Request for approval: EUPL (European Union Public Licence)

Philippe Verdy verdy_p at
Thu Mar 27 10:53:04 UTC 2008

> De : David Woolley [mailto:forums at] 
> (Open source is about rights for the licencee.  Copyleft 
> licence compatibility is about the rights of both licensor 
> and licensee, so would require that both parties used and 
> understood the same terms.)

The two goals you just cited are in opposition:
* the goal "using the same terms" would militate for using the same terms,
so it *could* promote monolinguism
* the goal "understanding the same terms" would require using a language
that each party really understands and is opposed to monolinguism.

The approach used in EC is that multilinguism is favored, in order to reach
the mamimum number of EU citizens; so texts are effectiely translated. But
not ALL languages are supported, only the lanugages where there is a
competent juridiction working with it. In the European Union, the relevant
languages are the official languages of member countries, and in which the
treaties are officially signed and published. So this concerns a dozen of
languages. For non binding texts (excluding treaties and laws, such as
European directives) the list of languages is restricted to a handful of
"working languages". But in all cases, the translations have to be approved.

What this means is that no translation can have any binding efect in any
contract if it has not been approved and signed (or ratified for treaties)
by EU members or their official representants.

So I don't understand why you think that a translation can be dangerous in a
* first, licences are private contracts, the parties can choose the language
they want and find a prior agreement about the language to use.
* second, if one would refer to the EUPL, it would have to use the text as
it is published by the European institution emitting it. This institution
cannot make any translation avaialble with any binding effect without prior
approval by its members.

Each translation of any EU text contains a notice about which translations
are available and usable. There exists sometimes some supplementary
translations, but the document header clearly states that this is published
for information only. The laws in EU members are clearly stating that
translations are usable provided that they are certified. And legislation
also protect texts from unfair translations, because texts remain protected
with exclusive rights in their origin language by their initial author; as
the licence will be signed and published by the EU body, nobody else than
the EU body owning that text will have the possibility to say that a random
translation is valid for use in any court. Users will still have the
possibility to use another translation, but it will not be possible to name
it with the same name for the licence, as the equivalence will not be proven
and agreed, and rying to do so would introduce a confusion that is not
acceptable and would violate the EU copyright and other exclusive rights.

If parties to a contract or licence are using the EUPL and reside in the EU,
they are guaranteed to find judges that can work with documents written in
one of the official EU language. So judges will be able to understand terms
from any pair of licences, if the users involded in a lience litigation do
not choose the same language. You can be quite sure that any translation
will have extremely good equivalences in all approved languages. Among these
languages, you'll find the few working languages that are at least English,
French, German, and Dutch will also be widely included (because the ECJ is
in the Netherlands, and EU institutions are in Belgium and Luxembourg where
Dutch is also coofficial): these four languages are the only one that are
used officially in more than just one EU country. Swedish has also been
proposed as an additional working language as it is official in Aaland (part
of Finland) and Sweden, and is widely understood also in Denmark.

The OSD board need not investigate all languages if it only understands
English. It is in the same situation than a EU citizen in UK or Ireland that
has to work with EU texts and legislation. The European legislation gives to
UK and Irish users the right to choose English, so the OSD board can also
use that language if that is the only language that it understand, and the
OSD need not understand something else. That's the beauty of multilinguism:
this choice will still work if any party uses another approved language,
because the texts will guarantee that the interpretation made in English
will still be valid. If a interprettion problem occurs, it will have to be
discussed and decided in English if one party chooses English.

So whare is the problem? Nowhere. The multilinguism is a reuirement only for
public binding texts and legislation applicable to EU citizens. This
reuirement does not apply to private contracts, so parties still have to
agree first on the language they will use. IF no agreement is found, only
the few languages approved by the EU as working languages will be used as
the reference, or the language used by the court where the parties will
conduct their litigation.

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