Machine-readable licenses?

Andrea Chiarelli a.chiarelli at
Wed Sep 8 07:49:02 UTC 2010

Hi David,
you are right.
I'm looking for any formal description of an Open Source license so that it 
can be interpreted by software and rendered in a way similar to Creative 
Commons licenses.
It could be understood in its essential principles by not lawyer people, but 
obviously it cannot substitute the legal version of the license. It could 
say at a glance what can I do and what cannot I do with this software.

I found CC REL as a formal language for Creative Commons licenses and there 
is a GPL v3.0 definition in CC REL 
( ).
However I'm not sure that its vocabulary works well for software licenses, 
so I'm wondering if there is some similar project specifically for this.
Is it an utopia?


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "David Woolley" <forums at>
To: "License Discuss" <license-discuss at>
Sent: Wednesday, September 08, 2010 8:25 AM
Subject: Re: Machine-readable licenses?

> Matthew Flaschen wrote:
>> Andrea Chiarelli wrote:
>>> Does anybody know a project aiming to define a machine-readable
>>> language in order to describe Open Source software licenses?
>>> Something similar to CC REL (
>> They already have machine-readable code for GPLv2
>> ( and
>> LGPLv2.1
> I don't think that is what the OP meant.  I think they meant something 
> like:
> copyleft/source3years/sourceprocessingcostonly/......
> Whilst I think that a lot of legal documents would be a lot clearer if 
> written in programming language syntax, this is not going to work because, 
> in legal documents, every word tends to be carefully chosen, and 
> summarising in terms of keywords derived from another licence is unlikely 
> to reproduce the intended meaning accurately, and almost certainly not 
> going to reproduce it to the satisfaction of the drafting lawyer.
>> (
>> There is no reason this scheme can't be extended for other licenses.
> -- 
> David Woolley
> Emails are not formal business letters, whatever businesses may want.
> RFC1855 says there should be an address here, but, in a world of spam,
> that is no longer good advice, as archive address hiding may not work.

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