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Use a working license instead of UNLICENSE #1

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Valloric opened this Issue Jul 7, 2014 · 27 comments

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@Valloric

Valloric commented Jul 7, 2014

[I posted this in your Reddit thread, but it should be an actual issue.]

Please don't use UNLICENSE for your license. It doesn't actually work. All uses of UNLICENSE can be replaced with uses of the Apache 2 license (which actually works); you get the same "do whatever you want with it" support without causing your users pain because your license makes no legal sense.

Apache 2 really is what you want; unlike the MIT license, it covers the following as well:

  • Any patches you receive are also licensed under Apache 2. MIT says nothing on this and thus leaves any project using it in a weird state after merging in external contributions.
  • It gives a patent license as well.
  • Other minor useful tidbits.

I've made the mistake of using UNLICENSE myself before; learn from my experience.

@BurntSushi

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BurntSushi commented Jul 7, 2014

If you or anyone else who wants to use my code has an actual problem using it, then please let me know. We'll work something out.

When given a choice, I will always prefer copyfree licenses. The Apache licenses are not copyfree because it places restrictions on derivative works.

@BurntSushi BurntSushi closed this Jul 7, 2014

@robinst

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robinst commented Jul 8, 2014

With this license, you're excluding it from being used in any Apache or Eclipse project:

https://www.apache.org/legal/3party.html#criteriaandcategories
https://www.eclipse.org/legal/eplfaq.php#3RDPARTY

An exotic license will just mean less users in the worst case. What's wrong with MIT?

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BurntSushi commented Jul 8, 2014

With this license, you're excluding it from being used in any Apache or Eclipse project:

I see nothing in those links that justifies this claim.

An exotic license will just mean less users in the worst case.

I've been using "exotic" licenses like the WTFPL and the UNLICENSE for years. This issue has been the only thing resembling a problem. (And nobody actually has a problem.)

What's wrong with MIT?

Nothing in practice. From unlicense.org:

The Unlicense is a template for disclaiming copyright monopoly interest in software you've written; in other words, it is a template for dedicating your software to the public domain. It combines a copyright waiver patterned after the very successful public domain SQLite project with the no-warranty statement from the widely-used MIT/X11 license.

That is why I use it. If it's good enough for SQLite, then it's good enough for me.

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robinst commented Jul 8, 2014

Eclipse does not list the license as acceptable (to be fair, it also doesn't list it as not acceptable). So if someone wants to use it, they now have to go contact the Eclipse lawyers. Yay lawyers.

I've been using "exotic" licenses like the WTFPL and the UNLICENSE for years. This issue has been the only thing resembling a problem. (And nobody actually has a problem.)

That's the thing with licenses, nobody pays much attention until the license has to be inspected. Choosing a relatively unknown license just causes unnecessary hesitation for those that try to pay attention.

That is why I use it. If it's good enough for SQLite, then it's good enough for me.

It looks like it is not really the same as SQLite's though.

Oh well, never mind, please go on creating awesome software :). Just please don't create a new license yourself ;).

@Valloric

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Valloric commented Jul 8, 2014

If it's good enough for SQLite, then it's good enough for me.

That's not the license SQLite uses! Please read the link I provided: http://projects.opensource.org/pipermail/license-review/2012-January/000052.html

(And nobody actually has a problem.)

We're trying to help you out. By using the UNLICENSE or the WTFPL (which are called "crayon" licenses by lawyers in OSS) you are actively making it harder for others to use your code. There are people who don't care about code copyright (and who couldn't care less what license if any you use) and then there are those who work for large companies and can't use your software because their legal department says your license is a joke they can't rely on with a straight face.

Both of us may hate the fact that code licenses are necessary (I know I sure do) but that doesn't change the planet we live on.

Please be practical.

@Valloric

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Valloric commented Jul 8, 2014

BTW, here's a relevant part from SQLite's copyright page:

Even though SQLite is in the public domain and does not require a license, some users want to obtain a license anyway. Some reasons for obtaining a license include:

  1. You are using SQLite in a jurisdiction that does not recognize the public domain.
  2. You are using SQLite in a jurisdiction that does not recognize the right of an author to dedicate their work to the public domain.
  3. You want to hold a tangible legal document as evidence that you have the legal right to use and distribute SQLite.
  4. Your legal department tells you that you have to purchase a license.

