Standard License or own words License?

I had an interesting mail exchange with a friend on this. Excerpts from the exchange are given below – I have snipped out parts which I felt are inappropriate to mention in a blog post:

Friend wrote:
I understand your position on the legalities issue. However, I would like to warn you that attempting to create a license on your own is probably the last thing you would want – these days, sueing people is ‘routine’. If you want a no-rights-reserved safeguard, you should, IMHO, use an appropriate legal instrument like CC0. Even the FAQ of CC0 says that it cannot waive your rights in every possible jurisdiction, but the provisions of this licence is general purpose enough to make your work be as free as it can possibly be.

My point is this – In order to do Seva to the Lord, the pre-requisite is to have a healthy body – Swami himself says so too. Similarly, to even allow yourself to do this seva with full concentration, I think you should still consider these professionally, diligently and carefully crafted licenses – that have been created just to protect and help further the charitable works of people like yourself.

My 2 cents worth.

Friend added:
If you think that creating your license for CC0 is a pain, simply require them to attribute your work – it is painless to ‘Choose’ the ‘by’ licence ( And, you simply will not care, in realtime, if your work is attributed or not.

What do you say?

I (Ravi) wrote:
Thank you so much for your valuable views.

I read your mail twice to ensure that I do not miss out on anything you are trying to convey to me.

You wrote, “Similarly, to even allow yourself to do this seva with full concentration, I think you should still consider these professionally, diligently and carefully crafted licenses – that have been created just to protect and help further the charitable works of people like yourself.”

Very valid point. However I think I have a valid point myself. I think that these legal agreements of Creative Commons are still somewhat complex and guys like me are not so sure whether I can use somebody’s stuff or not. We may feel that we think we can use it but are not hundred per cent sure.

I want to make it very easy for people to use, modify, distribute …‘s products. I think the license is far more complex than my ‘Sweet and Simple’ license.

— snip —

So, what’s my bottom line. One reading of the ‘Sweet and Simple’ license and almost anybody will understand that they can freely use, modify, redistribute, make money from it etc. That is a vital strong point about this license over other ‘standard’ licenses.

— snip —

What I have learned from my experience and reading of the world is that all these ‘suits’ really come into play once money gets involved. If no money is paid for a product or service then any such ‘suits’ would typically be dismissed as frivolous.

The world is already too complex for guys to lead a happy life, and is getting more complex by the minute.
— snip —
I think it is a matter of principle for me now that the license of‘s products should also be simple.

I also have been following quite a few court hi-profile cases (general cases and not software copyright cases) in the media. I found that the learned judges go a lot by common sense. So a clear well worded license for free software may be appreciated very well by a judge. IMHO, we don’t need legalese for the free things in life, Thank God.

— snip —-

Friend wrote:
Fair enough. While I am aware that you would have considered the legal issues, I wanted to sound you about more recent developments that you may have chosen not to be bothered with.

— snip —

My major concern was this – you should not get into trouble while doing what you wanted to do, for free. I mean the chances are low. However, better safe. Right? And this is the other thing: Most sites/software that provide a disclaimer usually also mention the licence under which those provisions are to be interpreted – and this is true in every software that I have seen. There are the simple English words, but there is also the link to the license that is the umbrella for the English words. For example, I really like the -by- attribution license at the bottom of this site: (this guy writes quite well, btw).

— snip —

Ravi wrote:

— snip —

You asked: better safe. Right? My answer is well, not at the cost of making it opaque for users/developers to use or modify software, mediaware…. If you look at, it seems that you & I can freely reblog & modify his content provided we give proper attribution. Looks simple, isn’t it? Well, the reality is that to be really sure you need to first read the license link and understand it as that is what will hold in a court of law. His “in short” statements may be cleverly repudiated by a smart lawyer using actual license text.

So, if you want to be safe & sure about using his content, you need to get a software IP lawyer to read the license and‘s modifications and “in short” text and then give you a certified legal opinion whether you can go ahead and use or modify or reblog his content, and explain exactly how to satisfy the attribution terms of the license. [And that software IP lawyer could be wrong! You have to go by his reputation and your feel about how good his legal brains are!]

— snip —

I think the bottom line is that some risk is always going to be there irrespective of whether I use CC license or Sweet & Simple license. It is the risk of doing service. And I am willing to take that risk. Otherwise I cannot do any service in an individual capacity  — snip —

— snip —

For this software/website seva activity that I am getting into I think there are similar risks – CC license or Sweet & Simple license or whatever license. I am willing to face the risks and, to be frank, I don’t think the CC license will really help me reduce the risks significantly as compared to the Sweet & Simple license. There may just be a feeling that since the CC license is from reputed legal guys that I am better protected. I think my best protection is the service done to the community via the software. If the site gains a good reputation among the community that will be the best protection. And for that the ‘sweet & simple’ license may be better as it will not scare anybody from downloading or using the software.

Friend wrote:

— snip —

You were spot-on when you said ‘ His “in short” statements may be cleverly repudiated by a smart lawyer using actual license text.’ My short response is this: In the light of that statement, God forbid, something does go wrong, with standard, you are better off with time-tested licenses, than your personally worded statement.

Ravi wrote:
I think our perspectives on the matter are different. I think we have to agree to disagree on both —snip— and being better off with CC license if something goes wrong.

I plan to go ahead with something like the Sweet & Simple license. I know I am doing something quite unusual but I feel it is the sensible thing to do. And I guess I am used to going off the beaten track [and sometimes getting beaten up because of that :-)]. Time will tell whether this will be a mistake or not :-).

In any case I found this exchange on licensing to be very helpful. In fact, I am planning to put up an additional blog post with matter derived from this exchange — snip —.

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2 Responses to Standard License or own words License?

  1. Anonymous says:

    It is interesting to know that even to do Seva, some prerequisites are to be followed. Yes, it is a legal world, more so in the West where everything is mechanised, maybe even people behave like robots, act only on commands without that emotive touch. Rajesh

  2. Ravi says:

    That’s life, brother Rajesh 🙂

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