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Re: [Amw-developers] AMW Licensing

From: Amit Ravid
Subject: Re: [Amw-developers] AMW Licensing
Date: Sat, 2 Feb 2008 14:55:13 +0200


The difficulties you encountered, are fascinating and amusing at the same time :)
anyway, I'm glad we got the PD licencing "approval" from Savannah.

congratulations and enjoy extending the public domain for all,

2008/2/2, Peleg Michaeli <address@hidden>:
Hi all.

This is a mail about AMW licensing, that tells the story in general, and
give the licensing (and non-licensing) details.

It's all started when Sylvain, an administrator from Savannah (that
hosts this mailing list) wrote:

> Note that your alternate license notice (for the case where public domain is
> not possible) is unclear, because it only allow "use" and not "modification"
> or "redistribution". I suggest you use the Expat license instead, which is
> very small and properly worded:

I didn't like Expat license, because it is still not all-permissive; but
more than that - even if I will find an "all-permissive-license"
(Oxymoron...), there is one question that is asked - WHY?

Why not give up all rights, as simple as that?

So I have written a NOTICE that will explain very clearly: all of the
original code of this project is in the public domain; though, it was
difficult, and here is Sylvain's reply:

> I'm not a lawyer, so I cannot say anything about custom licenses or
> notices, except that we do not recommend using them.

> I think the best option for a non-copyleft free license is to use the
> Expat license as-is. You'll save a lot of time for people who want to
> know whether your project truly complies with the Free Software
> Definition, including the Savannah Hackers, the Debian packagers,
> people who reuse your code in existing projects, etc.

Not very helpful; I insisted, and made the "notice" clearer as I could.
Sylvain was very helpful, and here the story begins; he writes to
address@hidden, and ask their advice:

> Do you have recommendations for releasing a piece of software in the
> public domain?

> Also, isn't there something about countries who don't permit to
> disclaim copyright, that we need to take into account?

> Peleg Michaeli (in carbon-copy, please keep him in the replies) is
> willing to do so but is using a lengthy license block (see below) that
> I fear would lead to a lack of clarity. In addition he mentioned he
> doesn't wish to use a permissive copyright license such as Expat.

And also made clear:

> It's not about 'allowing' public domain at Savannah, it's about
> avoiding ambiguity. When you write a new license header this becomes
> something new that needs to be carefully analysed by different people,
> as I mentioned, hence why I suggested using the widespread Expat which
> is a no-brainer for such people. I didn't mean to reject public domain
> as an acceptable licensing scheme for Savannah project.

> Probably a no-frills "this file is in the public domain" would work,
> but let's hear from address@hidden

Yoni, a volunteer at the GPL, also said what on his mind:

> For what it's worth, I had recently been to a lecture on copyright law
> in my jurisdiction (Israel), and a lawyer said that it is quite
> difficult to legally and officially place something in the public domain.

> This is just one lawyer's opinion and only regards Israel, but I'm
> guessing that it just goes to show something about placing material in
> the public domain around the world.

Karl added his reply:

>    Do you have recommendations for releasing a piece of software in the
>    public domain?

> As far as I know, FSF/GNU has never made official statements or
> recommendations about doing this.  Or even unofficial ones.

>    Also, isn't there something about countries who don't permit to
>    disclaim copyright, that we need to take into account?

> I have heard this too.  I have also heard that the USA may be such a
> country.  However, I've never seen anything legally authoritative about
> it (either way), just FUD from programmers.

> Perhaps Brett has some knowledge of the legal status of public domain.

>    I fear would lead to a lack of clarity.

> Well, his intent seems clear enough.  What legal effect his wording has,
> though, I'm not qualified to say, and I expect you'd need an
> international copyright lawyer to make a meaningful comment.  Yikes.

And added:

> I wonder if there is a stupid legal distinction between "disclaiming
> copyright" and positively putting something in the public domain.

Which made us make the following discussion:

Peleg: It's really is a question - is it a passive, or an active act, to "put"
       things in the so-called "public domain".

Karl:  I'm sure it has to be active, if it's possible at all.

Peleg: And what if I just never claimed ownership of this code?

Karl:  By default, anything that is published is copyright "all rights
       reserved" by the author.

Peleg: Is it "mine" by default?

Karl:  Yes.  The author's.

Peleg: Says who?

Karl:  The international Berne Convention that's the basis of modern copyright law ...

Peleg: Are we waiting for more opinions, by the way?

Karl:  Yes: Brett, the chief guy answering licensing questions.

And then Brett, a "Licensing Compliance Engineer", replied:

> It does cover a lot of bases, and I appreciate that, but I still see no
> reason to recommend it above any other public domain notice.  I'm not
> sure it makes legal sense to say you "dedicate any and all copyright
> interest in this code to the public domain" -- the whole point of
> putting something in the public domain is that you have no copyright
> interest to dedicate anywhere.

