Information about the ISC license used by the OpenBSD project as posted on the misc mailing list.
You can read the complete discussion at http://readlist.com/lists/openbsd.or.../15/79290.html
Subject: Re: BSD Documentation License?
From: Theo de Raadt
Date: 22 Mar 2008
> Too late. ;)
> It looks like the old ISC code or almost the original BSD license, which
> I cannot find. I'm getting worse at searching, but it seems things are
> disappearing, too.
Note even just using the word "license" creates confusion, since
license implies contract law. Outside the US, the rest of the world
does not use contract law for copyright. In the entire world,
copyright grants you all rights to something until you surrender some
rights, with a piece of text, but that text only loosely called a
In OpenBSD we use an ISC-style copyright text since it does what is
needed. It is simply a statement of right granting...
1) Declaration of copyright by the author
2) A decleration that the author retains the right to be known as the
author, but surrenders all other rights granted by the law. (In
copyright law if the author does not surrended a right, he retains
it; in this way we revoke all rights except the one we care about).
3) Because of the existance of both declerations together, it therefore
means that the text cannot be removed from the files. If someone
removes the first (1) line, then there is nothing to say that the
rights grant (2) is under copyright law since anyone could have
written it; alternatively if that someone deletes the rights
grant (2), then there is no indication that any rights are granted --
thus, by copyright law, they were not granted. So anyone who
changes/removes the text is reducing their rights to the files.
That is enough to satisfy every legal system on the planet which
follows the Berne Convention. Some legal systems require even less
than what the ISC license does, since they base their national
copyright laws more strictly on the original intent behind the Berne
convention -- ie. the European concept of the moral rights of the
author, ie. the original idea behind the treaty.
(The 2/3-term BSD license meant to do basically the same, but it used
more words to do the same. The old 4-term BSD license included some
terms to make University of California benefit from advertising, if
there was going to be any.)
Watch out for the new ISC license, because the FSF lawyers have
convinced the ISC to do something totally stupid. It now uses a
phrase "and/or" to mean "or", but some country's legal systems might
not understand "and/or" in the way the old "or" was used in the
sentence. I disagree with what ISC did; I am not confident that their
change is good.
> The attribution requirement seems to suggest that the Creative Commons
> Attribution license is a close match:
> For the sake of conformity I would something with a URL hosted by a
> well-known project.
Please avoid using that creativecommons bullshit for anything -- it it
tries to hide the fundamentals and simplicity of basic copyright law
behind the massive complexity of US-centric contract law and the
various terminology normally tied to tit for tat. In the end,
creativecommons licenses will only ever truly benefit one group of
people on this planet: The lawyers.
Copyright does not need contract law to keep things free. What those
creativecommons people are feeding people is a fraud. I (and many
many others) give software away so that the whole world world can
benefit, but if there was one group who should benefit last it is the
bottom feeding assholes who make giving away harder than it needs to
And that is exactly what creativecommons tries to do. 2300 words to
say "you must say I wrote it"? There is only one reason it could take
2300 words: The goal is to deceive.
on my OpenBSD system:
Below is an example license to be used for new code in OpenBSD,
modeled after the ISC license.
It is important to specify the year of the copyright. Additional years
should be separated by a comma, e.g.
Copyright (c) 2003, 2004
If you add extra text to the body of the license, be careful not to
add further restrictions.
* Copyright (c) CCYY YOUR NAME HERE <firstname.lastname@example.org>
* Permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute this software for any
* purpose with or without fee is hereby granted, provided that the above
* copyright notice and this permission notice appear in all copies.
* THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS" AND THE AUTHOR DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES
* WITH REGARD TO THIS SOFTWARE INCLUDING ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF
* MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHOR BE LIABLE FOR
* ANY SPECIAL, DIRECT, INDIRECT, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES OR ANY DAMAGES
* WHATSOEVER RESULTING FROM LOSS OF USE, DATA OR PROFITS, WHETHER IN AN
* ACTION OF CONTRACT, NEGLIGENCE OR OTHER TORTIOUS ACTION, ARISING OUT OF
* OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE USE OR PERFORMANCE OF THIS SOFTWARE.