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DOM DOM binding and free software

From: Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org>
Date: Sat, 18 Dec 1999 22:00:55 -0500 (EST)
Message-Id: <199912190300.WAA25834@delysid.gnu.org>
To: www-dom@w3.org
I hear that there is an issue about which license to use in the DOM
Java bindings, and in particular, whether to allow certain kinds of
modifications that would conflict with a standard.  My information is
fragmentary, so if I have misunderstood the situation, please forgive
me.

One of the fundamental freedoms that defines free software (see
http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html for the definition) is that
users are free to publish modified versions--modified in whatever
way they find useful, whether other people like the changes or not.

It is ok to have requirements for labeling of modifications, or other
details of how to publish modified versions, as long as those don't
substantially impede the publication and use of them.  For example,
the GNU GPL and the GNU Lesser GPL both require modified versions
be clearly labeled as modified.

The idea of legally restricting modification of a program to require
compliance with some standard arises over and over.  That restricts
the technical substance of modifications, so it clearly makes the
program non-free.

Standards are useful, and it is good to encourage people to follow
them.  But they are conventions, not moral laws; they are not
important enough to justify legally compelling people.  We have no
standard so important and useful as the vocabulary of English, but you
would not want people to be imprisoned for using words nonstandardly.

Nonstandard modifications can be useful.  Adding nonstandard features
to a language implementation can be very useful (look at GCC, for
example, which extends the C specification with many interesting
features).  Sure, some users would rather stick to the standard
features--and they are free to do so.  But other users have other
goals and interests.

I hope you will choose a license for this package that makes it free
software.  It is also important, as a practical matter, to pick a
license that is compatible with the GPL, so that this package can be
linked (statically or dynamically) with GPL-covered packages.

If you are writing a program, and would like to talk with me about
license issues to make sure it will be free software in a good way,
please send me mail.
Received on Sunday, 19 December 1999 07:05:42 GMT

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