Re: remove recommendation re: standard license headers

Phil Odence <phil.odence@...>

Mike, this is really interesting input and provides great perspective. Thank you.


When we first started advocating SPDX headers in files, we were concerned that there would be a backlash of concern about using them instead of standard headers and felt, therefore, we could not be silent. These many years later with the use well-established, I’m in agreement with advocating the use of SPDX heading and leaving it up to projet what else then include in the file.


From: Spdx-legal@... <Spdx-legal@...> on behalf of Michael Dolan <mdolan@...>
Date: Tuesday, November 30, 2021 at 8:28 PM
To: Warner Losh <imp@...>
Cc: Richard Purdie <richard.purdie@...>, Neal Gompa <ngompa13@...>, Sebastian Crane <seabass-labrax@...>, SPDX-legal <Spdx-legal@...>
Subject: Re: remove recommendation re: standard license headers

On Tue, Nov 23, 2021 at 11:12 AM Warner Losh <imp@...> wrote:


I'll point out that the variations are an enormous pain in the ass for FreeBSD

and create more uncertainty and compliance issues not less. If I don't reproduce

every single license in the tree, verbatim, is that a material breach of the license?

I'll just add that with the Linux kernel I was stunned when Kate Stewart and a few others analyzed how many unintentional minor variations there were in the "standard" GPLv2 header in just the kernel project. And similar to Warner's comment, it creates more compliance issues and uncertainty - definitely not less. The number of "Can you confirm...?" requests from lawyers or others in the industry about Linux kernel license information has dropped from dozens per year to zero. In most cases, each request we fielded probably had multiple people, and hours of internal debate among knowledgeable people within an organization, before they came to us.


I know another person who analyzed the number of variations of the "standard" GPLv2 header on the FSF's own website and materials. They found in excess of 500 unique variations. None of these variations are indications of an author's intent. They are copy/paste errors or oversights that are perpetually propagated without realizing it.


I'd also just remind everyone that the source tree of a git project retains the historical information. If you remove the text, the git history is still available if anyone wants to go back and look at the original variations.


One other point I remind many of is to not remove copyright notices in the process. For reference, see 17 U.S. Code § 1202 "Integrity of copyright management information".


Back to Jilayne's original question, I don't see anything on the website that says to retain original headers (maybe it's already been removed?), but if there was I'd support removing it. If a project decides they want to retain them, that's fine, but I don't see why the SPDX community would need to provide any particular guidance one way or another. The page Jilayne cited does include the reminder not to remove Copyright notices, which I think makes sense to keep there.



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