Subject: RE: Academic Free License
From: "Lawrence E. Rosen" <>
Date: Tue, 25 Jun 2002 20:37:29 -0700

Hi Rod,

Thanks as always for your cogent questions and comments.  Well worthy of
a reply....
> Larry, I like the simplicity of the AFL, but there are two 
> general issues I would like to raise as questions more than 
> an expression of an opinion. 

> 1) Why copyright the license 
> text?  Assuming that the text of a license is copyrightable, 
> does the accompanying notice introduce confusion? Aside from 
> the well-intentioned insistence on the adoption of the "list 
> of conditions," for distribution of software with the AFL, is 
> it consistent with the objectives of open source to constrain 
> (withhold permission for) modifications of the license? I 
> have always puzzled over whether a suit for copyright 
> infringement of the license text accomplishes anything that a 
> software license does not accomplish in the context of open source???

I personally have no intention of ultimately holding copyright in that
license.  Perhaps an organization like Creative Commons, or an academic
licensing organization, might accept copyright assignment from me of the
Academic Free License (or an improved version of it).  What I am
concerned about is having multiple versions circulating around the web
while we discuss and improve upon this draft.  There is no effective
means other than the copyright law to prevent people from circulating
non-redlined modifications of my draft license that otherwise might
become self-effectuating by a simple notice in software.  So, which
draft of the Academic Free License is currently the "official" one?
"Mine!" under the authority of the Copyright Act.

"Assuming that the text of a license is copyrightable...."  You may well
raise that important issue.  Copyrightability is a problem for any
document that purports to both have utility (and legal effects) and is
expressive.  Can a software license be copyrighted?  Can a set of rules
for calculating your income tax?  Can a specification for software be
copyrighted if the only purpose of the document is to permit
implementation of that specification?  Can a published technical
standard be copyrighted so as to prevent implementers from modifying
their programs?  Can a standard that is adopted as a statute by
reference be copyrighted?  (See the important Veeck case.)  Why don't we
take these questions to the cni-copyright list where attorneys can
debate this to their hearts' content?  In the meantime, I elected to
claim copyright in the Academic Free License to guarantee some semblance
of version control while people suggest improvements.

> 2) The AFL seems to be targeted for those licensors who need 
> an open source license from Original Licensor 
> ----->to---->licensee, but not necessarily subsequent 
> end-users.  Is this correct or, does the 2 "list of 
> conditions" clauses ostensibly impose a copyleft constraint?

The Academic Free License is not intended to impose copyleft.  I make no
political statement here.  I would personally probably prefer a license
that imposed source code reciprocity for all derivative works.  What I
was trying to do in the Academic Free License was merely to clean up
some problems I perceived to exist in the BSD, MIT, UoI/NCSA and Apache

Under the AFL, Software is fully licensed for the creation of derivative
works that may be either proprietary or open source.  The original
copyright notices in the Software must be displayed on all copies and
derivative works.  Other than that, there is no requirement to publish
source code of derivative works (or of copies).  

The license is intended to be available directly from the licensor to
anyone who obtains a copy of the Software.  A sublicense is not

/Larry Rosen

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