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Alan Kay on the Squeak License
Last updated at 1:29 am UTC on 17 January 2006
Alan Kay wrote to the Squeak discussion list on 8-19-2003 about the Squeak License:

I hate to be the kid in the crowd who noticed the Emporer was naked,
but do the people on this list – or for that matter, does anyone on
the planet – actually know what the law is here? From my
perspective, having been involved in part of the gradual merging of
lawyers and computer ideas, there is no "good law" about any of this
stuff at present. I believe people are getting quite misled by the
fact that anything, including nonsense, can be written down in
language. This has nothing much to do with either logic and/or moral
stances that would be good to take.

Just to take one of many examples: at present no one really knows
what "fair use" really means, or even should mean. We know that many
business interests would like to get rid of most, if not all, of the
old ideas about "fair use", but regardless, it's not clear what the
term even means right now.

Another example is Squeak Central at Disney. You can imagine that I
got asked quite often (especially for the first 3 years we were
there) about the IP issues regarding Squeak. I consistently told them
that they should think of Squeak as an environment of "agencies" that
are good for making things but that they don't own or control – and
to use Java (owned by Sun) as an example. So content creations in
either system could be owned by them and used by them in commerce,
but that the foundations of the systems were owned elsewhere (Java by
Sun, and Squeak by the world). I used the important phrase in the
Squeak license to explain why we put out to open source all non
Disney content code that could contribute to making Squeak more
powerful and useful for everyone. When we left Disney we were very
careful to leave all Disney content behind – and this was partly
done by having a separate Disney update server to keep the public and
private Squeak stuff separated. Michael Eisner and his staff of
Disney lawyers, some of the toughest IP hawks you'll ever meet,
eventually decided that what we were doing was kosher, reasonable and
a good interpretation of the license we made while at Apple.

In other words, what Disney actually owned, we were careful to leave
behind, and Disney owns nothing else. Apple really did own all the
rights to its early implementation of Smalltalk-80 (as did the other
first adopters – but not the later adopters). This is why we were
very careful to find an original version of this Smalltalk, in which
the provenance is completely clear and unambiguous, to bootstrap
Squeak from. And this is also why we were careful to have Apple grant
a much more free license than (say) GPL (which actually puts really
stupid restrictions on what others do with the code). I think this
has all worked out well.

While all of you are wasting (er, spending) a lot of time on this, it
might be good to realize that the definitive definitions, suits,
court cases, and actual laws are all really yet to happen. Given the
high level of greed and low levels of perspective and intelligence of
many of the players here, we should hope that all this is delayed as
long as possible. The chance of actual logic, insight and forward
thinking having much force here is nil.

As I said once before: at this point, we need better lines of code
more than better lines of license! However, I think there are a few
things in SqueakL – the Apple license (the only one that obtains in
my opinion) – that could be removed to make it smaller and simpler,
and this might be possible to do.