Prototypes and Free Trials

Continuing the discussion from Indie Code Catalog Free License v1.2.3:

This was a really great comment. I simply hadn’t thought about any connection between the Free Trials section and the Prototypes section. But that’s clearly there to be seen in the terms, especially given the reuse of the word “prototypes”.

Having looked at it, I’m thinking the right choice is to separate the concepts, rather than combine them. Something like:

Free Trials

You may use the software for brief trial periods to verity that the software works as described and for your intended use case, such as by running on test data or integrating into private, proof-of-concept prototypesother commercial software.

For reference, this is how 1.2.3 defines “prototype” for sharing/copyleft purposes:

  1. You don’t use it for more than thirty days.
  2. You don’t share it outside the team developing it, other than for non-production user testing.
  3. You don’t use it on behalf of anyone outside the team developing it.

The only one of these criteria that I’d be tempted to reuse is #2. But even then, I’m not sure that really works. The main limit on the free trial is the time limit. You can use “to verify that the software works…”, but not any longer than that. If you want to run it on some production data and compare, so much the better for encouraging an eventual paid license buy.

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One question is whether you want to redefine the “purpose” of the license. The Purpose section of v1.2.3 says “try the software for commercial projects”, which might imply a trial like Prosperity or PolyForm Free Trial.

There are probably many software projects that companies would get a lot of value from while just making quick, throw-away prototypes. A tool for user interface mock-ups, for example.

I’m confused by the copyleft part of Round Robin. The Applications exception seems so broad that it contradicts the stated Purpose (contribute “other software that builds on this software”). The Purpose section of v1.2.3 doesn’t have “other software that builds on this software”. Both licenses have “all software that invokes this software’s functionality” in Copyleft and Share Improvements, respectively.

Is the intention that Round Robin and v1.2.3 should have the same copyleft behaviour? Does the behaviour change depending on the Purpose sections?

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@orlandohill perhaps I should update Purpose to mention “evaluations” rather than “trials”? The intent here is more limited. To put it kind of folksy, users are okay to “kick the tires” for free, but not to go further than that. There’s no time period, like thirty days, when they can use in production, beyond making sure that it will work in production.

No, I don’t want to impose any requirement of sharing language verbatim. I cribbed from Round Robin because I thought the intent was similar.

The Round Robin deal is basically akin to MPL or LGPL, but it works in a software services world, and not just a distributed software world. The idea of Applications is that if you use, say, a library or a database as intended, without changing or extending it, you don’t have to share your whole application. But you do have to share any changes or improvements to the library or database itself. Weak copyleft.

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Talking about “evaluations” rather than “trials” makes sense to me.

I think the source of my confusion was the phrasing of Round Robin’s Purpose. You have to read Applications to know that under most circumstances people won’t need to contribute. The intention is more intuitively obvious with v1.2.3’s talk of sharing improvements.

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@orlandohill I’ve moved the free license into its own repo, so PRs and such are easier to look at.

I’ve also opened a pull request trying to respond to your great feedback on the double use of “prototypes”:

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