They have themselves encountered many problems with putting code in the public domain (which is BTW a concept from US copyright law that does not exist in other countries).

Furthermore, from the same page:

In order to keep SQLite completely free and unencumbered by copyright, all new contributors to the SQLite code base are asked to dedicate their contributions to the public domain.

The SQLite project asks all contributors to explicitly contribute to the public domain. Will you do that for every pull request you receive? Note that every contributor must explicitly provide such a public domain statement. If not, then all those code contributions are NOT in the public domain.

This is something the MIT license doesn't cover but Apache v2 does.

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BurntSushi commented Jul 8, 2014

That's not the license SQLite uses! Please read the link I provided:

The UNLICENSE is modeled after SQLite's license.

I read your link. In fact, I read it a long time ago. Please don't mistake my curtness for ignorance on the topic.

We're trying to help you out.

This is not an issue that I take lightly. You claim you are for the same things (licenses suck), which I believe, but this doesn't mean we must choose to express those beliefs in the same way.

This isn't a decision I made lightly. I chose the UNLICENSE not just because I care about attempting to opt out of copyright but because it is one way to evangelize alternative licensing schemes.

The trade off is not lost on me. The license is not widely used and so it may scare people away. But this is a chicken and egg problem. If I want more people to opt out of software licensing, then we have to start somewhere.

With all that said, I care very deeply about others using my software. Therefore, I am happy to seek to resolve any problems that crop up that _actually_ prevent you from using anything I write in practice. This has never been a problem before (this includes individuals as well as companies like Mozilla and CoreOS).

The SQLite project asks all contributors to explicitly contribute to the public domain. Will you do that for every pull request you receive?

If it comes to that. Note that the UNLICENSE isn't just "public domain." It exists precisely in cases where "public domain" is tricky to get right.

This is something the MIT license doesn't cover but Apache v2 does.

There are a gagillion open source software projects operating successfully with MIT or Simplified BSD style licenses. Your concerns about MIT vs. Apache v2 therefore seem unwarranted. Sorry.

As I said, the Apache licenses are not copyfree. Therefore, I will not use them (ceteris paribus).

I'm sorry that we don't see eye to eye on this issue. I find it very difficult to balance practicality with evangelism, but I will hold on to this small piece of expression for as long as I can. Simply showing me a link to a rant and expressing concerns of what-may-be just aren't enough reasons for me.

@robinst

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robinst commented Jul 9, 2014

FWIW, here's FSF's stance on Unlicense:

https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html#Unlicense

@nyuszika7h

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nyuszika7h commented Oct 29, 2014

You're trying to "opt out" of licensing? There's one thing you don't seem to realize: without a license, others don't have any rights. The whole point of licenses is to give you certain rights, however limited they may be.

Also, that copy-free propaganda seems to be objecting to licenses which do nothing more than requiring the name to be changed or similar.

Are you telling me you would not care the slightest if someone else made a fork of your project under the same name and claimed that they made it?

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BurntSushi commented Oct 29, 2014

You're trying to "opt out" of licensing? There's one thing you don't seem to realize: without a license

Good thing this library is licensed under the UNLICENSE then.

Also, that copy-free propaganda seems to be objecting to licenses which do nothing more than requiring the name to be changed or similar.

The "copyfree propaganda" objects to anything that requires some kind of intellectual property law to be in place. (This includes copyright, patents, trademarks, etc...)

Are you telling me you would not care the slightest if someone else made a fork of your project under the same name and claimed that they made it?

Of course I'd care. It's plagiarism. Perhaps you'd like to rephrase your question?

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nyuszika7h commented Oct 29, 2014

It's pointless to argue with you because you're obviously being a troll. For one, you completely skipped two lines.

Of course I'd care. It's plagiarism. Perhaps you'd like to rephrase your question?

If you care, then why are you using a license that basically gives people the right to do that?

I just realized that the Apache 2.0 License has some restrictions I wasn't aware of, but my point still stands.

