Clarification on Using Licenses

jcowan at jcowan at
Thu Apr 1 19:06:23 UTC 2004

Eugene Wee scripsit:

> For example, I wish to use the IBM Public license version 1.0, and I 
> change every instance of "International Business Machines Corporation" 
> or "IBM" to "Example Corporation".

In this particular case, you can use the Common Public License, which templates
all instances of IBM except one, the maintainer of the license.
Making similar changes to other licenses is usually not a problem, although
it technically constitutes a breach of copyright.  The GPL explicitly forbids
changing it, in order to prevent the creation of a large number of subtly
incompatible licenses.

> Also, what about superficial changes to the license itself, on the same 
> lines as of the above mentioned alterations?
> Do these affect the open source status of the software?

Not if they're superficial enough, but we can't tell that until we see.

> For example, using the BSD license template I find that "name of the 
> <ORGANIZATION> nor the names of its contributors" is more suitably 
> replaced by "names of the copyright holders nor the names of the 
> contributors", in the 3rd condition.
> Furthermore, what if I replace "COPYRIGHT OWNER" with "COPYRIGHT 
> HOLDERS" in the disclaimer, considering that the former is also used?

Gratuitously altering language long established, and which may have legal
meaning, is usually a Bad Idea.

But you, Wormtongue, you have done what you could for your true master.  Some
reward you have earned at least.  Yet Saruman is apt to overlook his bargains.
I should advise you to go quickly and remind him, lest he forget your faithful
service.  --Gandalf             John Cowan <jcowan at>
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