menu license

Tom Gidden gid at
Thu Apr 15 07:32:24 UTC 1999

>It would be fun to write a grammar for all the licenses that could be
>produced this way, though.  Then you could write a very concise definition
>a particular license.

This has been lightly discussed on the web communities Slashdot and

The idea being that a license could be condensed to something akin to the
Geek Code, which could then be reexpanded to:

1. A formal definition in legalese
2. A plain english definition
3. A comparison with other licenses, eg. GPL, Apache, BSD

The full license would probably accompany the software for legal reasons,
but be prefixed by a preamble along the lines of:

"This software is licensed according to the Standardised Adaptable License
using the following definition:   (code here).   For an explanation on how
to interpret this code, consult RFC-xxxx or the website: (insert URL here).
The legal license for this software is listed below, and may be clarified by
the author."

Then a simple web form (that URL) would take you to a page where you could
derive the expanded forms as described above.

The site would also allow software authors to "roll their own" license using
tickboxes, building a license that suits them, but would do so in a
formalised standard way to prevent confusion.

If possible, the site would calculate which OSI certification marks the
license would comply with.  An author would thus be able to see what their
'only if your favorite color is blue' clause would do to the freedom of
their software.

It'd also stop the arguments about whether a license is Open Source or not.
It'd just start arguments (on this list!) about what clauses should be added
or modified in the database.

Standardised License Markup Language, anyone? =)


Tom Gidden,
mailto:gid at

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