Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Licensing Obligations - Attribution, License Text Visibility and Re-distribution

Open source licenses range from extremely simple, single sentence expressions of a copyright holder's terms to very professional, multi-paragraph documents covering everything from attribution to patent protection provisions.  However, most licenses have terms creating categories of obligation on the part of each licensee.  I have found it useful to group these obligations by type and draft clear business language interpretations in order to achieve compliance with both the letter and spirit of applicable licensing terms.  My personal preference is to err on the side of a conservative interpretation when preparing these obligation statements.  This allows a governance process to be largely automated through your choice of simple workflow tools.  With this approach, only exceptional use cases require manual scrutiny and more precise analysis to ensure protection of both licensor and licensee interests.

Attribution:  It is very common for a license to specify one or more specific conditions requiring that the content creator(s) be given explicit credit for their work.

License Visibility and Re-distribution:  Many OSS licenses require license text be retained with the covered components.  Sometimes there are explicit requirements for display at run time or acknowledgement alongside any other expression of copyright or license.  It is also very common to require inclusion of the license text in the event components are redistributed either stand-alone or as part of a derivative work.

I have found an obligation statement similar to the following satisfies or exceeds the vast majority of license terms in both categories and is easily understood by business and technology resources:

"The full text of the applicable <license name and version> license including warranty disclaimers and all copyright, patent, trademark and attribution notices from the components must be made available for end user review through an appropriate user interface at all times and or a copy of the <license name and version> license must be distributed with the components as applicable.

Next up, endorsement restrictions.


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