Subject: Re: Fighting license proliferation at its core: Mighty and Beastie Licenses
From: David Barrett <>
Date: Mon, 12 Sep 2005 10:03:44 -0700

On Mon, 12 Sep 2005 7:14 am, Chris Zumbrunn wrote:
> Assuming a license would be drafted well, is it true that "verbose" 
> means "better for the courts"? The argument in favor of non-verbose 
> licenses would be that they allow the courts to interpret the license 
> the way it was intended, as appropriate for the given jurisdiction, and 
> that non-verbose licenses are less troublesome regarding the 
> translation to other languages.

By "verbose" do you mean:
- long,
- extremely precise, and/or
- complicated (to the layman)
I think we can all agree that a license should be no longer nor 
complicated than absolutely necessary.  But it seems the question is 
whether "extremely precise" is "absolutely necessary".

Given that law is not C and that courts have greater interpretive 
flexibility than compilers, I think the argument has merit that 
attempting exact precision might be counterproductive if the same effect 
could have been achieved -- with less length and complexity -- by 
relying on the court to resolve the fine details.

Furthermore, it's possible that in the pursuit of exact precision you 
might define something in a non-optimal way.  For example, two 
jurisdictions might have different optimal definitions for "code", and 
by forcing one in the license it might be disadvantageous in the other.  
Repeat with changing law, different languages, different precedent, 

Thus I agree it seems possible that an intentionally and carefully 
imprecise license might actually be stronger than one where precision 
was attempted.

Not being a lawyer I can only guess at the legal strength of the above 
argument.  But being Joe engineer, I can say that I place a premium on 
short and non-complicated (to a layman), and if you can accomplish both 
through selective imprecision, without reducing the strength of the 
license, then you'll certainly get more of my support.