Towards an OSI-approved "waive all rights" software license

Lawrence Rosen lrosen at
Mon Apr 18 18:00:21 UTC 2011

I support Creative Commons licenses. However, I have two concerns about the
use of CC0 for software:

1. Nobody needs any permission (license or otherwise) for works truly in the
public domain by law or public policy. There are serious doubts that a
dedication of a copyrighted work to the public domain can actually be done
or that such a dedication contains sufficient conditions to be enforceable
without treating it as a contract, and so CC0 contains a license fallback.
OSI could analyze CC0 for its license fallback terms, but not as a public
domain dedication. 

2. The CC0 license says nothing about patents. I find this particularly
troubling when a CC0 license (or the BSD license, for that matter!) is used
for software or specifications by companies that have large patent
portfolios. What are you withholding? That license is not designed for
software, although I suppose it works for you if you believe that copyright
is all that matters for functional software.

>From the Creative Commons FAQ:

   Can I use a Creative Commons license for software?

   We do not recommend it. Creative Commons licenses should not be 
   used for software. We strongly encourage you to use one of the 
   very good software licenses which are already available. We 
   recommend considering licenses made available by the Free 
   Software Foundation or listed at the Open Source Initiative. 
   Unlike our licenses, which do not make mention of source or 
   object code, these existing licenses were designed specifically
   for use with software. Furthermore, our licenses are not 
   compatible with the GPL, the most frequently used free
   software license.

Note: CC0 is actually compatible with GPL for copyright purposes only!


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Richard Fontana [mailto:rfontana at]
> Sent: Monday, April 18, 2011 9:22 AM
> To: Wilson, Andrew
> Cc: license-discuss at; dc at
> Subject: Re: Towards an OSI-approved "waive all rights" software
> license
> On Mon, Apr 18, 2011 at 09:09:26AM -0700, Wilson, Andrew wrote:
> > We at Intel release a lot of sample code.  For really short code
> snippets, translations,
> > or other non-copyrightable material we use CC0.
> At Red Hat we have started using CC0 similarly. I have also found it
> useful in situations where we wish to resolve any doubt about whether
> we have some meaningful copyright interest in some code (typically
> some very small, ancient piece of code that has turned up somewhere).
>  - Richard
> --
> Richard E. Fontana
> Open Source Licensing and Patent Counsel
> Red Hat, Inc.

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