Accidental Public License?

Karl Fogel kfogel at
Wed Apr 6 23:42:31 UTC 2011

Allison Randal <allison at> writes:
>I have accidentally given birth to a new copyleft license. I've
>received a request for permission to use my "Simplified GPL" for an
>open source project:
>I'm not asking for this license to be approved by the OSI, but I'm
>very aware of the fact that it has only so far been examined in detail
>by me and one intellectual property lawyer. I would appreciate any
>feedback, especially highlighting any flaws that would make this a
>poor choice for an open source project. (There are some details in
>that draft that I would remove if I were writing a stand-alone
>copyleft license. I was sticking slavishly to the GPLv3 terms for the
>sake of illustration.)
>I'm generally against license proliferation, but I also don't see a
>clear alternative to suggest that accomplishes the same copyleft goals
>as the GPL, without the archaic ambiguities of GPLv2 or the
>unnecessary complexity of GPLv3.

One alternative: suggest to the person that they just use the GPLv3 but
preface it with a non-binding "human-readable" explanation of what it
means, much as Creative Commons does with all their licenses?

The thing is, even if (say) the GPLv3 is complex in its own right, a
given legal department only needs to learn that complexity once.  The
GPLv3's *marginal* complexity then drops to... well, not to zero, but to
something much less than any new, untested license anyway.

So in the aggregate, any standard open source license is less complex
than any rarely-used license, even if the latter is a marvel of
simplicity in its own right.

If you agree with this general line of reasoning, please feel free to
forward this message to those who asked you about the Simplified GPL.
I'm hoping they'll do the simple thing and go with GPLv3, once they
think it all the way through.


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