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[tlug] Timed licenses? (and eschrow/smart contracts)

Darren Cook writes:

 > Has anyone heard of a license that is commercial for X amount of time,
 > and then becomes an open source license?

Similar ideas, yes.  The more popular variation is the "Kickstarter"
license, ie, commercial until you make a certain amount of money.
More traditionally called the "ransom" license.  This has been
implemented, but I don't recall the software.  The old Aladdin license
(for Ghostscript) which was "near" open source (it was disqualifed by
a no-commercial-use provision) was tied to the release cycle rather
than money or calendar time -- when there was a new major release, the
previous code base was GPLed.  I don't know anybody who's done this on
a strict calendar basis; I'm not sure why that's a great idea versus
the release cycle or a financial goal.

Be aware that if you use such a license, Stallman (and others) will
trashtalk you, and quite likely get into your mentions, if he hears
about it.

 > Or variations on this idea, such as putting code into some kind of
 > eschrow,


 > where that code is under, say, an MIT license, and is set to be
 > unlocked after a certain date.
 > Darren
 > P.S. I know Ethereum apps can have this kind of eschrow unlocking logic
 > in. But if the trigger is a certain date, surely that is always trivial
 > to forge.

There are signed clock services.  I assume Ethereum provides one.  Me,
I trust lawyers more.

 > Are there are any approaches for reliable date-limited contracts
 > being worked on? (I.e. fully automated, fully open - i.e. not
 > involving lawyers or other 3rd parties).

Yes.  There are also many approaches to perpetual motion.

Look: by definition, contracts are enforced by courts.  Once you
release a program into the wild, your code, and more important (unless
you're a Fields-class mathematician) the UI, API, and UX are subject
to reverse engineering.  Even if protected by copyright or patent,
enforcement means more courts.  A reliable clock will have to be
signed by some third party acceptable to all parties.  You can give
people the code in encrypted form, and escrow the key ... with a third
party you trust (at least you don't need the other parties to trust
anybody) ... and hope they don't lose the key because you will get
sued if they don't release on time.  You'll need a lawyer to sue them.

Used judiciously, these technologies *can* save you money on lawyers.
But don't think you can do without entirely.  And don't expect lawyers
to give you good advice on how to do that.

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