There are reasons, this isn't particularly compelling
Posted Nov 30, 2007 20:37 UTC (Fri) by kmself
In reply to: Why a license is better than Public Domain
Parent article: qmail released into the public domain
Proof and/or demonstration of authorship is one of the key parts of
virtually any copyright dispute. In most cases it's sufficiently
trivially accomplished that it's not given much thought. There are
significant legal sanctions against false claims of authorship, and for a
work as well documented and publicly distributed as qmail, chances of
success would be low (though cooperation of djb in any defense would
And having a license over a codebase doesn't necessarially free you
from conflicting claims of ownership. Hell, it's even possible to
imagine a world in which some two-bit thuggish company tried to claim a
copyright interest in the Linux kernel.
The better reasons for license, of some sort, are:
- A framework for distributing the work, including:
- Clear statement of copyright interest.
- Clear statement of rights of recipients to modify, use, and
redistribute the work.
- A clear statement of any additional rights of authorship which are or
are not retained (rights not explicitly granted are implicitly retained
under US statute).
- Clear statement of obligations (if any) when receiving, modifying,
using, and/or distributing a work.
- A disclaimer of warranty and liability
The cover of an approved license also greatly relieves the burden on
those who would like to engage in further distribution, modification, and
use of the work. For many FSF Free Software projects, having a clear
check that works are granted under an approved and accepted license
provides a very real and useful protection against real and imagined
legal threats, from both outside and inside the organization.
Mirror sites and CD/DVD services for CentOS, Debian, Fedora, and Gentoo
come to mind. Likewise, odds of an effective attack against adopting a
tool for use within an organization merely because it is licenced under
GPL, BSD, or MIT license (and is hence "legally risky")
wouldn't get far in any sane environment -- in almost any case such code
is already in extant use. "Public domain" is a slightly
harier threat at present.
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