big secret.

Kneejerk and unfair modding of truthful posts just because they make some people uncomfortable is really stupid.

Re:And your asking slashdot why? (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861331)

allaunjsilverfox2's subject line is an interesting question, and more than just the story poster should listen to his answer.

Re:And your asking slashdot why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26861427)

Read Microsoft's Shared Source license.

Re:And your asking slashdot why? (1)

Myuu (529245) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861829)

I think the poster should perhaps look at other commercial Ruby/PHP applications like VBulletin.

Re:And your asking slashdot why? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26861239)

A basic search will turn up a lot of licenses, how can you be so lazy that you can't type something into Google but are able to submit a Slashdot story?

It's not laziness. We just love seeing you get your knickers in a twist.

Re:And your asking slashdot why? (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861269)

If it was so easy why didn't you helped the guy just posting a list of licenses? Or the one which you found better of them?

Re:And your asking slashdot why? (4, Funny)

duncan bayne (544299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861483)

Because it's not about helping, it's about feeling better about himself by proving his intellectual superiority in a public forum.

Just like I did right there ;-)

Re:And your asking slashdot why? (4, Insightful)

hdon (1104251) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861475)

A basic search will turn up a lot of licenses, how can you be so lazy that you can't type something into Google but are able to submit a Slashdot story?

Why read Slashdot at all? Just Google the news, like I do. Just type "What is <current-date> like?" into Google and let'er rip.

Google provides search results, not dialog.

Slashdot used to provide editing, too, but for a while now that's been more of a nuisance than a feature.

*ducks*

Re:And your asking slashdot why? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26862047)

*ducks*

*rabbits*

No (0)

stinerman (812158) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861119)

Anything that allows someone the ability to modify and distribute your stuff automatically means it will be gratis.

With demand being static and supply being essentially infinite, the price will fall to $0.

slashdot legal advice? (5, Informative)

drDugan (219551) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861131)

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

Re:slashdot legal advice? (3, Interesting)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:slashdot legal advice? (5, Interesting)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861229)

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:slashdot legal advice? (2, Informative)

rleibman (622895) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861377)

Dude... you absolutely rock, I love my duet and will be buying a boom soon. A very happy customer

Re:slashdot legal advice? (1, Offtopic)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861389)

Dude... you absolutely rock, I love my duet and will be buying a boom soon. A very happy customer

Kind words, thank you! :)

Re:slashdot legal advice? (1)

Secret Rabbit (914973) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861473)

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 that list. Then *after* that, go to a lawyer, consult and get something drawn up. You're going to want to make sure to explicitly state that the licensee will get the code, be able to make modifications, BUT those modifications will not be supported by your company and doing so will also limit your ability to provide help otherwise. It should also be explicitly stated that they cannot create derivative works or otherwise sell or use your product (directly or indirectly) in any part of a product that they may sell beyond the original agreement.

But, you DO need a lawyer. So, stop being a dumbass asking slashdot about legal advise and go get one.

Re:slashdot legal advice? (1)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861573)

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 provide support), without permitting redistribution.

Re:slashdot legal advice? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861589)

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:slashdot legal advice? (2, Interesting)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861521)

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 software knowledge at all, and few have any interest or experience with IP. This is a rapidly evolving field, which is the kind of thing that scares attorneys who are used to being able to refer to their text books for long standing, well-settled precedents. Granted, my own programming abilities are rudimentary, at best, but a good grasp of the basic concepts and issues in question should prove very useful. Being lumped into a category with slimy litigators and ambulance chasers is certainly not appealing, though I don't anticipate finding any shortage of clients once I pass the bar. Professional legal advice is a must for any serious software company, but finding knowledgeable, affordable counsel can be quite difficult.

Re:slashdot legal advice? (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 5 years ago | (#26862097)

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 different. The terms of your license allow for redistribution of modifications, which I don't think is something the original poster was looking for, and would have substantially complicated the licensing terms.

What the OP wants is a standard license grant, with the additional term "you are permitted to prepare derivitive works of the Software for your own internal use; this does not give you a license to distribute derivitive works or modifications to the Software." Seriously, this is simple stuff that any remotely competent lawyer should be able to handle and is likely to have seen hundreds of times before.

even at a major multi-B corporation with an awesome legal team this was new ground

Don't expect a corporation's legal team to have experience in anything that corporation has never done before. Look at independent copyright lawyers who have worked for many companies; they'll be much more widely experienced. Most major cities should have several firms of copyright lawyers who have plenty of experience in this field.

