[License-discuss] plain text license versions?

Karl Fogel kfogel at red-bean.com
Wed Sep 5 15:08:48 UTC 2012

"Lawrence Rosen" <lrosen at rosenlaw.com> writes:
>> Have we (OSI) ever seriously adding putting plain text versions of 
>> licenses (where available) to the OSI website?
>While this makes no difference to the legal implications of a license,
>converting to plain text destroys information useful for human beings to
>comprehend the license. It is like removing indentation and line endings
>from source code. Please don't encourage old-fashioned ways of representing
>licenses so they can't be easily read by the only ones that matter: Human
>This is part of my existential battle, including within Apache, to
>acknowledge that HTML allows for a richer vocabulary of expression. Quit
>down-versioning our creative works. :-) Does this qualify as a "historical?
>technical? inertial? other?" reason in your lexicon? Whichever, why waste
>time creating an 80-column ASCII format in this day and age? Some people, I
>guess, still use punched cards for their software, but let's ignore their

Actually, I think we should provide plain text versions.  (See
http://projects.opensource.org/redmine/issues/8, which is about this.)

Many coders expect to find plaintext license terms in a LICENSE or
COPYING file, directly in the source tree.  While they can of course
still understand the text if it's in HTML, they prefer plain text -- and
their editor software will often display HTML as raw markup rather than
as a pretty page.

So there's a very relevant group who want & expect plain text versions.
When we don't provide those versions, those people sometimes manually
reformat our HTML pages [1] in order to produce a plaintext file,
occasionally introducing errors or at least inconsistencies.  It's
better if we just provide canonical versions.


[1] I have had to do this on more than one occasion.

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