[License-discuss] Is the old style MIT license a Free Software license

Karl Fogel kfogel at red-bean.com
Tue Mar 13 19:31:09 UTC 2012

Johnny Solbu <johnny at solbu.net> writes:
>I tried maling FSFs licensing department, but the FSFs website says
>something to the effect that if they have answered the question on
>their webpage, the mail will be unanswered, and I have not received a
>reply. So I'm asuming it is answered on their website. However I
>cannot find the answer to this specific question, and Google is of no
>help. So I'm trying this list instead.
>I am packaging an old game I recently discovered, which is still in
>active development.
>The game (netrek-client-cow) have MIT or an MIT-like license (at least
>I think it's MIT), which have a "and without fee" clause. And I am
>unsure whether that this clause is compatible with Free Software or
>not. To someone like me, this looks like what we today call a no
>commercial clause.
>I have discovered that it most likely is what Fedora call MIT old
>style. (http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Licensing:MIT#Old_Style)
>So my question is, is this a Free Software license?

I believe the "without fee" here refers to payment to the original
licensor, and does not require that further redistribution be without
fee (though it certainly permits that).

It's slightly different from the text of the current MIT license at


I don't know if OSI ever considered the old-style MIT language.  Does
anyone here know?


>There is two license text files, one is possibly newer that the
>other. At least one of the licence files seems to be from 1986, and
>the other from 1989.
>The license text in full reads:
>== 1 ==
>Permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute this
>software and its documentation for any purpose and without
>fee is hereby granted, provided that the above copyright
>notice appear in all copies.
>== 2 ==
>Permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute this software and its
>documentation for any purpose and without fee is hereby granted, provided
>that the above copyright notice appear in all copies and that both that
>copyright notice and this permission notice appear in supporting
>documentation.  No representations are made about the suitability of this
>software for any purpose.  It is provided "as is" without express or
>implied warranty.
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