Relicensing Unfinished W3C Specifications

At times W3C may stop work on a specification, but some in the community may wish to continue working on it. This proposal describes how W3C relicenses unfinished specifications.

Status: This policy was enacted on 5 December 2014 following two reviews by the Membership. Learn more about W3C policies and legal information.

Examples of Use Cases

Note: This proposal is for a procedure to request relicensing of abandoned, unfinished specifications. It does not preclude the possibility of other procedures for relicensing other classes of specifications, or discussions of broader changes the W3C Document License.

Eligible and Ineligible Specifications

Only certain specifications are eligible to be relicensed under this policy.

Eligible Specifications

Working Drafts, Candidate Recommendations, and Proposed [Edited] Recommendations, either:

Only material not previously published in a W3C Recommendation is eligible for relicensing.

Ineligible Specifications

These ineligibility provisions take precedence over the eligibility provisions.

Requests to Relicense

The Director is responsible for starting W3C Member review of proposals to relicense an eligible specification (according to the process below).

Anyone can request that the Director initiate a Member review. Typically, that request will come from a Working Group, a key contributor, or an organization wishing to further the work.

A complete request must:

The Director will not generally initiate the review process for ineligible specifications or incomplete requests.

Working Group Input

Before the Director sends a a proposal to the Membership, he takes into account the views of the responsible Working Group.

Assessing Working Group consensus on relicensing abandoned work

If the Working Group still exists and the Working Group did not initiate the request to relicense, the Director must send a request to the responsible Working Group asking whether there is a consensus to support the request to relicense. The Chairs are expected to provide a response within 4 weeks.

Past Editors

For both active and past Working Groups, the Director must make a good faith attempt to notify past editors of the specification of the intent to relicense the specification.

AC Review and Public Notice

Advisory Committee Formal Review

The Director must send the Advisory Committee a call for review of a proposal to relicense. The call for review must:

The review period must last at least 4 weeks.

Public Notice

The W3C staff notifies the public on and on the W3C home page.

Decision and Appeal


The Director must announce the decision (to relicense or not) to the Advisory Committee and public.

If the Director chooses not to relicense the specification, the Director must provide rationale for the decision. Rationale may include, but is not limited to, the following reasons that may come to light as a result of review (which is why they are listed here and not in the section on ineligible specifications):

There is no minimum threshold of Advisory Committee support for a proposal to relicense a specification under this policy.


If the Director decides not to relicense, the Advisory Committee may appeal the decision. If the Director decides to relicense, the Advisory Committee may appeal the decision only if there was a Formal Objection. In both cases, W3C follows the AC appeal process.


When the Director's decision is to relicense:

Preferred Copyright Licenses

The Director's preferred license will be the Software and Document License.

If portions of a specification were originally licensed under the W3C Software License, that should continue in the relicensed version.

Patent Licenses

Patent licensing commitments under the W3C Patent Policy apply only to W3C Recommendations. Therefore, because specification relicensed under this policy are not Recommendations, there are no new licensing obligations created by this policy.


Updated 21 May, 2015, to indicate the W3C Software and Document License as the Director's preferred license, as recommended by team and PSIG.

Questions? Ian Jacobs <>

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