Make license/licenses field mandatory

Eric Hodel drbrain at
Tue Oct 18 16:34:02 EDT 2011

On Oct 18, 2011, at 10:58 AM, Alex Chaffee wrote:
> We've been discussing this on the gemcutter list too; here's a summary
> of my personal thoughts from that thread.
> ---
> I'd say limit the field to a single line, which contains either:
> * a URL to the license
> * a path to a file inside the gem itself (usually license.txt)
> * a short name, based on a standard dictionary of licenses
> On Mon, Oct 17, 2011 at 9:55 PM, 7rans <transfire at> wrote:
>> There is a standard, SPDX (
> Cool! The more I think about this -- which is still, admittedly, not
> vey much -- the more I think that a URI/URL is the way to go. Not so
> much for a clickable hyperlink -- which, as we can see now, is not
> always useful -- but as a, you know, Uniform format for Identifying
> and/or Locating a Resource, which is what a license field in a gem
> wants to do.
> Making our own dictionary would be a losing proposition; better to
> piggyback on spdx, even if it means typing
> "" rather than "MIT"
> Though actually SPDX defines a "short identifer" too, so in that
> example, either could work.

When we introduced this the intention was short names only, so "MIT", "BSD", "GPL", "LGPL", etc.

Since is down for me with this message:

> This site is down for maintenance. We will be restoring service shortly. Thank you for your patience.
> The Linux Foundation

and the entries in the list are limited to 64 characters, using a URL isn't a workable option and a file path is restricted as well.

We'll just use short names since they're easy for authors to write.  Being easy to use but lossy is better than hard to use and "correct".

> ---
> Also, to answer the actual question, generally, if things are
> mandatory, people get annoyed and fill in garbage, which wouldn't help
> anything.
> So I'd be quite wary of making anything mandatory, especially not
> without having a good answer for these questions:
> * What if I want to publish my gem with no license?

put "unlicensed" in the field

> * ...with a personally crafted license?

If you can't give a name to your license? ("beer ware" and "WTF" licenses are relatively new licenses that were given clever names.  If you're not creative like me then uou can have the "Eric Hodel license")

> * the public domain?

"public domain"

> * What are the data structure rules for the field(s)?

short names only

> * i.e. ...Does "MIT" mean the same as "mit" as "MIT Public License" as "M.I.T."?

Yes, because that's common sense.  It needs to be easy for authors and we need to give them reasonable guidelines (like pointing at  Then we need to yell at people for doing it wrong when reasonable.

> * Whose short name dictionary are we using? Who's responsible for
> maintaining and updating that list?

When comes back I'll look at it, but we're probably going to be using's.

> * What about different versions and variants of the same license?

Whatever says.  I guess they have things like "GPL" or "GPL2" or "GPL3" and "BSD" or "BSD-2clause" or "BSD 3-clause".

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