# The Open Works License
The Open Works License, henceforth also referred to as the OWL, was developed
to fill the need for a [copyfree] license that does not limit itself in its
intended application to software or any other particular content form. It is
intended to be understandable to the layman while still providing adequate
legal protection and clarity for the terms of the license.
## In Brief:
This license is intended to roughly mimic the "public domain" (a legal concept
particular to certain jurisdictions) while ensuring that no restrictive
copyright claims are enforced. Two important points distinguish this license
from the [public domain]:
1. Unlike the OWL, modifications of a work in the public domain can be subject
to assertions of copyright restriction by the entity that holds the copyright
of the modifications that resulted in the modified work. This means that the
only version of something released into the public domain that is guaranteed by
law to be available in perpetuity under the terms of that release is the
original, unmodified version. The OWL is intended to ensure that modified
works will also be available under its terms, while still allowing the covered
works to be used within larger works that may not employ the same license.
2. Unlike the public domain, anything licensed under the terms of the OWL
should be subject to its terms even in jurisdictions that do not recognize the
legal concept of the public domain, as long as it recognizes common concepts of
copyright. The OWL is intended to achieve this without imposing restrictions
or conditions that cannot exist without copyright enforcement.
In general, you may redistribute, modify, copy, use, fold, spindle, and
mutilate any work covered by the OWL as desired, provided you include the text
of the OWL with it, granting any recipients of the work (or a derivative work)
the same rights and privileges.
As with any copyfree license, the OWL is designed so that it should be
effectively self-enforcing in the general case. This is because it serves more
properly as a defense of the possessor against restrictive copyright
enforcement than an assertion of legal rights for the copyright holder. Even
if, in violation of the license terms, a distributor fails to provide notice of
the OWL's terms, the fact that the material was initially distributed under
these terms should allow use of the OWL as defense against spurious claims of
copyright infringement by license violating distributors.
In cases of plagiarism, which should also apply to cases of redistribution of
the work (modified or unmodified) without notice of the OWL's terms, the
appropriate jurisdiction's legal provisions for addressing such
misrepresentation should be sufficient to settle disputes over licensing, even
if effective enforcement of open source license terms are impractical due to
the difficulty of proving material damage in civil proceedings.
The above is not intended as legal advice. It merely serves to explain the
intent of the design of the Open Works License with regard to enforcement
The OWL is designed to serve as a means of encouraging the distribution and use
of the covered material -- even within larger projects that are distributed
under the terms of other licenses. Weak heritability copyfree licenses such as
the OWL are suitable for works whose widespread adoption and use are desirable,
such as in cases where the concept or work is more important to be shared
widely than the license terms themselves, or when it is believed that strong
license terms heritability may hinder the adoption or distribution of the work
significantly by virtue of its "viral" nature.
Its use is also encouraged for those who do not much care what happens to their
works once released, who wish such intent to be made clear for any form of
copyrightable content in any jurisdiction.
Early development versions of this license used the name Public Distribution
License. The unfortunate name clash between the Public Distribution License
(or PDL) and Sun Microsystems' Public Documentation License (also known as the
PDL) prompted the change of the name from PDL to OWL. The fortunate
association of the new acronym with a nocturnal avian regarded as a symbol of
wisdom is really just a happy accident.
For historical (or hysterical) reasons, the [PDL Website] will remain
accessible in its original form.