For Approval: Some License Or Another

Chuck Swiger chuck at
Tue Nov 30 02:47:27 UTC 2004

Alvin Oga wrote:
> hi ya chuck

Hi, Alvin--

> On Mon, 29 Nov 2004, Chuck Swiger wrote:
[ ... ]
> i equate that to :
> 	- a software programmer writing a legal document is the equivalent
> 	to a lawyer writing complicated software code 
> 	- the end result will be a direct result of one's understanding of
> 	the issues at hand and one can do it oneself or solicit input
> 	from those that do it for a living

Good description!  I agree that some software authors, OS vendors, and 
redistributors look to this list and similar FSF/GNU lists for help creating 
an "open license" which "plays nice" with existing software.

The devil is in the details.  :-)

Is there anything the OSI or this list can do to encourage short, legible 
licenses which can be understood and followed by average end-users, or adopted 
by software authors, instead of said authors creating more new licenses?

I admit that I would prefer OSI license candidates to pass the "resume test" 
(namely, "OSD #11: it all needs to fit on one page or it's too long!" :-)

> 	- by the same token, one must undrstand all the issues to talk to
> 	the lawyers to draw up a license that is binding in the target
> 	market

IANAL; while I believe that people have to be able to understand a license 
before it could be truthfully asserted that such person has agreed to the 
terms of the license, that is up to the courts.

> the part i like; if a law[y]er is paid to write a legal doc, they
> presumably know what they are doing and they presumably have
> liability insurance if they "screw up" in a big way, that an
> entry level attorney wouldn't have made those mistakes

I am assured that cooks cover their mistakes with more ketchup, that doctors 
cover their mistakes with more blood, and that lawyers cover their mistakes 
with more words.

Frankly, however, we in the software industry have had it easy for decades via 
the standard "no warranty/disclaimer in CAPS" compared with, say, the legal 
agreements, arguments, and contracts found in the entertainment industry.

> somewhere along the line, due my foggy crystal ball, i suspect there
> probably will be a test case, wrt to "licenses" :
> 	"practicing law without a license"

I believe that applies only to claiming to be a lawyer and providing legal 
advice to other people.

I do not believe that the legal profession has been able to contort the law to 
the point where individuals are unable to make binding agreements for 
themselves on their own terms.  However, it is probably true that lawyers and 
lawmakers have succeeded in contorting the law to the point where it is often 
unwise for an individual to attempt to make one's own agreements without a 
legal degree or professional advice.


PS: While I live in one of the three? states which still permits individuals 
to take the bar exam without going to law school: IANAL, TINLA.  :-)

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