[okfn-discuss] Licenses and Waivers

Rufus Pollock rufus.pollock at okfn.org
Thu Sep 16 18:45:59 UTC 2010

On 15 September 2010 15:30, Mr. Puneet Kishor <punkish at eidesis.org> wrote:
> On Sep 15, 2010, at 4:02 PM, Keith Alexander wrote:
>> Hi,
>> I want to update the documentation for voiD[1] (an RDF vocabulary for
>> describing datasets) to include discussion of waivers and the Waiver
>> Vocabulary[2].
>> Currently, the voiD guide recommends using dcterms:license[3] to point
>> to the license of a dataset. The waiver vocabulary introduces
>> wv:waiver to point toa document waiving rights over a dataset.
>> .
>> Two things worry me:
>> * It's not always obvious whether to use dcterms:license or wv:waiver.
>> eg: PDDL is a license, and declares a waiving of rights?
>> * to work out the terms of use of a dataset, you have to look at the
>> values(s) of both dcterms:license and wv:waiver.
>> Would it be wrong to use dcterms:license to point to a waiver?
>> Could wv:waiver be regarded as a more special kind of dcterms:license
>> or is it a different thing?
> IANAL, but from what I understand, a license is not a contract, and a license is not a waiver [1-4].
> Creative Commons specifically terms CC0 as a waiver of license, while its traditional CC licenses are, well, licenses.

The problem is that for putting stuff in the public domain in some
places you need the license part in addition to/instead of the pure
dedication/waiver. that's why the PDDL
(http://opendatacommons.org/licenses/pddl/) is the Public Domain
Dedication and Waiver!

> It is common but inaccurate assumption to think of licenses the same as contracts.
> Copyright is a license, and is governed by federal laws in the US. A contract requires at least two parties to agree to certain terms and conditions, and is governed by state laws in the US.
> According to my law dictionary, a license is a unilateral permission granted by a property owner to do certain things with the licensed property.
> A waiver is the absence of a license.

But then you read things like: "A software license (or software
licence in commonwealth usage) is a legal instrument (by way of
contract law) governing the usage or redistribution of software." [1]
-- not that i'm claiming wikipedia is an authority (or not) on such

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_license

See also this statement by then CC counsel Mia Garlick:


just to answer the question as to what CC thinks - whether it's
licenses are only a license, not a contract; in my view, the CC
licenses are contracts.



> I wish this confusion were resolved, and the popular usage and the bookish definitions would come into conformance.
> [1] http://emoglen.law.columbia.edu/my_pubs/lu-12.html
> [2] http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20031214210634851
> [3] http://lwn.net/Articles/61292/
> [4] http://punkish.org/Licensing-Geographic-Data
>> Thanks
>> Keith
>> [1] http://rdfs.org/ns/void/guide
>> [2] http://vocab.org/waiver/terms/
>> [3] http://purl.org/dc/terms/license
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> --
> Puneet Kishor http://punkish.org
> Carbon Model http://carbonmodel.org
> Charter Member, Open Source Geospatial Foundation http://www.osgeo.org
> Science Commons Fellow, http://sciencecommons.org/about/whoweare/kishor
> Nelson Institute, UW-Madison http://www.nelson.wisc.edu
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Assertions are politics; backing up assertions with evidence is science
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