Get ready....

Brian Behlendorf brian at
Wed Apr 14 23:16:44 UTC 1999

On Wed, 14 Apr 1999, Mark Rafn wrote:
> May I recommend ASCII text (in addition to whatever other formats you
> like)?  It's almost certainly going to end up as a textfile called LICENSE
> in the distribution anyway.  More importatly, it allows easy listing of
> changes between various versions of the license.

+1 on that idea.  Exchanging diffs is an extremely efficient way (for me,
at least) to see what changes exist between two documents, and diffs only
work well with flat text.

> 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.

I'm in strong agreement with this & the rest of your letter (elided for
clarity).  One problem is that each license also has "baggage" associated
with it in the eyes of companies, because the brand of the project is
usually so intertwined.  E.g., a company might not want to use the GPL
because it's got GNU and FSF all over it; yet if they did a
search-and-replace of GNU and FSF with their company name, people would
howl with protest, I'm sure.  Same goes for the Apache license.  Companies
might also be concerned that using another project's license might confuse
people into thinking that the other project has control or domain over
this new code.

I'm not saying I agree with these sentiments; I'm just trying to say they
exist, and are obstacles.  I agree that the right long-term solution is a
collection of building blocks for licenses that companies can select from
to form a new license.  That's an awfully big project, though.

Perhaps the next best thing would be to take the major licenses (GPL,
Artistic, BSD, MPL, APSL) and genericize them - abstract all the
project-specific or company-specific information into the equivalent of a
header file, and allow that header file to be tweaked per-project while
the licenses themselves would be entirely static and devoid of any
branding.  Then produce a set of web pages comparing the licenses to each
other, show which ones can't be mixed, that sort of thing.  That's
certainly a much more manageable project.


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