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

Richard Fontana rfontana at redhat.com
Tue Mar 13 19:56:03 UTC 2012

On Tue, Mar 13, 2012 at 02:31:09PM -0500, Karl Fogel wrote:
> Johnny Solbu <johnny at solbu.net> writes:
> >Hi.
> >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
>   http://www.opensource.org/licenses/alphabetical
> I don't know if OSI ever considered the old-style MIT language.  Does
> anyone here know?

OSI approved a sort of template legacy license that it called
"Historical Permission Notice and Disclaimer"

which is at least similar to the license(s) being asked about here.

What I find curious is the statement that the license "has been
voluntarily deprecated by its author", as it is not clear that this
even refers to a single license. 

Fedora (thanks to Tom Callaway) attempts to catalogue all the versions
of the MIT/X11 license family that it encounters. I don't recall
whether we ever encountered a license in this family that we
considered non-FLOSS (I don't think so, though I think there may have
been one or two close cases).

- Richard

> -Karl
> >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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