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I have some very old software (not written by me) which comes with a license which is clearly intended as a 'we really don't care what anyone does with this any more' license.

The HI-TECH Z80 CP/M C compiler V3.09 is provided free of charge for any
use, private or commercial, strictly as-is. No warranty or product
support is offered or implied.

You may use this software for whatever you like, providing you acknowledge
that the copyright to this software remains with HI-TECH Software.

It does not explicitly mention distribution of modified versions, but does appear to imply it heavily in the last paragraph (acknowledging copyright is only meaninful if use includes redistribution, and it does not forbid modification, so the license would only cover the original code).

If this is correct it would make it pretty much equivalent to MIT or 2-clause BSD. Is it?

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    The second paragraph seems fairly clear. You're fine to modify the software any way you like and do whatever you'd like with the modifications. – Bryan Grace Jan 17 at 22:48
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The only way to argue that the license doesn't allow you to distribute modified versions is to argue that when the second paragraph says "use", it means "use" in the technical sense, that is, as opposed to distribution. You would also have to argue that the "as-is" in the first paragraph means without modifications rather than without support or warranty.

The problem with reading the second paragraph that way is that a copyright license can't put restrictions on ordinary use. If a book had a "license page" that claims you were not permitted to read it on Thursdays that would not be an enforceable restriction. So reading the second paragraph to mean use as opposed to distribution or modification would make the second paragraph invalid. The only valid reading is that it permits modification and distribution.

There are also several problems with reading the first paragraph to mean that "as-is" prohibits modifications. First, the phrase "strictly as-is", especially followed by a clause explicitly disclaiming any warranty, very strongly suggests that the second sentence clarifies the first sentence's denial of support or guarantee. In addition, it would be odd to permit something for "any" use and then make it difficult for people to adapt it for other uses.

In sum, I think it would be pretty crazy to argue this license doesn't permit both modifications and distributions of modified versions.

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  • Okay, thanks a lot --- that's what I thought, but I wanted a second opinion. – David Given Jan 18 at 11:22
  • @DavidGiven, ask a lawyer. Don't rely on random users on the 'net for anything that might involve serious liabilities. – vonbrand Feb 8 at 18:14
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No. It's freeware. You've been granted permission to run the program at no cost. While the word "use" is not defined, "as is" restricts the definition to exclude modification, and without permission to modify, there isn't even implied permission to distribute.

I think the license intended to grant permission to modify, and distribute, but misplacement of "as is" accidentally turned it into a usage restriction, instead of PROVIDING the software as is.

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