Son of Weird Licenses

Son of Weird Open Source Licenses

About two years ago — more or less for my own amusement — I wrote a piece about weird licenses that had been uncovered by the Black Duck KnowledgeBase team. Clearly I was not the only one amused, as the blog went a bit viral and was ogled by over 60,001 other eyeballs (including that of my aunt Mary who lost one in a fishing accident… but that’s another story).

Since that time our KnowledgeBase has grown about threefold to about 700,000 projects (and multiple versions of each) comprising hundreds of billions of lines of code (or, as we geeks say, LoC). At the time of that blog, we had identified just under 2,000 free licenses; that count is now over 2,200, and, I’ve managed to come up with three new weird ones.

The first, called the Chicken Dance License (or CDL), got some press in 2011. In essence it reads that if you want to redistribute the software without including source code, you must publicly post a video of yourself doing the Chicken Dance. For the redistributor’s convenience, the author maintains Chicken Dance instructions in source control on Github.

Whilst researching this article, I came across another one. Andrew Harris, who authored the abovementioned CDL, posted a request for opinion about that license on the Debian legal team list. Not nearly as amused as he, a couple of lawyers on the list responded with No Problem Buggeroff, perhaps intending more than just an alternative license suggestion. But the NPB is a license, the complete text of which reads, “Sure, No problem. Don't worry, be happy. Now bugger off.”

The most recent unusual license to come my way was another musically oriented one (do two make a trend?). The license requires the user to listen to a recording of the author playing an original piano piece “completely (without skips).” The good news is that it’s a nice song and that he is evidently a talented pianist. Appropriately enough, his day job is developing DSP software for music devices.

The serious point to all this is that the creator of a piece of code can impose whatever license terms they choose. In order to ensure that you are following their wishes and staying compliant, you have to pay attention. And if you find some more weird licenses between Chicken Dances, be sure to let me know.

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