> I have been advised by a lawyer that putting stuff in the public domain
> is more involved than most hackers think.  The same lawyer also
> suggested we not worry about that too much, however: even if the author
> did not properly or may not fully disclaim their copyright, the public
> domain notice should serve as a license that has much the same effect.
> As long as there are no contradictions in the notice, the intent is
> certainly clear.

> My suggestion to the Savannah maintainers is that you accept public
> domain code, don't sweat the details of the legal notices too much
> (although if they seem to be confused or contradictory, feel free to run
> it by us), and recommend the Expat license for people who express
> interest in the public domain but aren't sure about it.  A lot of
> hackers seem to want the public domain option because it seems simple
> and elegant.  It's becoming increasingly clear that the reality of it is
> a lot more complicated.  The Expat license seems to provide the kind of
> legal certainty we like to see for the least amount of effort.

And Sylvain summed:

> Since address@hidden don't find it confusing and don't have
> recommend a particular notice on this matter, I ("Savannah" ;)) don't
> have a problem.

So, we have an "approval". Who would've thought that "putting" our own work in the so-called public domain will be so difficult...

Well, I have to Attach the license itself, I believe; it is attached in a txt file to this message.


One philosophical observation about this notice (and about public domain) - every "license", let it be as "free" as possible, have one "defect" - it start with "ALL RIGHTS RESERVED". After those rights are "reserved", the one the reserved them for himself "agree" to "release" SOME of them - as long as specific terms will be kept.

Those licenses are kept with the code just like viruses - there is almost NO WAY to CHANGE, UPDATE, MODIFY, or CANCEL a license after a work had been licensed with that license, because of the fact that that piece of code had many contributors, sometimes a few of them are anonymous; it happened one time that I know of, with SQLite, which made dozens of programmers to sign on a paper that says that they agree to contribute their code to the public domain; but it wouldn't work if one of them wouldn't have signed.

So: our criticism against GPL or other Copyleft, is the same criticism that Microsoft holds against it; not surprisingly, though, considering the fact that extreme capitalism have - sometimes - same practical ambitions as radical anarchism.

Technically speaking, I have already had many issues with licensed codes - I wanted to use many code snippets while programming AMW, but usually couldn't - because those projects are usually GPL. We ARE using LGPL code in AMW, but this is a good compromise - it still let people to use the software - as a whole - for almost any purpose (including commercial purposes), but what more important is that we, the programmers of AMW, put everything WE write in the public domain,  so anyone will be able to use those PARTS of the software without even hesitating, and without the need to license its own code in a license which is "compatible" with our license (because there is no...)


Now for practical issued regarding that notice:
- It is important to notify every contributor in the future that the code that any one of us writes in the framework of this project is public domain (excluding minor changes to LGPL libs we use)
- It is important to try to write most of the code in independent files and create independent engines, while using the LGPL libs as very distinguished parts; by doing that, we will have as much public domain (PD) code as possible, and we will ease the possibility of replacing the LGPL libs with PD libs in the future.
- We will include the notice that I have attached here in every file which is PD, and we will add a "license" file which explains clearly what is LGPL and what is PD. We want to do it mostly because we seek for other contributors - that main goal of this project, I think, is to have a "community" - even a small one - that is gathered around it, working together.


That's it for tonight.

I'll be happy to hear opinions.



This file is part of the FreeLy Project - Ajax Micro Wiki Core package.
This project is a free software project.

NO COPYRIGHT AT ALL. This work is released to the public domain. (a notice)
We, the persons who have associated work with this specific document/file ("We") hereby dedicates whatever copyright We hold in the work of authorship identified below (the "Work") to the PUBLIC DOMAIN; Moreover, We dedicate any copyright interest We may have in the associated work.

We make this dedication for the benefit of the public at large and to the detriment of our heirs and successors. We intend this dedication to be an overt act of relinquishment in perpetuity of all present and future rights under copyright law whether vested or contingent, in the Work. We understand that such relinquishment of all rights includes the relinquishment of all rights to enforce (by lawsuit or otherwise) those copyrights in the Work.

We recognize that, once placed in the public domain, the Work may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, used, copied, modified, merged, published, built upon, or otherwise exploited by anyone for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial, and in any way, including by methods that have not yet been invented or conceived.

This notice applies to the associated document/file and to it alone.

This notice applies worldwide; in cases this is not legally possible, We grant anyone the right to use this work in any way and for any purpose, including without limitation the rights to reproduce, distribute, transmit, use, copy, modify, merge, publish, build upon, and/or sell copies of this document/file, under no terms or conditions.

You (the reader of this notice) are NOT obliged to include this notice in copies or portions of this document/file; You are HIGHLY encouraged to do so, though.




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