Re: Use of exception to communicate legal ambiguity

Max Mehl

~ Steve Winslow [2021-11-24 20:14 +0100]:
If a work of "dubious copyrightability" contains any license notice, MIT or
GPL or whatever, that's telling the recipient that they are permitted to
use (or copy, or modify, or distribute...) the work under that license. The
recipient might determine that the rights granted by that license are not
actually necessary, given the nature of the work. The recipient determines
that they won't infringe any exclusive rights by making use of the work
even without the license. The presence of the license statement doesn't
affect this; nor would the presence of a license statement tied to an "if
this work needs a license, here it is" notice.

So in the example you mentioned, I tend to think that the SPDX license
expression is accurately described as:

// SPDX-License-Identifier: GPL-2.0-or-later
IANAL, but my sentiments exactly. Of course I can patch a AGPL* license
(plus copyright holder) on top of a file with `print("hello world")`
being its only content. In all legislations I know the file would not be
copyrightable, and everyone could just copy the file and (re)use it
without any restrictions. No harm done.

My plea is to make things as simple as possible for developers without
excessive legal knowledge or a helpful legal department as support. If a
developer, for the sake of simplicity, distributes all files in their
project under AGPL*, even the non-copyrightable, so be it. If a re-user
of this project thinks the license is a problem, they can make the
estimation whether they, in their legislation, can change the license or
not. I do not see how a "If-Needed" exception can make a positive
difference here, because the question whether the file is copyrightable
or not still is up to the re-user.

FWIW, here are two REUSE FAQ items on this topic (without many details).
Would you share this position?


Max Mehl - Programme Manager - Free Software Foundation Europe
Contact and information: | @mxmehl
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