License Approval Process

Alex Nicolaou anicolao at
Wed Feb 16 04:50:46 UTC 2000

"Brice, Richard" wrote:
> I agree with most of the points made on this discussion. The more licenses
> that exist, the more splintered the open source community will become. You
> can't use source code licensed with License X with source code licensed with
> License Z (ok, that's a generalization but I don't think it is too far off
> the mark).

This is indeed an argument that has been posted against many open source
licenses, but I'm afraid that it holds little water. 

First and foremost, if the software is released under a license that
allows combination with other software written under different licenses,
there's no real problem. The BSD/MIT style licenses are pretty liberal
in this regard. In fact, most of the licenses are pretty liberal in this
regard except for the GPL/LGPL. My own SOS license attempts to be very
liberal in this regard, but is seen as "not offering any value over the
GPL" - meaning that licenses that don't enforce copyleft don't add
value? But I digress.

Secondly, the main point of "free software" is to preserve the user's
ability to read, understand, and fix the software. These goals don't
require mixing codebases from different sources ... isn't everyone's
ideal to have a lot of .so files that each provide some services and mix
them together at runtime? Even if you actually need to merge two pieces
of source for some reason, there's nothing stopping you from going back
to the copyright holder to get permission to include License X code in
your License Z code, which seems likely to be a request that will easily
be granted.

Finally, and perhaps most amusingly, the point of OSI Certified Open
Source is to allow the end user to use software with varying licenses
that all conform to the same underlying principles (the OSD). If
diversity is a problem, then why have a certification process at all?
It's contradictory to say "We have certification to support diversity,
but we oppose diversity because it's bad".  

My conclusion: skip the certification. Write your code. If people want
it, they'll read your license after they're using it and send you
complaints. Spend the time on the important part ... the software.


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