License book club: Blue Oak 1.0.0

Today begins week three of the license book club, a regular thread where we sit down to actually read the licenses we use, then discuss their text, usage, history, and cultural relevance.

Today’s license is the Blue Oak Model License 1.0.0.

:white_check_mark: OSI approved: board minutes (classified as “redundant with more popular”)
:x: FSF approved: no published comments for or against

While this license is not approved by the FSF, I have no reason to believe it does not qualify as a free software license, as it appears to uphold the four freedoms.

The Blue Oak Council is a group that (by my reading) is primarily the project of one Kyle Mitchell, a tech lawyer with a popular blog about software law. They classify licenses, mainly permissive licenses, according to their view of their legal robustness, and the Blue Oak Model License, while perhaps a useful license in its own right, ostensibly serves as the “model” against which other permissive licenses are judged.

It is interesting for our purposes in part because it serves as a clause-by-clause reference text for the kinds of clauses that we incorporate into permissive software licenses, laid out in clear, concise text. It is also notable for including what essentially functions as a provenance agreement (think DCO or a lightweight CLA) for contributors.

Read and discuss this license! :open_book:


Thanks @humm for this week’s suggestion!

I particularly like Blue-Oak-1.0.0 for its clear, concise, and comprehensive permissive terms. I’ve considered using it as my go-to permissive license, but since permissive works are less common in my output I never got around to it.

Fun fact: when I was writing the initial content for, I reached out to Kyle to see if there was an opportunity for us to collaborate. I was particularly interested in seeing if he or the Blue Oak Council generally were interested in penning a series of highly legible, legally robust reciprocal (copyleft) model licenses – but he was not particularly interested.

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I like the simplicity, but worry a bit about allowing people to do “everything that would infringe copyright”.
Doesn’t that include changing the license?

Interesting question .The clause alone would certainly allow for that, but I see the following as well:

In order to receive this license, you must agree to its rules. The rules of this license are both obligations under that agreement and conditions to your license. You must not do anything with this software that triggers a rule that you cannot or will not follow.

So the right to “infringe copyright” is contingent on accepting these rules upfront. So that includes things like attributing the work with the license notice.

However, this is a permissive license so generally speaking sublicensing is allowed.

One thing that is different from the traditional permissive licenses (BSD, MIT, ISC) is that this one is explicitly versioned. That’s similar to the Apache license I guess.

Which makes me wonder. Is there a permissive license with an (optional) provision to use a later version of said license? I guess it does not matter as much, given the very permissive nature.