Seth,

first of all, thanks again for preparing the release of the Dink source code!


I had a look at the license, and I'd like to give you some feedback on what I think about it-- I'm not a lawyer, though, so what I say may be inaccurate or even completely stupid.

While it is written in a style that makes it very readable and polite, I'm having some trouble distinguishing comments, examples, recommendations and actually legally binding parts... I'll go into detail in individual parts below.


> This software is provided "as is" without express or implied
> warranties. You may freely copy and compile this source into
> applications you distribute provided that the copyright text
> below is included in the resulting source code, for example:
> "Portions Copyright \x{00A9} Seth A. Robinson, 1997-2003
>
> You may use this source in personal and commercial products, you
> are not required to release the source code.
>
> This is kind of like the zlib license but with some extra words
> below to protect Dink itself from being exploited for profit.

This part is very clear and very liberal.


The following parts are, apparently, just comments (not a part of the license, more like stuff some people put into README files).

> *** CLARIFICATIONS AND INFO ***
[...]
> *** HOW TO COMPILE AND TEST ***
[...]
> *** GETTING HELP ***
[...]
> *** ABOUT THE DINK SOURCE ***
[...]


The next part is the one I'm confused by. Some of the questions I'll ask below (particularly in places where many questions arise) may sound negative, possibly even a bit hostile if looked at from the wrong angle (I'm not a native English speaker and, thus, don't always get the more subtle meanings of certain words right). I assure you, they are not; they're meant as constructive criticism to the license.

> *** PROTECTING THE DINK SMALLWOOD NAME AND MEDIA FROM BEING EXPLOITED ***
>
> If you want to fix bugs and release "Jeff's Dink.exe that works better", please do.

Suggestion/Comment.

> If you're updating the source for this purpose, please make it available as if it were GPL'd just so others
> can work from it.

A suggestion. I assume "as if it were GPL'd" means "including sources" here.

> Also please distribute it SEPARATELY from the official Dink archive and make it
> extra clear that RTsoft or myself did not release it.

Is this only a suggestion (which is what it sounds like) or intended to be legally binding? If the latter, what does "separately" mean? Is it sufficient to put a note in the included documentation that the two are separate things? A pop-up screen during Dink startup? A notice on the source web page?
What about distributors? Do they have to package modified/ported Dink executables separately (separate zip file or something like that) from the original Dink package? Does the original Dink package have to include the original Dink executable in that case? Is such a separation into two separate units of distribution ("as if they were two separate programs", or whatever that may mean) sufficient to make it "extra clear" that this was not released by RTsoft?

> Do not somehow try to cash in on releasing a new Dink.exe like adding spyware and banner
> advertising or CHARGING FOR IT.

This looks legally binding, but what precisely does it mean? If I merely distribute (and do not release) a "Dink.exe like" (what is this? Is a re-write from scratch covered by this? Does it have to be able to run the original Dink? How about being able to run the original Dink only after the original data files have been slighly modified by some simple tool?) while "cashing in", is that disallowed, too? May I sell shareware/freeware CDs containing (among other things) Dink with, say, a Dink.exe replacement that makes Dink run on MacOS, may I still charge for the CDs? What, precisely, is spyware? Is it OK if I add banner ads and spyware but include sources so people can remove these? What if I create a new executable for a game of my own which still uses the Dink data format and thus, by accident, can still run the original Dink data/script files?

> The original Dink team (myself, Justin Martin, Shawn Teal, Greg Smith)
> should be credited in any such Dink engine enhancement and a link to www.rtsoft.com should be included.

A suggestion, I think (and a very reasonable one, of course).


> Do NOT use this source to release "Dink 2" or "SuperDink" or any kind of sequel to the original Dink
> Smallwood.

Legally binding, judging from the wording.

> Releasing this source does not in any way release the rights to the Dink name or Dink media.

A comment, I guess. If Dink Smallwood is a trademark of yours (is it?) it probably wouldn't have any legal effect but clarify issues.

