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Here is a message from Alan Kay on the intent of the Squeak License.


Message: 16
Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2004 00:05:25 -0800
From: Alan Kay <>
Subject: Intent of the Squeak License
To: The general-purpose Squeak developers list
Message-ID: <]>
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Hi Folks --

The intent of the original Squeak group was to make Squeak available
in a manner that was as analogous to scientific knowledge as
possible. That is, to make it a moral obligation to share basic
advances in software engineering, while allowing ownership of
specific content, including the right to sell one's own content. This
means that a difficult line has to be drawn between "fundamental"
knowledge, which is best shared, and "organized forms" that could be
ownable products.

It is possible for humans to mess up any set of good intentions (and
quite a bit of this has happened to intellectual property in the
sciences over the last 50 years). But, as has so often been pointed
out over the years, that simply trying to write down any kind of
principles is not enough. One of the most often used examples is the
American Constitution. It's important that it is written down, but
the citizenry has to both understand the intent and what "good faith"
means in order for the system to work. Both the intent and the good
faith have been under attack many times, including now.

I think the most important part of our intent that didn't get handled
legally (I'm not sure what we should have done) is the distinction
between citation and copyright of code. We did have every intention
that contributors to the Squeak code have attribution and citation
(because that is the nature of reward in science beyond the basic
pleasure of finding things out). We had *no* intention that
organizations such as Apple or Disney or HP etc., or individuals,
should wind up with copyrights or any other form of ownership of any
of the shared code. (Ted Nelson wrote quite a bit about these
distinctions, and especially why it is important to preserve the
provenance of contribution while allowing sharing and use.)

The nature of programming (especially with late-bound systems like
Squeak) makes it difficult to draw the distinctions that I think are
important here. But we did so at Disney. We told Disney to pretend
that Squeak came from a vendor (like Director coming from
Macromedia). Here it is quite clear what is "basic" and what is
"content". We left quite a bit of this Squeak content behind when we
left Disney, because we believed that it was the kind of stuff that
was reasonably ownable. The tricky part (but not to us) was to decide
what new things done to Squeak counted as fundamental and sharable
and what counts as ownable content. For example, a video game using
B2D or B3D was ownable content, while B2D and B3D counted as
fundamental and sharable.

So our intent was that, once we had decided that code was fundamental
and to be shared, it would cease to be owned or copyrighted by Apple
or Disney and would instead belong to the world. To me that is what
the spirit of Squeak is about, and should be the spirit of free and
open source software.

Now for the complicated opinion. Regardless of the current practice
(which to me is all over the map) and current "laws" (which to me are
poorly drawn and dubious at best), I consider that the fundamental
parts of Squeak "belong" only to the world and to no smaller entity,
just as do Maxwell's Equations. The finest thing we can do is to come
up with new principles that add new powers in this high range and
give them away to the world. I think that guidelines for "reasonable
ownable content" can help make the distinctions needed here, but only
with enough "good faith" to avoid the kinds of legal arguments that
can confound any attempts at good faith and progress.

Finally, I understand a little bit the concerns about meshing with
other open source movements (like Debian). But, it seems to me that
just as "science means you don't have to trust the experts", "open
source means that you don't have to put other software people in your
critical path". That is, in the end, it is about controlling one's
own SW destiny. Since Smalltalk predates all of this stuff, and most
of the important fundamental principles in Squeak were funded by ARPA
and PARC, I just can't get too worked up about having Apple and
Disney in the chain of funders. To us a really important part of the
Squeak implementation process was to start with a Smalltalk in which
the IP connection and relationship to Xerox PARC was completely clear
-- and this was possible because Apple actually was granted real
ownership of its Smalltalk as a first round outside implementer in
the early 80s.

The bottom line for me is as I've stated it before: the relevant law
is yet to be written and the current laws are yet to be tested. This
means that a litigous society such as the US can cause incredible
pernicious difficulties and delays over almost any issue, including
those that are legally well posed. I have seen this many times in IP
lawsuits over the years in which I was an expert witness. It's a
mess. So I like the "let sleeping dogs lie" principle for most
things. As far as change, I think it would be useful to try to make
the above principles into a new kind of characterization of ideas and
their usage. This could lead to laws and licenses that might actually
be of some use.