[MUD-Dev] Diku & GPL
dughi at imaxx.net
Mon Dec 4 10:42:44 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000
<EdNote: Please, no license wars>
(Sorry for the length, i've tried to make it 'readable', hopefully not at
the expense of 'informative')
As a few of you may be aware, a while back I had approached the
original creators of DikuMUD, asking if they would consider re-releasing
the DikuMUD codebase with a GPL license to replace their own license. As
a sideline to this, I attempted to track down the listed owners/creators
of every publicly released derivitive of DikuMUD to ask for their support
- as they would have to re-release their code in GPL. I was particularly
interested in the CircleMUD codebase, as that was the one which I was most
familiar with, so if I slip up and use the phrase 'CircleMUD' instead of
Diku - realize I refer to the DikuMUD license - part of the CircleMUD
licence....same may be said for the generic use of the term 'MUD' or
'MUDs'. In this context it refers to a DikuMUD, or community of DikuMUDs
or derivitive thereof.
There have been a slew of useful ideas attacking this subject, and
while I may have had some hand in them, I do not claim any of these as my
own ideas, per se.
DikuMUD license is no longer necessary
The original Dikumud license was aimed at two purposes; one, to
insure that others could not take credit for the work of the DikuMUD team,
and two, that no one could abuse their position as a DikuMUD owner to
extort money from the players.
The first purpose is met by:
- maintaining the license agreement in it's entirety with the
- including the names of the original authors in the login/splash
screen, as well as listed as part of the output of the 'credits'
command within the game
- contacting the original authors when setting up a new copy of a
DikuMUD (I believe this was declared unnecessary on a public
usnet posting by one/+ of the authors)
- requiring the authors permission to publish any part of DikuMUD,
of course the authors names must be included in the article.
The second is achieved by:
- accepting no money, for any purpose even including charity,
maintainence, or distribtion costs.
- as defined in later messages/posts/etc, this includes ALL
instances in which money may be made - subscription,
pay-for-play models, pay-for-perks,etc.
A splendid example of a very noble idea; make sure that the
players are never abused by their MUD admin on a fiscal level. It worked
rather well too, as the vast majority of Diku-derived muds were run by
quite honorable individuals. Medivia not included.
As was pointed out though, this second point is not only no longer
necessary, but actually restrictive. Due to market saturation of MUD's,
as well as players, the ability of an admin to remove a player from their
money has shrank. If a person doesn't want to pay to play, they somewhere
else. There are enough free muds in the world.
Further, the quality of muds which do require payment has far
outstripped the DikuMUD codebase; if people pay, they will be signing on
to Ultima Online, EverQuest, or Asheron's Call for the vast percentage of
potential customers. (not that text muds are not quality, they simply have
not displayed the same drawing power on an individual basis)
This ends up with a sad situation; the pay MUDS have money, and
they use it to hire programmers, to make more money, etc.. Free muds -
for the most part - depend on volunteer labor and time. Massive amounts
of both. That's just to run on a day to day basis. More if they're
actually expanding. On a production level, it's very difficult to
compete, and lets face it, that's what's happening.
But think how much the quality and innovative structure of the
DikuMUD/Free MUD community could increase if a MUD had that ability - to
bring in money, or exist as a financial entity. Say you only bring in an
average of 40 cents a day - mostly donations and some pay-for-perks. Turn
that around and pay your builders just 5$ or 10$ for a completed zone. Or
wait a month and upgrade your server. Maybe have cheap contract
programmers (hey - high school kids have the time, effort and will work
for peanuts if it's something they _LIKE_ doing).
DikuMUD license is Failable
The DikuMUD license is a fine example of the general strength of
the MUD community; it thrives under good will and technical innovation of
it's derivitives. Unfortunately, good will only holds for so long.
I won't attempt to disect each possible attack of the DikuMUD
license, but I'll include one that could be interesting. For now, lets
assume that the person using the system is not specifically malicious -
that is, they will not knowingly break the terms of the license, though
they will attempt to find holes in it.
Given the section of the license regarding payment:
You may under no circumstances make profit on *ANY* part of DikuMud in
any possible way. You may under no circumstances charge money for
distributing any part of dikumud - this includes the usual $5 charge
for "sending the disk" or "just for the disk" etc.
By breaking these rules you violate the agreement between us and the
University, and hence will be sued.
Ignoring some question in my mind I have about 'Failure to
proscute when intent has been stated' (INAL), lets break this down.
I believe it is the spirit of the license that 'You' may be understood as
the owner/admin/maintainer of the DikuMUD license.
It is not to the credit of the license that this is left undefined.
Many DikuMUDs & their derivitives today are rarely run by a single
person. Indeed, there is usually at least a triumvirate; Admin/Builder,
Coder, Server Owner. Usually more. It can be assumed that any of these
people can spend time and or money on the system. It is left unstated,
but the owner must of course be allowed to do this; else their hardware,
bandwith, etc. Of couse, because they have just as much influence upon
the continuing state of the MUD, the other wizard-level characters, the
admin, the builders, even the public relations teams - it is hard not to
call these people partial owners as well - as they provide for the MUD an
area of control. A place they run. In short, they own part of the MUD.
