[REBOL] Yes, REBOL/Core is still free
From: holger::rebol::com at: 22-May-2001 10:43
I would like to address a few issues that have come up in the recent discussion
on REBOL's licensing policy. Hopefully this clarifies some things and better
explains our position and motivation. Sorry for the length of this mail.
1. Core licensing status
Core 2.5 has been released with a specific license. This license is still in effect,
and you can keep using Core 2.5 with that license. The license does not have any
expiration. Yes, there is now a DIFFERENT license available for Core, a commercial
license for US$ 79.00, but this does not invalidate any existing licenses. As a rule,
when there are several licensing options for a product then you can choose which one
The commercial license for US$ 79.00 actually not only covers Core but Core/Pro
(once it is released), i.e. unlike the free Core license it comes with a commercial
license agreement, a personalized key file etc. Until Core/Pro is released we only
provide commercial licensees with Core 2.5 which is why Core is listed as the product
with the US$ 79.00 price tag, but once Core/Pro is available commercial licensees can
switch to Core/Pro, if they want to, free of additional charge.
2. About Core remaining "free"
We currently do not have any plans to charge individuals for Core, not now and not in
future versions, i.e. if you would like to download Core and write your own scripts,
play around with it, give it to your friends etc., then you are free to do so. We
still intend Core and View to be the center pieces for building the REBOL community.
Commercial licensing is a different story though. Commercial licensing is not
about communities, voluntary participation etc., but about profit, e.g. about
companies creating derivative products from REBOL and selling them, or about
companies using Core as a corner stone of their in-house IT solution in order
to cut cost and reduce development time. In situations like that we would like
to (and actually need to) be involved and get our share. We believe that if
another company profits from our work then it is only fair that we receive a
portion of that, considering the amount of time and money that has gone into Core.
This is not just about licensing fees but also about public recognition of
cases when REBOL has been a useful tool for a company. Knowing those cases and
making them public helps us and the REBOL community as a whole, by increasing
the public recognition of REBOL through joint press releases, partnership
A "completely free" license that does not even encourage such companies to
contact us and talk to us about their use of REBOL is harmful not just to
us but to the REBOL community. REBOL would remain a "secret", and in the end
we would all lose.
We do not believe that limiting the term "free" in its usual interpretation of
free of charge
to non-commercial use in any way diminishes the spirit of the
promise of Core remaining free in the future. I guess that depends on what is
meant by "free" though. People use that term in different ways. See below.
3. What it means for something to be "free"
is not the same as "free of charge". For an individual "free" may mean
being allowed to use software without paying for it though. We recognize this,
and that's why Core IS free (of charge) for individuals.
For commercial use very few things in life are truly free of charge, in all
situations, so in commercial environments the term "free" is usually more
closely related to "freedom" ("liberty") than to "free or charge".
A few examples:
When you listen to the radio, music is free, right ? (Well, in the US anyway.
In Germany there are public radio fees...) Does that mean you can make recordings
off the radio for your personal use ? Yes, usually. Does it mean you can make
recordings and sell them ? No way. So radio reception is NOT really free then,
is it ? Most people would argue that it IS, but that in the context of commercial
use the term "free" does not apply in the same way, because things get more
complicated, there are different licensing and copyright issues etc. etc. In any
way, for you as a consumer none of these rules in any way limit your ability to
listen to the radio for FREE, right ? That's why people say radio reception is free.
Have you ever seen items in stores (Best Buy etc.) with mail-in rebate stickers on
them ? Sometimes those mail-in rebates are equal to the purchase price of the
product (e.g. for floppy disks or tapes), so you basically get the product for
free, and stores advertise that. Is it free for everyone ? No. Often these offers
only apply to individuals, not companies, there are limits on the number of
rebates you can claim per household, you have to live in the US, you must have
a bank account etc. So they are not free then ? People who "bought" them without
really paying would disagree. They ARE free, but there are exceptions. One
exception is that companies cannot expect to get a year's worth of disk supplies
for backups of their corporate file server without paying a single dime. If such
a company told you that those disks cannot be called free because the company
cannot use this offer to reduce their backup costs to zero, would you take them
seriously ? Probably not. The disks would still be free for you and your friends,
and thus "free" for all practical purposes.
Many, many more examples are possible, in different markets, different countries etc.
