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Free software in Swiss polka revolution

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In an effort to revolutionize the world of open source, a free software advocate has submitted a new license to the Open Source Initiative. The document is two years in the making, and it's known as the CDL, short for Chicken Dance License.

"The purpose of this license is to make intellectual property far more entertaining to deal with," writes Andrew Harris, the author of the license. "Rather than boring old GPL violations or licensing agreements for GPL software, [an] entertaining video of people doing the chicken dance is produced. If this was taken to court, CDL violators may even have to perform the chicken dance retroactively!"

The license is meant to offset the heavy legal component of open source software. "We all want fewer lawyers in software, but that isn't always possible," he says. "We might as well dress up the ugly legal side of it all with classic Swiss polka."

According to the submission, the license is based on the BSD. "I figured this was a good place to start for the CDL," he continues. "It's easy to understand and relatively short. Of note are my fourth clause and the disclaimer I added relieving oneself of liability from injuries and expenses sustained from performing the chicken dance."

You can read version 0.1 of the license here, and you'll find the github repo where drafting takes place here. Under clause 4 of the license, anyone wishing to distribute CDL software without redistributing source code must submit to the following conditions:

  • For every thousand (1,000) units distributed, at least half of the employees or persons affiliated with the product must listen to the "Der Ententanz" (AKA "The Chicken Dance") as composed by Werner Thomas for no less than two (2) minutes
  • For every twenty-thousand (20,000) units distributed, two (2) or more persons affiliated with the entity must be recorded performing the full Chicken Dance, in an original video at the entity's own expense, and a video encoded in OGG Theora format, at least three (3) minutes in length, must be submitted to <OWNER>, provided <OWNER>'s contact information. The dance must be based upon the instructions on how to do the Chicken Dance that you should have received with this software. If you have not received instructions on how to do the Chicken Dance, then the dance must be chicken-like in nature.
  • Any employee or person affiliated with the product must be prohibited from saying the word "plinth" in public at all times, as long as distribution of the product continues.

It would seem, however, that the license is unlikely to win approval. "Clause 4 appears to conflict with OSD clause 5 because people with disabilities or cultural obligations preventing them from either singing or dancing (or religious issues portraying chickens) would not have equal freedoms under the license," writes OSI director Simon Phipps.

"It also violates OSD clause 6 as it would prevent use in the plinth industry. There are also difficulties concerning dependence on contact information being up-to-date such that freedoms would cease to be available in the event <OWNER> becomes uncontactable."

No doubt, Google will object to the CDL on the grounds of license proliferation. And then Microsoft will introduce its own version, dubbed the Permissive Chicken Dance license, which will require anyone who uses its code to perform the Swiss polka until they die from exhaustion. ®

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