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The "Artistic License"


The intent of this document is to state the conditions under which a Package may be copied, such that the Copyright Holder maintains some semblance of artistic control over the development of the package, while giving the users of the package the right to use and distribute the Package in a more-or-less customary fashion, plus the right to make reasonable modifications.


"Package" refers to the collection of files distributed by the Copyright Holder, and derivatives of that collection of files created through textual modification.

"Standard Version" refers to such a Package if it has not been modified, or has been modified in accordance with the wishes of the Copyright Holder as specified below.

"Copyright Holder" is whoever is named in the copyright or copyrights for the package.

"You" is you, if you're thinking about copying or distributing this Package.

"Reasonable copying fee" is whatever you can justify on the basis of media cost, duplication charges, time of people involved, and so on. (You will not be required to justify it to the Copyright Holder, but only to the computing community at large as a market that must bear the fee.)

"Freely Available" means that no fee is charged for the item itself, though there may be fees involved in handling the item. It also means that recipients of the item may redistribute it under the same conditions they received it.

  1. You may make and give away verbatim copies of the source form of the Standard Version of this Package without restriction, provided that you duplicate all of the original copyright notices and associated disclaimers.

  2. You may apply bug fixes, portability fixes and other modifications derived from the Public Domain or from the Copyright Holder. A Package modified in such a way shall still be considered the Standard Version.

  3. You may otherwise modify your copy of this Package in any way, provided that you insert a prominent notice in each changed file stating how and when you changed that file, and provided that you do at least ONE of the following:

    1. place your modifications in the Public Domain or otherwise make them Freely Available, such as by posting said modifications to Usenet or an equivalent medium, or placing the modifications on a major archive site such as, or by allowing the Copyright Holder to include your modifications in the Standard Version of the Package.
    2. use the modified Package only within your corporation or organization.
    3. rename any non-standard executables so the names do not conflict with standard executables, which must also be provided, and provide a separate manual page for each non-standard executable that clearly documents how it differs from the Standard Version.
    4. make other distribution arrangements with the Copyright Holder.

  4. You may distribute the programs of this Package in object code or executable form, provided that you do at least ONE of the following:

    1. distribute a Standard Version of the executables and library files, together with instructions (in the manual page or equivalent) on where to get the Standard Version.
    2. accompany the distribution with the machine-readable source of the Package with your modifications.
    3. give non-standard executables non-standard names, and clearly document the differences in manual pages (or equivalent), together with instructions on where to get the Standard Version.
    4. make other distribution arrangements with the Copyright Holder.

  5. You may charge a reasonable copying fee for any distribution of this Package. You may charge any fee you choose for support of this Package. You may not charge a fee for this Package itself. However, you may distribute this Package in aggregate with other (possibly commercial) programs as part of a larger (possibly commercial) software distribution provided that you do not advertise this Package as a product of your own. You may embed this Package's interpreter within an executable of yours (by linking); this shall be construed as a mere form of aggregation, provided that the complete Standard Version of the interpreter is so embedded.

  6. The scripts and library files supplied as input to or produced as output from the programs of this Package do not automatically fall under the copyright of this Package, but belong to whomever generated them, and may be sold commercially, and may be aggregated with this Package. If such scripts or library files are aggregated with this Package via the so-called "undump" or "unexec" methods of producing a binary executable image, then distribution of such an image shall neither be construed as a distribution of this Package nor shall it fall under the restrictions of Paragraphs 3 and 4, provided that you do not represent such an executable image as a Standard Version of this Package.

  7. C subroutines (or comparably compiled subroutines in other languages) supplied by you and linked into this Package in order to emulate subroutines and variables of the language defined by this Package shall not be considered part of this Package, but are the equivalent of input as in Paragraph 6, provided these subroutines do not change the language in any way that would cause it to fail the regression tests for the language.

  8. Aggregation of this Package with a commercial distribution is always permitted provided that the use of this Package is embedded; that is, when no overt attempt is made to make this Package's interfaces visible to the end user of the commercial distribution. Such use shall not be construed as a distribution of this Package.

  9. The name of the Copyright Holder may not be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without specific prior written permission.


The End

Artistic License

The Artistic License from

The Frontier Artistic License

The Artistic License -- weblint

The Artistic License -- yebasic

The Artistic License

The Artistic License is used by some authors who want more control than offered by the BSD, but fewer restrictions than the GPL. It aims to give software authors a degree of control over their work approximating artistic freedom.

