[License-discuss] Open Source Eventually License Development

John Cowan cowan at mercury.ccil.org
Sun Aug 18 18:37:29 UTC 2013

Lawrence Rosen scripsit:

> I'll elect to focus on Eben's legal arguments rather than his ad hominem
> attacks. 

Indeed; far better to remain above the fray yourself, and allow your
outraged and moralistic friends (such as myself) to play Huxley to
your Darwin.

> Eben is right that a license can terminate before its terms are completely
> executed, for reasons of bankruptcy or perhaps some form of contractual
> breach. But talented lawyers have dealt with these concerns many times and
> have potential solutions available.

Indeed, though there is no escape from the dreaded § 203(a)(5), which
explicitly says that you can't contract out of it.

> For example, the Open Web Foundation Agreement ("OWFa") [1] deals directly
> with the fact that copyrights and patents can change ownership (voluntarily
> or involuntarily). The licensors in that OWFa in section 1 grant a
> "perpetual" copyright license and, in section 2, "on behalf of myself and my
> successors in interest and assigns, irrevocably promise" not to assert their
> patent claims. Lest that irrevocable patent license not be clear enough, we
> repeat in section 3.1.3:

[etc. etc.]

Of course, the more such reassurances you add, the more complexity and
uncertainty you interject into the situation: "the price of infinite
precision is infinite verbosity", as we say in Lojbanistan, and adding
more terms, while helpful to the sympathetic, just provides a bigger
attack surface for the bad guys.  (Not for nothing am I my father's son.)

    The members of the English Church had ingenuously imagined up
    to that moment that it was possible to contain, in a frame of
    words, the subtle essence of their complicated doctrinal system,
    involving the mysteries of the Eternal and the Infinite on the
    one hand, and the elaborate adjustments of temporal government
    on the other. They did not understand that verbal definitions
    in such a case will only perform their functions so long as
    there is no dispute about the matters which they are intended
    to define: that is to say, so long as there is no need for
    them. For generations this had been the case with the Thirty-nine
    Articles. Their drift was clear enough; and nobody bothered over
    their exact meaning. But directly someone found it important to
    give them a new and untraditional interpretation, it appeared
    that they were a mass of ambiguity, and might be twisted into
    meaning very nearly anything that anybody liked.

        --Lytton Strachey, "Cardinal Manning"

"Well, I'm back."  --Sam        John Cowan <cowan at ccil.org>

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