(Too-)Simple licenses


We’ve gotten a number of licenses submissions over the years, which attempt to be “succinter than thou”. I guess that people feel that even a license as simple as the BSD license is too complicated. Examples include the Fair License (which we approved), or the Æsthetic Permissive License (currently under consideration), or the Beer-Ware license (incompletely submitted in 2003, and reactivated recently).

What is the purpose in having a license? Why not simply put your code into the public domain? Clearly, people license code because they want to put conditions on the distribution of the code. And yet, they want those conditions to have the force of law behind them. If they simply wanted to put forth moral conditions on the code, they would do so in the public domain dedication, like this:

The Moral Rights Public Dedication (MRPD):

I am not going to rely on the use of the legal system to enforce
the below restrictions on the distribution of this code, therefore
I am putting this code into the public domain. However, that does
not mean that you are free to do anything you want. I assert a
moral right to require you to give credit to myself whenever you
take credit for the work you have combined my work with. If you
fail to do this, I will tell your mother, your wife, your
girlfriend, your mistress, and your religious leader.

Ever heard of anybody doing this? Me neither. Thus, logically,
anybody who licenses their code wants to be able to take the license
to a court and get them to enforce the terms of the license.

And if you’re gonna do that, you should take our advice when we tell
you that a license is under-specified. If you simply MUST use a
simple license, then consider using the MRPD instead of a license.