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Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2016 23:04:34 -0400
From: Rich Felker <>
To: Christopher Lane <>
Cc:, Petr Hosek <>,
Subject: Re: musl licensing

On Wed, Mar 16, 2016 at 07:06:25PM -0700, Christopher Lane wrote:
> > I still don't see what the problem is, unless your lawyers are under
> > the impression that there are "public domain" sources from third
> > parties. The COPYRIGHT file states:
> >
> > "musl as a whole is licensed under the following standard MIT
> > license."
> >
> > and:
> >
> > "All other files which have no copyright comments are original works
> > produced specifically for use as part of this library, written either
> > by Rich Felker, the main author of the library, or by one or more
> > contibutors listed above. Details on authorship of individual files
> > can be found in the git version control history of the project. The
> > omission of copyright and license comments in each file is in the
> > interest of source tree size."
> >
> > and finally:
> >
> > "All public header files (include/* and arch/*/bits/*) should be
> > treated as Public Domain as they intentionally contain no content
> > which can be covered by copyright. Some source modules may fall in
> > this category as well. If you believe that a file is so trivial that
> > it should be in the Public Domain, please contact the authors and
> > request an explicit statement releasing it from copyright."
> >
> > So as an aggregate/as part of musl, all of the "public domain" files
> > are _already_ licensed under musl's main license (by the very first
> > sentence) by people (their authors, i.e. primarily me) who would be
> > entitled to license them as such even if they were subject to
> > copyright.
> >
> That's a good question.  We'll find out why, if the claimed PD files aren't
> actually PD, they don't then fall under the overall MIT license.

Yes, that's my view. From a practical what-you-can-do standpoint the
only purpose of declaring them PD (or BSD0 or something else more
permissive than MIT) is to lift the requirement of acknowledgement. I
didn't want .o files compiled using the headers or dynamic-linked
programs which used the headers and linked with crt*.o having to
include acknowledgements for musl just because of this trivial usage
of files which are themselves trivial.

> > What I would like to do, if it would satisfy your lawyers, is add a
> > paragraph at the end (right after the public domain release text):
> >
> > "Should the release of these files into the Public Domain be judged
> > legally invalid or ineffective, permission is hereby granted to use
> > these files under the following terms:
> >
> > Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without
> > modification, are permitted."
> >
> > Does this work? And are there other blocking issues with copyright
> > status/documentation?
> >
> We asked about conditional statements like this one and the answer we got
> was (paraphrasing; any trampling on legal terms is accidental) "the extra
> conditional language would then become the subject of argument."
>  Essentially, it provides attack surface for future litigation.
> In reply, they asked us: if releasing under e.g. BSD0 is OK when PD isn't
> valid, why isn't it OK for all situations.  From previous replies, I gather
> that the answer is because PD most closely matches the contributors'
> ideological and ethical standpoints, and thus you'd like to include it in
> the license text.  Please correct me if I'm wrong.
> We're in the situation of trying to mediate a solution that lets us get
> back to work and not have to give up on using musl.  I'm hoping we can find
> that middle ground.  So I'll run the specific language you provided past
> some people here and find out what they suggest for providing clear
> licensing while still preserving the ideological viewpoint.

I certainly hope so too.

The main thing here is that I don't want to be in the business of
reneging on disclaiming copyright interest in these files, suddenly
turning around and saying that people who (re)use these files can only
do so because I gave them permission to do so.

Another option that might be possible, but I think it's more confusing
to ordinary (non-lawyer) humans, would be to have the COPYRIGHT file
define/list the "trivial source files" or such, provide an
unconditional BSD0 permission statement (without copyright statement)
for them, and also provide a statement that we both intend, and
believe based on their triviality, that they are not subject to
copyright and in the public domain.


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