Please discuss the PSF license

Karsten M. Self kmself at
Mon Nov 19 18:47:41 UTC 2001

on Sun, Nov 18, 2001 at 09:30:54PM -0800, David Johnson (david at wrote:
> On Sunday 18 November 2001 07:29 pm, Russell Nelson wrote:
> > Please look at the Python Software Foundation license:
> >
> >
> This license appears to conform to the OSD, and to be GPL compliant. I see no 
> reason not to approve it. However a few comments are in order:
> "accessing and otherwise using Python 2.1.1 software in source or binary form"
> If this license could be templatized, so it is not specific to a
> particular program and version, it could then be used by many other
> projects, and wouldn't have to be re-approved for each Python release.

You're eliding "alone or in any derivative version", which should cover
your concerns.  The issue addressed by the license, I believe, is that
Python has been covered by a number of different (and to some extent,
incompatible) licenses at various points in time), particularly the (now
defunct) BeOpen and CNRI.  Though your point that this need not be
addressed within the license itself but in supplemental text might be
well taken.

> "Licensee hereby agrees to include in any such work a brief summary of
> the changes made to Python 2.1.1."
> It would be nicer if this wasn't so vague. Just what is a 'brief summary'? 
> Will standard code comments of the sort "the old way was stupid" count?

This seems to me to be similar in spirit to GPL clause 2(a):

    You must cause the modified files to carry prminent notices that you
    changed the files and the date of any change.

Question to Guido and PSF:  is this the extent of "brief summary" that's
intended by the PSF License?

> "By copying, installing or otherwise using the software, Licensee
> agrees to be bound by the terms and conditions of this License
> Agreement."
> By merely following standard copyright law, the user will not violate
> any terms of the license. This clause is redundant, in my layman
> opinion, since the only way to violate it is to violate existing law.

It's not redundant in that it addresses "use" of the software, which
raises the license above the scope of copyright.  This isn't a
specifically enumerated exclusive right under 17 USC 106, and may fall
under the excluded protections of 102(b).  "Use" as such isn't addressed
in 17 USC 501 (copyright infringement).  17 USC 117 allows for making
(or authorizing of making) of copies required for execution, by the
owner of a copy of a program.

> In addition, it specifies that one "agrees" simply by executing the
> software, a right that is granted to the user. How can I have the
> right to use the software if the exercise of that right automatically
> indicates my acceptance of unrelated terms?

I also note that "use" is one of the permitted actions under the BSD
license, though this isn't a condition used to indicate acceptance of
terms.  The GPL specifically excludes consideration of any actions
concerned with "running" a program.  

A narrow reading of the GPL might hold that conditioning acceptence of
licensing terms on use of a program is an incompatible additional
licensing condition.  This raises concerns as earlier iterations of
Python licensing have similar language.


Karsten M. Self <kmself at>
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