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Apple upgrades open source-style licence

Addresses free software world's concerns, apparently

Apple has finally decided to follow the spirit of the open source development model fully, and modified its own Apple Public Source Licence to eliminate many of the restrictions that so annoyed the open source community.

The Mac maker yesterday updated APSL to version 1.2. The previous version, 1.1, was described by free software guru Richard Stallman as "unacceptable" to the open source community.

Stallman had three concerns over APSL 1.1. Firstly, software developers had to publish their changes to software covered by the licence even if that code was created solely for the writer's own personal usage. Secondly, anyone using or creating modified code had to let "one specific organisation, which happens to be Apple" know about it. Finally, APSL 1.1 allowed Apple to terminate the licence at any time if software covered by it becomes the focus of patent infringement allegations.

APSL 1.2 addresses the first two concerns by removing the restrictions put in place by the previous version. Anyone modifying code issued under APSL 1.2 now needs only include the relevant licence agreement with their changes and acknowledge Apple's copyrights - the source code need only be published if it's distributed externally.

The termination issue appears to have been fixed too, since the licence will only be rescinded if anyone violates its terms, begins patent infringement action against Apple (and you can't blame it for that) or action against someone who's modified the code prevents them from complying with the other terms of the licence.

Apple's line on APSL 1.2 is that the update will "make it easier for people to contribute to and use the software". That seems to be the case, and it should certainly go some way to appeasing Stallman.

As he rightly points out here, APSL isn't a true free software licence, since it "allows linking with other files which may be entirely proprietary" and is "unfair, since it requires you to give Apple rights to your changes which Apple will not give you for its code".

The first of these points remains the case, but from our (admittedly non-legal) reading of the licence, the second is no longer the case. Apple grants the code modifier or distributor "a world-wide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license" to its original code, which is pretty much what the modifier or distributor must, in turn, grant Apple for any modifications made.

Still, we look forward to Stallman's own reading of APSL 1.2. ®

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You can read Apple's new public source licence here

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