[License-discuss] Tweaking the BSD license template

Gervase Markham gerv at mozilla.org
Thu Nov 7 10:35:56 UTC 2013

I want to have another go at gaining consensus on making tweaks to the
OSI's presentation of the 3-clause BSD licence
<http://opensource.org/licenses/BSD-3-Clause> to reduce license
proliferation in the long term.

Legal advice tells me that two otherwise-identical BSD 3-clause licenses
must be treated as different (and therefore both reproduced "in
documentation and/or other materials") if they have different values for
"<ORGANIZATION>" in the sentence in clause 3 which begins "Neither the
name of the <ORGANIZATION> nor the names of its contributors...".

These kind of license-body-wording tweaks have led to the following
unique license type counts for Firefox OS:

BSD2Clause: 30
BSD3Clause: 55
BSD4Clause: 12

In an ideal world, each of those numbers would be a "1". I'm sure BSD
distributions have a similar problem with many near-identical license

Proposal: replace "<ORGANIZATION>" with "copyright holder" on the OSI's
3-Clause page, and update the surrounding text to explain the situation.
That update would be in a similar vein to the existing explanatory sentence:

  "In the original BSD license, both occurrences of the phrase

I would argue that the above sentence also establishes a precedent that
it's OK for the OSI copy of a historical license to be genericized in
this non-parameterized way.

This won't solve the license problem overnight, but if these licenses
continue to be used, it might just reduce the problem over time.

Clause 3 is a refusal of a blanket endorsement which would very likely
be unlawful anyway. That's why we have the 2-clause BSD license -
because that clause achieves next to nothing. But in the case of
proliferation, it's actively harmful. Let's at least take a step to
making it less so.


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