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    I switched my project from MIT to Apache 2 when I read a blog post from the LLVM project, indicating that they interpret the MIT licence differently than I do. MIT is ambiguous, and this blog post verifies it. The Apache 2 licence is clear and unambiguous, plus it covers patents, which is important to me in case a patent holder ever contributes to my project. The one drawback is that Apache 2 is not compatible with GPL 2 (according to the FSF).

    I would consider using the Blue Oak licence if the following things occur:

    • The Open Source Initiative certifies it as Open Source.
    • The Free Software Foundation certifies it as a Free Software Licence, and certifies that it is compatible with GPL 2 and GPL 3.
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      The English language, as commonly used in informal conversation, is ambiguous, but we mostly don’t notice, because we automatically look for the most obvious or reasonable interpretation. In legal disputes, it’s different, which is why contracts and licences need to be more explicit and verbose. I think the Apache 2 licence does a good job of being both readable and unambiguous.

      The Blue Oak licence is a lot shorter than Apache 2, and I think it is ambiguous. It appears you are allowed to delete the author’s name from the copyright notice, while leaving the licence in place. Blue Oak seems to allow this:

      Each contributor licenses you to do everything with this software that would otherwise infringe that contributor’s copyright in it.

      Deleting my name from the copyright notice would certainly infringe my copyright, so is this allowed? Apache 2 explicitly disallows this.

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        “copyright notices” haven’t been a part of any country’s copyright law for years and preserving names/attribution requirements have never been a part of most. Some licenses require attribution (ISC/MIT/BSD) but in practise that is routinely violated and never enforced. Blue Oak explicitly has no attribution requirement (only the requirement to notify downstream of the license) and has no language about “copyright notice” because it’s an antiquated concept with no legal teeth.

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          Some licenses require attribution (ISC/MIT/BSD) but in practise that is routinely violated and never enforced.

          Really? it’s a pretty big deal to me if somebody copies my source code verbatim, deletes the “Copyright Doug Moen”, and substitutes their own name, with no other changes, even if the licence is preserved. I would definitely take action if I found out some other project was doing that with my code.

          There was a high profile case in 2007 when a Linux kernel developer copied a driver from OpenBSD, deleting the copyright notice and licence, replacing it with their own. In that case, the OpenBSD team did enforce their licence and forced the Linux team to restore the original copyright and licence text. See: http://undeadly.org/cgi?action=article&sid=20070913014315

          In this case, the issue wasn’t just a matter of the licencing terms being changed. It was also an issue of the original author no longer being credited with writing the code. Theo de Raadt wrote:

          Now it may seem petty to be pointing out the above, but these Linux wireless developers have ignored the ethical considerations of honouring the author for his work, and then violated the law 3 times under advice from a ex-FSF laywer. Come on. By that point someone should at least be offering the author an apology

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            Fair point, I shouldn’t say “never”.

            But go try to find a website that isn’t violating a MIT/ISC/BSD license on a javascript dependecy by omitting the license and notice.

            I’ll wait.

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              To be fair there is a convention for preserving licenses and common tooling supports it so this happens less than you’d think. You are right in general though – people don’t always think about this, and the library not being set up correctly w.r.t. the tooling does not not remove the requirement to include attribution.

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                Off the top of my head, FSF.org.

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            I believe (IANAL) that keeping your name intact is a “moral right” separate to copyright. Wikipedia lists the moral rights as:

            the right of attribution, the right to have a work published anonymously or pseudonymously, and the right to the integrity of the work

            The Blue Oak license doesn’t mention them but that’s not unusual as I think only Creative Commons really addresses the issue.

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          When I see more than one lawyer saying “blue oak, blue oak, blue oak,” I’ll trust it more.

          But for right now, cool license, bro!

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            I really dislike the title of this article. It’s clickbait-y.

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              Yea, it’s pretty much an advert for Blue Oak, a license I’ve literally never heard of until now. It barely touches on GPL comparability too and I’m still not clear how it interacts with the GPL from this post.

              I still don’t like BSD/MIT licenses in general and still keep all my personal projects AGPL v3.

