Re: Issues of GPL'ed (was [RELEASE] Wilderness/ASCII)

From: James Turner (turnerjh@XTN.NET)
Date: 06/19/98

"d. hall" <dhall@OOI.NET> writes:

> > I see no real problem with this.  If the codebase could be used for
> > charging, we'd see a flood of charge-based muds.  But of course this
> > wouldn't work because most would be stock.  People would play on the
> > free ones and ignore the mostly-stock charge ones.  There are no free
> > lunches, which includes making money from muds.  People won't pay
> > unless there's something new, fresh, unique.
> You're missing the point.  If you think about it, the concept of muds is
> the opposite of the GPL.  The GPL was meant to make "free software" (think
> free speech and not free beer[1]).  The FSF and others often can and do
> make money from these products, either via secondary means (distribution)
> or via software support or grants.  The source code is to be released since
> it truly promotes the open atmosphere.

No... I didn't miss the point.  It is rare that the author of a GPL'd
piece of code makes money from it.  It is rare that anyone makes any
profit from a single piece of GPL'd software.  It is supporting these
packages that bring in money, and not always to the original coders.
Very few organizations employ coders whose sole job is to produce
GPL'd software.

I disagree that muds are the opposite of the GPL.  The GPL's purpose
is to provide a shield for free software so that no one takes your
work, changes it, and makes it proprietary.  How often do you hear
about someone giving binary copies of their mud away?  Rare.  I don't
think I've ever heard of it happening.  The GPL keeps others from
making your software proprietary.

So in a sense, part of the GPL wouldn't really be exercised.  It would
prevent people from taking the code, changing it, and selling it only
to a select few, however.

Operating a mud is a public service.

There is one issue with the Circle license that is somewhat painful.
You can't accept donations, not in any form.  You can't even accept
money from someone to pay for your out of pocket expenses.  I
personally find soliciting donations somewhat iffy practice in
general, but the stance in the Circle license is in my mind a bit
harsh.  There are loopholes to this that can avoid the Circle license,
but it's still a bit... messy.

The Circle license is far, far too vague.  What is a player?  What is
an administrator?  If I have a mortal on my mud, am I a player?  What
if my wife pays for the site we run on, but she plays the mud and is
an imp.  Is that a player paying for out of pocket expenses?

I highly doubt the Circle license would ever hold up in court.  Heck,
it violated the Diku license by including the Diku license in the
license.doc file (ie, the original license is not distributed
unmodified... it is a part of a larger file, thereby not the original
file.  Picky, but that's the kind of thing lawsuits are made on).

> Take most muds, using Diku as a basis, source other than base source is not
> openly distributed, it's kept very closely guarded, therefore not "free",
> but you cannot charge for it's use, or nearly anything else associated with
> it, so it is free [beer].

Most muds are just variations on Circle, which is freely distributed.
Since the code isn't distributed, the software doesn't qualify as free
or proprietary.  The GPL doesn't apply if you don't distribute changes.

> > A GPL'd mud wouldn't be a problem.  A lot of companies (cygnus for
> > one) make money doing custom alterations of GPL'd software or porting
> > it to embedded markets.  Should Cygnus be prevented from making money
> > frmo the code?
> Any strictly GPL'ed DIKU-style mud would go against the grain of why the
> original DIKU team originally programmed this game.  They made it for fun
> and hoping it would benefit people via recreational means.  Jeremy has gone
> out of his way to also strictly enforce this same philosophy.  It's
> important to the online community to consider these style games, like
> netrek and mu* to be free, with the advent of online games like Origin's
> Ultima Online.

So you're saying it would be doing the community a disservice to
release a mud under the GPL?  That's ridiculous. Yes it might end up
with some muds charging, but do you trally think they would last?  Who
would pay to play a game that has a dozen copies all around?  But if
the code were significantly different, enough to be a truly unique
experience, then the authors who made it have a right to be
compensated if they wish.

Just because Jeremy and the Diku team were overly generous doesn't
mean we have to be.  The Circle license, unlike the Diku license,
prohibits all kinds of receiving money for the work you do.  How many
pay diku's do you see out there?  You could charge to run one if you
wish (examine the license... it merely says profit... money can be
received without being personal profit).

At least the GPL was made by lawyers and has a good chance of standing
up in court.  The Circle license makes the Diku code more restrictive,
thereby lessening its true freedom.

> > Perhaps add a clause to the GPL stating that running the code in a
> > public environment would require the release of the source within a
> > year of opening, though that would be a bit unpalletable to most
> > people.  But in and of itself the GPL is fairly well suited for a mud
> > license IMO.
> Charging for games and Diku's licenses vs. GPL are two completely different
> issues since they involve two totally different concepts.  You could GPL
> and Diku license a mud source, but just to strictly GPL would not conform
> to Diku's original license.  You must add in clauses for use of source and
> derivatives thereof.

I didn't say anything about turning Circle into a GPL'd piece of
software; I merely mused on the idea of a GPL'd mud (and it turns out
mud++ is one... grats on that, George).

Licenses are touchy, almost religious issues.  Coders aren't
lawyers... leave the license making to the professionals ;)

I should state that I personally very much like Circle.  To me, its
license is more than acceptable, even if it might be unenforceable.
Jeremy has indeed done the mud community a great service.

A lot of this post might be seen as mincing words over the particulars
of the various licenses... but we as a community really need to be
careful about this kind of thing.  If we want to use a license, it
would generally be in our best legal interests to use one designed by
professionals.  Few of us are lawyers, or have fiances who are...

James Turner     

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