Re: Objective Caml 2.03/4 released

From: Markus Mottl (
Date: Mon Dec 06 1999 - 00:34:39 MET

From: Markus Mottl <>
Message-Id: <>
Subject: Re: Objective Caml 2.03/4 released
To: (skaller)
Date: Mon, 6 Dec 1999 00:34:39 +0100 (MET)
In-Reply-To: <> from "skaller" at Dec 5, 99 04:46:36 am

> Why was such a grossly restrictive, anti-freedom licence chosen?
> Or do I mis-understand it?

Well, some people would think the other way round... ;-)

> I've been working on a product using ocaml for some time,
> and I need to make money out of it. The new licence seems
> to preclude this, forcing me to give away my source.

I wouldn't say that there is reason for fearing that you cannot distribute
your sources as binary only:

The runtime system and other things that go into the executable are subject
to the GNU *Library* General Public License.

This section might be relevant to you:

    4. You may copy and distribute the Library (or a portion or
  derivative of it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form
  under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you accompany it
  with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must
  be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium
  customarily used for software interchange.

    If distribution of object code is made by offering access to copy
  from a designated place, then offering equivalent access to copy the
  source code from the same place satisfies the requirement to distribute
  the source code, even though third parties are not compelled to copy the
  source along with the object code.

So if I get it right, the only thing you have to do when shipping your
binaries is to either ship the sources *of the runtime libraries*, too, or
to provide an URL to the distribution directory of INRIA so that people can
always access the sources of the linked in libraries.

> There was, some time in the past, a discussion
> about persuading management to switch to ocaml.
> The new licence is a guarrantee it will NEVER be used
> for serious software development. No one can afford
> to develop a production quality software, and then
> be forced to give the it away.

If this were true, no commercial company would want to use gcc - and I am
sure that there are plenty which do.

Reality also shows that it *is* possible to develop free software in
production quality (and higher...).

> The impact on research is serious: no serious researcher
> could sensibly commit to using ocaml for any kind of
> valuable project, since it could not be commericalised
> without a total rewrite.

As long as you do not have to modify the sources of OCaml to develop your
product, everything should be fine. And if you have to modify them, it is
obviously the intention of INRIA that you also distribute the changed
system under the licence in question... - in my eyes the results of public
research *should* also stay free for the public.

> 'free for any use', but I need that to be my decision,
> since I have to generate income to live on somehow.

I'd say that making money by writing software will sooner or later change
to making money by providing support and consulting. Even Richard Stallman
does not object to this - and, as far as I know, makes a living from it...

Furthermore, you should be aware of the "network effect": the more people
use your system (if you make it free software), there will be even more
people who are inclined to use it and thus, even more people will require
your advice.

It is definitely not altruism if companies like e.g. Sun give away
professional software for "free"... (Star Office) - they know what they are

> Please tell me I don't have to go back to using C++. :-(

No, you don't have to... ;-)

Markus Mottl

Markus Mottl,,

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