[License-discuss] Tweaking the BSD license template

Chuck Swiger chuck at codefab.com
Thu Nov 7 18:11:00 UTC 2013

Hi, Gervase--

On Nov 7, 2013, at 2:35 AM, Gervase Markham <gerv at mozilla.org> wrote:
> 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.

OK.  Having lots of "new" BSD variants around isn't especially harmful, but
neither does it seem helpful.

> 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

Those #'s generally match some analysis I'd done against various BSD distributions.

> 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
> blocks.

Only the 4-clause variants with mandated acknowledgement need special
attention that is worth describing as a "problem", at least in my opinion.

Hmm...I suppose I should note that the BSD flavors I'm most familiar
with release all of their BSD-licensed source code, which also satisfies
clause 3 above.  Perhaps some organization like Juniper might experience
more impact, as I'd gather that Mozilla folks also see?

> 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.

OK.  It perhaps adds clarity and so I don't have any objection to the change.

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

I'm not really convinced that adjusting the template is going to result in
fewer BSD license textual variants, however.  But I'd be happy to be wrong.  :-)


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