Simpler Contracts May Just Be Better

Lawyers may not like ambiguity, but people do.

As the year opened, leaders of the Free Software movement launched a move to clarify the GPL and deliver a new version.

Nine months later 28 of 29 Linux kernel coders surveyed said they don't like the result.

There are plenty of objections, which run the gamut. Some don't like the DRM provisions. Others object to the patent provisions. Others wonder how code licensed under GPLv2 and GPLv3 can coexist at all.

The Free Software Foundation, which is behind the effort, is trying to get the objectors back on board but I think there's a larger lesson here.

Ambiguity is good.

The broad language of the current GPL lets people who disagree widely on the issue get along under one contract. If there is an issue, based on a disagreement over the meaning of the broad license language, it's dealt with, usually through negotiation.

There are many more explicit licenses out there, licenses that specifically define terms and concepts the GPL does not. Yet the old GPL remains popular, increasingly so.

Lawyers may not like ambiguity, but people do.