It allows redistribution of the complete work and minor changes ("bugfixes, portability fixes and other modifications") without restriction, but requires that if you distribute an altered version that you either publish your alterations so that they are available for the free software community to examine and use, or clearly difference the modified product by using a different name for it to avoid confusion.

You can include the licensed work in other aggregate works (e.g., operating systems distributions) and may charge whatever you like for aggregate or derived works but may not charge for the licensed product itself, other than a reasonable charge for distribution.

The Artistic License is one of the alternative licenses available for Perl, and is also used by some other authors. It is well suited for developers who want to make a product freely available and allow commercial use of the product as part of a greater whole, but not as a product in itself.

[Dec. 11, 1999] Slashdot Ask Slashdot What about the Artistic License

GPL and forking (Score:4, Insightful) by Dr. Sp0ng ( on Thursday December 09, @09:30AM EST (#10) (User Info)
The GPL allows forking, but it also implicitly prevents it, because any forks must also be released under the GPL. If the new features in the forked version are better than the original, there's nothing preventing the author of the original version from stealing those changes an integrating them back into his version. Meanwhile, he's been doing development, so now he has his changes PLUS the other guy's changes, and he comes out on top. To answer your other question about being able to create a commercial, closed source version of the authors need to pay the bills: the GPL allows this as well (as does any other license) The original author of the program retains the copyright to the code and can re-release it at any time under any license he wants. What the GPL prevents is OTHER people stealing GPL'ed code and selling it as a commercial, closed source program. (this doesn't, however, prevent other people from selling it as a commercial, Open Source product)
Too many licenses (Score:2, Insightful) by Mendax Veritas ( on Thursday December 09, @09:31AM EST (#15) (User Info)
I feel there are too many more-or-less-open-source licenses, and the really annoying part is that they sometimes conflict with each other such that you can't merge code using License A with code using License B.

IANAL, but the GPL and LGPL seem to me quite adequate for non-commercial work, and I don't see why you'd want to release source at all for a commercial work (it just encourages competition). And if you don't object to your open source code being used in commercial products, why bother copyrighting it at all? The public domain is a viable alternative if you don't care what anyone does with the code.

Why I Like the Artistic License (Score:3, Interesting) by chromatic on Thursday December 09, @09:32AM EST (#16) (User Info)
As I read it, someone can take my program and modify it and choose how he wishes to release his modifications. He can make them available under the same license. He can make them available only in binary form.

What he cannot do (under the license) is to distribute his 'non-standard version' (my program WITH his changes) in binary only form without also including my 'standard version' and the copyrights and disclaimers. It's like a mixture of the BSD (you can do anything you want with it, even make it commercial and secret) and GPL (you can do anything you want with it as long as you allow anyone else the same right with regard to your own modifications). It seems to allow commercial usage while still crediting me for my own work.

There are places where it's more appropriate than others, of course, especially for Perl middleware, where someone is likely to grab a bunch of components and modify them slightly to fit a particular task.

