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The Best Public-Domain-Equivalent License

I have always regarded copyright as an obstacle to freedom. When I first launched this site in September 2018, I had already elected to release everything on it under an extremely permissive license, and had narrowed my choices down to either the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC BY 4.0) or the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication (CC0); ultimately I settled on the former, as I figured that a few individuals might actually bother themselves to follow its sole attribution requirement. I knew, though, that I definitely had not the will nor the time to pursue any violations of the license in any court, and so, in effect, the whole thing amounted to little more than an unenforceable request.

But my opinion has lately changed, and I find myself not even wanting to request attribution, but rather to release everything into the public domain, as this is how I can maximize freedom with respect to the use of the material on this site. I happened upon the Wikipedia article concerning public-domain-equivalent licenses, which mentions four of them: the CC0, the Zero-Clause BSD, the Unlicense, and the Do What the Fuck You Want to Public License (WTFPL). Of these, the CC0 is (probably) the most well-known and used, but it is also the longest, and seemed to me unnecessarily long for what, really, ought to be a simple matter that has, unfortunately, been complicated by too many laws—i.e., if you wish to saddle your work with copyrights, then I can understand why, for the sake of thoroughness, a long license might be needed; but if you wish to leave it free of such burdens, then I should have thought the license used would have been very short, the many copyright restrictions being absent and therefore not requiring mention in it.

The Zero-Clause BSD license, meanwhile, is very short, but also (I think) pretty boring, and is applicable only to software, rather than all creative works in general.

The Unlicense is admirable for its strong anti-copyright stance, expressed in lofty language—in fact, it might perhaps be too lofty. The license adopts an attitude that presupposes the idea of copyright as being some formidable enemy, worthy of respect, and that great intellectual effort and refined moral arguments must thereby be employed towards defeating it: in short, though its stance regarding copyright is a very good one, it takes the issue far too seriously. (In addition, like the Zero-Clause BSD license, it is also applicable only to software in particular.)

It is truly the WTFPL that manages at once to solve all of these issues: it is applicable both to software and non-software works, unlike the Zero-Clause BSD license and the Unlicense, and is extremely brief (as any license of this sort should be), unlike the CC0. It is also not boring, unlike the Zero-Clause BSD license, and, unlike the Unlicense, its attitude concerning copyright is precisely the correct one: instead of appealing to high-minded ideals to oppose copyright—which implies that the concept is deserving of serious attention—in one sentence it dismisses the entire notion as insignificant. In great contrast to the Unlicense, which sees copyright as Serious Business, by its brevity and injection of humor the WTFPL adopts a carefree lol, copyright attitude, and it is this casual manner of dismissal, I think, that is the greatest argument against the validity of the concept and all the laws that have been written with respect to it. (This is, at least, my own interpretation of things; in truth all four of these licenses are extremely permissive and therefore excellent choices, and I would readily commend anybody who uses any one of them, though my preference lies still with the WTFPL.)

Lastly, if all this has not convinced you, then you should know that the WTFPL was written by the great Sam Hocevar, who, besides being a very talented computer programmer, was also a former member of the legendary Gay Nigger Association of America (GNAA) trolling group, as well as its Goatse Security hacking division. Was there ever a more perfect license?


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WTFPL Version 2 All written materials on this Web site are my own, and all are released under the Do What the Fuck You Want to Public License Version 2.

This page last modified on 3 May 2021.