Subject: Using AFL/OSL for open source and commercial software contributions/distributions
From: "Lawrence Rosen" <>
Date: Wed, 18 Oct 2006 12:36:04 -0700


I'm frequently asked how open source projects should in-license
contributions. There are actually many ways that projects do this, often
involving contributor agreements that differ in fundamental ways from the
actual project software licenses used for out-licensing their software. I've
always found that confusing. 

I thought some of you might be interested in the way that International
Characters is dealing with contributions to our patented (actually,
patent-pending) software under open source licenses AFL and OSL 3.0. Here is
the latest draft of our "Guidelines for Software Contributions" that we
expect to post on our website soon. It allows contributions to be included
in commercially-licensed products, not just open source software. 

Your input and suggestions will be welcomed. I'm particularly interested to
learn of any flaws in this licensing strategy that might pose risks to
contributors or to International Characters, or adversely affect the
availability of this software under open source terms. We'd want to identify
those in a FAQ, or revise our Guidelines.

For anyone interested in emulating us, this email is "Copyright (C) 2006
International Characters" and is licensed under OSL 3.0. 

/Larry Rosen


Guidelines for Software Contributions to International Characters 

International Characters follows the policies described below for
in-licensing contributions and for out-licensing open source software. When
distributing software, International Characters applies the license terms of
the open source licenses identified below, namely the Academic Free License
(AFL 3.0, and the Open Software License (OSL
3.0, These two licenses are substantively
identical except in section 1(c). 

International Characters believes that the authors of computer software
should retain ownership of their copyrights and patents for their own
purposes. That is why we ask only that interested contributors *license*
their software to us under the Academic Free License (AFL 3.0), not that
they assign or transfer any other rights to our company. Contributors retain
their intellectual property rights for any other purposes they wish, while
International Characters will be licensed to use those contributions for its
larger open source projects and commercial products.

Here's the form of notice that authors and contributors should place near
the beginning of the source code of their contributions:

   Copyright (C) 20xx author-name
   Licensed to International Characters Inc. 
          under the Academic Free License version 3.0.

If there are multiple authors or owners of a contribution, list them all in
one copyright notice to indicate a joint work, or identify specific portions
of the contribution with individual copyright notices at appropriate places
in the source code to indicate a collective work. Change "20xx" to the year
the contribution was written. Add other licensing or additional notices to
the source code if appropriate.

International Characters intends to collect contributions under AFL 3.0 (and
to make its own contributions), and to distribute the resulting software
under the Open Software License (OSL 3.0) and commercial licenses. Open
source distribution may actually be coordinated through COSTAR
( or other distribution sites. 

Here's the notice that International Characters will place at the beginning
of its distributed source code including contributions:

   Copyright (C) 20xx International Characters Inc.
   Licensed to the public under the Open Software License version 3.0.
   Patents pending in Canada, the United States, and other countries.
   International Characters is a trademark of International Characters Inc.
   Commercial software licenses are also available. 
   For further information see

We will not remove the subsidiary copyright notices of contributors from
source code. In that way, the source code will contain a full record of
claimed authorship of the software as it is written and collected.

The two OSI-approved licenses are available here:      

In some cases, International Characters may distribute open source software
under licenses other than OSL 3.0. In all cases, contributions will remain
subject to the terms of AFL 3.0 under which they are in-licensed to
International Characters.

This Contribution policy is entirely independent of the International
Characters Covenant Not To Assert because the Covenant deals only with IC's
patents and not its copyrights. (The Covenant is described separately; see The AFL 3.0 and OSL 3.0 licenses
set terms for making copies and derivative works of International
Characters' copyrighted software and, solely to the extent that IC's or
contributors' patent claims are embodied in that specific IC-distributed
software, grant a patent license for those claims when embodied in copies
and derivative works. Contrast section 2 of AFL/OSL 3.0 with the Covenant.
Only some of IC's patent claims are licensed under the OSL 3.0 license, but
all of IC's patents are subject to the Covenant.

More intimate business relationships with International Characters are also
possible. Contributors who are interested in partnering with International
Characters for software development and commercial software distribution,
and who want to participate more fully in our business model, are invited to
contact us at