What is PolyForm?
PolyForm is a project to draft and make freely available plain-language source code licenses with limited rights.
Source code licenses with limited rights? What does that mean?
Many software developers want to make software available under source code licenses that grant some, but not all rights. Some licenses that have been released before include the Commons Clause, Elastic and Confluent licenses, and others. These licenses grant broad rights, including source code access, but reserve some rights to the licensor.
A simple menu of choices
PolyForm licenses come in a few useful “flavors” that adopters can pick to suit their needs.
Why draft new licenses?
Until now, there has been no standardization of this kind of source code license, even though it has become increasingly common. This has resulted in confusing and overlapping licenses, which need to be analyzed one at a time. Lack of standardization has used up the time and resources of many in the software industry, as well as their lawyers. The objective of the PolyForm Project is standardization and reduction of costs for developers and users.
What are the benefits of the PolyForm licenses?
- Professional drafting. The licenses were drafted by experienced software licensing lawyers, with input from technologists and entrepreneurs. The drafting team has over 100 years of combined experience.
- Plain Language. The licenses are written in a plain language style, to promote understanding and brevity.
- Standardization and Modularity. Like the “Creative Commons” licenses for non-software materials, PolyForm licenses offers a menu of several useful license limitations that can be adopted and expressed easily.
- Easy access for licensees. Those who accept the license limitations can easily adopt software, without any need to sign agreements or review unique licenses.
- Easy adoption by licensors. Developers who write software can easily adopt PolyForm licenses without engaging expensive and specialized legal help.
PolyForm is not…
- Open source or free software. There are plenty of existing open source licenses. PolyForm is not a substitute for them, but an alternative for those who want to license source code under limited rights.
- A substitute for legal counsel. The drafters of the PolyForm license are lawyers, but not your lawyers. Licensors and licensees may have questions about PolyForm licenses, such as compatibility with other licenses or legal liability or affect on their trademarks or patents.
Who should adopt PolyForm licenses?
- Developers who want to make their source code available on a limited basis, quickly and easily.
- Developers who want to make their software freely available for research or non-profit purposes.
- More detail.
But what is a Polyform?
A polyform is a kind of plane figure in recreational mathematics. It is constructed by joining together identical basic polygons. Math is fun.