Re:slashdot legal advice? (1)

duncan bayne (544299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861445)

Definitely - I don't think there's anyone around who'd argue that Ask Slashdot is equivalent to quality legal advice :-)

At the same time though I'm very happy to discuss the issue with people who are interested in it, and perhaps get some tips from people who've BTDT. Hence I posted it to Slashdot anyway ...

An incorrect foundation (3, Interesting)

dyfet (154716) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861151)

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.

Re:An incorrect foundation (4, Insightful)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Mod up (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861681)

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.

They're paying for it but can't give it away??? (1)

Daemonax (1204296) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861153)

I'm I understanding this correctly? They've paid you to write some software for them. I would assume that they would then be the owners of the software, but this doesn't seem to be the case here, as if they were the owners they could give it away as they please. Is this common? I thought that when a client paid for customer software to be written for them, they ended up owning all the rights to the program, but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

Re:They're paying for it but can't give it away??? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26861171)

I don't think you're understanding the situation, sounds like they're distributing a product rather than working contractually with a single client. In other words, people are paying them for software that they already wrote.

Re:They're paying for it but can't give it away??? (0, Redundant)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861195)

It depends on what their employment contract states. By default, works for hire end up being the person who hired the work but if his contract states that he retains the copyright for what he made, then he does.

More then likely, he is a small start up or something that he works at as well as owns or manages. In that case, he is both, the employee and owner which gives him the said control.

Re:They're paying for it but can't give it away??? (2, Informative)

pavon (30274) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861249)

It is unlikely that the person licensing the software is their sole customer, or that they paid for all or even a majority of the software development. When you are a small company who has any interest in building some "equity" from the work you get, you will be constantly be operating in a mode that is neither simply selling shrink-wrapped software or being paid to write software as work-for-hire but a mix of the two. I've never been directly involved in this sort of work, but from what I've seen on the outside, the terms and rights appear to be handled more through contracts than licenses.

Re:They're paying for it but can't give it away??? (1)

duncan bayne (544299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861361)

You'd be right, if they were hiring us to write software for them.

In this case though it's shrinkwrap software that's licensed not purchased. I want to offer the product with full source, and allow the customers to modify it however they want (although, obviously, free support for modified products will be limited).

Essentially the only thing I want to stop them doing is distributing it. Imagine a normal EULA, but instead of the typical prohibitions on reverse engineering and modification, the only significant restriction is on redistribution of the software.

Re:They're paying for it but can't give it away??? (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861417)

It can work any way you want it to, as long as both parties agree. I would assume that if the software developer wants to retain copyright of the software then the fee would reflect that.

If someone approached us to develop a product that they needed, and we could see a market for the product, then an arrangement like a greatly reduced fee or a royalty split would definitely be a possibility.

this sounds like "Shared Source" (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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:this sounds like "Shared Source" (2, Insightful)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861317)

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.

Not much needed (3, Insightful)

Zerth (26112) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Not much needed (1)

duncan bayne (544299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861461)

I'm not even sure that distributing modifications would be verboten ... of course, I can see how that could be gamed, simply by distributing a very large patch :-)

Re. the consulting ... the idea is to rely on licence sales, rather than consulting. Think shrinkwrapped software; if people want to make money by customising my product, I'm okay with that (at least I think I am; I honestly haven't given it much thought).

If I wanted to focus on consulting I'd just release it under the LGPL. The thing is, consulting doesn't scale very well. The most money you can make consulting is rate x # of consultants - whereas the shrinkwrapped software model scales very well indeed.

The Rails Wheels licence system (1)

Mandrel (765308) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861895)

Have a look at the Rails Wheels [railswheels.com] licence system, used by some Ruby on Rails plugins.

It allows customization and redistribution, but ensures that the original author gets paid when any derivative work is in live use on a website.

Plugin authors can allocate income shares to others, giving authors of significant patches an incentive to contribute back to the original (commercial) package.

And your company is going to take advice from (0, Troll)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861173)

random slashdot posters???

I'd suggest asking a damn lawyer, and maybe looking for a job with company that won't be either being sued out of business or having their code redistributed by someone else who did consult a lawyer next week.

What you are asking for would not be libre. (1)

zotz (3951) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861175)

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 defined by the Free Software Foundation which will let you do what you want.

Nothing makes you give copies away gratis, but the libre side prevents you from placing such restrictions on people who get code from you. If they want to make copies of Free code away gratis, the libre part will let them do so. If it didn't, it would not be libre.

all the best,

drew

Re:What you are asking for would not be libre. (1)

duncan bayne (544299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861435)

drew,

I've been assuming that the FSF wouldn't support a licence that didn't allow redistribution. The Free Software Definition [fsf.org] specifies the following freedoms:

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0)
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
  • The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

What I'm looking for is a licence that allows all freedoms except 2 (the freedom to redistribute). That's because freedom 2 is utterly incompatible with the production of commercial software, except where that software is consultingware [cmswatch.com], or tied to expensive hardware in some way.