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              If anyone notifies you in writing that you have not complied with Notices, you can keep your license by taking all practical steps to comply within 30 days after the notice. If you do not do so, your license ends immediately.

              the practical seems like a rabbit hole.

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                Agreed. I found that part odd as well.

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                  practical seems like a rabbit hole

                  “All practical steps” is pretty commonly used language in commercial contracts. It’s definitely flexible language, but the law has some well-established ways of dealing with that.

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                  Also, legally speaking, anyone seems too broadly scoped.

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                    I suspect that is the intention. Anyone likely is meant to mean literally anyone that can figure out how to send something in writing so that the authors needn’t concern themselves with poking people about the license; people who coincidentally stumble over it are meant to be able to.

                    This is an interesting case of a third party beneficiary contract, assuming you do consider the license a contract as well (which the license tries very hard to have you believe).

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                  MIT can probably be improved on, and this article makes some valid points, as well as not-so-valid points and red herrings, but in the end it seems to have worked quite well for quite a few decades. In spite of the bombastic claims of “land mines”, few people seem to have stepped on them.

                  I don’t care about patents and it’s not a problem applicable to the stuff I write, or the stuff most people write for that matter. I read the Blue Oak license that this article recommends 20 times, and I don’t like it because it doesn’t – as I read it – clearly state “do whatever you want with this but keep this notice” in plain language so that everyone – including non-native speakers – can understand it. That’s all I care about, and that’s what MIT does for me.

                  I also dislike the arrogant style of this article.

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                    few people seem to have stepped on them.

                    This is because for a majority of projects, the license is a suggestion and not a legally enforced thing. If it never goes in front of a judge and you handle everything with social pressure, it actually doesn’t matter at all what the license says.

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                    No contributor can revoke this license.

                    There are legal systems with separate concepts of author and contributor (author provided the main share of the work, contributors are “somehow involved”, e.g. in software with a minor bugfix or coding style clean up, and may or may not have a copyright of their own on any part of the work). It’s not clear to me that authors are a subset of contributors in all such legal systems.

                    So, could an author revoke this license?

                    More generally speaking: while most other open source licenses are also brazenly US centric, at least their authors don’t claim that “[being] from 2019” is what sets them apart (most of the licenses are older than modern globalization) and proclaim that other licenses are “deprecated”.

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                      Now You Have 3 Problems.

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                        How about Zero clause BSD? :P

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                          Based on the author’s reading of the MIT license, it probably has the same problem with not clearly granting a patent license.

                          The hilarious part is that, according to this guy, the reason it doesn’t grant a patent license is because it explicitly says use/copy/modify/redistribute (“copy,” “modify,” and “redistribute” are all terms from copyright law, and while “use” is a term from patent law, an OSS license ought to grant more than just the right to use the patent). If it had just said “a license is hereby granted to deal in the Software without restriction,” without listing examples of what dealing in it means, it would have probably counted as a patent license.

                          In other words, the WTFPL is fine. Granting someone an unqualified license to “do what the fuck you want to” is, I assume, legally equivalent to granting them a licence to “deal in the Software without restriction.”

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                          All my OSS work uses OpenBSD’s license: https://www.openbsd.org/policy.html. It cannot be more clear, to the point and contemporary, and certainly does not require deprecation.

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                            The OpenBSD “ISC” licence says:

                            Permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute this software for any purpose with or without fee is hereby granted, provided that the above copyright notice and this permission notice appear in all copies.

                            Here’s one case where this text turned out to be ambiguous. The University of Washington used this licence to distribute the Pine email client. They claimed that the licence did not permit the distribution of modified versions. You can modify it, you can distribute it, the licence doesn’t say you can do both at once, or so they claimed.

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                              It looks to me that they are playing fast and loose with the English grammar in this case. The “,,, and” form is clearly a conjunction and not an exclusive disjunction. If an exclusive disjunction was meant, something of the “either,,, or” form would have been used.

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                                I guess the pedantic answer to that is that they are claiming that you can both modify the software and distribute the software at the same time, as long as you modify one copy and distribute another (unmodified) copy.

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                                You can modify it, you can distribute it, the license doesn’t say you can do both at once, or so they claimed.

