Subject: Re: OT: Permissive license proliferation
From: Donovan Hawkins <>
Date: Sat, 8 Sep 2007 16:09:41 -0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)

On Sat, 8 Sep 2007, Chris Travers wrote:

> On 9/8/07, Donovan Hawkins <> wrote:
>> Except it requires a legal opinion to decide whether each of these custom
>> licenses is compatible, to say nothing of the implicit patent grants that
>> are used by most of the permissive licenses. You have to read every
>> license to see what word they changed, make sure it causes no problems,
>> and add up all the little unique requirements that each one added slightly
>> differently:
> This sort-of makes my case for allowing the approval of variations through a
> separate track, does it not?

Is that necessary though? Consider the possible results of modifying an 
existing license:

1) A substantially different license

2) Additional clauses that many other people might want to use

3) Removal of clauses that many other people might want to remove

4) Additional clauses that few other people would want to use

5) Remove of clauses that few other people would want to remove

6) A trivial rewording that has no legal effect

1 requires a different license. No surprise there.

2 and 3 mean that the clauses in question should become optional clauses 
in the modular license. That way people can use them AND mix and match 
them with other clauses.

4 and 5 mean that you have decided to do something uncommon, and if you 
insist on doing so then you will be using a different license and have 
compatibility issues as expected. That can't be helped.

6 is the really important one, and the cause of many BSDL variants. In the 
end, the best solution is NOT to rubber stamp 50 different wordings of the 
same license. The community has to settle on an acceptable wording and 
give up the fantasy of tailoring the license to be word-for-word how you 
want it. That's just a consequence of being part of a community.

Implementation of the license wording is something that should be figured 
out once and reused...that's the "how". What we can't do is force a 
particular feature set on them in order to gain compatibility...that's the 
"what". People have every right to select their own "what", and a modular 
license allows them to do that without having to write their own "how" 
every time.

Donovan Hawkins, PhD                 "The study of physics will always be
Software Engineer                     safer than biology, for while the                   hazards of physics drop off as 1/r^2,                biological ones grow exponentially."