Artistic License

Artistic License

The Artistic License refers most commonly to the original Artistic License (version 1.0), a software license used for certain free software packages, most notably the standard Perl implementation and most CPAN modules, which are dual-licensed under the Artistic License and the GNU General Public License (GPL). The original Artistic License was written by Larry Wall. The name of the license is a reference to the concept of artistic license.

The terms of the Artistic License 1.0 were at issue in a 2007 federal district court decision in the US which was criticized by some commentators for suggesting that FOSS-like licenses could only be enforced through contract law rather than through copyright law, in contexts where contract damages would be difficult to establish. On appeal, however, a federal appellate court "determined that the terms of the Artistic License are enforceable copyright conditions".

Artistic License 1.0

Whether or not the original Artistic License is a free software license is largely unsettled. It was criticized by the Free Software Foundation as being "too vague; some passages are too clever for their own good, and their meaning is not clear." The FSF recommended that the license not be used on its own, but approved the common AL/GPL dual-licensing approach for Perl projects.

In response to this, Bradley Kuhn, who later worked for Free Software Foundation, made a minimal redraft to clarify the ambiguous passages. This was released as the Clarified Artistic License, and was approved by the FSF. It is used by the SNEeSe and FakeNES emulators, the Paros Proxy and NcFTP.

Artistic License 2.0

In response to the Request for comments process for improving the licensing position for Perl 6, Kuhn's draft was extensively rewritten by Roberta Cairney and Allison Randal for readability and legal clarity, with input from the Perl community. This resulted in the Artistic License 2.0 which has been approved as both a Free and Open Source license.

It is scheduled for adoption by the standard Perl implementation when version 6 is released, and has been used by the Parrot virtual machine since version 0.4.13.

The OSI has "superseded" Artistic 1.0, recommending strongly that all users move to Artistic 2.0.


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