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BurntSushi commented Oct 29, 2014

I've been using the UNLICENSE and the WTFPL for years, and now I'm defending that choice on my own issue tracker. And that's considered trolling? Yikes.

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nyuszika7h commented Oct 29, 2014

No, "defending your choice" is not what is trolling. Picking out specific parts from my response and ignoring the rest is what is trolling.

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BurntSushi commented Oct 29, 2014

I "skipped" two lines because there really isn't anything pertinent that I have to say in response.

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BurntSushi commented Oct 29, 2014

Here.

others don't have any rights. The whole point of licenses is to give you certain rights, however limited they may be.

I disagree.

Suggesting the MS-PL to be used instead of the Apache License? You have got to be kidding.

OK? Cool?

See? That's why I "skipped" two lines.

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BurntSushi commented Nov 1, 2014

@nyuszika7h I just saw your edit to one of your comments.

If you care, then why are you using a license that basically gives people the right to do that?

Because I don't believe we should legislate every ethical decision. If you take my code and claim that you wrote it, I will support your right to do it. At the same time, I will also tell you that what you've done is unethical.

I just realized that the Apache 2.0 License has some restrictions I wasn't aware of, but my point still stands.

I don't know what your point is. Are you having trouble using this code because of my license choice? If not, then I don't know what you're hoping to achieve here.

@jechols

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jechols commented Dec 3, 2014

It wasn't explicitly pointed out in the war between "public domain" vs. "open source", but if you want public domain, what we at the University of Oregon Library have been doing is using CC0. Unlicense has some issues in certain countries where users do in fact lose rights, and CC0 seems to have done a better job.

In particular (see links below):

It doesn't make sense outside of a commonwealth ecosystem, is explicitly illegal in some places (Germany), and of unclear legality in others (Australia)

I don't know what @Valloric's original intent was, but if you want the most unrestrictive possible license, CC0 is the way to go. That said, I have no vested interest here and stumbled across this trying to google for the two links below :)

Update: just realized I kind of made it sound like all of UO was doing something - it's just us in the library doing PD stuff as far as I know

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rickmoen commented Oct 10, 2018

Hi, Andrew. If you are willing to consider an alternative, Rob Landley created for the toybox project the '0BSD' license (Zero-Clause BSD License) by removing a requirements clause from 2-clause BSD, and resulting in text running about ten lines. Moreover, it's already an OSI Certified licence, albeit OSI hasn't yet cleared up some lingering name confusion.

Several years on, my (referenced) damning legal critique of Unlicense on the license-review mailing list still looks to me, IMO, fully merited, but I absolutely applaud your wish to use a copyfree licence. Maybe 0BSD will be your cuppa. (copyfree.org lists it as 'Toybox License'. As I said, there's a lingering name issue being cleared up: Rob is working on getting everyone to standardise on 0BSD as the short name, and Zero-Clause BSD License as the full name.)

-- Rick Moen
rick@linuxmafia.com

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BurntSushi commented Oct 10, 2018

Hi, Andrew. If you are willing to consider an alternative, Rob Landley created
for the toybox project the '0BSD' license (Zero-Clause BSD License) by removing
a requirements clause from 2-clause BSD, and resulting in text running about
ten lines. Moreover, it's already an OSI Certified licence, albeit OSI hasn't
yet cleared up some lingering name confusion.

Several years on, my (referenced) damning legal critique of Unlicense on the
license-review mailing list still looks to me, IMO, fully merited, but I
absolutely applaud your wish to use a copyfree licence. Maybe 0BSD will be
your cuppa. (copyfree.org lists it as 'Toybox License'. As I said, there's a
lingering name issue being cleared up: Rob is working on getting everyone to
standardise on 0BSD as the short name, and Zero-Clause BSD License as the full
name.)

-- Rick Moen
rick@linuxmafia.com

@rickmoen Thanks for responding, but based on your mailing list posts from 2012, and assuming your perspective hasn't changed, then it's clear to me that we're coming at this from very different angles. The fundamental crux at which we disagree is captured fairly succinctly in this part of your correspondence:

And that's the pity of it: Using a very simple standard permissive
licence such as MIT/X11 License or even a peculiar and cramped but
somewhat standard 3-line licence like Fair Licence achieves everything
Bendiken and others want (and actually escape warranty liability)
except for the ideological point about getting 'out of the copyright
game'.

