[License-discuss] plain text license versions?

Richard Fontana rfontana at redhat.com
Thu Sep 6 22:45:31 UTC 2012

On Thu, Sep 06, 2012 at 03:07:44PM -0700, Luis Villa wrote:
> As a practical matter, indicating, tracking and relying on waiver is a
> bit of a pain. e.g., lets say upstream says:
> "I give you a copy of the license this work is licensed under by
> pointing you at http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0.html"

Not entirely unlike the standard ASF-recommended license notice in
specifying the canonical Apache License 2.0 URL. 

> Downstream now has a problem: does this text constitute a waiver? Is
> this indication that we can "give any other recipients... a copy"
> (Apache 4.1) in the same manner? The easiest solution to this
> (admittedly small) problem is... to include a full copy of the
> license.

I have encountered situations similar to this and I typically treat
them as a waiver of the requirement to provide downstream recipients
with (in this case) a copy of the license text by doing more than
upstream bothered to do for me. I apply that principle so extensively
in open source contexts (not just to issues of license text inclusion)
that I ought to come up with some sort of Latin legal maxim for it.

> Or to put it another way: OSI spent a lot of time and energy
> discouraging people from using custom licenses. Custom waivers
> (particularly for something trivial like this) are just another form
> of the same mess.

The usual situation is that the waiver (if you accept my
characterization of it as a waiver) is implicit. The FSF has tried to
encourage the practice of explicit exceptions ("additional
permissions" in GPLv3 parlance) to literal (or presumed) license
requirements but it hasn't had much effect on behavior in the GPL
licensor community. 

- RF

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