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<title>The Problems of the Plan 9 License
- GNU Project - Free Software Foundation (FSF)</title> Foundation</title>
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<h2>The Problems of the (Earlier) Plan 9 License</h2>

<p>by <a href="http://www.stallman.org/"><strong>Richard Stallman</strong></a></p>

<p><em>Note:</em> This applies to the earlier license used for Plan 9.
The current license of Plan 9 does qualify as free software (and also
as open source).  So this article's specific example is of historical
relevance only.  Nonetheless, the general point remains valid.</p>

<hr />

<p>
When I saw the announcement that the Plan 9 software had been released
as “open source”, I wondered whether it might be free
software as well.  After studying the license, my conclusion was that
it is not free; the license contains several restrictions that are
totally unacceptable for the Free Software Movement.  (See
<a href="/philosophy/free-sw.html">http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html</a>.)</p>

<p>
I am not a supporter of the Open Source Movement, but I was glad when
one of their leaders told me they don't consider the license
acceptable either.  When the developers of Plan 9 describe it as
“open source”, they are altering the meaning of that term
and thus spreading confusion.  (The term “open source” is
widely misunderstood;
see <a href="/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html">http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html</a>.)</p>

<p>
Here is a list of the problems that I found in the Plan 9 license.
Some provisions restrict the Plan 9 software so that it is clearly
non-free;
nonfree; others are just extremely obnoxious.</p>

<p>
First, here are the provisions that make the software non-free.</p> nonfree.</p>
<p>
<strong>
   You agree to provide the Original Contributor, at its request, with a
   copy of the complete Source Code version, Object Code version and
   related documentation for Modifications created or contributed to by
   You if used for any purpose.
</strong></p>
<p>
This prohibits modifications for private use, denying the users a
basic right.</p>
<p>
<strong>
   and may, at Your option, include a reasonable charge for the cost
   of any media.
</strong></p>
<p>
This seems to limit the price that may be charged for an initial
distribution, prohibiting selling copies for a profit.</p>
<p>
<strong>
   Distribution of Licensed Software to third parties pursuant to this
   grant shall be subject to the same terms and conditions as set
   forth in this Agreement,
</strong></p>
<p>
This seems to say that when you redistribute you must insist on a contract
with the recipients, just as Lucent demands when you download it.</p>
<p>
<strong>
    1. The licenses and rights granted under this Agreement shall
       terminate automatically if (i) You fail to comply with all of the
       terms and conditions herein; or (ii) You initiate or participate
       in any intellectual property action against Original Contributor
       and/or another Contributor.
</strong></p>
<p>
This seemed reasonable to me at first glance, but later I realized
that it goes too far.  A retaliation clause like this would be
legitimate if it were limited to patents, but this one is not.  It
would mean that if Lucent or some other contributor violates the
license of your GPL-covered free software package, and you try to
enforce that license, you would lose the right to use the Plan 9 code.</p>
<p>
<strong>
     You agree that, if you export or
   re-export the Licensed Software or any modifications to it, You are
   responsible for compliance with the United States Export
   Administration Regulations and hereby indemnify the Original
   Contributor and all other Contributors for any liability incurred as a
   result.
</strong></p>
<p>   
It is unacceptable for a license to require compliance with US export
control regulations.  Laws being what they are, these regulations
apply <em>in certain situations</em> regardless of whether they are mentioned
in a license; however, requiring them as a license condition can
extend their reach to people and activities outside the US
government's jurisdiction, and that is definitely wrong.</p>
<p>
A part of the distribution is covered by a further unacceptable
restriction:</p>
<p>
<strong>   
2.2 No right is granted to Licensee to create derivative works of or
   to redistribute (other than with the Original Software or a derivative
   thereof) the screen imprinter fonts identified in subdirectory
   /lib/font/bit/lucida and printer fonts (Lucida Sans Unicode, Lucida
   Sans Italic, Lucida Sans Demibold, Lucida Typewriter, Lucida Sans
   Typewriter83), identified in subdirectory /sys/lib/postscript/font.
</strong></p>
<p>
One part of this collection is free—the Ghostscript fonts that
are covered by the GNU GPL.  All the rest does not even come
close.</p>
<p>
Aside from those fatal flaws, the license has other obnoxious
provisions:</p>
<p>
<strong> 
   …As such, if You or any Contributor include Licensed
   Software in a commercial offering (“Commercial
   Contributor”), such Commercial Contributor agrees to defend
   and indemnify Original Contributor and all other Contributors
   (collectively “Indemnified Contributors”)
</strong></p>
<p>
Requiring indemnities from users is quite obnoxious.</p>
<p>
<strong>
   Contributors shall have unrestricted, nonexclusive, worldwide,
   perpetual, royalty-free rights, to use, reproduce, modify, display,
   perform, sublicense and distribute Your Modifications, and to grant
   third parties the right to do so, including without limitation as a
   part of or with the Licensed Software;
</strong></p>
<p>
This is a variant of
the <a href="/licenses/license-list.html#SoftwareLicenses">NPL</a>
asymmetry: you get limited rights to use their code, but they get
unlimited rights to use your changes.  While this does not by itself
disqualify the license as a free software license (if the other
problems were corrected), it is unfortunate.</p>

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Copyright © 2000 Richard Stallman
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This page is licensed under a <a rel="license"
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<p>Updated:
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<p>Copyright © 2000 Richard Stallman</p>

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