Get ready....

Gabe Wachob gwachob at
Wed Apr 14 20:30:42 UTC 1999

Mark Rafn wrote:

> On an unrelated note, I assume their lawyers generated this license from
> scratch.  Why not use the open-source model for licenses as well?  Take a
> well-liked license (I'd recommend Perl's Artistic License, but there are
> many others) and change what you must in order to fit your specific
> requirements.
> Publishing diffs off of an already-reviewed license would make it much
> easier to give feedback, and would allow people to concentrate on
> intentional changes in the contract rather than having to nitpick every
> single paragraph.  Also, it would encourage others to use this approach
> when _they_ want to give something to the community, and we can eventually
> spend less time bickering about license-of-the-week and more time creating
> and using the software.
> I'm of the opinion that license interoperability among different packages
> is nearly as important as technical interoperabity.  One way to achieve
> this is to standardize licenses like we [try to] standardize protocols.

Also, it makes interpretation of licenses and contracts much easier if the
contracts are made in a context where the language is well understood. If
identical language is used from contract to contract, then a well-known
meaning becomes attached to that language and courts will look to that
meaning absent other evidence of the understanding of the parties to the
license or contract if there is a dispute.

In fact, most lawyers who draft contracts do so by gluing together
"boilerplate" language for this very reason (and because its very quick and
easy). Language is very imprecise, so when a good formulation of an
understanding is made in the English language (or whatever the language being
used is), it is often used and reused. Drafting contracts is mostly like
building a building-- you have an idea of what you want to end up with and
its just a matter of putting together the parts together so that the building
stands up to whatever sort of eventualities are expected. Most architects
don't start from scratch, and neither do lawyers (that would be incredibly

Anyway, the long and short of it is that perhaps there should be at least a
catalog (an 'a la carte' menu perhaps) of license terms from which a party
can choose to create an overall license. The idea is that each item (part of
a contract) is well understood and the implications of each choice can be
explained explicitly.

The tricky part, of course, is doing this without crossing the line of
Unauthorized Practice of Law. My attitude (as a non-practicing lawyer) is
that this sort of thing, as long as specifically disclaimed as not being
legal advice *should* be just fine to do -- I make no opinion on whether it
*is* fine to do..

    -Gabe Wachob
    Director of Technology, Findlaw.Com

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