[Reuse] How to handle BSD/MIT licenses in REUSE (Re: Minutes of FOSDEM meeting)

Matija Šuklje matija at suklje.name
Wed Feb 20 14:38:57 UTC 2019

Die 5. 02. 19 et hora 15:10 Carmen Bianca Bakker scripsit:
> - MIT and BSD are tricky licences.  They include the copyright
> holder within the licence---which means that no two such
> licences are identical---and mandate an exact reproduction of
> the licence.  REUSE currently deals with this by recommending
> the developer to create a separate licence for every copyright
> holder, but this is frankly very ugly.
>   + Solve this by not making any recommendations about this in
> the spec.  Instead, include an explanation of the problem in an
> FAQ.

I would suggest that we stick to the SPDX templates and that if 
SPDX would recongise the text as vanilla MIT or BSD, so should we.

As you can see from the MIT and BSD-4-Clause (the most wordy one) 
examples linked below, everything that is in red is variable text 
and SPDX would treat different strings there as still conformant 
with the template:


See the <alt> and <optional> tags in the XML sources of the SPDX 
license templates here:


One idea how we could tackle this (and it would be wonderful to 
sync up with SPDX for this!), would be to:

• store the SPDX template text in plain-text form¹ in `LICENSES/

• include the following in the headers:

© 2010 Some Hacker <some1 at hack.me>
SPDX-License-Identifier: MIT

© 2015 Corporation X <x at example.com>
SPDX-License-Identifier: MIT

• this would mean all the needed info is there. If you look at the 
license text (or rather its SPDX template), you don’t need 
anything else but insert the copyright year(s) and holder in the 
license template. The other parts are optional to be changed – 
e.g. “copyright holder” is prefectly enough and does not *need* 
changing, it is just that several companies/projects chose to do 

• in turn, a BoM tool would then gather the copyright and license 
info anyway, so all’s well.

1	https://github.com/spdx/license-list-data/blob/master/text/
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