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I'm looking at the BSD0 license right now, and it looks pretty nice as something that works better than Public Domain in terms of jurisdictions and wording.

What are the benefits, however, of using Public Domain/Unlicense over BSD0?

Unlicense: (source)

This is free and unencumbered software released into the public domain.

Anyone is free to copy, modify, publish, use, compile, sell, or distribute this software, either in source code form or as a compiled binary, for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial, and by any means.

In jurisdictions that recognize copyright laws, the author or authors of this software dedicate any and all copyright interest in the software to the public domain. We make this dedication for the benefit of the public at large and to the detriment of our heirs and successors. We intend this dedication to be an overt act of relinquishment in perpetuity of all present and future rights to this software under copyright law.

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE SOFTWARE.

For more information, please refer to http://unlicense.org/

BSD0: (source; original)

BSD Zero Clause License

Copyright (c) [year] [fullname]

Permission to use, copy, modify, and/or distribute this software for any purpose with or without fee is hereby granted.

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS" AND THE AUTHOR DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES WITH REGARD TO THIS SOFTWARE INCLUDING ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHOR BE LIABLE FOR ANY SPECIAL, DIRECT, INDIRECT, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES OR ANY DAMAGES WHATSOEVER RESULTING FROM LOSS OF USE, DATA OR PROFITS, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, NEGLIGENCE OR OTHER TORTIOUS ACTION, ARISING OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE USE OR PERFORMANCE OF THIS SOFTWARE.

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  • The edit I made adds sources for the license texts which you have in your question. However, I had to assume the source which you used for the BSD0 license text, as the text you are using didn't appear to be the version which was on Wikiedia (different formatting) or at the Open Source Initiative (somewhat different text), nor an archive of that version. Please provide the actual source you used for the text.
    – Makyen
    Aug 22 at 16:35
  • Oop, yeah, I got it from ChooseALicense. Looks like you added the link.
    – user24913
    Aug 22 at 16:39
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Public domain (PD) indicates a copyright status, for example that copyright has expired or was relinquished by the copyright holder. While this provides for maximum permissiveness, giving up copyright is not recognized in some jurisdictions. For example, I live in Germany and would not be able to contribute to a Public Domain “licensed” project.

Public Domain is not Open Source or Free Software. Software Freedom means that the software can be used, modified, or shared without restriction. But software is covered by multiple types of IP, in particular copyright and potentially patents. PD relates to the absence of copyright restrictions, but the software could still be non-free if it is encumbered by patents.

The Unlicense is an attempt at creating a “license” that serves as a PD dedication, and to include a fallback license in case PD is not recognized. It has found widespread use in some communities, and has since gained approval as an Open Source license in recognition of its use. But it is a very bad and amateurishly written “license”. For example, that copyright is relinquished “in jurisdictions that recognize copyright laws” is an oxymoron since many (nearly all!) jurisdictions recognize copyright, but many do not recognize PD dedications. While everyone understands what the Unlicense is trying to do, I'd suggest to use different legal devices for a PD dedication.

The CC0 device is a professionally crafted PD dedication including proper fallback licenses. The Open Source Initiative couldn't get a consensus on approval since this device doesn't ensure Software Freedom. But if you're looking for a PD dedication, CC0 is the best known way to do it.

The 0BSD license is a minimal variant of the ISC license. It just grants certain rights that are necessary for Software Freedom and adds some disclaimer boilerplate. But it does not impose any explicit conditions, such as having to preserve the license notice. This license is an excellent license if you want to allow unrestricted use, but want a standard copyright license and not a PD dedication.

What are the differences from the perspective of various actors?

  • From the perspective of a downstream user, PD/Unlicense/CC0/0BSD are all effectively equivalent as long as no patents are involved.
  • If there are patents, 0BSD and maybe the Unlicense are preferable since they give explicit permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute the software.
  • From the perspective of a contributor, copyright licenses might be preferable over PD dedications. They (a) might not be able to relinquish copyright, or (b) might prefer to keep copyright including moral rights (in some jurisdictions, an unwaivable right to be credited).

By the way, patents are a huge issue in more enterprise-oriented Open Source. This is why I recommend the Apache-2.0 as a permissive license. It looks lawyerly and scary, but is very well drafted and has terms that discourage patent trolling. The main reason not to use Apache-2.0 is its incompatibility with GPL-2.0 projects. Unfortunately its length seems to discourage some, so that the seemingly simpler MIT, BSD, or ISC licenses are more popular.

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  • CC0 contains a line expressly reserving any patent rights, which no other open source license does. Most are either silent on patents (e.g. all of the BSD licenses) or explicitly include them (e.g. the Apache license). Combining the CC0 license with a separate patent waiver would, IMHO, be perfectly fine from an open source perspective. Unfortunately, I'm not aware of a professionally-written patent waiver that you can just tack onto CC0. OTOH, the status of BSD-like licenses w.r.t. patents is not clear, because they don't mention patents explicitly. Arguably, they have a similar problem.
    – Kevin
    Aug 24 at 7:43
  • @Kevin The argument wrt BRD-style licenses is that while they don't mention patents at all, the permissions are not restricted to copyright either. Thus, it's reasonable that all of these licenses license any relevant IP that's necessary to use, modify, or distribute the covered work.
    – amon
    Aug 24 at 12:07
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The "Unlicense" and/or public domain are not valid in some jurisdictions (in much of Europe you aren't allowed to give away all rights). If you look at the BSD licenses (and others), you'll see that they explicitly disclaim warranties, limiting liabilities for the donor. It is no fun to write code, donate it to the world, it gets used by somebody who then sues you because the software caused some (real or imaginary) harm.

Software licensing is a specialist area of law, it is not simple.

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