- License-free software
License-free software is
computer softwarethat is copyrighted but is not accompanied by a software license. Such software is rare.
The best-known examples of license-free software were various programs written by
Daniel J. Bernstein, notably qmail, djbdns, daemontools, and ucspi-tcp. These were previously copyrighted and distributed by Bernstein, but were placed into the public domainby Bernstein on December 28, 2007. [cite web | year = 2007| url = http://cr.yp.to/distributors.html | title = Frequently asked questions from distributors | accessdate = 2008-01-18 ] [cite web | year = 2007| url = http://cr.yp.to/qmail/dist.html | title = Information for distributors | accessdate = 2008-01-18 ] ) Another author of license-free software is William Baxter.Fact|date=January 2008
Rights for users
On his [http://cr.yp.to/softwarelaw.html software users' rights] web page, Bernstein explains his belief that under the terms of copyright law itself software users are always allowed to modify software for their own personal use, regardless of license agreements. He says "As long as you're not distributing the software, you have nothing to worry about.". He adds, "If you think you need a [license] from the copyright holder, you've been bamboozled by Microsoft."
He also says that software users are allowed to back up, to compile, and to run the software that they possess.
He further says that "since it's not
copyright infringementfor you to apply a patch, it's also not copyright infringement for someone to give you a patch," noting the case of " Galoob v. Nintendo" as precedent. Thus modified versions of license-free software can legally be distributed in source codeform in whatever way that the original can, by distributing a patch alongside it.
Although they come without a license document, it can be arguedweasel-inline that such programs are legally bound by a license. For example, on his various web pages giving [http://cr.yp.to/distributors.html information for distributors] , Bernstein granted permission for users to redistribute the packages, in
source codeform, verbatim. This permission granted by the copyright holder can be construed as a copyright licenseFact|date=March 2008. However, there is significant and long standing dispute in the community as to its validity and weightFact|date=March 2008, given the transient and wholly electronic nature of the license document.
These concerns have been expressedFact|date=March 2008 for the same reasons about the non-paper licenses of shrink wrapped software. Given Bernstein's own opposition to
software licenses, arguments for the validity of Bernstein's web pages as licenses may also strengthen the case for the validity of "click wrap" end-user license agreements, although this seems unlikely because the latter are contracts, whereas pure copyright licenses need never be seen by a user to be in force.Fact|date=July 2008 This contract variance makes sense: a difference remains in that Bernstein's license is purely permissive whereas most "click wrap" licenses forbid certain actions of the user.Fact|date=January 2008
If someone other than the copyright holder modifies a license-free program, common copyright law forbids this new version from being freely distributed in compiled form. (Modified
source codemay be distributedFact|date=March 2008, as with [http://qmail.org/netqmail/ netqmail] , [http://dqd.sourceforge.net/ dqd] , and Debian's [http://packages.debian.org/stable/mail/qmail-src qmail-src package] , but its use requires every user's computer to have a compiler.) This disagrees with the free softwareand open sourcephilosophiesDubious|date=March 2008, and so license-free software does not meet the Open Source Initiative's open source definitionor the FSF's free software definition.
Advocates of license-free software, such as Bernstein, argue that copyright licenses are harmful because they restrict the freedom to use software, and copyright law provides enough freedom without the need for licenses. But free and open source licenses do not restrict freedoms that license-free advocates want to protect.Dubious|date=March 2008 They in effect allow, with restrictions, certain actions that are disallowed by copyright laws in some jurisdictions. If a license tries to restrict an action allowed by a copyright system, by Bernstein's argument those restrictions can be ignored. In fact, Bernstein's "non-license" of verbatim retransmission of source code is very similar in nature.
The disagreement hampers the spread of license-free software, largely because the free software and open source philosophies are far stronger influences.Fact|date=March 2008 For example, some
Linux distributions classify qmail as "non-free" because when distributors modify it, the modified version cannot be distributed in compiled form.
* [http://thedjbway.org/license_free.html "License Free Software"]
* [http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/117.html 17 USC 117]
* [http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1988/Ukpga_19880048_en_1.htm The U.K. Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988]
* [http://www.hmso.gov.uk/si/si2003/20032498.htm The U.K. Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003]
* [http://web.archive.org/web/20080206094355/http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/index_html (archive.org's snapshotted copy of) The FSF's (erstwhile) categorisation of the qmail licence as "non-free"]
* [http://qmail.org/not-open-source.html "qmail is not open source"] - an article published by Russell Nelson, OSI board member (Note: now changed to "qmail is now open source" - an important difference!)
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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