[License-discuss] Boilerplate license text for permissive licenses?

Gervase Markham gerv at mozilla.org
Tue Nov 27 10:21:49 UTC 2012

Hi Larry,

On 27/11/12 04:57, Lawrence Rosen wrote:
> Consider the hapless corporate attorney who is forced to review hundreds of
> proprietary software licenses when authorizing the distribution or
> sale/purchase of his company's software products. Each of those proprietary
> licenses may contain restrictions on transfer; unique indemnity and warranty
> provisions; attribution requirements or prohibitions; etc.

My sympathy for such hapless individuals is real, albeit tempered by the 
fact that as a reward for taking on such onerous work they probably earn 
at least triple what I do ;-P

> But once you've done your variant-gathering, will you recommend that
> everyone else do the same for their own open source software as Mozilla will
> do for Firefox OS? That's a lot of work to recommend for others to do.

Fortunately, I have a script which can analyse a source tree and produce 
the necessary output for inclusion with software.

> That
> would seem to be a waste of time considering the infinitesimally tiny risk
> that one of those "variant" licensors would sue you for breach for taking
> the easy way out -- such as:
>       "This software includes contributions under one or more variants of the
>         official BSD and MIT license versions published at
> www.opensource.org.
>         Mozilla has chosen not to publish those individual variant licenses
> along
>         with this distribution, although we are disclosing its source code as
>         those licenses require."

That's an interesting recommendation, although one that (as far as I 
know) has never been taken up by any distributor of aggregated software. 
I am certainly not competent to judge whether, for example, the addition 
of an extra word to the disclaimer has legal effect or not, and if by 
instead referencing a license with slightly different wording we might 
upset someone who included that word for a reason.

Also, these licenses don't require disclosure of source code.

> software. Those licensors can't sue you anyway unless they register their
> copyrights, which is unlikely to have happened for such works. Damages in
> such a lawsuit would be minimal at worst. For a company that can afford to
> swat away any such nuisance lawsuits, taking this easy way out may be worth
> the risk, unless your lawyer tells you that no risk is ever worth taking.

"Mozilla ignores clear provisions of open source licenses; says 'well, 
we probably won't get sued, so who cares?'". A great headline for Slashdot.


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