Fighting license proliferation at its core: Mighty and Beastie Licenses

Alex Bligh alex at
Mon Sep 12 14:50:54 UTC 2005

--On 12 September 2005 15:53 +0200 Chris Zumbrunn <chris at> wrote:

> Otherwise, is the safety of verbose licenses, that leave little room/risk
> for interpretation by the courts, a sufficiently significant advantage
> that the use of non-verbose licenses in the open source community should
> be discouraged?

I don't think verbosity is the correct measure. Certainty is the correct
measure. Certainty is good for licensors, licensees, and courts alike
(well, I suppose excepting those who get paid by the hour in the event
of a dispute :-) ).

A license which is overly verbose is in my opinion likely to be uncertain,
at least to potential licensees because they simply won't understand it.

A license which is too concise may miss important features (e.g. defining
terms used) which can equally lead it to be unenforceable.

A license which is poorly drafted is always going to lose to one which is
well drafted.

One of the merits of the OSL is its comparative brevity. The CDDL is
(once you get your head around it) quite understandable as well (in my
opinion). When I first looked at it I thought "hell there must be loads
of stuff we can cut here". There wasn't. Here's some issues that make
it longer which from memory your licenses don't have
1. Indemnity
2. Warranty limitation
3. Definition of various terms (e.g. code)
4. Conditions for reuse of the license itself
5. License version rolling (i.e. allowing a new version to supercede an
   old versoin)
6. Patent grants
7. Patent defence clause
while you may not think some of the above are necessary, they are each
"functionality", rather than merely verbosity. Believe me, I can add
herewith & heretofore as well as the next man if necessary :-)


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