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FSF: Developers Should Use JavaScript License Web Labels

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has reportedly ruffled a few programmers' feathers this month by issuing suggestions that developers and webmasters should label any JavaScript usage with JavaScript License Web Labels signage.

While usage of JavaScript libraries such as jQuery, MooTools, Prototype, Dojo, and others is commonplace, most licenses simply request that the developer highlights the use of the software to make it clear that it is freely available for download and reuse without charge.

The FSF says that JavaScript License Web Labels are not designed to provide license information for inline JavaScript on HTML pages. License information for such scripts should be included on those pages directly.

According to the Foundation's licensing page for the GNU operating system, this system is especially useful in cases where the JavaScript is under a GNU license, but does not include the permission in Appendix A of The JavaScript Trap. "Followed correctly, this method presents the information prominently enough to comply with the relevant conditions in the GNU software licenses, and it's specific enough that software can confirm the correctness of the information on a site."

The FSF has also issued a rationale document saying that the organization is "very concerned" about the growing problem of proprietary JavaScript and that (due to the Web's open dissemination channels) users often unwittingly run "huge amounts" of proprietary software on their computers.

"Free software is succeeding on the desktop partly because of the copyleft protection guaranteeing users be told up front when a particular program is free for them to use, study, share, and modify. But on the Web, browsers download and run JavaScript without ever informing users of the program's license or their freedoms."

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