Understanding Licenses, bit by bit (4)

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It took a little while, but I wrapped up the licenses-as-icons with a summary in tabular form. It’s not on this blog, because I don’t know how to pull in fancy CSS and tables into wordpress. Instead, it lives on one of my personal sites for now. It will move to the FSFE pages in due course, once I’ve had some of the other people in the Freedom Task Force look over it. The page is largely auto-generated now by a little python program that understands the labels given to the different licenses. There is plenty of room for improvement: links to the license texts, better explanations of what the badges mean, etc.

One thing I’m quite happy with is the family overview: it shows which licenses are the same when compared using only the qualities reflected in the badges. So it shows MIT and BSD 2-clause as the same — which I’m willing to accept. Unfortunately, due to the granularity of the badges, it also shows some things together (or at least indistinguishable based on the badges) that do not belong together.

There’s one badge missing: “allows relicensing”, which would for instance distinguish between OSL and AFL (as I pointed out when reading them previously). And it might make sense for every license that gets a warning marker to be excluded from the family groupings entirely, so as to avoid the possibility of confusion there.

Thanks: I’d like to thank Mignon Engel and Egon Elbre for providing icons that can be used to symbolize the different badges. You can switch between the different style sheets in your browser’s View menu (unless you’ve got Safari, which doesn’t support that feature as far as I can tell).

Copyright: Some folks have asked about the license on the icons, the text, these blog entries. Since this is work I do as part of my job for the FSFE, it is copyrighted by my employer — the Free Software Foundation Europe (an independent sister organization representing Free Software in Europe). Most of the materials produced by the FSFE are released under a liberal license, for instance allowing unlimited verbatim copies as long as the copyright notice is preserved (otherwise it wouldn’t be verbatim, right?). However, this material hasn’t been licensed that way yet, so I’d have to answer that right now, it’s “All Rights Reserved.”

Next Steps: Refine the meaning of the badges. Add a relicensing badge. Add another dozen licenses (for instance there’s no Affero versions here yet). Clean up the text. Turn it into a nice booklet. Publish. …? Profit!

5 Comment(s)

  1. “Tivoization” isn’t exactly a clear label, and if I understand it correctly, those licenses disallow tivoization, so if anything, it should be “anti-tivoization”.

    I love this idea and these icons though.

    1. Yeah, like I said the explanations and texts are something that needs improvement. I think the explanation should be something along the lines of “Embedding the software in a physical product and selling or renting the product constitutes distribution of the software and triggers obligations underthe license.”

  2. I like the listing a lot!

    The only part which seems odd is that in the green icons “make available” and “publish linked code under same license” aren’t easy to distinguish.

    Maybe “linked under same license” could use a double mirrored “c” – or two linked c’s, a smaller one and a bigger one with arrows pointing inside to join with the smaller one.

    or maybe two c’s linked vertically – one above, one below, like people linking their arms, the outer “arms” of the c’s with arrows pointing inward.

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