What's the license of the Standard Rules?


Standard Rules by Graham Nelson


The Standard Rules, included in every project, define the basic framework of kinds, actions and phrases which make Inform what it is.


Unlike other extensions, the Standard Rules are compulsorily included with every project. They define the phrases, kinds and relations which are basic to Inform, and which are described throughout the documentation.

Do the Standard Rules have a license? Every published Inform 7 game includes them, right?

I presume that Inform authors have no explicit legal right to publish games including Graham’s copyrighted material, but we all just assume (justifiably!) that Graham has no intention to sue anyone who publishes work that include the Standard Rules…?

(Maybe the Standard Rules will become available under an open source license if/when Inform itself does, some day.)

In the Windows IDE (not sure about other OSes), the Help > Licence menu option displays the following:

A story file produced with the Inform system belongs to whoever wrote it and may be sold for profit if so desired, without the need for royalty payment, provided that it prints a game banner conforming to the standard library’s banner at an early stage in play: in particular, this banner must contain the information that the story file was compiled by Inform, and the version numbers of compiler and library used.

So at least we know that Graham Nelson is OK about authors selling a game including the Standard Rules.

(By the way, the same question applies to the Inform 6 template that is included in every project, too.)

Presumably, this is the relevant license. Just one line after you cut out the quoted text.

All site content licensed under the CC BY 4.0 licence.

I think can’t be quite it, because then you’d have to include the CC BY attribution link boilerplate in your Inform game output.

I think the way this would play out legally is that the Standard Rules don’t have a license, but instead the app makes a statement of opinion that the “story file belongs to whoever wrote it.”

Keep in mind that the I7EL is not an official site. Unless Graham himself uploaded the Standard Rules there, or gave his formal permission (which I doubt), that statement has little authority.

The old Inform site used to have the following segment:

… and similarly for the I6 template code. This section (along with most of the content) was omitted in the head-over-heels redesign in 2019. I’d be willing to wager that that was merely an oversight, not an intentional retraction of that license.


This is what I get from Wikipedia

License Proprietary but freely redistributable or Artistic License 2.0

So, you may be right.

The public library (in the “Extensions” tab of the IDE) states that

[All the extensions are] published under a Creative Commons Attribution licence, which means you can use them for free in any project of your own. (Inform will automatically take care of crediting the authors.)

(The first section of the “Extensions” chapter of the documentation also says that.)

So technically extensions do have a CC-BY licence. But I agree that only mentioning the authors name in the VERSION command is not enough to comply with the licence.

(All that doesn’t apply to the Standard Rules since they’re not in the public library, but it’s just to say that Inform has never been very strict regarding licence attribution.)

I was asking this question myself recently before I redistributed the Standard Rules. As of 2016-02-04, the Inform 7 website had the text @ArdiMaster quoted above:

The Standard Rules, used in every Inform 7 project; they create the basic assumptions about the model world, and define our language for talking about it […]
Licence: Copyright 2006-2009 by Graham Nelson; published under the Artistic License 2.0 […]
Published: April 2008.
Version: 2/090402.

This was subsequent to the release of 6M62 in December 2015. I’d have felt much better if the listed dates and version were up to date, but I concluded the intent seemed clear enough to cite the Artistic License 2.0 and proceed.

But that’s about the source code. People distributing a game aren’t distributing a copy of the Standard Rules source, the thing to which that license applies, they’re distributing a binary object whose content is derivative of the Standard Rules, and English Language by Graham Nelson (also included in every game but it uses authorial modesty so is less obvious), and the I6 Templates, etc. The bit @Natrium729 quotes make clear that no proprietary interest in the output is claimed.

(Edit: well, one proprietary interest: the requirement of a banner naming Inform 7 and the versions of the compiler and library.)

(Edited again: nope, that was wrong, the Artistic License 2.0 does have implications for compiled versions; see below.)

Reading it over, it does seem that there’s a relevant element required by the Artistic License 2.0 that has been universally ignored:

Distribution of Compiled Forms of the Standard Version or Modified Versions without the Source

(5) You may Distribute Compiled forms of the Standard Version without the Source, provided that you include complete instructions on how to get the Source of the Standard Version.

And then there’s

(6) You may Distribute a Modified Version in Compiled form without the Source, provided that you comply with Section 4 with respect to the Source of the Modified Version.

Does the inclusion of a Section in place of a Section of the Standard Rules count as use of a modified version in compiled form? I could see an argument either way.