And because of that ideological hobbyhorse, everyone's time gets wasted.

Given that, and given the clear condescension expressed towards the type of perspective I hold here, I'm not sure it's particularly productive to discuss this further.

Moreover, about 3 years ago, I dual licensed this project under the MIT and the UNLICENSE, which should assuage the practical concerns others have made. I did the same for most of my other projects, and since then, plenty of folks---including large corporations with huge legal infrastructure devoted to figuring out which software licenses are acceptable for them to use---have had no problem using my code.

I've elaborated a bit on my licensing choice in a different project of mine here: https://github.com/BurntSushi/ripgrep/blob/master/FAQ.md#license

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rickmoen commented Oct 10, 2018

Andrew, I'm glad to clarify (and repeat) that I have nothing but respect for your and others' desire to achieve maximally permissive & terse software licensing. I'm totally sincere about that, and have consistently so said in public and private.

My sharp criticism (call it condescension if you wish) has been restricted to ignominious failures to address that need, that fail for lack of attention to legal basics, such as WTFPL and Unlicense. Those licences' structural defects are both gravely fatal and pretty much not disputed by anyone familiar with basics of software licensing and copyright law -- which, like death and taxes, don't go away merely because one dislikes them.

MIT License is excellent, of course -- and about 13 lines of standard ASCII text. Hypothetically switching to 0BSD would shrink that to about 10 lines, FWIW.

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BurntSushi commented Oct 10, 2018

Andrew, I'm glad to clarify (and repeat) that I have nothing but respect for your and others' desire to achieve maximally permissive & terse software licensing. I'm totally sincere about that, and have consistently so said in public and private.

I get that. But I hope it's also clear that I use the Unlicense for at least partially ideological reasons. It is specifically intended as a protest against monopoly copyright interest. Neither the 0BSD nor the MIT achieve that. To you, this is a waste of time. That's a fair position to take; I don't even disagree with it 100%. I'm not that big on activism. But this is one position I've found I can take without actually giving up much, specifically because of the dual licensing with a widely recognized license (MIT).

The point of me using MIT is to hedge against situations where the Unlicense isn't acceptable for one reason or another (perhaps because some legal professional declared it to be unsuitable). To that end, I don't think there is any better choice, including the 0BSD, simply on grounds of broad appeal alone.

which, like death and taxes, don't go away merely because one dislikes them.

For what it's worth, this is the kind of condescension that I find really unappealing. Presumably you're hear to convince me of something. If that's your goal, then you're really acting against your interests by talking down to me as if I were some cargo culting idiot. Whether that's your intent or not, that's how you come across to me. In particular, I'm well aware that the practice of law has absolutely nothing to do with whether I disagree with it or not. However, sometimes laws (or norms) should change, and the only way for that to happen is for someone to act against the status quo. Therefore, your descriptive argument is completely barking up the wrong tree, because I'm making a prescriptive argument.

Now, maybe there exists a better way to stake my ideological ground. Maybe there should be an Unlicense2 that addresses your concerns. So long as the goal is to disclaim monopoly copyright interest, I'd be happy to support that. But I don't know of any such effort, and I certainly do not want to add yet another license to the fray myself. :-)

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rickmoen commented Oct 10, 2018

For what it's worth, this is the kind of condescension that I find really unappealing.

I'm typically Scandinavian-American in the sense of habitually telling perceived truths bluntly. If you want a salesman or flattery, that's somebody else.

And no, I'm not trying to convince you of anything. There's nothing in that for me. I'm just stating my views because it's on a topic of longtime interest to me, because you kindly permit it, and so others will probably find what I'm saying.

Your ideological position is all very well, and I don't differ with it in any way. I wish the global copyright regime would get out of our way, too. But meanwhile, if writing software and not wishing to create nasty future legal pitfalls for downstream users and redistributors, it's IMO wise to use competent licensing for the same reason one sticks to competently assembled and maintained cars when driving rather than driving an incompetently built one as a protest for ideological reasons.

Or, at least, if you do, someone's likely to have a bad day.