                                Companies and people claim things all the time. Did they ever file suit based on their novel interpretation?

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                                  From the article that I linked to,

                                  Richard Stallman claims that the University of Washington threatened[9] to sue the Free Software Foundation for distributing the modified Pine program, resulting in the development of MANA ceasing and no versions being released.[10]

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                                    I saw that. Note that it says threatened, which is why I asked if they ever /actually/ sued anyone.

                                    Also seems like FSF didn’t change the name of their version? I guess it was a different time back then…

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                                  If memory serves, this was a Trademark issue rather than a license issue. If you take the program “pine”, make a bunch of changes, and ship it as “pine”, it’s no longer “pine”, but “pine and your modifications”.

                                  I don’t think this is unreasonable. Firefox has a similar policy, which is why you install “iceweasel” on Debian instead of “firefox”.

                                  At least on the face of it, I think UW was not as incorrect here as it may seem at first sight, and that they are correct that the license didn’t explicitly allow modifying a program and shipping it with the same name.

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                                    The Debian/Firefox thing was resolved in 2016, but you’re correct - Debian and derivatives are allowed to use the Firefox trademarks as long as they don’t make substantial changes to the Firefox code, and that’s a permission specifically granted by Mozilla, not a general effect of an open-source licence.

                                    A more current example would be the Free Software app store F-Droid, which distributes Firefox as Fennec F-Droid because they compile-time disable some content-visible features, and Mozilla doesn’t want a less-capable browser bearing the name “Firefox”.

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                                  You are citing an example of the exact license that the author is claiming to be ambiguous. Perhaps it depends on whether you read it as a layman or a lawyer.

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                                    You’re technically incorrect: the article is about the BSD license, but OpenBSD prefers the ISC license which is similar but distinct.

                                    I admit it’s a moot point because ISC suffers the same problem as the BSD license.

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                                      I don’t quite see how it suffers from the same issues. Most of the points made look dubious at best. Except for patent. But, citing from the page I linked to, the spirit of Berkeley’s UNIX was to provide a

                                      source distribution un-encumbered by proprietary code and commercial licensing

                                      It looks to me that that precludes the inclusion of patented work. Hair can always be split.

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                                        I was thinking of patents, and agree that the license seems to preclude including patented work.

                                        I would have assumed that about the BSD licenses also, though.

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                                        “Technically incorrect” is the best kind of incorrect! ;P

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                                    Cool license. How does it compare to EUPL ?

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                                      EUPL is a copyleft license, so it has a different target audience.

                                      Blue Oak/BSD/MIT (“copyfree”) are primarily for people who want there to be little/no reservations for other developers to use their work.

                                      GPL, EUPL, AGPL (“copyleft”) are licenses for developers who wish to guarantee that their work remains openly available to users even after they are changed by another developer.

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                                        Why not use public domain then ?

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                                          Public domain (usually done with Creative Commons 0) waives all copyright. It is different from copyfree licenses because with those, you still retain ownership of the work and can set small requirements, like attribution. When the work is in the public domain, you can’t do that because you don’t legally own the work anymore. You also can’t, for example, change the license. Whether you use public domain or copyleft or copyfree/pushover licenses depends on how you want the work to be distributed and what your strategy is.

                                          I could try to convince you that copyleft licenses are usually the best choice, because I believe in software freedom, but ultimately it’s a personal decision.

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                                            Hmm but with public domain (CC0) don’t you still retain “moral copyright” ?. I had the impression that people can’t pick up your work and say it is theirs. It will always be your work for an infinite amount of time. You can’t pick a book from the public domain written by someone else and say that you were the one who wrote it.

                                            Is that correct ? That should be ok for most cases.

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                                      IANAL, but I wonder about the patent section:

                                      Each contributor licenses you to do everything with this software that would otherwise infringe any patent claims they can license or become able to license.

                                      How about if a piece of software doing process B is released under this license, and later process ABCD is patented, does this give permission to do ABCD as long as the B piece is the one licensed under this software? What is the scope of “do everything”?

                                      Also, if I release a piece of software under this, and someone later receives a patent that covers some part of it, am I supposed to ensure access to that patent for all who received the software under this license?