> non-profit improvements to the Dink engine are ok, as listed above,

I assume you mean "the distribution of an engine based on this source code and running the original Dink data files and scripts, for non-profit reasons".
The sentence continues in a way which makes this look legally binding:

> otherwise, you need your own name,
> story and artwork. (in which case you can charge for it and pretty much do what you want)

So am I disallowed to sell a freeware CD-ROM if it includes a bug-fixed version of an executable which runs the original Dink? Even if the entire CD-ROM is available for free from an on-line source, too?

> If you want to add multiplayer support, highcolor, etc, to Dink you may surely do so, but keep in mind
> it must be free

Free as in "Freeware", or free as in "Free software" (i.e., downloadable free of charge, or with source code available on request)?

> and clearly labeled a "An enhancement to the original Dink Smallwood engine"

This strict requirement makes it non-free software by most requirements. Does the label have to be in the source code, in accompanying documentation files, in run-time help/documentation, or printed during start-up?
(Keep in mind that this requirement will be inherited by any projects that make use of the source code of any extension to the original Dink).

> and
> released as a separate add-on patch

Can it be released as a stand-alone program if it includes a stand-alone D-Mod that does not make use of any information included in the original Dink distribution?

> (which would probably overwrite the .exe, add some files and art,
> possibly convert the map data and so forth) because no one can distribute the original media in a repacked form
> without my permission.

Comments only, I believe.

> Q. Why didn't I GPL or LGPL it?
[...]

This, and the rest of the license, seem to be comments only. This answer to this particular question, however, I believe to be slighly wrong and will explain why I think so at the end of this posting.

[...]
> ************************************************** ****************************************

> *****
>
> Dink Smallwood remains the property of RTsoft.

Which parts? The name, the artwork and scripts, the interpreter binary executable, the interpreter sources?

> Please keep in mind while I'm sharing the source, I am not sharing the media, if you would like to use or
> distribute the Dink Smallwood artwork, this requires express permission.

Hmm... but it is available as freeware (along with the rest of Dink) from your homepage at the moment. From the above, I got the impression that you merely wanted to disallow the distribution of the media if it has been re-packaged in any way.



The problem with the legally binding / not legally binding part is, however, that I'm not sure as to whether "you should not..." really is just a suggestion, or happens to be legally binding, too. Clarifying that for the entire document would probably clear it up a little.

It seems to me that you're essentially trying to license the game in two separate ways-- once for extensions to the original Dink (porting to new platforms, adding new features etc.), which you intend to require to keep strictly non-profit, and once for re-using parts of the source for distinct projects which do not intend to be compatible with the original Dink data format, which you intend to keep under something like the non-advertising BSD license ("Do what you want with it, but don't blame me if it blows up"),
with the restriction that it must not be able to act as a drop-in replacement for the original Dink executable.

Did I get that right?


And now, before I finish, some comments on the GPL and games:
The (L)GPL does not, as many people seem to think, forbid people to sell their programs. It merely requires them to make the sources of the program available upon request (under terms which, for all practical purposes, mean "for free and without restriction"). The idea here is that the source code used in software can be used by others, while guaranteeing that, if someone extends an existing program, re-packages it, and distributes the resulting, improved version, that the original author is guaranteed to be able to use all of the improvements the other guy added and to improve upon them, in turn.

Essentially, these requirements mean that people have to publically release the source code to their programs as soon as they distribute them. This does, however, not prevent anyone from making money with a GPL'd program. As you yourself have done, they can treat the underlying program and the data accompanying it as separate entities; as the source code is (mostly) useless without the data files, people will still have to buy the game to (legally) be able to own and run it, but they can still enjoy all the benefits of being able to access the source code, e.g. port it to their favourite computing platform, change the default keyboard and savegame directory layout, or whatever else comes to mind.

This approach has been used, for example, by ID software, who have published Wolfenstein 3D, Doom 1&2, Quake and Quake 2 under the terms of the GNU GPL, while still requiring that people buy their original WAD/pkg files as part of the commercial Doom/Quake packages.


Thanks,

-- Christoph