Now, we're going to take a stretch - A mud is more than the sum of
it's code and world. It's more even than that and the admin. A mud is
nothing without a player community. Remove the sense of community, and
you'll end up with an empty, incomplete mud. The players own that bit
though. Call them partial owners? Perhaps.
Let's make it a bit more explicit. Let's treat a mud like a
company. Upon character creation state that each player _has_ partial
ownership of the mud, just like the ownership of a single piece of stock
allows. Give them a definable set of priviledges (the right to use an
'idea' board, etc), including the right to decline partial ownership.
Make the privelages revokable at will of higher (listed) authorities (ie,
the Admin). Make the Admin's priviledges overrule any player priviledges.
In the end, you can just use a bunch of words to insure your setup is the
same as if you had no such ownership principal, with one distinction:
You can take money from every partial owner for any reason.
Afterall, the owners can always spend money on the mud, it's
implied (rather, it's required, per above).
I'm sure there are other problems, and it has been noted that the
wording is particuarlly imprecise at points; hard to defend. It's enough
that there's even one resonable issue.
Well, I'm biased. I like GPL. That aside, I believe it
exemplifies the spirit of the DikuMUD license. It's intent is to insure
that the creators of a piece of code will not go unknown, and that no one
has the ability to take away the rights that the creators intended all
users of their software receive.
If you have not heard of GPL, shame on you. Immediately visit
http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/ for a description.
As we explained above, there's very little reason left to provide
for restriction of monetary gains. It turns out, it may even be helpful.
That's not a problem - GPL only specifically describes restrictions on the
distribtion and modification processes. When it comes down to it, you can
even charge for distribtion - of course, the source code and GPL license
allowing you to do with the source code nearly whatever you want (even
reselling it) is part of the distribtion.
So, you can have a subscription model for your mud, and even
charge people for your own mud distro (look at RedHat & other linuxen co,
who do - though they also offer it for free). Now, we're worried about
proof of ownership. Good news; GPL includes this.
Now for the bad news; GPL only specifically includes this in a few
places; the source code or anywhere the copyright/GPL information is
located, and if your program is interactive and already contains a start
screen, it must also contain a reference to the fact that it's GPL'ed &
list the copyright holder.
A mud, by nature, provides a service. The program itself though,
is not interactive at the =GPL definition of a= User level. GPL describes
a User as the person who runs the program. The person who starts the FTP
daemon, instead of the user who connects to it. There are no provisions
in the GPL for users of a provided service.
This means that the login sequence of a mud is not considered an
interactive display to the User - and therefore does not require a
copyright notice. This is a Bad Thing(tm).
The original creators of DikuMUD are adamant that the network
service users are not misled as to who wrote the MUD. While goodwill
would keep the copyright notices (at least the authors) in both the login
sequence and credits section of the mud, we have seen above that
miscreants will surface, and blatently abuse tha goodwill.
So, the license must be appended so as to allow this - I'm not
sure how that could be accomplished, but it is a MAJOR requirement for the
acceptance of the GPL.
There are other problems, but most are of a similar vein; How to
insure that the original copyright holders will be accurately portrayed to
both the Users (admin/coders/etc) and the network service users (players).
GPL for everyone
Of course, there's one other problem...lets call it an issue, for
that's more accurate. It is rare that someone today would run a DikuMUD.
The reason is that it's derivitives offer a more developed environment
while still maintaining all that which made DikuMUD a popular and viable
MUD base. Each of these derivitives is under the same licensing scheme as
DikuMUD, perhaps in addition to their own. They'll have to switch to GPL
too, inorder to reap the benfits. So, there has to be a decision by the
original distributor about whether or not their code base will be
As luck would have it, it is possible to simply provide a choice:
Either use the Diku license, or use GPL. This is the choice that
the individual distribtors would have to make, and where applicable,
current Users of the many different (including Diku itself) codebases.
It is an either-or choice though, and does have to be made. The
default of course, would be the existing Diku license.
It is still questionable whether or not that 'choice' could be
packaged within each distribution for each new User to make. The original
DikuMUD license makes no concessions about keeping public support for a
distributed version; a distributor may choose to remove all Diku-licensed
versions and only provide a GPL version. The choice seems to rest with
the DikuMUD team, and then potentially with the individual distributors.
This also needs to be cleared up.
That covers many, but not all of the major points, biased of
course towards a pro-GPL stance. The distribution maintainers that I was
able to contact have appeared supportive of a license change, and while
GPL was the main focus of a potential transition, others such as the Perl
Artistic license and the FreeBSD license (I believe) have also surfaced.
The DikuMUD members that represent the state of DikuMUD have maintained
interest, but of course are not committed to this end.
I'd be glad to hear any thoughts on this topic, suggestions,
clarifications, or new ideas on different licenses.
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