[License-review] Fwd: For Approval | Open Source Social Network License 1.0

Lukas Atkinson opensource at lukasatkinson.de
Thu Mar 26 13:59:49 UTC 2020

On Thu, 26 Mar 2020 at 13:04, Kevin P. Fleming <...> wrote:

> It is unlikely that this will be approved as an OSD-compliant license,
> since requiring users to keep code in the project when they use or
> distributed modified versions conflicts with the OSD. Copyright
> notices and even attribution notices are one thing, but code which
> requires runtime behavior is something else.

This would be far from the first OSI-approved license that mandates some
runtime behavior or software features. This OSSNL attribution requirement
seems rather similar to the GPLv3 concept of Appropriate Legal Notices:

Appearance of notices:
* GPLv3: “convenient and prominently visible feature” of an interactive
user interface. “If the interface presents a list of user commands or
options, such as a menu, a prominent item in the list meets this criterion.”
* AAL: “each time the resulting executable program or a program dependent
thereon is launched, a prominent display (e.g., splash screen or banner
* OSSNL:  “each time the resulting executable program or a program
dependent thereon is launched, a prominent display (e.g., splash screen,
banner text, footer text .etc)”

Contents of notices:
* GPLv3: copyright notices, warranty disclaimer, information about the
* AAL and OSSNL: name, professional identification, URL

The OSSNL doesn't really expand the scope of the AAL, e.g. by explicitly
allowing footer text in addition to banner text.
The OSSNL does seem to fix some issues with the AAL, e.g. the need for
GPG-signed attribution blocks.

*However, I think approval of the AAL might have been a mistake, and that
approval for similar licenses should be withheld.*

1. Negative consequences: Such attribution-oriented licenses lead to spam,
broken links, and user-hostile cruft across a multi-decade history – if
every contributor added their notice, the footer or banner of a large
project would span many screens. In contrast, the GPL or Apache 2.0 only
allow legally relevant contents in similar notices, and clearly allow for
less prominent placement. Similarly, requirements to keep a logo in all
derivative works would be problematic.

2. Such attribution requirements are arguably not technology-neutral (OSD
10), although this OSSNL might actually be better than the GPG-specific AAL.

3. Ineffective: I am not convinced that the AAL or OSSNL achieve their
purpose in a network context, since the “launch” of a server software would
only be observed by an operator, not the end user.
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