Please stop using WTFPL

kaen
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Please stop using WTFPL

by kaen » Sun Aug 14, 2016 19:12

I know it won't change anyone's minds, but you should really consider using something other than WTFPL when releasing your mods. I know the anti-authoritarian, laissez faire attitude of the license as well as the trendy use of a highly flexible superlative is appealing, but the license does not function as intended. There is a reason *every* distributed piece of software needs a license, and there's a reason for the stuffy, formal, and arcane verbiage used in these licenses. Licenses are not a vanity part of a project, they are a feature of the project meant to protect the safety of its authors, users, operators, and distributors. For this reason, we have to use great care in selecting a license, and in this article I will explain why the trendy WTFPL is a bad decision for everyone involved. Please just use MIT or something.

The "intent" of a license is to protect the person creating the software and the person receiving it or distributing it. Usually licenses do this by

1. Explicitly stating the rights a user has (or does not have) to modify/distribute the work
2. Explicitly stating the conditions under which distribution or modification may occur
3. Explicitly stating the warranty given (or not) to users of the software

Every major license, such as GPL, BSD, MIT will include all three of these parts, or explicitly state when they're not granted. That's because these parts are critical in the operation of the license, and missing any of the three renders a license either dangerous or unenforceable. WTFPL lacks all three.

Without #1, it is actually illegal to modify (or even use) the software in most western jurisdictions. Your license has to explicitly state that people have these rights, and in fact this is why all open source software must be released with a license to begin with. Without a license that has clauses to this effect, by default your implicit copyright specifically prevents people from doing this (in the US). The WTFPL appears to the laymen to have this, but in fact the undefinably broad phrasing and failure to enumerate explicit permissions granted means that users have no guarantee of this being represented in court. That means that to even download or modify the software requires them to risk intellectual property litigation on your part. Even if you are a Totally Chill Dude who would never do something like that, you legally could and that's a risk the user would have to assume.

If #1 is present (and weak) and #2 is not, the license is vulnerable to any number of loopholes. Presenting no restrictions whatsoever could allow malicious parties to distribute the work without noting your copyright, and to completely replace your given license with a license of their own choosing. While they couldn't take legal actions to enforce the copyright of the original work (and why would they?), they could potentially represent the work as being originally written by them, prevent distribution or modification of their own copies, and sell it for tons of profit.

#3 is probably the most tangibly significant to us here, as it's the only one that could cause actual real-world loss to a minetest mod author in a feasible scenario. #3 is so important that every major license INCLUDES IT IN ALL CAPS VERY SERIOUSLY AT A PROMINENT PART OF THE DOCUMENT. This is the no-warranty statement, and it could save you millions of dollars some day. Foreigners might not be aware, but the state of intellectual property, tort, and liability law in the US are all completely fucked. The past three decades have seen an unending stream of lawsuits awarding millions of dollars to (and from) massive corporations for dubious IP and liability claims that any normal person on the street intuitively knows are immoral, or at least unworthy of granting such massive sums. There is in fact entire industries of "patent trolls" and "ambulance chasers" who profit by abusing the lack of common sense in these systems, essentially exploiting poorly written legislation and contracts like a computer hacker exploits poorly written code, getting it to do something other than its originally intended task (which is to protect you).

This is in fact the very reason for the unintelligible, overly-precise verbiage found in modern licenses and contracts: any misstep in the composition of these documents can lead to massive real-world loss via exploitation in civil court. And this is why you definitely should not ever use WTFPL, and why I've spent an hour on a Sunday writing out this explanation. A license is like a piece of "code" that executes in a court of law to protect you and your users, and we should expect of it the same things we expect of other security software. It should be verifiably correct, meticulously written, and most importantly WELL TESTED.

Some parting thoughts on WTFPL:
WTFPL has never been tried in a western court of law
WTFPL is literally a joke: it was written as a satire of the GPL (1)
WTFPL does not grant explicit permissions or disclaim any warranty, failing the basic requirements of a license and leaving authors and users alike vulnerable to litigation
WTFPL is popularized by its flippant language and eschewing the overly-formal style of legal composition, rather than its effectiveness as a software license
WTFPL is "not recommended" by the FSF (2)
WTFPL was outright rejected by the OSI (3)

I know we're all just playing around with a hobbyist clone of a children's game on the weekends, but you can still get sued for it.

(1) http://programmers.stackexchange.com/qu ... 907_161949
(2) https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html#WTFPL
(3) https://opensource.org/minutes20090304
 

HarrierJack
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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by HarrierJack » Sun Aug 14, 2016 22:20

tldr; is ironically the exact reason why a lot of ppl don't like licencing..

(i'm not trying to be a **, just my 2 cents)
 

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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by Sokomine » Sun Aug 14, 2016 22:53

I usually use WTFPL for very short pieces of code which could be considered examples/hints given to readers as to how things can be done. Something that doesn't really warrant its own liscence due to lack of Schöpfungshöhe (er...level of ingenuity/novelity) but gets WTFPL attached nevertheless so that readers can see quickliy that they can include the example code in their projects without trouble.
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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by kaen » Sun Aug 14, 2016 23:29

Like I said, I don't think I'll change anyone's minds, and I would agree with the idea that it probably won't matter in any feasible circumstance.

However, I think that by attaching a license at all you're sort of acknowledging that a license is significant. Given that there's no difference in effort between copying WTFPL or copying any mainstream (and actually functional) license, why not simply use one without the problems described above?

If you have a copy of WTFPL in your repo, you might as well delete it as dead code. It will never be run and doesn't function as intended anyway.
 

