Blog of Julian Andres Klode

Debian, Ubuntu, Linux in general, and other free software

World, Space, and Licenses

Common licenses for software include the term “worldwide”. Now, what does worldwide mean? The problem with the term worldwide is that it is ambigous and depending on it’s interpretation, violates against DFSG 6 which states: “No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor”.

The reason: Space travel. If we take the term worldwide to mean “everywhere on earth”, the license becomes non-free, as it prohibits the use outside of this planet. Affected by this problem are the patent section of GPL-3, the Apache 2.0 license, the CC licenses, the GFDL, and probably also others.

Now what should be used instead? Universal? No, that wouldn’t work in case there are multiple ones (while travelling between them (if they exist) could be impossible, it would still be a restriction). The correct team would probably be “omniversal” meaning “everywhere in the omniverse”. But really, avoiding locations is probably the best way.

In any case, if you have received software from me under a license that uses the term “worldwide”, you can treat worldwide as everywhere, and are thus free to use it outside of earth (and other planets).

Written by Julian Andres Klode

August 11, 2011 at 11:15

Posted in General

9 Responses

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  1. I don’t think that’s an immediate problem. There’s no rule of law anywhere in space (at least not human law), so there would be nothing to violate. And as long as we do not have off-planet production facilities, the construction of such devices will still be subject to earthly rules.

    But you are right in that such licenses will have to be reworded if we’re to ever leave this rock.


    August 11, 2011 at 11:32

  2. Is somebody at the CCC Camp or why did this come up just now? ;)

    @Arno: Tow points: a) it might become a problem soon, as there are some projects which try to build open systems for flight and/or even space travel* and b) better planning ahead than being surprised by this, when it actually hit.


    * Given e.g. ESA’s recent student program (something similar to GSoC) I’d actually expect, that FLOSS software already made it to the stars. Thus this wording should be discussed.


    August 11, 2011 at 11:45

  3. You seem to have too much time.

    martin f. krafft

    August 11, 2011 at 11:47

  4. This is the first time I see the word “omniverse”. I think “multiverse” is more common.


    August 11, 2011 at 14:07

    • Depends on your definition of multiverse. If you define a multiverse as a set of universes with the same physical laws and constants; then you need a name for all possible universes, the omniverse. So you have 1 omniverse consisting on n (-> inf?) multiverses each consisting of m (-> inf?) universes.

      Julian Andres Klode

      August 11, 2011 at 14:31

      • Or just one big vibrating string riff on the guitar of life. ;-)

        Martin Owens

        August 11, 2011 at 18:33

  5. Nice catch. While this will fire the notion that Debian is anal, licence-wise,
    you’re of course absolutely correct. Luckily, the one I’m using doesn’t
    mention universes, worlds, etc.


    August 12, 2011 at 09:52

  6. Hmm…interesting. What’s more, the licenses don’t give you the right to use the software nowhere. Indeed, if your computer happens to fall into a black hole while it’s doing something with the software, you will have violated the license. That said, if your computer is falls into a black hole while continuing to work, you have other things to worry about and an incredibly strong computer.

    Disclaimer: I’m neither a physicist nor a lawyer and, therefore, cannot be held responsible for what happens as a result of your reading of my comments. If your head explodes or you turn into a cat, it was going to happen some day anyway.


    August 13, 2011 at 06:04

  7. and Marvin says: “The Usage of Infinite Improbability Drive is not possible due to license restriction” ;)


    August 23, 2011 at 11:39

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