Subject: RE: GPLv3 draft
From: "Lawrence Rosen" <lrosen@rosenlaw.com>
Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2006 22:42:07 -0700

Ben Tilly wrote:
> It is far better to have a single license written in one language that
> is as clear as possible.  Particularly if said license is written in
> such a way that it will almost certainly be valid in any country that
> abides by international agreements on what contract and copyright law
> should look like.  And for software development, for better or for
> worse, the natural language to choose for this purpose is English.
> 
> Which is what the GPL does.

More correctly, this is what GPL attempts to do but hasn't succeeded yet. As
a license -- even in its latest draft -- it isn't yet "as clear as possible"
or "almost certainly ... valid in any country." Wishing that result doesn't
make it so.

Every major free and open source license has so far been written in English.
Some are better, some are worse. The translation problem isn't the hard part
of license drafting.

/Larry

Lawrence Rosen
Rosenlaw & Einschlag, a technology law firm (www.rosenlaw.com)
Stanford University, Lecturer in Law
3001 King Ranch Road, Ukiah, CA 95482
707-485-1242  *  fax: 707-485-1243
Author of "Open Source Licensing: Software Freedom and 
                Intellectual Property Law" (Prentice Hall 2004)

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ben Tilly [mailto:btilly@gmail.com]
> Sent: Monday, April 10, 2006 9:42 PM
> To: Stephen J. Turnbull
> Cc: simo; fsb@crynwr.com
> Subject: Re: GPLv3 draft
> 
> On 4/10/06, Stephen J. Turnbull <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp> wrote:
> > >>>>> "simo" == simo  <s@ssimo.org> writes:
> [...]
> >     simo> Don't think so, to solve [the problem of interpretation
> >     simo> varying across jurisdictions] you should really draw a set
> >     simo> of licenses each in the native jurisdiction language and
> >     simo> with precise reference to this jurisdiction laws.
> >
> > As far as I can tell, the FSF doesn't consider that a good strategy.
> > Instead they prefer to make adjustments and translations only when
> > necessary.  The GPL doesn't even grant permission to make translations
> > of itself into other languages for *any* purpose, let alone for use as
> > a license.  That language has not changed at all in draft GPLv3.
> [...]
> 
> I agree with the FSF on this one.
> 
> The problem with many jurisdictional licenses is that wording a
> license to mean what you think it should mean is very hard.  Correctly
> translating one and making it mean the exact same thing is even
> harder.  And making developers agree to a whole slew of licenses, most
> of which they can't read, is a complete nonstarter.
> 
> It is far better to have a single license written in one language that
> is as clear as possible.  Particularly if said license is written in
> such a way that it will almost certainly be valid in any country that
> abides by international agreements on what contract and copyright law
> should look like.  And for software development, for better or for
> worse, the natural language to choose for this purpose is English.
> 
> Which is what the GPL does.
> 
> Cheers,
> Ben