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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by Sokomine » Sun Aug 14, 2016 23:37

kaen wrote:However, I think that by attaching a license at all you're sort of acknowledging that a license is significant

In those situations it's mostly for the benefit of people who expect a liscence where I think none is warranted (i.e. just a simple node definition or very simple code). The text of the license isn't even duplicated in such a case, and WTFPL just given to people who ask if they can use it. For slightly more complex mods, a real liscence is certainly preferable. It's annoying to settle for one, but at least that usually has to be done only once and might be applied to all one's further MT projects (providing it's not a project taken over/forked that had another liscence).
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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by TheReaperKing » Mon Aug 15, 2016 13:02

This thread might be interesting to you as well:
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=14246&hilit=DWYWPL
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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by octacian » Mon Aug 15, 2016 17:11

Not only does WTFPL not meet many standards that all good licenses should meet, it should not be used on such a project with the large number (or possible large number) of younger kids using it. The MIT is just as good (and what I use everywhere). Kids don't need to be encouraged to use such language, and that's exactly what using this does.
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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by Byakuren » Tue Aug 16, 2016 05:55

HarrierJack wrote:tldr; is ironically the exact reason why a lot of ppl don't like licencing..

(i'm not trying to be a **, just my 2 cents)

tl;dr ad hominem
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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by SegFault22 » Thu Aug 18, 2016 09:19

This is very informative. I knew there were problems with using that license, but I just didn't have the "specifics" until now (I thought it was technically a real license, but now I realize that it is not at all). Thank you.

Since WTFPL truly is not a real/valid license, it follows that we (the forum) should require mod authors who develop a mod in the Mod Releases section with such a non-existent/invalid license to amend their license definition to a real/valid one, or simply have their mod moved out of the Mod Releases section until it references a valid license. New mods should not be accepted into the Mod Releases section if they reference the WTFPL "license", just like other mods which don't have a valid license or any license at all.
 

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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by paramat » Thu Aug 18, 2016 17:38

kaen i agree, the mods in MTGame certainly need to change their licenses.
 

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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by octacian » Thu Aug 18, 2016 17:50

I agree with SegFault, mods in releases should not be allowed to use WTFPL. I guess that'll be something useful about the MinetestCDB that I'm working on (Content Database). I have also had to avoid forking several mods or using content because I do not like that license.
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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by pithy » Thu Aug 18, 2016 17:59

Does it make sense to use unlicense for textures?
Should DWYWPL be allowed?
 

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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by octacian » Thu Aug 18, 2016 18:05

pithy wrote:Does it make sense to use unlicense for textures?
Should DWYWPL be allowed?


No. DWYWPL should not be allowed if WTFPL is going to be disallowed. Generally, the best license for texture is CC-BY-SA.
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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by BrandonReese » Thu Aug 18, 2016 18:09

endev15 wrote:I have also had to avoid forking several mods or using content because I do not like that license.


Fork it and change the license.
 

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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by pithy » Thu Aug 18, 2016 18:15

endev15 wrote:No. DWYWPL should not be allowed if WTFPL is going to be disallowed. Generally, the best license for texture is CC-BY-SA.

I like CC0 better but CC0 is tl;dr.
 

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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by Calinou » Thu Aug 18, 2016 19:11

pithy wrote:Does it make sense to use unlicense for textures?
Should DWYWPL be allowed?


The Unlicense is targeted at code, but you can use CC0 1.0 on anything (code, artwork, …) since it's public domain dedication (or a very permissive license in case public domain is not possible). Both are compatible with the GPL as well.
 

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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by pithy » Thu Aug 18, 2016 20:52

BrandonReese wrote:
endev15 wrote:I have also had to avoid forking several mods or using content because I do not like that license.


Fork it and change the license.

If WTFPL is truly invalid then changing the license would be a questionable thing to do unless you own the copyright.
 

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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by BrandonReese » Thu Aug 18, 2016 21:15

pithy wrote:If WTFPL is truly invalid then changing the license would be a questionable thing to do unless you own the copyright.


WTFPL FAQ wrote:Can’t you change the wording? It’s inappropriate / childish / not corporate-compliant.

The WTFPL lets you relicense the work under any other license.


http://www.wtfpl.net/faq/

I don't think everybody is understanding. You use this license when you are required to license your work (e.g. to get your mod in mod releases) but you really don't care what anybody does with your code. They can take the code and sell it for $1,000,000. They can even claim they wrote it themselves, which is dishonest but doesn't invalidate the license. If you do care what happens with your code then obviously use another license. But if you write a mod and you essentially just want to give it to the community people use this license.

More from the WTFPL FAQ wrote:Can I make money with my software using the WTFPL?

Yes.

By the way, with the WTFPL, can I also…

Oh but yes, of course you can.

But can I…

Yes you can.

Can…

Yes!
 

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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by TenPlus1 » Fri Aug 19, 2016 18:50

I just changed my mod licenses from WTFPL to MIT.
 

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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by TheReaperKing » Fri Aug 19, 2016 22:35

A bigger deal in my opinion is that it the WTFPL lacks a "No warranty" clause so people could actually potentially sue you if they claim your code or media or whatever broke their computer.
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Re: Please stop using WTFPL

by rubenwardy » Fri Aug 19, 2016 22:38

I've started relicensing all my WTFPL mods as MIT...

TheReaperKing wrote:A bigger deal in my opinion is that it the WTFPL lacks a "No warranty" clause so people could actually potentially sue you if they claim your code or media or whatever broke their computer.


...and this is the main reason
 


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