[License-review] Request - For Approval - Ritchey Permissive License v11

Pamela Chestek pamela at chesteklegal.com
Sat Feb 20 20:10:33 UTC 2021

Speaking personally, not in my role with OSI.

I find the license insolubly ambiguous.

In the phrase "permission/*to do anything lawful */with the material 
which does not violate this license" the concept of lawfulness begs the 
question. By not saying what is a lawful use, we have no way of knowing 
what an unlawful use would be. Someone could say "I meant only to allow 
you to distribute the software, not modify the software, and modifying 
is unlawful under copyright law so you are therefore in breach of this 
license." Maybe your intention is to allow all permitted uses under 
copyright law. But what about patent law? What about moral rights? 
Copyright and patent are exclusionary rights, so by not saying what /is 
/allowed, i.e., what you have made lawful by the grant of the license, 
we are left only to guess. It is completely unworkable.

Others have pointed out a different interpretation of the "lawful" term, 
which is that one cannot use the software in ways that break the law. 
This is a clear violation of OSD6, no discrimination against fields of 
endeavor. It's easy to say that it's a good thing to prohibit unlawful 
uses, but what about laws in some countries that violate fundamental 
human rights?

"The legal entity is responsible for all consequences of sharing the 
material, and all obligations to recipients (including warranties, 
liabilities, representations, obligations, damages, and guarantees)." So 
you are saying that the licensee has the legal obligation to provide a 
warranty and indemnify the licensor from liability for any of the 
licensor's misrepresentations, obligations, damages and guarantees? 
That, no matter what the licensor's wrongdoing, it is the licensee who 
has to take on the legal burden of it instead of the licensor? That is 
far beyond any other open source license - disclaimers of liability for 
everyone are allowed, and an entity can voluntarily choose to take on a 
duty, like offering a warranty, but forcing it on the licensee is 
unacceptable in my view. And what about the next downstream, does that 
person accumulate the liability from everyone that is upstream of them? 
You stated in your rationale that there is not requirement that this 
license be included with the distribution, but you have replaced it with 
something far more draconian.

"The material must entirely remain solely under this license." You have 
claimed that this license is similar to the permissive licenses like BSD 
and MIT. However, the phrase "remain solely under this license" can be 
read to mean "and not any other license," i.e., you cannot combine 
software under this license with any software that also militates 
compliance with a different license, most notably the GPL. So it creates 
a license incompatibility issue. License incompatibility in and of 
itself is not a reason to reject the license, but the fact that the 
wording can be read both ways means it has insufficient clarity.

Other's have discussed the improvidence of have a mandatory jurisdiction 
for claims. Your statement that the license may therefore not be 
appealing to those outside of Canada ignores that there are two parties 
to a license, the licensor, who might be in Canada, but your users will 
be all over the world and you are forcing them into a venue that may be 
impossible for them.

You will undoubtedly disagree with my reading of your sentences. 
However, the fact that I can read them differently from what you 
intended shows what others have said, writing an unambiguous license, 
particularly a short one, requires special skills. I believe this 
license is unacceptable.


Pamela S. Chestek
Chestek Legal
PO Box 2492
Raleigh, NC 27602
pamela at chesteklegal.com

On 2/13/2021 7:30 PM, J. Ritchey wrote:
> Submitting 'Ritchey Permissive License v11' for approval.
> License Text:
>     Ritchey Permissive License v11:
>     Subject to the terms of this license, any legal entity who
>     receives material licensed under this license is granted
>     royalty-free, perpetual, non-exclusive, permission to do anything
>     lawful with the material which does not violate this license.
>     Permissions are automatically revoked permanently from the legal
>     entity upon breach of this license. The material is provided "as
>     is", without implied fitness for any purpose. All obligations to
>     the legal entity (including warranties, liabilities,
>     representations, obligations, damages, and guarantees) are
>     disclaimed by all parties involved (including the authors, rights
>     holders, copyright holders, patent holders, and providers of the
>     material). The legal entity is responsible for all consequences of
>     sharing the material, and all obligations to recipients (including
>     warranties, liabilities, representations, obligations, damages,
>     and guarantees). The material must entirely remain solely under
>     this license. This license is governed by the laws of the province
>     of British Columbia (as they were on April 21, 2019), and the
>     applicable laws of Canada (as they were on April 21, 2019). Any
>     legal proceedings related to this license may only occur in the
>     courts of British Columbia. The legal entity must be capable of
>     being bound to this entire license, and agrees to be. If any
>     portions of this license are unenforceable in applicable
>     jurisdictions, this license cannot be accepted. The license text
>     is provided under these terms.
> Rationale:
> First released in 2015 /(then named Comprehensible Open License)/, the 
> Ritchey Permissive License aims to provide wide permissions, and ask 
> little in return. It also strives to use plain language where possible 
> /(this was the inspiration for its original name, and originally was 
> prioritized above all else)/, and limit its size. The goals of this 
> license are not unique, but the manner in which they are achieved is. 
> That's what makes it a useful alternative to existing options, and is 
> my rationale for submitting it.
> Distinguish:
> In terms of comparison to already OSI approved licenses, the Ritchey 
> Permissive License v11 is most similar to the Zero-Clause BSD, ISC 
> License (ISC), MIT No Attribution License, Fair License (Fair), MIT 
> License, and 2-Clause BSD License. These licenses are all short, and 
> grant wide permissions. But there are important differences.
> Like the Zero-Clause BSD license, and MIT No Attribution License, this 
> license does not require a copy of the license to be included when 
> distributing a work. This feature could result in downstream 
> recipients of a work never seeing important disclaimers. Unlike the 
> Zero-Clause BSD, and MIT No Attribution License, this license tries to 
> provide some protection against that by shifting these 
> responsibilities to the person sharing the work.
> Like the Zero-Clause BSD, Fair License (Fair), ISC License (ISC), MIT 
> License, and 2-Clause BSD License it provides wide permissions. 
> However they use a whitelist approach (eg: you can do x, y, z), and 
> this license uses mostly a blacklist approach (eg: you can't do x, y, 
> z). This difference is important, because x, y, and z may not be 
> interpreted as intended. A whitelist approach prioritizes protecting a 
> work. A blacklist approach prioritizes protecting the freedom of 
> people to use the work. The MIT No Attribution License uses a 
> blacklist approach, but the difference in wording may make one license 
> more appealing than the other to potential users.
> Like the Fair License (Fair) which refers to products as "works" the 
> Ritchey Permissive License v11 uses the inclusive term "material" so 
> that the license can be better used with things beyond software (eg: 
> documentation, icon packs, etc). The difference in the definitions of 
> these terms may make one license more desirable over the other to 
> potential users.
> Like the Zero-Clause BSD, ISC License (ISC), Fair License (Fair), MIT 
> License, and 2-Clause BSD License the Ritchey Permissive License v11 
> is a short license that doesn't include a definitions section like 
> larger licenses do. Unlike them, it binds itself to a jurisdiction, 
> setting a basis for how terms may be interpreted.
> Legal review:
> No legal review of this license has been done. None is planned.
> Proliferation Category:
> I suggest the "Other/Miscellaneous licenses" category, because of its 
> ties to Canadian law. While the license isn't made for Canadians, this 
> link may limit its appeal to foreigners.
> In summary, the Ritchey Permissive License v11 is similar to existing 
> options, but differences in features, or wording make it a useful 
> alternative. That's why it was made.
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