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unDraw is a website providing free SVG graphics. It advertises itself as having an "open-source" license. But looking at its license, I have doubts, so I'm asking here.

All images, assets and vectors published on unDraw can be used for free. You can use them for noncommercial and commercial purposes. You do not need to ask permission from or provide credit to the creator or unDraw. More precisely, unDraw grants you an nonexclusive, worldwide copyright license to download, copy, modify, distribute, perform, and use the assets provided from unDraw for free, including for commercial purposes, without permission from or attributing the creator or unDraw.

It looks good to me. For a novice like me, it seems quite open.

This license does not include the right to compile assets, vectors or images from unDraw to replicate a similar or competing service, in any form or distribute the assets in packs or otherwise. This extends to automated and non-automated ways to link, embed, scrape, search or download the assets included on the website without our consent.

But I am skeptical regarding this. It seems individual images can be used and redistributed as anyone wants, but the collection of images as a whole cannot be redistributed at all.

Is it even possible to have a license regarding the collection of images that is different from the license of each individual image, and even "supersedes" the sum of each file's license? Would such a thing be acceptable regarding to the OSI definition, or to Debian's DFSG?

For comparison, I have seen similar licensing (limiting the collection as a whole) for photo sharing websites Pixabay and Unsplash.

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  • Interestingly the license granted does not specify whether it is sub-licensable (I'd suggest not) or irrevocable (probably not).
    – abligh
    Feb 11 at 13:00

1 Answer 1

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The license of unDraw is a proprietary license for content (not software). It is not similar nor does it follow any FOSS license, and the non-compete clause apparently is in conflict with the OSI definition of Open Source, particularly clause 6, and the Freedom to redistribute, as declared by FSF.

I believe the broad intention of the non-compete clause of the unDraw service is clearly stated in the license, while it could become tricky in the real world details, as the term 'similar or competing service' is not clearly defined. What if you had a bigger service (also with other images, or adding videos), what if you charged a fee, would that still be directly competing? What if someone accidentally collected (from other sites) and re-distributed some graphics, that originally came from unDraw?

To me this shows once again: If you plan to write a license you need to involve an experienced lawyer. Or otherwise you should just re-use an existing license that is widely accepted in the industry.

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