[Ifeffit] FEFF and liberal licensing-Ins:-thanks-remark-further explanation

Sher Alam alam-sher at aist.go.jp
Mon Mar 10 00:04:46 CST 2003

Thanks for your detailed explanation below.
Actually my remarks were targeted to general
FEFF ,  and related programs users and not to
the internal developers of these packages.......
Thus I agree with the jist of  what you are saying, and moreover
that is not my business, it is the business of the

To summarize although FEFF and related programs
have been developed after many years of hardwork
these are easily available and useful for decimating
physics research...........unlike many <<snip snip>>!

thanks again

Bruce Ravel wrote:

> Hi folks,
> Last week we had a short but somewhat impassioned exchange on our
> mailing list between Matt, John, and longtime FEFF and IFEFFIT user
> Sher Alam.  Matt made a claim (one with which I agree) that the
> license for FEFF is insufficiently liberal and that this has served to
> hinder certain developments over the years.
> Dr. Alam responded with this interesting comment:
>  sa> Perhaps Matt you don't appreciate how liberal! Prof. Rehr is in
>  sa> distributing FEFF....A recent experience convinced me that it so!
>      <<snip snip>>
>  sa> Thus I personally appreciate Prof. Rehr to distribute ... the
>  sa> code so that others can benefit.
> I worry that people seeing the public side of this ongoing debate
> between Matt, John, and I may conflate criticism of FEFF's license
> with criticism of FEFF or of its authors.  That would be an incorrect
> assessment and I would hasten to dissuade anyone of adopting it.
> I am currently hard at work on the document for Artemis.  I refer to
> FEFF on virtually every page.  This is because Artemis and FEFF are
> inextricably linked.  My little greek goddess could not exist without
> FEFF.  Indeed, virtually everything I have done as a professional has
> involved FEFF in some capacity.  Obviously FEFF is something that I
> value and whose value I fully appreciate.
> Nonetheless I have a long standing complaint about its license.
> In last week's exchange, John said:
>  jjr> Also various modules of FEFF are now redistributable in order to
>  jjr> facilitate user developments in response to previous suggestions
>  jjr> from Matt and Bruce.
> It takes some searching to find the license in the source code for
> tarball for FEFF8.28 (look for the file license.h -- there are several
> copies of it).  You can find a copy in PDF and Word form at
> http://feff.phys.washington.edu/feff/html/obtain.html.  The only
> clause in that license that, by my reading, relates to redistribution
> is section III.4:
>    The End-user shall take reasonable precautions to ensure that
>    neither the System nor its components are copied, or transferred
>    out side [sic] of his/her current academic or government affiliated
>    laboratory or disclosed to parties other than the End-user.
> That very clearly forbids redistribution either of FEFF8 in its
> entirety or of its modules.  There is a legally confusing aspect to
> this due to the version of FEFF6 which is distributed with IFEFFIT and
> which is redistributable.  That version of FEFF6 and the current
> version of FEFF8 do share some common code.  I presume that, for
> common code, the more liberal FEFF6-with-IFEFFIT license trumps the
> highly controlling FEFF8 license.  And there is the problem of no
> clear mechanism for rolling an improvement to FEFF6 back into the
> FEFF8 source code.
> As for the prospect of outside development, section III.2 is clearly
> chilling for anyone with an idea for how to use FEFF in a way not
> encompassed by its current functionality.
>    Modification of the System is permitted, e.g., to facilitate its
>    performance by the End-user. Use of the System or any of its
>    components for any purpose other than that specified in this
>    Agreement requires prior approval in writing from the University of
>    Washington.
> As I read this, should I wish to modify FEFF to deal with, say XPS
> data, I would be in violation of the license because XPS is a new
> spectroscopy and not simply a matter of performance.  I am fully aware
> that it is ridiculous to assume that either the FEFF developers or the
> University of Washington will *really* come after me if I do use FEFF
> to analyze my XPS data, but that's beside the point.  The license, as
> written, forbids it.
> Another alarming clause in the license is the final one, VII.2.  It
> says
>    This Agreement contains the entire agreement between UW and
>    LICENSEE, and supersedes all prior written or oral representations
>    with respect to FEFF Software.
> This means that if you have a FEFF license, you may not redistribute
> or modify FEFF outside of the restrictions of clause III.2 even if
> John or Alex have told you that you have their permission to do so.
> Surprising, but apparently true.
> I presume that I have been quoting from the current license.  Since it
> is the only license that can be found, that makes it the de facto
> license.
> John went on to say
>  jjr> It doesn't seem desirable to me to freely distribute more recent
>  jjr> parts that are less well developed.
> The implicit assumption here is that only the developers of FEFF
> should be touching the cutting edge portions of the code.
> I dispute this assumption.  I dispute it NOT because it might be
> false, but because it is unproven.  We do not know if smart scientists
> who are not in intimate contact with the FEFF developers could
> plausibly contribute significantly to the hairy, bleeding edge parts
> of FEFF because no one is currently doing so.  Matt's suggestion in
> his email was that the chilling nature of the FEFF license is an
> impediment to anyone who wishes to try.
> Now, it may turn out to be true that the FEFF developers are
> singularly capable of being the stewards of the hairy, edgy parts of
> FEFF.  That is entirely believable because John and Alex are
> singularly brilliant scientists.  (I mean that plainly and without the
> vaguest hint of irony.  I know them both very well, have shared both
> physics and beer extensively with both and will do so extensively in
> the future, and can attest to their brilliance with sincerity.)
> However, the singularity of their stewardship is not proven.  Indeed, I
> suspect that the FEFF developers do themselves as well as their
> community a disservice by not allowing that assumption to be tested.
> After all, there are lots of clever people in this world who may have
> some profound ideas.
> I acknowledge that it is not for me to say how FEFF should be
> licensed.  Its not mine, after all.  (Well, some of the code in the
> FMS directory is mine, I suppose, but I am not at this time coding for
> FEFF itself.)  I do not, therefore, dispute the right of the FEFF
> project to choose the current license.
> It is, however, most definitely within my bailiwick to express my
> opinion for what license *I* think would be best for FEFF and its user
> community.  I agree with Dr. Alam that the FEFF community is well
> served by FEFF as it is.  But I agree with Matt that it would be much
> better served by a very liberal, uncontrolling license.
> I feel compelled, in closing, to state something that I hope would be
> obvious.  FEFF, the tools which use it, and XAFS in general are all
> things that I am most passionate about.  I would not bother to form
> the opinions I have expressed here were FEFF not the object of my
> professional passions.  I would not spend an hour and half on a
> Saturday afternoon putting this opinion into words were FEFF not the
> object of my professional passions.  I debate with John because I
> care.
> Regards,
> B
> --
>  Bruce Ravel  ----------------------------------- ravel at phys.washington.edu
>  Code 6134, Building 3, Room 222
>  Naval Research Laboratory                          phone: (1) 202 767 5947
>  Washington DC 20375, USA                             fax: (1) 202 767 1697
>  NRL Synchrotron Radiation Consortium (NRL-SRC)
>  Beamlines X11a, X11b, X23b, X24c, U4b
>  National Synchrotron Light Source
>  Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY 11973
>  My homepage:    http://feff.phys.washington.edu/~ravel
>  EXAFS software: http://feff.phys.washington.edu/~ravel/software/exafs/
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%Ins:::::::Prof. Dr. Sher Alam
Work:Rm D-625 Photonics, Nat. Inst. of AIST, AIST Tsukuba Central 2,
1-1-1 Umezono Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8568 Japan [W]phone:+81-298-61-3478
fax:+81-298-61-3476 email:alam-sher at aist.go.jp

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