license preamble template

Alan Mackenzie acm at
Thu Mar 9 10:06:50 CET 2006

Xah Lee <xah at> wrote on 4 Mar 2006 10:21:11 -0800:
> I noticed, that in just about all emacs programs on the web (elisp
> code), it comes with this template text as its preamble:

[ .... ]

> ;; This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but
> ;; WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
> ;; General Public License for more details.

[ .... ]

> Concerned parties and the FSF foundation, please remove the middle
> section of this template. That section is mainly for lawyers, for
> programers to protect themselves in the context of modern society's law
> system. Legally speaking, that section is redundant because it is in
> the GNU General Public License itself.

That section is there to draw people's attention to the lack of a
warranty, to cause them to contrast it with the "warranty" offered by
non-free software, which typically is restricted to replacing the
distribution CD if it can't be read.

> The effect of that section in a license summary is fueling the habit
> and sanction of irresponsible programing we see all around us.

My impression is that irresponsible programming tends to come with a
guarantee to replace the distribution CD if it can't be read.

> In place of that section, i'd propose replacing it with the following
> gist:

> ??This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful. The
> author(s) has responsibly produced it, and will take reasonable
> responsibilities with regards to the program's intended purpose and
> workability. For legal aspects of WARRANTY, please see the GNU General
> Public License for more details.??

Nah, that's too defensive and wooly.  If you get an Email from a stranger
that says "checked virus-free by ....", would you believe that?  No?
Then why would you believe a programmer who feels he has to assert he has
done his work "responsibly", whatever that might mean?  It's legally
dubious, and wouldn't inspire any confidence whatsoever.  Responsibility
is shown by actions and results, not promises.

[ .... ]

>    Xah

Alan Mackenzie (Munich, Germany)
Email: aacm at muuc.dee; to decode, wherever there is a repeated letter
(like "aa"), remove half of them (leaving, say, "a").

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