As an aside: in his article Why Software Should Not Have Owners [gnu.org], Stallman completely misunderstands the point of the voluntary interaction between individuals that underpins a free society:

Whether you give a copy to your friend affects you and your friend much more than it affects me. I shouldn't have the power to tell you not to do these things. No one should.

In fact, if you want to use software, then the owner of the software may nominate the terms under which you use it. Obviously you are free to accept or decline, but once you've accepted, you must abide by the terms of the agreement.

Everyone should have the power to set the terms of an agreement - and the power to accept or decline that agreement.

Terms & Contracts (3, Insightful)

logicnazi (169418) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861183)

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.

Re:Terms & Contracts (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861727)

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? (4, Informative)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861193)

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.

Title: No, Summary: Yes (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26861209)

Firstly, if you are restricting the redistribution then what you are asking for is not "Libre". Redistribution is one of the four freedoms of a Free Software License. If you don't fulfill that you are not asking for a Free License, you are asking for an OPEN SOURCE license (which contrary to popular belief means ONLY that the source code is available, not that you automatically have the right to do with it as you please [gnu.org]).

Anyay, what you are asking in the summary can be done. It is (fairly) common to grant clients the right to use the source code for approved purposes. The Torque game engine has one such license. Several web-based "Enterprise" application I use at work have such licenses. I don't believe any of those use any particular standard license. I would suggest beginning your search here [gnu.org]. Perhaps I should have just used Let me google that for you [tinyurl.com].

Re:Title: No, Summary: Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26861539)

Firstly, if you are restricting the redistribution then what you are asking for is not "Libre". Redistribution is one of the four freedoms of a Free Software License.

That is, of course, assuming you follow the cult of Stallman...

matlab (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861215)

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 (3, Interesting)

Deanalator (806515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861225)

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).

Re:immunity (1)

mrcaseyj (902945) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861577)

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.

You are looking for a non-libre license. (3, Informative)

pthisis (27352) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861375)

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"

Re:You are looking for a non-libre license. (1)

duncan bayne (544299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861465)

Last I checked, the FSF didn't actually define the word libre, although they did nicely market it to mean exactly what they want it to mean :-)

To clarify though: when I spoke of creating derivative works, I meant 'creating derivative works and distributing them ...'. Imagine taking My Product X, modifying it slightly, then onselling it in modified form. That's what I don't want.

Re:You are looking for a non-libre license. (1)

pthisis (27352) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861495)

See the note on redistributing which I posted above.

All the people who _do_ define libre explicitly (the Open Source Definition, the Debian Free Software Guide, etc) are pretty clear about it: if redistributing the work or distributing derivate works is not allowed, then it's not a "libre" license.

It's possible that you've created some strained reading of the FSF's marketing that supports you, but I guarantee you that if you asked someone like Eban Moglen (let alone Richard Stallman) they'd let you know that without allowing redistribution of derived works it ain't libre by the intention of the Free Software movement. Anyone reading their info without an agenda can see that. It's not even open-source, which is the much less radically ideological ideal of the two.

That said, you have every right to distribute your work as you see fit--as far as I'm concerned, it's perfectly reasonable to slap a commercial license on it or to do what you're seeking. I'm just trying to point out that it's not at all "libre but not gratis".

Re:You are looking for a non-libre license. (1)

duncan bayne (544299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861551)

It's possible that you've created some strained reading of the FSF's marketing that supports you ...

Sorry, I wasn't clear.

What I meant was that the FSF has defined 'libre' in its marketing to include the freedom to redistribute; I am arguing that one can have meaningfully free software (that is, where the user is free to use the software as he wishes) without the freedom to redistribute.

In short, I don't agree with the FSF's definition of 'libre'. I'm 100% certain that you're right, in that they won't agree with mine.

Hence my comment re. marketing - the FSF has effectively staked a claim to 'libre' that unsurprisingly dovetails exactly with the way they want all software to be.

Re:You are looking for a non-libre license. (1)

Azh Nazg (826118) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861563)

Given that libre is only used in the English language to refer to what the FSF calls "free software", I'd say that using libre as you are is, at best, an outright lie.

Re:You are looking for a non-libre license. (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26862069)

Bullshit.

What about Cuba Libre [wikipedia.org] or Lucha libre [wikipedia.org]? Both of those were used in English before Stallman wrote his rant, and neither of them have anything to do with the FSF.

