Uses of the Artistic License?

Matthew Flaschen matthew.flaschen at
Wed Jan 17 01:33:00 UTC 2007

Bob Jacobsen wrote:
> Can anybody please point me to users of the Artistic License?
> I'm a party to a Federal lawsuit involving copyright of open-source code
> that's released under the Artistic License.  For more information about
> that, please see <>.  The
> defendants have argued that our use of the Artistic License does not
> provide protection under copyright law, but only much more limited
> protection under contract law. Should they win this, it would be an
> unfortunate precedent.

First, the Artistic License is interesting because it's the only
OSI-approved license that (to my knowledge) the Free Software Foundation
has specifically decided is unfree
 This is simply because they found the Artistic License too vague. I am
not a lawyer, but I think you're wrong in saying that the Artistic
licnese means "nobody charge for the software itself".  It says you can
charge a "reasonable copying fee" that you must only justify to the
"market", which is a fairly large loophole that probably allows selling
for any price.  Item #1 of the Open Source Definition says "The license
shall not restrict any party from selling [...] the software", so if
your interpretation is right, the Artistic License shouldn't be
OSI-approved.  However, if I understand right, this issue isn't central
to your copyright claim.

> One of the things we have to file with the Court is a disclosure of
> "interested entities".  The outcome of this case may be of interest to
> any project using the Artistic License, and perhaps more generally to
> users of other licenses.

The interpretation of free/open source licenses *as* licenses, rather
than contracts is key to most licensors, including the FSF.

  We should therefore list any projects using
> the Artistic License that we can reasonably find.  I know about Perl,
> and have included that.  (It would also be helpful to point at any
> published information on Perl usage; I'd appreciate a pointer to
> anything like that you might know about)

Perl is licensed under the so-called Perl License, a dual-license of the
GNU GPL ( and the Artistic License.
 It is my understanding that most CPAN ( modules
share this license.

 Are there any other large
> and/or well-known projects?

I found a virtual machine called Parrot (,
started by the Perl community, also dual-licensed with the GPL.

Matthew Flaschen

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