[License-discuss] plain text license versions?

Ben Reser ben at reser.org
Fri Sep 7 06:04:40 UTC 2012

On Thu, Sep 6, 2012 at 6:13 PM, Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> wrote:
> Very sad.  So, the barrio occupant in question might need to check out a
> book with the licence text.  Life's imperfect.

How exactly would you find said book?  Are you not assuming that they
have libraries and book store infrastructure, which in many cases is
lacking if the location is lacking in Internet infrastructure as well.
 I'd almost argue that this is discrimination against persons that
don't have access to the license, since if you can't read and
understand the license then your only real choice is to not use the
software since you can't know what you need to comply with.

For that matter is it not also a violation of the technology neutral
clause of the open source definition?  We've specifically disallowed
click wrap licenses since they don't work well with FTP or CDROM
distribution.  How can we consider only providing a URL to a license
technology neutral when it require Internet access and the specific
usage of a protocol that can be represented via a URL (presumably

> Ten years ago, the more commonly cited URL would have actually been
> www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html .  Which today provides information about all
> versions to date.   A decade ago, it provided information only about v2,
> v1 was already vanishingly rare and had seldom ever been used anyway.
> However, for the sake of discussion, let's suppose someone said in a
> copyleft statement
> Copyright (C) 2002 George Tirebiter.
> This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or
> modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License
> as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2
> of the License, or (at your option) any later version.  Full
> text of GNU General Public License version 2 can be found at
> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.txt .
> Post-2007, a user goes to http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.txt and sees
> GNU General Public License version 3.
> Rats!  If only Internet users were capable of using a facility to find
> things.  If it were invented, one might call it a 'search engine'.
> (I readily concur with the implied point that it's a bad idea to swap
> out a licence text for a later version at the same URL, however.)

How do you know that you've found the correct license text from a
search engine.  I could easily take and put a license text which has a
typo in it and a small typo could have very large implications for the
meaning of the licenses.  The obvious answer is that my buggy copy of
the license shouldn't be the highest ranked result.  But it's very
hard to know what search terms will lead where in the future.

In my opinion not providing a fully copy of the license in some human
readable form (even if that form requires something like an HTML
viewer) should be a no brainer.  The licenses are almost always
trivially short compared to the size of what they are licensing except
for all but the most trivial things.

This whole line of thinking just seems contrary to the Open Source
Definition in my opinion.

Not that I disagree with providing a repository of canonical and
correct copies of the licenses in whatever format people find useful.
But I don't think providing a URL link to the license is a very good

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