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Consider relicensing unconditionally #214

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ghost opened this issue Jul 22, 2019 · 13 comments

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@ghost
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commented Jul 22, 2019

MIT/Expat License is oft misunderstood. When it comes to icons it's not advisable to use MIT as, for users, using icons without copying the MIT terms into the source of the consuming codebase triggers a license violation.

For icon packs such as this please consider an unconditional license such as 0BSD or similar so it's clear to users copying SVG assets doing so doesn't require the license to be copied into their own source code (unless that's what your want).

Further reading:
https://writing.kemitchell.com/2019/03/09/Deprecation-Notice.html

@edent

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commented Jul 22, 2019

Hello - thanks for the comment.

This is the first that I've heard about the MIT being confusing. And I've never heard of the Blue Oak one mentioned in that blog post.

As lots of people have created these icons under MIT, it would be too difficult to contact them all and ask them to relicense their work.

I'm quite happy with people including a copy of the MIT which specifically relates to these icons.

I'll leave this comment open - if I'm wrong, please let me know :-)

@ghost

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commented Jul 23, 2019

MIT is very confusing, hence the attribution landmine.

By far the most common rule is attribution, which requires those who make copies of the software, in source or compiled form, to include copies of terms, copyright notices, and other information about who licenses the software, and how.

When works licensed under the MIT are copied in whole or in part a copy of the license, including the copyright notice, must be copied with the work. Therefore, if someone copies one or more SVG icons the MIT license should be added to the SVG code when embedded on a website to comply with the terms of the license. This isn't something you as the author could waive because it's a result of the terms of the license. If you were to relicense under an unconditional license you don't need permission from anyone if your're the sole author of the work. You just change it going forward. If others contributed to this work you may be in a precarious place if they have not updated the license you already have or made separate statements waiving all rights.

@ancestral

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commented Jul 23, 2019

One project I’ve been involved with, Battle for Wesnoth, has GPL on everything in the project, including art and music assets. Some of the composers raised concerns over how to provide source files for music, much of which may be impossible or unfeasible. People frequently posted this was an issue, and a growing minority wanted to re-license the art and music for Creative Commons. Unlike GPL (and probably MIT), CC is designed for art and music in mind.

@concatime

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commented Jul 23, 2019

As @fuzzy76 mentionned in feathericons/feather#95, copying the MIT terms into the source is not mandatory and omitting it does not trigger necessarily a license violation (emphasis mine):

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

@filmor

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commented Jul 23, 2019

@concatime IANAL, but I highly doubt this is true.

There are various interpretations of the "substantial portions" part of that sentence, depending on jurisdiction, but for the license to make any sense at all for a collection of independent works (as a collection of icons or a set of command-line programs), it must apply to any of those independent works individually, so each of those icons by itself is definitely a "substantial portion".

Otherwise you could have just taken xterm while X was still monolithic and distributed it without copyright notice.

@fuzzy76

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commented Jul 23, 2019

Yes, I see that it's not as crystal clear as I first assumed. Some more info here: https://opensource.stackexchange.com/questions/2187/how-much-is-substantial-portion-in-mit-licence

But I'm not convinced you wouldn't be able to redistribute a single tool from a large monolithic MIT-licensed project and be exempt from legal repercussions. Or even more miniscule, three icons from a large icon pack. Also note that Gnu.org does not recommend the MIT license for "substantial programs".

@gsliepen

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commented Jul 23, 2019

One project I’ve been involved with, Battle for Wesnoth, has GPL on everything in the project, including art and music assets. Some of the composers raised concerns over how to provide source files for music, much of which may be impossible or unfeasible. People frequently posted this was an issue, and a growing minority wanted to re-license the art and music for Creative Commons. Unlike GPL (and probably MIT), CC is designed for art and music in mind.

It is definitely possible to provide the source for music. Of course things are more fuzzy with music than with computer executables, but nothing in the GPL says you need to be able to produce a bit-exact copy. Having MIDI files plus the setup for some software synthesizers would already be a huge improvement. Sadly, the Wesnoth developers don't really (want to) understand the GPL and they claim that the Ogg Vorbis files are the source.

@chrisweb

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commented Jul 23, 2019

Therefore, if someone copies one or more SVG icons the MIT license should be added to the SVG code when embedded on a website to comply with the terms of the license.

No this isn't what is meant by "The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.".

What the sentence means is that in your software or website, there should be a list of open source tools (and their licenses) that are used to build or are included in your software.

For example in the Facebook app, open the menu, open "help and support", open "Terms and policies", open "More resources", open "Third party notices". Or for websites check out the spotify "third party licenses" page or hubspot "open source disclosure" page.

So if you use those icons, it's enough that on your own "open source licenses disclosure" page / document, you mention the icons (and eventually add a link to their source) and display a copy of the MIT license found in the project.

@ghost

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commented Jul 23, 2019

@chrisweb I get what you're saying but I don't feel you're addressing my strongest argument. In a single icon case 9 of 10 (nay, 98 of 100) users won't copy the license thereby causing a license violation. That can easily be remedied by moving to an unconditional license.

@edent

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commented Jul 23, 2019

In a single icon case 9 of 10 (nay, 98 of 100) users won't copy the license

I don't see any evidence of that. And, honestly, I'm relaxed about people not attributing us.

If it bothers you, I'm very happy if you want to contact all the contributors and convince them to move to a more permissive licence. CC0 seems like the obvious one.

@CameronNemo

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commented Jul 23, 2019

Can the license be embedded into the SVG files themselves (as a comment)? I have done that with SPDX identifiers before, though thankfully not an entire license. (edit: I realize this results in space concerns... nevermind then)

Relicense what you can to 0BSD, it is a great license (and does not suffer from the patent ambiguity in CC0).

edit: source for the above https://opensource.org/faq#cc-zero

@ghost

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commented Jul 24, 2019

Here's what Hugo did when they relicensed the generator if it's of any use: gohugoio/hugo#201 (comment)

GitHub ostensibly represents the largest body of FOSS devs (and data about their productivity among other things) ever corralled into one place and has the power to DCMA a repo off their service at the snap of their fingers one would expect making this sort of change wouldn't require the sort of painstaking effort Hugo had to go through. But if you get me a list of current email addresses of every contributor I'm happy to coordinate a license switch on behalf of the repo owner.

@edent

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commented Jul 24, 2019

I don't have the email addresses of contributors. Even if I did, GDPR prevents me from giving out that sort of personal data.

You will have to go through the commit history of the repo and find out who committed what.

As I say, I'm ambivalent about this exercise - but if you can show me that all the other contributors are happy, we can do it.

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