Legal Team/Decisions/SPDX Metadata License: Rationale for CC0

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Overview

SPDX files represent a summary of license information extracted from software source code. The SPDX Legal working group evaluated different licenses that can be used to cover the data contained in a SPDX file. One challenge was that the working group did not want to imply that the data contained in a SPDX file is potentially copyright protected. On the other hand, in some jurisdictions, data could be considered intellectual property. In those jurisdictions the working group stride to provide a license that mitigates the risk of someone obtaining controlling IP rights over SPDX data. The following were the core requirements driving the license evaluation process. We sought a license that:

  • does not imply that SPDX data is intellectual property;
  • in jurisdictions that permit data to be intellectual property - prevents others from claiming controlling ownership over the data contained in a SPDX file;
  • will not hinder adoption of the SPDX format by the open source community;
  • minimizes further license proliferation in the open source community;
  • permits the exchange of SPDX files under confidentiality terms (potentially temporarily) for special situations that may require it.

After careful consideration the Creative Commons Zero 1.0 Universal license was chosen. The rationale for each of the license candidates considered can be found below.

License Candidates

Public Domain Dedication and License (PDDL)

PDDL is the current designated license for SPDX files as required by the SPDX 1.0 specification. PDDL was initially chosen because it was a “data” license. That is, it was initially design to be used with data as opposed to software or other copyrightable works. The reception of PDDL as the SPDX file data license has been mixed and somewhat controversial at times. A copy of the PDDL license can be found here: http://opendatacommons.org/licenses/pddl/1.0/

  • Pros
    • Designed for licensing data.
    • Useful in jurisdictions where intellectual property rights are granted to data (bases).
    • Attempts to make data freely accessible (in a similar spirit that open source licenses do for software).
    • Permits the exchange of SPDX files under confidentiality terms.
  • Cons
    • Lengthy license (6 pages) – will take time for people to review and understand.
    • Yet another new license for open source community to review, understand and accept. Would likely add friction to SPDX adoption.
    • A major open source foundation pointed out it would be hard to get PDDL approved by their organization as well as other foundations. This is especially true when considering a license that is not familiar to the community (as is the case with PDDL).
    • Use of the license implies that SPDX data is copyright protected.

MIT Style SPDX Draft

The license text is based on the MIT open source license. A copy of the MIT Style license draft can be found in the appendix of this document.'

  • Pros
    • Viewed more as a disclaimer notice than a data license. The intent is to view the SPDX file content as data as opposed to protected intellectual property.
    • Serves more as a license in jurisdictions where data is considered protectable intellectual property.
    • The license text is short and easy to understand.
    • The license is familiar to the open source community and would likely not add much friction to the adoption of SPDX.
    • Permits the exchange of SPDX files under confidentiality terms
  • Cons
    • The license is based on the MIT open source license which was designed to be used with software as opposed to data.
    • Requires attribution. Many different SPDX files used in a project or supply chain may potentially require the publication of many different attribution notices.

CC0 1.0 - Universal Public Domain Dedication license

Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. The organization has released several copyright-licenses known as “Creative Commons” licenses, free of charge to the public. One such license is the CC0 1.0 which allows one to contribute their work to the public domain. A copy of the CC0 1.0 license can be found here: http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

  • Pros
    • License text is short and easy to understand.
    • License is familiar to the open source community and therefore would likely not to add significant friction to the adoption of SPDX.
    • Achieves object of having the data be considered public domain in those jurisdictions where data can be protected as intellectual property.
    • Permits the exchange of SPDX files under confidentiality terms.
  • Cons
    • License was not designed to be used with data.
    • Use of the license implies that SPDX data is copyright protected.

No License Provided

One option is to take the position that no license applies.

  • Pros
    • Easy to understand. Does not add friction to adoption of SPDX.
    • Promotes the idea that the SPDX data is not intellectual property (e.g., not copyrightable).
    • Permits the exchange of SPDX files under confidentiality terms.
  • Cons
    • Does not prevent one from trying to obtain controlling rights in jurisdictions where data is potentially considered intellectual property.