Revisiting the license unification idea

Daniel Stone daniel at
Sat Sep 22 15:57:17 PDT 2007

On Sat, Sep 22, 2007 at 11:23:01PM +0100, Daniel Drake wrote:
> The license requires us to include the license text *and* copyright 
> notices with the product (some say "with all copies" but we believe that 
> a binary constitutes as a copy, some explicitly talk about 
> documentation). Many packages didn't have COPYING files or had 
> incomplete ones (e.g. without copyright notices). So I had to go through 
> lots of code finding all the notices, and aggregating them into our 
> product documentation.
> Doing this for the X server took most of a day.

Yeah, thanks very much for this.  The copyright documentation bits are
somewhat murky: unfortunately I can't even pretend to speak for my
company's lawyers on this matter (misstating it, which I'd almost
certainly end up doing, would be very poor), but suffice to say it's not
been problematic so far.

The main problem I've seen is with SGI's CID license, but we nuked all
that code on technical grounds anyway.

> I also see that there was discussion on this before:
> and more recently:
> We'd like to assist in this process of license unification and I can 
> spend time doing so.
> I have a few ideas and proposals, outlined below. I will spend time 
> making these happen if people like them. I'm not really involved in 
> development, so if any of these ideas are a little off, please 
> forgive me (and help me come up with more realistic ones) :)

Virtually no-one's involved in this unfortunately murky area, so please,
continue. :)

> I would like to see the following happen:
>   - A decision on an official " license", backed by the
>     foundation

I'll raise a motion with the Board to get us to back the license quoted
in the mail you linked on MARC as the recommended license.

>   - Some guidelines on keeping the COPYING file updated with new
>     copyright notices, so that binary distributors can simply aggregate
>     COPYING files from all xorg components and include them in the
>     documentation


> It obviously wouldn't be realistic for us to relicense all old code, 
> although I would put time into contacting some individual developers and 
> asking if I could submit a patch relicensing all their work.
> Would we want to require this license to be used for all future code 
> submissions, or would we just leave it as a recommendation?

I think we just want to leave it as a (very) strong recommendation, and
just make sure we ask questions about what gets contributed with
something different.

> Anyway, hopefully I haven't jumped the gun, but I've drafted the content 
> for the wiki page which I'm including below in hope that people will 
> review it (assuming the above ideas are generally acceptable). Sorry for 
> the slightly inconvenient wrapping. I've selected the license mentioned 
> by Daniel Stone in the above marc link. I've also assumed we want it as 
> a recommendation rather than a requirement for new code.
> Please send me feedback.

Change '' to 'X.Org', and I'm all over it. :)  You might also want
to add a recommendation as to what to do with corporate copyrights,
e.g. my code written for work being copyrighted for Nokia.  In this
case, I've been doing:

 * Copyright © 2006-2007 Nokia Corporation
 * [... license ...]
 * Author: Daniel Stone <daniel at>

Other than that, looks great -- thanks!  Feel free to create a wiki page
as Development/Licensing or similar.

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