Legal Team/Minutes/2012-04-05 (LF Collab Summit)

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Linux Foundation Collab Summit - SPDX face-to-face

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Different headers for the same license issue

How to capture in License List where the same license text has different "meanings' indicated by different headers. Key examples: MPL v2.0 (Exhibit A or Exhibit A & B); L/GPL licenses ("or later" or "only"). Complete agreement that this information needs to be captured. Question is how to capture/implement?

  • A)PROPOSAL 1: leave 'as is' on license list now which is that these scenarios are captured as a different "line item" (with distinct license name and identifier) for each header scenario that can change the meaning of the license (e.g. GPL-2.0; GPL-2.0+)
    • i)Pros:
      • a)Fedora and Fossology already uses similar short names as we have now (i.e. GPLv2 or GPLv2+)
      • b)Predictable and specifically identified, which is intrinsic to goal of license list
    • ii)Cons:
      • a)Won't match other lists
    • iii)Other considerations:
      • a)if we stay with this route, propose that short identifier says "only" in it?
        • (1)But then, what about when you aren't sure - which short identifier do you use? Default to "or later?" Is more intuitive to use "GPL-2.0" plain?
  • B)PROPOSAL 2: license list is just the licenses themselves. Headers or alternative exhibits are captured on a separate list that then modifies the license list.
    • i)e.g. On the master license list, GPL v2 would be just that GPL-2.0 (without indicating "or later" or "only"), then the separate list would have the headers variations of the "or later" text present or removed. The short identifier could then be modified by a sub-set of identifier or identifier extension, such as "GPL-2.0" + "or later" or "GPL-v2.0" + "only" - likewise for MPL and its exhibits. Presumably, each scenario would have it's own extension modifier
      • a)potential problems - more to keep track of and more complicated. Is the net result all the different than Proposal 1?


  • vigorous discussion around pros and cons of #1 and #2
  • variation proposed that combined both proposals
  • major problem/drawback with proposal #2 and any variation thereof is potential for explosion of scenarios where modifiers could be used in non-conformant way causing ambiguity or confusion which goes against goal of license list
  • advantage of current scenario - it's simple (even if lengthy) and has rigidity needed; but some clarification needed


leave as is = separate "line items" for GPL v2 only and GPL v2 or later


  • add in Notes field for all GNU licenses that short identifier "GPL-2.0" = GPL v2 only and vice versa
    • (Jilayne to do for next version of license list)
  • add other MPL 2.0 scenarios for Exhibit B (see Luis email and meeting minutes)
    • (Jilayne to do for next version of license list)
  • need to come up with list of all licenses that fall into this category (same license text appearing more than once on license list) and determine the "default" if SPDX file creator only files license with no delineating header or other information
    • (Jilayne or someone else? to come up with list and then discuss on one of next legal calls)


  • C)GPL exceptions
  • i)how to display license text? Should it be the entire GPL license + exception; or just the header and exception; or just match on the exception text?
  • a)Did not discuss
  • ii)How does this interplay with proposals above? If #1, then as is on list, but still need to answer above questions, if #2, then could treat exceptions as part of modifier/extension list?
  • a)Also leave as is in terms of separate line items
  • b)acknowledgement that SPDX license list does not have all exceptions and will need to add more (research needed on this to identify holes)
  • c)could we come up with a system of separate license modifiers that could be added on modularly to a "GPL-2.0"?
  • D)Standard headers for licenses
  • i)Currently this field only shows up on license list spreadsheet, but not on license pages; need to add this field including ability to indicate there isn't a standard header, as is the case for most licenses
    • a) (Jilayne and Gary to begin working on)
  • ii)need to review license list, to make sure standard headers are correct; remove or indicate "replaceable" text; check if any are missing
    • a)(Karen C. and Bill to start this task)