Approval Requested for AFL 1.2 and OSL 1.1

John Cowan jcowan at
Wed Nov 6 16:40:35 UTC 2002

Forrest J. Cavalier III scripsit:

> Wait a minute Larry.  I didn't have any trouble with the word
> "prepare" but what happened to the attitude that lawyers
> are skilled in the art of communicating an agreement?

The final arbiter of the meaning of legal documents is a court, which
is accustomed to seeing words used in certain ways and not others.
If you are making a will, and your lawyer says:

	So you want to leave your house to your Aunt Matilda?

and you reply:

	Oh yes, absolutely!

and your lawyer writes:

	I bequeath my house [etc. etc.] to my aunt Matilda Simmons absolutely.

then bad things will happen if you die with this will in effect, and no house!
(See Dorothy L. Sayers's mystery _Unnatural Death_.)

> Since you are writing licenses for licensors, you might often
> have the attitude that their main purpose is keeping the
> licensor from being a defendant.  But open-source is about
> a playing-field where licensors and licensees cooperate.  We
> don't want any plaintiffs.

It would be unprofessional to assume there won't be any.  The proper place
for layman-readable explanations is *not* inside the license, but either in
a preamble or in explanatory text elsewhere.

> The licensees must know how the licensor wishes them to cooperate.
> There has been recent discussion on this list about making sure the
> licensee sees and accepts the disclaimers and license.  What is the
> point if the wording is only readable by lawyers and those intimately
> familiar with the Copyright Act?

Everyone is presumed to know the law.  "Ignorance of the law is no defense,
for it is a defense that every man will make, and no man know how to refute."
If you fear you are agreeing to something against your interests, consult
a lawyer.

> BTW, request for approval after very recent changes is a poor
> idea from a "release engineering" perspective.  What's the rush?

If I want to use the OSL 1.1 (believing that the OSL 1.0 is unsuitable),
I can't call my software OSI Certified until the board acts.  I agree
that asking too often is a Bad Thing, but when Larry believes he is done,
it is appropriate for him to ask.

John Cowan                              <jcowan at>    
Unified Gaelic in Cyrillic script!
license-discuss archive is at

More information about the License-discuss mailing list