[License-review] International Licenses: Québec Free and Open-Source Licence (LiLiQ)

Simon.Johnson-Begin at cspq.gouv.qc.ca Simon.Johnson-Begin at cspq.gouv.qc.ca
Tue Sep 15 18:25:00 UTC 2015

The Government of Québec is requesting approval of the Québec Free and Open-Source Licence (LiLiQ), a set of three licenses: LiLiQ-P, LiLiQ-R and LiLiQ-R+. The approval category is the proposed new category of "International Licenses" (see: https://lists.opensource.org/pipermail/license-discuss/2015-June/001857.html).

In 2015, the Government of Québec has released the source code of a geomatics software that took years to create (IGO – [ https://github.com/infra-geo-ouverte/igo ]). This has led the Government to considerations regarding the choice of a free and open source (FOSS) license to distribute this specific software, but also for other softwares on which the Government is currently working on. In order to choose an appropriate software license, the Government of Québec had to consider the following points:

- The legal obligation for the Government of Québec and its agencies to conclude contracts in French;
- A license that meets Québec civil law and Canadian copyright law requirements;
- A license as much as possible consistent with the FOSS philosophy, notably ensuring compatibility between FOSS software licensed under different terms;
- The necessity to offer a license or a set of licenses that meets the main purposes in FOSS licensing;
- The opportunity to put forward a FOSS license that would help Québec's citizens, corporations and non-profit organizations to build and distribute FOSS softwares;
- The concern to elaborate a license as simple as possible, with different reciprocity (copyleft) levels, while maintaining compatibility with other well known FOSS licenses.

In regard of those concerns, we took the following steps :
1. Survey of existing major FOSS licenses (BSD, Apache, GPL v2 et v3, LGPL, CECILL, EUPL, MPL, etc.).
Findings : Most licenses are written in English without official translations in French.  This fact alone ruled out most of the licenses, since all contracts entered into by the civil administration must be written in French according to the Charter of the French language act. The licenses that have official French versions were considered but some of their provisions were not acceptable for our Government.

2. Adapt an existing license.
Findings : To adapt an existing license requires the copyright owner authorization which can be subject to an heavy authorization process.  Despite the fact that an existing license would had been used, the adapted one would have still be considered as a new license, albeit very similar to the original.
Given these constraints, it appeared more appropriate to draft our own license. A comprehensive review of existing FOSS licenses was conducted in order to retain what seemed to us some of the best practices.

3. Drafting a set of three different licenses that meets the main purposes in FOSS licensing
Three different versions of the license have been drafted to express different levels of reciprocity (copyleft).
a) LiLiQ-P, is a permissive license that does not impose any reciprocity obligations.  It is therefore possible for a licensee to modify and distribute a software under the LiLiQ-P without the obligation to share the source code. Such softwares can be embedded in a proprietary software product.
b) The LiLiQ-R (reciprocity) and LiLiQ-R+ (strong reciprocity) aim to preserve the openness of the software. Thus, anyone who modifies and distribute such software is required to do so under the terms of the LiLiQ and to allow access to the source code. The LiLiQ-R applies to modified software and the LiLiQ-R+ applies to both modified and derived softwares.
c) Both LiLiQ-R et LiLiQ-R+ have a broad, liberal and innovative compatibility clause which allows a licensee, under certain conditions, to combine a software licensed under the LiLiQ to a software subject to another FOSS license.

4. Other considerations
The LiLiQ was also written to respect the philosophy of FOSS software.  The LiLiQ is a true copyright license, not an “end user agreement”.  There is no need to agree to the terms of the license to merely use a software licensed under the LiLiQ.
To conclude, the LiLiQ was drafted to comply with the French language requirements, and also to take account of the Québec civil law and Canadian copyright law requirements and wording. Overall, the LiLiQ remains simple, concise and sticks to what is necessary to reduce the risk of contradictions with major FOSS licensing. The LiLiQ has been drafted to address the needs of the Government of Québec without impairing its use by the general population, inside or outside Québec, public or private alike. The LiLiQ is a true FOSS license that propose some innovations while in compliance with the wording requirements of our laws and in accordance with the FOSS movement.

English version of the licenses:

French version of the licenses:

Please take note that an affidavit from the translator stating that the contents of the translation are a true translation and representation of the contents of the original licences will follow.

Thank you for your consideration.

Simon Johnson-Bégin, avocat  | Direction des affaires juridiques
Centre de services partagés du Québec | 875, Grande Allée Est, 4e étage, Québec (Québec) G1R 5W5
Tél. : 418 644-7934  | Téléc. : 418 646-0105
simon.johnson-begin at cspq.gouv.qc.ca | www.cspq.gouv.qc.ca

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