[License-discuss] License licenses

Richard Fontana rfontana at redhat.com
Fri May 31 18:08:07 UTC 2019

On Thu, May 30, 2019 at 4:27 PM Patrick Masson <masson at opensource.org> wrote:

> We would like to add the following information to each license page:
> - License Copyright: [Name of person/organization who submitted the license, and year submitted]

Patrick, I would suggest: (1) keeping the submitter of the license
separate from the copyright owner of the license (often these will be
different, and I would consider the submitter much more important
information); (2) only noting the copyright owner of a license where
the license states a nominal copyright owner; (3) not making
unverified assumptions about copyright ownership or authorship of an
existing license text.

For example, for the MIT license:

(1) No submitter -- the MIT license was grandfathered in by the
original OSI board
(2) No nominal copyright owner
(3) Despite its name, MIT does not appear to have authored the MIT
license, based on the historical research I've done -- somewhat
important because in later times I believe the MIT tech transfer
office itself assumed -- based on the name popularized by the OSI
itself -- that it had authored the MIT license, and also more recently
some of the members of the "open source licenses can be copyright
only" camp wish to argue that the MIT license should be read as a
"copyright only" license because the present-day MIT tech transfer
office supposedly takes that view. MIT is not the license steward of
the MIT license -- there is no license steward -- which is separate
from but closely related to the authorship and copyright ownership

For example, for GPLv3:

(1) Submitted by Chris DiBona of Google in 2007 (if I remember correctly)
(2) FSF is the nominal copyright owner

My initial concern was that OSI was taking the position that
OSI-approved licenses are normally copyrighted things, which as to at
least some of them is questionable as a legal and policy matter.  In
practice, contractual language (for purposes of this discussion, open
source licenses are a variety of contract) is widely reused and
adapted freely as though it were in the public domain, and that should
normally be considered a good thing.


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