Or look at it the other way around: if you claim something is NOT free then the
next question is "how much does it cost ?". If your friend asks you that question
then the answer is "nothing", so now you have a product that is presumably "not
free" but "costs nothing" ? :-) Most people would consider this an unreasonable
4. Free software
This is one of my pet peeves, so please be patient...
Quoting the key phrase from GNU's so-called "The Free Software Definition"
"Free software" is a matter of liberty, not price.
Fully agreed so far, but then, of course, FSF, the GNU group, goes off and twists that
idea around to define those "liberties" in a politically and ideologically biased way,
trying to use the term "free" as a weapon in its crusade against traditional
(closed-source) commercial software development...
Still, the basic idea is correct. Free software IS a matter of liberty, not price, it
just a matter of picking the right liberties. FSF takes it upon themselves to define
those liberties for others. Personally I don't agree with those liberties and would
rather define my own liberties, thank you very much. In the end what it comes down
to is recognizing that different entities (individuals, companies etc.) need DIFFERENT
liberties, expressed in different licensing terms, instead of a one-size-fits-all GPL,
and that is what the availability of different licensing options (for users,
corporations etc.) is all about. It caters to their individual needs, nothing else, and,
to me, this is in an ironic way actually in better accordance with the key spirit of
Free Software Definition
than even GPL itself is. Companies seem to prefer it, too.
For a user the most important liberty may be the liberty to not have to pay for
a product before using it, because for individuals money is often the critical
resource. Fully accepted, a legitimate position.
For a corporation things can be different. Here is an example scenario:
A company intends to develop and sell a new software package. As a first step
an in-house feasibility study is performed, during which, in a very short period
of time, a small subset of the application is developed. That application is never
intended to be sold, so redistribution licensing is not an issue, and in order to
save time, engineers integrate and customize some "free" source code and perhaps
some "free" binaries, libraries, support tools etc. into the application.
The study is a success, and development on the full application starts. As much code
from the original prototype as possible is supposed to be reused, because the tight
time frame for a 1.0 release only allows for "adding new features", not for "reengineering
the whole product". This means some of the "free stuff" now requires redistribution
licensing. At that time the legal department realizes that, unfortunately, some of
the "free stuff" is under GPL (not LGPL), so it cannot be included in a closed-source
application. Open-source is not an option, so this means some of the "free stuff" has
be removed, parts of the application have to be rewritten, some of the features in
the "free stuff" have to be spec'ed out and then reimplemented under white room conditions,
by a separate engineering time, the release date is pushed back, customers switch to
competitor's product. The company loses millions.
Sound familar ? Did this happen in your company, too ? :-) These kinds of things
have been very common in the last few years.
For a company "free software" rarely means "software free of charge". It usually
means "software that legally lets us do what we need to do" and "software that provides
us with flexibility in the way we can use and redistribute the software in the future".
The liberty this company needs is none of the four "GNU liberties", it is
flexibility on the part of the licensor to cater to the licensee's needs, and
recognition and acceptance of the licensee's business plan, without letting
ideology get in the way.
Some users have made the mistake in this discussion to project their own definitions
of what those liberties implied by the term "free software" should be upon corporations.
Usually corporations look at things in a completely different way. Many corporations
to use commercial licensing and specifically ask for it, even if there is a price tag
attached, just to be on the safe side in the case of audits or law suits. In that case
many companies may consider REBOL to be more "free" than a lot of "free stuff" out there.
So please don't assume that your definition of "free" is shared by everybody. I can
assure you that it is not.
I feel very strongly about this and could go on and on forever, having witnessed how,
e.g., large portions of the Amiga commercial software market along with many useful
applications were literally destroyed by the effects of GPL on the platform, and
how many of these companies would have absolutely LOVED to pay license fees in
order to at least stay in business, but I will stop now :-).
I mentioned flexibility as the key for licensing. US$ 79.00 and US$ 99.00 are
examples and starting points for simple cases, e.g. a single Core/Pro or View/Pro
license on one machine, no other business relations, licenses, no bulk discounts,
no redistribution licensing etc.
These are NOT the only options. In addition to bulk discounts there is also
Runtime licensing (with per-client payments or with a one-time payment for
unlimited client licenses). There may be other options as well, such as educational
licensing, support agreements and consulting agreements. We are also very interested
in knowing what REBOL is used for in companies, and in some cases joint ventures and/or
joint press releases may be interesting for everyone involved. If you are interested
in licensing REBOL please talk to us and explain what you want to do. We may be able
to work out a solution that is even better for everyone's business than just plain
free of charge
would be :-).