[License-discuss] a GPLv3 compatible attribution for MIT/BSD?

Clark C. Evans cce at clarkevans.com
Sat Jan 21 04:45:13 UTC 2012

On Wed, Jan 18, 2012, at 05:19 PM, John Cowan wrote:
> What I would do if I were you is to construct such a license 
> using the MIT license and the attribution clause you want, 
> carefully tracking the language in the GPLv3.  Then follow 
> the process "For Approval" at http://www.opensource.org/approval.  
> IMHO you can reasonably ask for the outside legal review to be
> waived, given the simplicity of your license.

Since I'm not a legal professional, I'd prefer someone who is 
associated with the Open Source Initiative to provide some 
guidance if they might feel inclined. 

My objective for this license (MIT + Attribution Clause) is to
inform people who use works based on this software that the program
they are using is built with other components.  Acknowledgement
is probably the most important compensation that developers could
get and it's the right thing to do.  That said, I don't want this
requirement to be hard to grok, intrusive or obnoxious; further, 
I'd like the license to be very generic without having any sort 
of NOTICE text file or license addendum or exhibit.  What's very
important is that the clause is succinct, understandable, effective,
and easy to use.

I intend to make some sort of ``credit.js`` project with an 
enumeration of projects, urls, collaborators, and other detail 
that might automate the compliance with this license.  It'd have 
some sort of "<credits and legal notices>" button that would have 
a pop-up with an attractive listing of open source components.  Of 
course, if someone did this before I do it... great!

Without further ado, here is a second draft of a clause which 
would be added to an MIT derived license...

  To the extent that a work containing this software displays 
  author attributions, copyrights and legal notices, it must
  credit this work and its development project commensurately.

The GPLv3 uses the words "containing this software" and
"based on this software" often, the former being used in 7b,
so this is the wording I use here. 

The GPLv3 uses a "to the extent that it" to explicitly mean that
such a display of legal notices isn't required, and that these
requirements only bind if such a display exists (see 5d).  This
is the phrasing I use here.

The GPLv3's definition of Appropriate Legal Notices is a user
interface feature that displays a copyright notice and provides
warranty and other license detail.  In the interest of brevity, 
I've shortened this: 'displays ... copyrights and legal notices'.  

The GPLv3 permits requiring "author attributions" in 7b as a 
permissive clause, I took the liberty of adding this as an 
explicit sort of display feature that would be most appropriate.
If there are a list of author attributions, this seems also a 
place where acknowledgement of a work would be appropriate.

By "credit" I'm thinking of the standard verb definition,
to "Publicly acknowledge someone as a participant in the 
production of (something published or broadcast)."  It seemed
both succinct and to the point given the current context.

By "this work and its development project" I mean that the 
attribution should not focus on the copyright holder(s) or
contributors directly, but rather include the name of the 
work itself and its developer community.  The FSF acknowledged 
"Powered By <product>" as a valid author attribution as the 
GPLv3 was being discussed.  I'd like to make this more clear, 
since developers are often rather anonymous, wishing broader 
recognition through the name of the projects they contribute.
Besides, listing dozens of people is almost certainly tedious.

By "commensurately", I mean that the effect of this attribution 
requirement is both done in a similar style and in a manner 
proportionate to the relative contribution.  So, I'd expect if
there are a bunch of project logos with hyper links on such a 
display, then one should probably find the correct logo for the 
current software package and hyper link it as well.  Or, 
equivalently, if the display is simply a 8pt courier listing of 
projects in an HTML <CODE> block, then this clause would ask for
nothing more.  Finally, that the position of an acknowledgement 
would reflect a relative ranking with regard to other components.

This proposed license doesn't require the preservation of an 
attribution/copyrights display feature, even though the GPLv3
may consider it permissive.  This is deliberate, I think it is
completely consistent with MIT/BSD philosophy to permit removal
of such a display in a derived work. 

I very much look forward to any commentary.



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