[uf-new] Legal implications of using Microformats

Guy Fraser gfraser at adaptavist.com
Thu May 10 16:58:59 PDT 2007

Ryan King wrote:
> I'm certainly an outsider to the corporate world, but this has not 
> been my impression. Please give us more specific reasons and examples 
> so that we can avoid getting the same reaction from such organizations.

Such licenses, especially in "late-binding" languages like Java, infect 
other licenses such as ASL, New BSD, etc. The LGPL is badly written, 
particularly clause 6.

The thing that confuses me most about this community is why they don't 
just release the stuff under New BSD or ASL license and remove this 
issue once and for all so that it never crops up again and we can all 
get on with our lives?

Why does the community *want* to cause these problems or even allow them 
to exist? Is there some ulterior money making motive behind them or is 
there some firm legal reasoning that I'm missing here?

(Oh, as for the issue of New BSD license being mainly for code and not 
documentation/specifications that I missed somewhere in this thread, 
fair point. However, why would people then be using things like cc-by-nd 
instead of cc-by? I'm thinking specifically of XFN here).

> Making material open source does not completely remove licensing. Open 
> source still requires licensing. Public Domain is the only situation I 
> know of that would eliminate licensing (but that's only in the US, I 
> believe other nations have more complicated definitions of PD).

Again, fair point - however, there are still the issues of "we might be 
patenting this" and the fact that nobody has a clue as to who owns the 
licenses or patents, etc. The licensing is only one part of the 
microformat problem - the ownership and patenting is a bigger worry 
IMHO, but should still not detract from the debate regarding licensing.

I see no problem with a cc-by license for specifications, but it must be 
made clear that the license is specifically for the specifications. 
There is a grey area in my opinion whereby the cc-by overlaps with any 
actual implementations based on the specification. There is also the XFN 
microformat which for some reason looks like it's going to be done under 
a cc-by-nd (so people can't even extend XFN in their own systems without 
prior written permission from the owner of that license, but we don't 
even know who has the authority to give that permission!). The "we might 
be releasing under a royalty free patent" is the biggest worry of all :p


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