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Date: 1999-04-19 (17:56)
From: William Chesters <williamc@d...>
Subject: Re: licence issues
Xavier Leroy writes:
 > The intent of this clause is to prevent "unfair" reuse of OCaml code
 > in projects that could be harmful to the whole OCaml effort. e.g. in
 > competitors' projects.  For instance, I believe one could make a
 > killer Java compiler by taking the OCaml native-code generators and
 > garbage collector and bolt them onto a Java front-end.  We feel this
 > would be an unfair use of the OCaml sources, and would compromise our
 > research effort in the field of functional programming.

   I'm sure everyone will understand and respect your point of view,
but many will consider it mistaken.

   You are quite right that you have made something special and
valuable.  And if the licence is very free, then there is a good
chance that other people will find your code base useful in the sort
of way you suggest.  If that happens, you will have made an even
bigger contribution to the public good than you have already, and you
will, whatever happens, get a significant portion of the credit.  Who
knows, maybe the OCaml backend could become quite widely used,
spreading the fruits of your research into the wider world and
becoming a Trojan horse for the language proper.

   If the licence is more restrictive then it won't happen and your
work is virtually certain to remain more or less marginal to the
mainstream industry.  It won't reach critical mass: look at the
influence and resources it took to make Java more or less acceptable.
You will get 100% of the credit but it will be 100% of a smaller cake.

   It seems strongly to me that the objectives of world domination for
OCaml, fair recognition for the achievements of the Cristal team, and
the realisation of all the public good latent in the work, are all
best served by a liberal licence.

   This is the standard theory of open source economics and I think
it's mostly true.

   There, my 2p.  It's not a big deal, and of course, noone is going
to start a flamewar or give up using OCaml whatever you do ...

(P.S. keep up the good work!)