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BurntSushi commented Oct 10, 2018

it's IMO wise to use competent licensing for the same reason one sticks to competently assembled and maintained cars when driving rather than driving an incompetently built one as a protest for ideological reasons.

That's why I dual license and it's also why I drive a Camry. 'round 'n' 'round we go. We're just speaking past each other at this point.

I'm typically Scandinavian-American in the sense of habitually telling perceived truths bluntly. If you want a salesman or flattery, that's somebody else.

If your "perceived truth" is that I think the practice of law depends on whether I dislike it or not, then you very clearly must think of me as a blubbering idiot.

Here's my perceived truth: the absence of condescension is not the same as the presence of salesmanship or flattery. Nor does it mean you can't be blunt.

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rickmoen commented Oct 11, 2018

As I've already mentioned, in addition to trying to help you by reminding you of the excellent 0BSD option (even shorter and simpler than MIT or ISC), I'm also taking, here, (brief) advantage of the forum you kindly offer here (and trying not to abuse your hospitality) to reach many more people than just you.

I have no reason to think you personally believe the practice of law depends on whether you dislike it or not, but many in 'public domain equivalent' social circles seem to think that it's functionally useful to ignore legal validity problems for protest purposes on real-world software, to the potential (actually, probable) detriment of downstream recipients, and talk incessantly about how terrible it is to have to worry about copyright notices, lists of reserved rights granted, disclaimers of warranty variations in all-capitals type, and resulting ten-line licence statements smelling of lawyers -- as if that had anything to do with the issue. The natural inferences is that at least some of them think that if you protest against a worldwide legal regime loud enough and act as if it didn't exist, that you've somehow evaded it completely. So, I sometimes remind people that it didn't work for the Ghost Shirt Society to protect them against US Cavalry bullets, and it doesn't work to make the realities of copyright law go away either.

You already know that. I appreciate that. It's not clear that others seeking to magick away the realities of law using PD declarations and so-called PD-equivalent licences do.

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BurntSushi commented Oct 11, 2018

Thanks for explaining that in more detail. I'm generally happy to see copyfree licenses get more press.

With that said, we'll have to agree to disagree on how we perceive the world. You see naiveté, but I see rebellion. Rebellion comes in many shapes and sizes, and for it to succeed, you generally need to sacrifice something. Maybe that comes in the form of real world software using sub-optimal software licenses. I am a terrible activist though; which is why I ultimately caved and dual licensed.

Either way, I really do not think your musings on how stupid some social circles are help your cause here. You have an opportunity to educate folks on license choices, but instead you lace it with invective. It's completely distracting. Be blunt. Be honest. Don't sugar coat it. But don't snub your nose at the people you're trying to educate.

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rickmoen commented Oct 11, 2018

I'd be obliged if you could point out where, anywhere on this topic, I said or implied that anyone was stupid. On a fairly lengthly search, I can't find examples.

Nor, actually, would that make any sense in light of what I've been saying: There's nothing of stupidity implied by choosing unsuitable tools for a task, when one is far outside one's field, but hasn't realised why leveraging the work of domain-knowledge experts is crucial.

The only people I come somewhat close to derogating are Mr. Sam Hocevar, author of WTFPL v.2, whose effort produced a hapless failure for lack of attention to basic detail, and Mr. Joe Brockmeier, who meant well and missed the target but less badly than Sam did. Even them, I certainly wouldn't call stupid, just tragically inept in a way likely to cause much bigger problems for others than for themselves.

Along those lines, as to what software stakeholders sacrifice in choosing legally flawed licensing in hopes of making a point, I respect that choice right up to the point where they negligently leave legal pitfalls for downstream code reusers, which IMO is morally suspect. YMMV.

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BurntSushi commented Oct 11, 2018

That's enough. I've done my best to express my distaste for how you're choosing to continue this conversation, but it's not working. You keep continuing to spew invective and proffer unsolicited opinions on not only entire social groups, but now you're targeting specific individuals. This goes way beyond spreading the word about copyfree licenses, which I'm totally happy to indulge. From my perspective, your social commentary is inflammatory and a waste of my time to read. Please do not bother me with it again.

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