[License-discuss] A modest proposal to reduce the number of BSD licenses

Atwood, Mark atwoodm at amazon.com
Fri Aug 21 22:07:01 UTC 2020

That's an impressively huge pile of BSD license variants, and is the central
example of the problem with the license -as-used.

The BSD licenses in the SPDX database have some "matching rules", so that it
can cover common variants that the SPDX reviewers decided are legally

Have you tried running that dataset thru those to see if they all match or
if any don't?

This tool [ https://github.com/jpeddicord/askalono ] (written by a
recovering Amazonian who used to be on my team) makes it pretty easy to do.
When built, it downloads all the SDPX database, and then compiles it into
the executable.  Feed it the text of a license, and it will tell you which
SPDX license it matches, and if it doesn't perfectly match any of them,
which one is the nearest edit distance away, and what the edit distance is.


Mark Atwood <atwoodm at amazon.com>
Principal, Open Source

-----Original Message-----
From: License-discuss <license-discuss-bounces at lists.opensource.org> On
Behalf Of Jeremy C. Reed
Sent: Friday, August 21, 2020 2:28 PM
To: license-discuss at lists.opensource.org
Subject: RE: [EXTERNAL] [License-discuss] A modest proposal to reduce the
number of BSD licenses

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On Fri, 21 Aug 2020, Josh Berkus wrote:

> > Amazon?s preferred permissive license is Apache 2.0.? In part 
> > because it doesn?t have this ?dozens and dozens of pointless minor
variants? problem.
> For such a short license, BSD has an awful lot of variations.

I published a print two volume set of NetBSD sysadmin manuals

As part of that work I identified hundreds of unique licenses.
My printed License acknowledgements include 26 different statements "This
product includes software developed ..."
(Advertising clauses)

And the included licenses began on labeled page 1461 (volume 2 physical page
716) and ended on page 1529 (volume 2 page 784).

t1:reed$ ls -l /home/reed/book/netbsd-documents/copyrights.tex
-rw-r--r--  1 reed  reed  281396 Jun 14  2010

t1:reed$ wc /home/reed/book/netbsd-documents/copyrights.tex
    7920   40741  281396 /home/reed/book/netbsd-documents/copyrights.tex

t1:reed$ grep '\\hline' /home/reed/book/netbsd-documents/copyrights.tex
| wc -l
(separators between unique licenses)

t1:reed$ grep '\\textbf' /home/reed/book/netbsd-documents/copyrights.tex |
wc -l
(unique files)

t1:reed$ grep '^Copyri' /home/reed/book/netbsd-documents/copyrights.tex | wc
(unique Copyright lines)

t1:reed$ grep "^Redistribution and use"
/home/reed/book/netbsd-documents/copyrights.tex | wc -l

t1:reed$ grep -v "^Permission to use"
/home/reed/book/netbsd-documents/copyrights.tex | wc -l

Then had a variety of other unique licenses too.

Every license (disclaimer etc) included was unique due to some wording
difference even if only a single word but not including the copyright
owners. As part of the listing I bundled all the copyright
statements/dates/owners and the filenames with the single corresponding
unique license.

That was for only that small two volume collection. (I say "small" since
there are around 15 more volumes and hundreds more unique licenses.)

As part of this work I identified many missing licenses -- unknown
provenance of code or no contact with original developers -- and also worked
with some copyright owners to relicense and also found some license mistakes
like duplicate licenses added to same code with different words.

> Gotta be the bikeshed problem.

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