Subject: Re: Towards an OSI-approved "waive all rights" software license
From: Karl Fogel <kfogel@red-bean.com>
Date: Mon, 18 Apr 2011 00:24:09 -0400

Derrick Coetzee <dcoetzee@gmail.com> writes:
>I'm a software developer/grad student and administrator on Wikipedia
>and Wikimedia Commons. As you may be aware, in 2009 Creative Commons
>released the CC0 Waiver, a tool for waiving as many rights as possible
>in a work, worldwide - I use it myself extensively as it appears to be
>the only professional public legal tool that allows an author to make
>a work available without a requirement of attribution.
>
>Nearly every OSI-approved license today - including MIT/X11 and BSD -
>requires not only some form of attribution but also reproduction of
>the license in derivative works. For integrating large components into
>a system, this is feasible and appropriate, but even these
>light-weight requirements can rapidly grow cumbersome for small
>"snippets" of code like individual files, functions, and small
>libraries that are borrowed from open source repositories. There are
>countless examples of snippet sharing sites, snippets are frequently
>shared through documentation and forum posts, and research shows many
>modern programmers have incorporated the rapid assimilation of code
>snippets from diverse sources into their workflow, with little to no
>regard for attribution or the legal consequences. I believe
>facilitating the legal use of snippet repositories in this manner is
>essential to maintain long-term productivity of the developer
>community. An OSI-approved "waive all rights" license could be easily
>adopted by code snippet repository websites as a logical choice, as
>well as by developers without an interest in attribution like myself,
>and would lead to greater community code reuse due to a decreased
>burden on the reuser.
>
>There are two paths I see to this: one is to adopt the existing CC0 in
>its entirety as a software license; the other is to start with CC0 and
>tack on a disclaimer similar to the one in the MIT license, to attempt
>to indemnify developers against liability. I'd like to know your
>thoughts on what other paths are available for a "waive all rights"
>software license, or your thoughts on whether one is needed. Thanks
>for your feedback

I think the simplest possible "waive all rights" license already exists,
in the the New (Simplified 2-Clause) BSD License [1]:

  http://www.opensource.org/licenses/bsd-license

It doesn't actually require attribution; it does require that the
license text itself be reproduced with the sources, as you point out.
However, this would be necessary to preserve *any* license, given
third-party redistribution.  So while it does impose a burden, it is
probably an unavoidable part of having licensing at all.

Now, I just noticed that the OSI's page about the BSD license only gives
the 3-clause version [2], which is essentially the same as far as our
discussion goes.  I'm not sure yet whether this is an oversight; I'll
look into it.  Neither version of the license requires positive
attribution; they do require that the license text be reproduced (and of
course, the license text may have some implicit attribution in it, but
anyway at least it doesn't affect how the covered work is displayed or,
if it is software, how it runs).

For "waive all rights", CC0 is the best thing I can think of.  It's not
really a license, of course (as you seem to be aware).

Let me know if any of this analysis seems off to you.

Best,
-Karl

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BSD_licenses#2-clause_license_.28.22Simplified_BSD_License.22_or_.22FreeBSD_License.22.29

[2] http://www.opensource.org/licenses/bsd-license