In the [Choosing a software license](https://man.sr.ht/license.md)
document, the framing is currently:
* I want others to share their improvements with me. [GPL family]
* I want a simple license with few obligations. [MIT, BSD 3-clause]
* I want to protect my company's trademarks and license my patents.
I think the mentality of SourceHut regarding ethical/political issues is
that you should properly and honestly think about them and then do what
you consider good. To the best of my current understanding, people
choose different free software licenses because they have a different
view on the following question: Which freedoms should I give people /
which freedoms should people have?
I assume most people would agree that whatever freedoms every human
should have, these freedoms should not include restricting other humans'
freedoms. Compare this with e.g. Immanuel Kant's Categorical imperative
. It is important to understand that this doesn't necessarily lead
to strong copyleft licensing, because it strongly depends on what
freedom means: Does freedom include the freedom to take a piece of
software and make a proprietary software out of it? Then I should not
be allowed to restrict someone else's freedom to do that.
This roughly leads to the following framing:
* Everyone should be free to use, study, share and improve software they
interact with. [AGPL, GPL]
* Everyone should be free to use, study, share and improve the code I
wrote. [LGPL. Explain how this enables certain proprietary uses,
which means more end users will have software freedom for at least a
part of their software.]
* Everyone should be free to use the code for any purpose, even
proprietary software. [Apache 2.0, MIT, BSD 3-clause]
I am particularily worried about the framing of "I want a simple license
with few obligations." This makes it sound as if the default answer to
the underlying ethical/political question is "software freedom should
include the freedom to take a piece of FOSS and make proprietary
software out of it". Given the assumption that people's freedom should
not include restricting other people's freedom, this "default answer"
implies there is no such thing as the four freedoms that everyone should
have. Since AFAICT this is not SourceHut's ethical/political view, it
should not implicitly make such a statement in such an important
Note also that the AGPL3's preamble says "A *secondary benefit* of
defending all users' freedom is that improvements made in alternate
versions of the program, if they receive widespread use, become
available for other developers to incorporate." (emphasis mine) This is
quite different from the framing "I want others to share their
improvements with me." The main reason for choosing the AGPL, according
to the AGPL itself, is to protect the end users' software freedom.
Since this framing happens to naturally make the same split into three
options as https://licenseuse.org (by Bruce Perens), I intentionally
listed the AGPL, LGPL and Apache licenses first, because they are the
licenses he recommends. This also happens to order the licenses from
strongest copyleft to most permissive.
Should I send a patch for this?
On Fri 14 May 2021 at 07:34:09 -1000, Drew DeVault wrote:
> Hi Michael! I don't think that this page is the appropriate place for a
> fully fleshed out introduction to the philosophy of software licensing.
> Its purpose is to offer quick answers to those who don't already have a
I had indeed wondered whether I would also write an introductory
paragraph that refers to the ethical/political nature of the decision.
I can relate with the argument that the page is there only to provide
pointers, so no further introductory text should be added.
> Further in-depth research is at their own prerogative.
Would only changing the headings (and accordingly the grouping of the
licenses) already be too opinionated?
Another issue might be that the first heading would hit people out of the
blue if there's no introductory paragraph. Maybe the necessary bit of
context could be provided by changing the first sentence after the first
heading to become something like this:
| # Everyone should be free to use, study, share and improve software they interact with.
| If you want to contribute to a commons that is licensed for this
| purpose, consider the GNU General Public License, published by the
| Free Software Foundation.
In the third proposed heading, I would say "including proprietary
software" instead of "even proprietary software", because it's more
I step back on the proposal to list the AGPL and Apache 2.0 first in
their respective sections, because that is probably too opinionated.
The order would stay as it is currently, only the grouping would change.