Commercial Forks (Score:3, Interesting) by Effugas ( on Thursday December 09, @09:35AM EST (#22) (User Info)
But if preventing forks is important, GPL doesn't seem to stop it. So why not just use the Artistic License? Then the authors can some day make money out of a commercial fork if they need to pay the bills!" The author of GPL code is not subject to GPL requirements, so I'm confused where you're going with this. If an author--like Alladin of Ghostscript--wishes to sell non-GPL licensed copies of his software, there's nothing preventing him, except the degree of code that hasn't had ownership signed over to him. Small patches can be presumed to have ownership signed(though it really should be explictly stated), and large ones will end up getting a shared-ownership scenario, one way or another. But the GPL just doesn't do anything to stop commercial forks if the author needs to pay the bills! Honestly, people genuinely don't realize how much work has gone into closing loopholes with the GPL. No matter how esoteric each clause seems, there really are good reasons for them to be there. The problem lies in the fact that overly simple licenses--of which I'm not necessarily saying the Artistic License is one of--have just as much potential for being Gotcha Source as the most complex, overwrought, and landmined license that you can find. Yours Truly, Dan Kaminsky DoxPara Research
Sounds good to this uninformed reader (Score:4, Insightful) by Taurine on Thursday December 09, @09:44AM EST (#29) (User Info)
The GPL was designed as a defense against commercial software, it seems. Its one of these 'property is theft' things - anyone care to explain what that means? The GPL basically turns the traditional license on its head - it protects the users instead of the producers. So long as they don't break the license, there is nothing to stop anyone that gets hold of something GPLd from doing something the author doesn't like. Because it provides some safety for users, it is attractive to developers who want to gain users. Personally I like the idea behind the BSD license - that it promotes the use of quality code by allowing anyone to borrow bits for use in anything, regardless of the next license, so long as it is acreditted. I think the GPL's political nature will ultimately prevent its apparent greatest ambition - to move to a world where everything is GPLed. It works fine for hobby projects, labour of love stuff, like Linux. But at the same time it excludes the larger part of the software producing world - industry - from benefitting unless they are prepared to change their whole business model to the one advocated by RMS and his wandering carrier bags. But it is doing us a great service by bring the whole open source thing back into relatively common use, like it was when Unix was young. Thanks for asking the question. I will make the effort to look at the Artistic license and see if I can learn from it. It sounds like a fair solution.
It's about freedom, not commercialism (Score:2, Insightful) by alisdair mcdiarmid on Thursday December 09, @10:05AM EST (#54) (User Info)
RMS is not out to stop companies making a buck on their software. Their licence is not there to stop people forking their software, then selling it. The GPL is not defined as it is because they want to stop these things. The GPL is about freedom. The whole point of it is that, once a piece of software is GPLd, that source will forever be available. We want our software to be freely available to all. If you use the GPL, you are stating that you will not allow someone to close off your source and distribute their derivation. If all we cared about was whether commercial forks were possible or not, why not just stick "you may not sell this software for a profit" lines in your source? It's about more than that: GNU wants software to be free. Remember the concept of copyleft? How many times is this debate going to come up on Slashdot? A summary of the two main licences: 1) GPL - use this licence if you want your software to remain Free as long as you decide to keep it that way. You do not have to license subsequent versions with the GPL; you may relicense at any time. However, no-one else may relicense your software, or distribute binaries without source. This means that, in simple terms, your source code and any derivations will be available to anyone who has access to the binary. 2) BSD - use this licence if you want to get a protocol, standard or ethos popular. For example, if you want people to use your software as widely as possible, and the source is not as important as the idea behind it, this may be applicable to you. If this is wrong, please correct me.
One of the great myths about licenses (Score:3, Insightful) by PrimeEnd on Thursday December 09, @11:35AM EST (#102) (User Info)
"So why not just use the Artistic License? Then the authors can some day make money out of a commercial fork if they need to pay the bills!"

One of the great license myths is that the GPL prevents authors from making money and less restrictive licenses permit it. My experience is exactly the opposite. I wrote a GPL'd program which a big corporation wanted to use part of in a commercial product, which they did not want to GPL. They asked for a special license which I granted for a nice fee. If I had used the Artistic or BSD licenses, I would never have heard from them and never even known they used my code.

This is a big advantage of the GPL which is not often mentioned in these discussions.

In order to understand the Artistic License... (Score:3, Informative) by Arandir (arandir-at-meer-dot-net) on Thursday December 09, @01:47PM EST (#184) (User Info)
I used to release my works under the AL, but have switched to the BSD. But I still have a warm spot in my heart for the AL nonetheless. In order to understand the Artistic License, you first have to understand where it comes from. The AL first arrived on the scene with Perl. Perl, as you are aware, is a multi-disciplinary language. The hallmarks of Perl hackers are hubris, laziness and impatience. There is more than one way to do anything is the Perl motto. The Artistic License reflects all of these things, as well as the linguistic legerdemain of Larry Wall's humour. Perl was release under a dual GPL/Artistic license. Larry wanted the hacker community to embrace Perl, but understand that there was a large contingent of "GPL or Go To Hell" reactionaries within it. He also wanted it to be used by the suits, but also understood that many in the corporate world are frightened of the viral nature of copyleft. By releasing Perl under a dual license, the user could choose whatever license they wanted and no one would ever know. You could be secretly using Artistic Perl while everyone else around you thought you were using the party line GPL. Or vice versa. Talk about subversion! Bruce Perens perenially states his dislike for the AL because he thinks it is a "sloppy" license. Bruce Perens should take some classes in linguistics. "Artistic License" has a meaning beyond the mere name of a software license. The main gist of the Artistic License is that you can do anything you want with the software, but you must let the user know you're doing it. Thus, you can take AL's software proprietary, but the user can't be hoodwinked into thinking he's running the real stuff, and you have to let the user know where to get the real stuff if he wants it. If none of the above makes any sense, then just visualize the Artistic License on the middle of an imaginary line stretched between the BSD and GPL licenses.


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