?sthetic Permissive License - For Approval

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Sat Dec 29 20:47:14 UTC 2007

Lawrence Rosen scripsit:

> Not quite. I admit in advance that we lawyers are quite capable of not
> knowing the law, and we should be smoked out if necessary. :-) 

*Saying* that a lawyer doesn't know the law, however, might be slander
*per se*.  But then again, if you were considering hiring that lawyer,
it might be an occasion of qualified privilege, if true -- and beware
the partial truth here, for partial truth in this case is no better
than falsehood.  In any event, it is established that it is a criminal
libel (that is, not only defamatory, but a defamation tending to
provoke a breach of the peace) in English law to call a barrister a
"daffy-down-dilly".  So if you go to England -- don't do it.

> And everyone is free to tell a programmer that he doesn't know the law.

Quite so.  Programmers who think that license and contract law are a
can of worms should carefully avoid defamation law, where the can is
translucent and you can actually see 'em wiggle from a distance.

> John often teases us with such ancient runes from the days when the
> web was slow and warriors fought.

In fact, from before the dawn of the Web, when there was only the
ARPANET and Usenet -- the User's Network, with slow dial-up links on
which transmitting huge .sigs to all known sites became too great an
expense (film at 11).

> That mess could be solved by adopting licenses that require a two-line
> notice satisfying John Cowan's "McQuary limit" test--and placing other
> notices only in the Source Code.

In this case, though, the email itself is the Source Code.

FWIW, some of my own .sigs do violate McQuary's limit, with 
many of five and six lines and a handful with seven; I show a six-liner below.

John Cowan   cowan at ccil.org   http://ccil.org/~cowan
I must confess that I have very little notion of what [s. 4 of the British
Trade Marks Act, 1938] is intended to convey, and particularly the sentence
of 253 words, as I make them, which constitutes sub-section 1.  I doubt if
the entire statute book could be successfully searched for a sentence of
equal length which is of more fuliginous obscurity. --MacKinnon LJ, 1940

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