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Re: Differentiating BSD-style licenses (was: DEP5: Machine-readable debian/copyright (the paperwork))

Le Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 09:57:05AM +1100, Ben Finney a écrit :
> Carsten Hey <carsten@debian.org> writes:
> > It's might not be obvious for all which BSD licenses are meant by "BSD"
> > and "FreeBSD", thus I propose appending " (3-clause BSD)" and
> > respectively " (2-clause BSD)" to their descriptions.
> That's even more ambiguous, though. It doesn't say *which* clauses; any
> three-clause license similar to a BSD license could be “3-clause BSD”.
> I've advocated making mnemonic descriptors for the particular clauses,
> e.g. “attribution”, “no endorsement”, etc. Those have the disadvantage
> of not being well-known, but the advantage (compared to simply counting
> the clauses) that at least a guess as to which clauses are being
> referenced will likely be right.

Dear Carsten, Ben and everybody,

There has been a couple of propositions in the wiki era of the DEP, on how to
handle the BSD license and its derivatives.


Here are reasons why I do not think that licenses inspired by the BSD license
can be efficiently classified by counting the number of clauses.

First, the license of the Berkeley Software Distribution ("BSD") source code
copyrighted by the Regents of the University of California has a
non-endorsement clause that is frequently edited each time this license is used
as a template by another project. Therefore, it is not possible to use the same
short name for them, since “3-clause BSD” would not refer to the same license
when sources from two different projects are aggregated in the same package.

Second, there is no more software distributed under the “4-clause BSD” if we
agree that there is only one “3-clause BSD”: all source code for which the
Regents of the University of California hold copyright and that was distributed
under what is commonly called old, original or 4-clase BSD license has been
relicensed: ftp://ftp.cs.berkeley.edu/pub/4bsd/README.Impt.License.Change. As
above, licenses that contain an advertisement clause inspired by this BSD
license are all unique, since their advertisement clause differ.

Then, only the 2-clause and 1-clause BSD licenses remain. My personnal point of
view is that since they have been introduced by different projects (FreeBSD,
ISC), it would be fair and clear to use their name for these license. To remove
any ambiguity, we can add an annex to the DEP with a copy of all the licences
for which it specifies a short name.

For the licenses inspired by the Regents of the University of California’s BSD
license, I would rather try to work on extending the DEP to include a concept
of being ‘similar to’ other licenes. This would be useful for other cases than
the BSD.

This leaves the issue raised by Ben, that the permission given by a license can
not be inferred by its short name. I do not think that it is a problem, since it
is actually impossible for most of the other short names as well. Nevertheless,
some extra documentation effort could be made, separately or as an annex. I was
recently pointed at the RDF language for expressing metadata. While Googling
on it I found that Creative Commons have an RDF specification for license
permissions: http://creativecommons.org/ns. This could be used to associate
a license short name to a richer and structured definition of what it permits.

Have a nice day,

Charles Plessy
Tsurumi, Kanagawa, Japan

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