For Approval: Academic Citing License

Evan Prodromou evan at
Mon Sep 27 05:32:47 UTC 2004

On Mon, 2004-09-27 at 06:08 +0200, Johannes Kaiser wrote:
> On 26 Sep 2004, at 23:17, Evan Prodromou wrote:

> > This is where you're mistaken: this is _nothing_like_ the requirement 
> > to have license notification. That's a restriction on the publication of
> > the work itself. You're trying to restrict the publication of the 
> > output of the program -- a very clear restriction on use.
> OK, I see that the condition is a restriction on use *in general*.

Yes. The problem is that, as the copyright holder, you have limited
rights to tell people how they can use your software. You can keep them
from distributing it or making modified versions and distributing those,
but you can't really tell anyone how to use it day to day.

At least, this is how I understand the "no restrictions on use" idea.
Why isn't it part of the OSD, you may ask? I'm not sure. My guess is
that it was assumed that since copyright holders don't have the right to
tell people how to use their software, that shouldn't show up in
licenses anyways.

> > I would suggest that you license your work under one of the already-
> > approved Open Source licenses, and add a _reminder_ in the 
> > documentation for your work that scientists who use your code to
> > make new discoveries
> > are obliged through both professional courtesy and thoroughness of
> > reference to cite your original article.
> That is exactly what I think science should work like! Unfortunately, 
> it does not far too often. At least, I know a couple of pretty bad 
> stories.

This is unfortunate. However, I don't think your license will solve the
problem. If someone publishes a paper that uses your software but
doesn't cite you, what will you do? Sue them? My guess is that your
restriction is unenforceable, and you would lose in court.

If you're not going to sue, or if you can't, then it's probably not a
good idea to include the restriction in your license.


Evan Prodromou <evan at>
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