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Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2016 17:53:52 -0500
From: Rob Landley <>
To: musl <>
Subject: Re: musl licensing

On Wed, Mar 23, 2016 at 3:35 PM, Christopher Lane <> wrote:
> On Tue, Mar 22, 2016 at 7:32 PM, Rich Felker <> wrote:
>> On Mon, Mar 21, 2016 at 03:46:18PM -0700, Christopher Lane wrote:
>> > On Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 9:35 PM, Rich Felker <> wrote:
>> >
>> > > On Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 07:47:21PM +0000, George Kulakowski wrote:
>> > Those paragraphs still reference public domain.  We can't use the things
>> > mentioned there.  WRT the blowfish impl, there are other implementations
>> > we
>> > can pull if we want / need that - though I'm not sure we even do want
>> > that.
>> Did they miss the part about the fallback permissive license? I'm
>> pretty sure Solar's implementation of bcrypt (albeit the original, not
>> the one he modified for musl) is used in plenty of other places with
>> no problem. Complaining about copyright status on this is like
>> complaining about fdlibm. If it's really a problem I suspect he would
>> be willing to clarify its status for you.

Upton Sinclair explained why lawyers aren't comfortable with the
public domain a century ago:

As far as I can tell, to most lawyers a good license is one you can
sue to enforce, I.E. one which provides potential future litigation
employment opportunities for lawyers. This isn't necessarily a
conscious decision, but it's definitely part of the legal profession's
herd mentality.

So what I did was take a "safe" license and make a small specific
change to it, which is easy to analyze and hard to object to by
itself, so the result still looks "safe". Thus my license is a "good
license", even if the result is functionally equivalent to placing
code in the public domain.

I.E. Zero Clause BSD (the Toybox license, which SPDX approved as
"0BSD" ala took a prominent
variant of a widely approved existing license (the "OpenBSD suggested
template license, the text of which is in the first link from under which you _can_ sue people
(in fact AT&T lost a very prominent lawsuit about it in 1993, and made a
single small edit that just removed half a sentence:

The result was a license which grants blanket permission while
requiring nothing in return, using existing and established legal
boilerplate. It had to be an acceptable license if BSD was an
acceptable license, unless you could coherently explain why the
deleted half-sentence caused a problem _other_ than no longer
providing future employment for lawyers.

I replaced the "everybody dislikes this because everybody else
dislikes this" phrase "public domain" with the "everybody likes this
because everybody else likes this" phrase "BSD license". Instead of
fighting the herd mentality, I tried to leverage it.

So far, nobody's wanted to step into the spotlight and say
"eliminating this source of future litigation threatens my job
security", and I don't think most people consciously think that
anyway. (Besides, there's always patent trolls...)


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