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Date: Tue, 29 Mar 2016 13:21:21 -0700
From: Christopher Lane <>
To: Rich Felker <>
Subject: Re: musl licensing

On Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 1:03 PM, Rich Felker <> wrote:

> On Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 10:21:25AM -0700, Christopher Lane wrote:
> > >> If this is still bothering them, would it make them happy to put some
> > >> "end of legal text" marking above that paragraph?
> > >
> > >
> > Short answer: not really, no.
> >
> > Long answer: every time I mention this to them, I get the same answer.
> If
> > the license file includes any ambiguity by including things like
> > speculation on the copyrightability of the work, it's safer for us to
> just
> > avoid it.  The potential penalties for copyright infringement are
> > astronomical.
> >
> > I understand (and agree) that the COPYRIGHT file is the most natural
> place
> > to put comments on whether content should be copyrighted, but these are
> not
> > merely inert comments.  Like code, a license file needs to be correct
> > before it can be convenient.  Introducing text like "It is our belief and
> > intent that these files ... would not be subject to copyright" is
> > equivalent to introducing undefined behavior because we just don't know
> how
> > a court might interpret it.  You wouldn't be satisfied with that
> ambiguity
> > in your code; I'm asking you to treat your license the same way.
> >
> > Listen, if we're asking you for too much, I get it.  This is not our
> > project.  We didn't pour years into it, you did, and you have to do what
> > you think is right.  If it's beyond your personal ethics to claim
> copyright
> > over the trivial files and public headers you wrote, then that's the way
> it
> > is.  I'll be sad, but we'll deal with it.
> >
> > Or, if you want, I can set up a chat with one of our lawyers for you.
> I've
> > been so far unable to convince them to bend on this, but maybe you'll
> have
> > better luck.  You're certainly welcome to try, anyway.
> I would like that. I really want to make this work, but I do not want
> to be taking arbitrary demands to scrub expression of opinion.

Awesome.  I emailed you separately to determine logistics.

> Some specific questions for them, which we could discuss directly or
> which you could convey to them first if you like:

I'll forward these on ahead of time so he can have good answers prepared.

> 1. If the problem is file boundaries ("if the license file
> contains..."), would this be any different if there were no "license
> file", only one big README, and both texts (statement of opinion, and
> copyright/license statements) were in the same file but separated by
> section headers? I'm not really proposing doing that (although it's
> one potential silly solution) but rather trying to draw out the
> absurdity (as I see it) of deeming text that specificially says it's
> NOT license text as if it were just because it's in the same file.
> 2. Taking that in the other direction, what good does it do burying a
> record of our beliefs about the matter? It's not like we can erase
> past statements. Taking the text out of the COPYRIGHT file increases
> its distance in space and time from the license text, but it doesn't
> change the fact that they were published together in the past. If
> anything I think it's a disservice to parties who are (IMO wrongly)
> concerned about the implications of such beliefs not to disclose them.
> Having clarified text in the same place puts emphasis on the intent
> that they not conflict and that we actually put effort into clarifying
> where there was a perceived conflict.
> 3. I understand lawyers want to minimize risk. I don't understand how
> a statement of opinion that, if it were deemed relevant and deemed
> true by a court, would imply that we (actually nobody) has standing to
> sue creates any risk. To use the UB analogy, when someone reports a
> claim of UB, we actually want to see a code path that leads to UB
> happening (without UB already having occurred by violating an
> interface requirement), not just a claim like "if variables X and Y
> have values A and B, UB results". Of course if there's a proposed
> change that's simpler and doesn't require tracking down if UB actually
> occurs, we'd just consider that outright, but when the current code
> has advantages, there should be a real motivation to change it. If
> we're going to treat the matter here as a "bug report" against the
> COPYRIGHT file, I want to have an understanding of the alleged bug.
> 4. I'd also like to understand what the claim-copyright vs
> not-claim-copyright distinction they're making is. As an analogy,
> suppose I've written a math textbook containing "1+1=2" in it. The
> statement "1+1=2" is most certainly not subject to copyright, and my
> saying that (within the text or outside it) does not draw into
> question the copyright status of the textbook. I really don't see any
> difference between this example and what we're saying here with
> regards to these files. We are claiming copyright (and asserting a
> right to do so) for the work as a whole. The statement of opinion is
> on the matter of these files taken by themselves. If the problem is
> just that this isn't clear, maybe there's a trivial way to clarify
> that and make everybody happy.
> I know this has been a tedious process of back-and-forth and is using
> lots more time (on both of our sides) than we'd probably like. But I
> do want to see something good come out of it. Let's arrange a chat
> with the lawyers (this probably can/should be done off-list) and see
> what comes out of it.
> Rich

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