Fair License

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Fair License
AuthorJames William Pye
OSI approvedYes
GPL compatibleYes
Linking from code with a different licenseYes

The Fair License is a permissive free software licence which is compatible with the GNU General Public License. Its text is composed of only one sentence and a disclaimer, thus being the shortest license ever approved by the Open Source Initiative. It is also possible to use the Fair License for images, books, music or more generally all kinds of media.

<Copyright Information>

Usage of the works is permitted provided that this instrument is retained with the works, so that any entity that uses the works is notified of this instrument.

More popular alternatives to the Fair License are the MIT license and the BSD license, which have longer disclaimers.


The author, James William Pye, explained his motivation in January 2004 about the Fair License (FL):[1]

The FL itself does not specifically mention the copyright notice, but I felt it implied the retention of the

notice by specifying the retention of the 'instrument', which I thought *may* be enough of an implication to require the inclusion of the notice if it were included with the definitions, license, and disclaimer within the same file/document. Is this '*may*' definite, or is it questionable?

Similarly, should I specify the consistency of 'This Instrument'? I refer to it multiple times assuming that it is understood to consist of the definitions, license, and disclaimer(and, potentially, the copyright notice). Can I rely on that assumption?

Also, should I include the creator(contributor, I suppose in the BSD license) with the owner in the disclaimer? I believe there is a legal distinction, no?

(A couple of side questions :)

Do disclaimers carry much weight in a trial against the copyright owner? I assume the purpose is to establish some prima facie evidence(right term for this context?), but I don't know. :)

Paranoia: Is this a good thing? A lot of agreements/licenses(Not specifically any Open Source licenses) seem extraordinarily paranoid about everything down to, seemingly frivolous, definitions of various words. Is this normally an attempt to obfuscate the instrument?

James William Pye also reminded the target of this license in May 2005:[2]

The purpose of the license is to create a concise gift license. It

contrasts from BSD and MIT and most other gift licenses by being "open-ended", rather than closed. That difference being that BSD and MIT specifically state the exercisable rights, whereas this license authorizes all the rights granted by authorship(all inclusive).

Without disclaimers, it has about half the number of words that MIT has. With disclaimers, it is significantly shorter. So despite the expansion, it still appears to be the shortest license out there. ;)

In 2013 users on web site French Language StackExchange proposed a French translation:[3]

<Copyright Information>

Les œuvres peuvent être réutilisées à condition d'être accompagnées du texte de cette licence, afin que tout utilisateur en soit informé.

In 2015 Talles Lasmar found Fair License as dead (broken links, deleted Wikipedia article[4] · [5]...). As he appreciates this license, he contacted original author and OSI and finally created a web site which is also no longer active.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "For Approval: Fair License". Permalink.gmane.org. 2004-01-26. Retrieved 2016-01-09.
  2. ^ "For thoughts: fair license". Lists.debian.org. 2005-05-04. Retrieved 2016-01-09.
  3. ^ "Traduction de " the instrument is retained with the works " dans une licence d'utilisation". French Language StackExchange. 2013-07-24. Retrieved 2016-01-16.
  4. ^ Wikipedia:Village pump (technical)/Archive 142#Why article Fair License has been deleted?
  5. ^ "Public log for article Fair License". Wikipedia. 2015-04-17. Retrieved 2016-01-16.

External links[edit]