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Re: Some hard numbers on licenses used by elisp packages

From: Richard Stallman
Subject: Re: Some hard numbers on licenses used by elisp packages
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2017 13:16:55 -0400

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I wrote

> Under the malign influence of GitHub, developers often don't bother to
> put on a license.

You responded

  > Github actively encourages users to specify the license.

which appears to disagree.  However,there is no conflict between what
you report and what I wrote.  They appear to conflict, but they really
don't conflict.

You report what GitHub says NOW.  That is a change Github made in
response to the failing grade we gave GitHub two years ago in

The change was an improvement, but it doesn't erase the past.
GitHub operated for many years presenting "no license" as a fine

Thus, I stand by what I wrote.  During those years, GitHub spread a
malign influence against putting on a license.  The effects continue
to spread among the users.

Should we forgive GitHub for the past harm?  That depends on how hard
GitHub works now to correct the past harm.

I don't remember the specifics of what GitHub says now -- I saw it
over a year ago.  ISTR it was not a strong and firm policy, and I was
disappointed.  It was less bad, but not very good.  You described it
with the word "encourages", which also suggests it is not strong and

A weak policy will not suffice, in practice, to undo the past harm.

A strong and firm policy would mean telling all the users: "Warning:
if a source file has no license, you are not authorized to copy it or
redistribute it, let alone change it."  And then saying, "Upload of
software source files not carrying a clear license is not permitted --
don't do it here!"

If GitHub did that, the FSF would welcome its efforts to undo the past
harm, and would no longer blame present-day GitHub for it.  (Our other
criticisms of GitHub, on other issues, would remain active.)

Dr Richard Stallman
President, Free Software Foundation (gnu.org, fsf.org)
Internet Hall-of-Famer (internethalloffame.org)
Skype: No way! See stallman.org/skype.html.

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