If the FSF want to own the word libre like Disney owns words "Mickey Mouse", they should trademark it and sue people when they use it in the 'wrong' way just like Disney do.

I've seen a few companies do this (2, Interesting)

sentientbrendan (316150) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Maybe they are ashamed ? (1)

abies (607076) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861893)

I think that often it might be a fear of showing what kind of code they want customers to pay money for. Security by obscurity also comes into picture.

Re:I've seen a few companies do this (4, Interesting)

ADRA (37398) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

It depends who you are (0, Offtopic)

dbIII (701233) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861399)

If you are a big project like X11 or OpenBSD you can use whatever licence you like.

If you are a small project like Qt with your own open licence you could get hounded for years no matter how much you change it and even after you change it to GPL there will be a bit of bad press. Even if you use the GPL but don't want to go to a newer version until you read it's final form you could have people ranting at you.

So in reality the answer comes down to human nature and whether you'll get noticed or ignored by people that are looking for an example to use to push their own personal politics.

Topic Change (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26861429)

What you want is neither libre nor gratis, and not that unusual for proprietary software. Any chance we could get the topic changed to something more accurate?

Your question makes no sense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26861431)

You say you don't want to tie your client to the usual prohibitions (such as forbidding modification and reverse engineering), but on the other hand you do want to prohibit your client from creating derivative works (i.e., modification) and redistributing your work.

In other words, you want a non-free license for your non-free product. Yet your post mentions the word "libre", which is a reference to freedom, which you don't want to give.

My advice: hire one of Microsoft's lawyers.

To clarify ... (2, Informative)

duncan bayne (544299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861469)

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.

Sounds like BBS software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26861503)

Anyone remember the license for WWIV? You got the source, you could do what you want with it, but you couldn't give it to anyone else.

SAP licences allow source changes (1)

The Good Jim (642796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861625)

The SAP license includes most (but not all) source code, and you can change it - but the change is logged,and if it is a change to a SAP supplied program, this can affect support arrangements. Basically, it lets you change what you wish, but you are responsible for your own changes (don't screw things up and then expect the supplier to fix a problem you caused!). I thing Oracle do the same with their ERP products. You might have a look at some of these licences, as they might give you some ideas of what to, and what not to consider, Jim

the middle ground (1)

randallman (605329) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861635)

I'll be scouring this thread because I think libre/non-gratis software has a future. I put some thoughts down here:

http://tnr.cc/the_software_license.html [tnr.cc]

There are two big advantages to libre software in business:

1. You can customize the software.
2. You're not dependent on the vendor. You can hire a third party to maintain the software.

Number two is posed to create a flourishing technology economy. Say you've got some great accounting software from small vendor X and vendor X goes out of business. You can hire any third party to add new features or fix problems. Or if vendor X ignores your bug reports, you can hire vendor Y to fix the bug. The libre checkbox could be very attractive to businesses.

The first poster is correct. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861659)

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.

I've got just the thing. (-1, Flamebait)

Spit (23158) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861667)

I've got a license here which does exactly what you want. What's your offer? Don't bother if it's not five figures.

Bad Title (1)

FrankDrebin (238464) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861691)

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).

The customers already HAS the freedom to modify (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861697)

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 modifies cars. In fact if you want a special type of vehicle you are pretty much required to modify an existing one.

Imagine what "no modification" and "no redistribution" would mean for the food industry. You couldn't cook anything not even share a biscuit with someone.

But we are talking about media you say. Okay, newspaper cuts. This has died down a bit but most big companies used to have someone reading all newspapers for articles of intrest and cut them out for information and the archive.

So in most countries where idiotic bought laws have not raped the customers basic rights the end-user already HAS the right to modify software AND to distribute these modifications. The legal problem with most mods is that you do NOT pass the original product with it. If I modded a bought copy of a game and modified it and then sold that copy on there is NOTHING that can be done against it under dutch law for instance.

So you are basically asking for a piece of text that already allows customers to do what you want to allow them to do. So include common law with your product and you are done.

Re:The customers already HAS the freedom to modify (2, Informative)

BeaverCleaver (673164) | more than 5 years ago | (#26861959)

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 your own work. No way. It's not just the electronic media that has these restrictions.

Open but not Free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26862085)

You want your software to be open but not free (as Free Software), thats the difference. There are lots of open licenses out there. Even Microsoft have done a few.

Microsoft (1)

sqldr (838964) | more than 5 years ago | (#26862117)

Microsoft already provide this, with their "shared source" license. Have a read of it.

Creative Commons? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26862121)

CC BY-ND-SA

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