To the keepers of the holy grail of Open Source

Lawrence E. Rosen lrosen at
Fri Jan 19 19:12:42 UTC 2001

I am answering an email that was posted to license-discuss.  It raised
several concerns that are widely shared.

I am writing both to apologize about the long delay in responding to your
(and many other) licenses, and to ask your patience.  The board of directors
of OSI is a volunteer group.  They have limited time to review and approve
licenses.  They have been overwhelmed by the very large number of licenses
that were submitted in the past six months or so, and have simply been
unable to keep up.  This problem will be a major topic for discussion at the
OSI board meeting later this month.

Believe me, we share your frustration.

The board has chosen to "cherry-pick" a few licenses for review and
approval.  In doing so, we have tried to consider which licenses will have
the "biggest bang for the buck" in terms of advancing the cause.  That has
perhaps resulted in more attention paid to the license proposals of big
companies and less attention paid to the smaller ones.  This form of triage
doesn't make anyone happy, but we haven't had much choice.  Even as it is,
we have only been able to approve a few licenses in recent months.

I was interested to hear your suggestion that perhaps submitters would be
willing to pay for license review.  How much would you be willing to pay?
This might make it possible for OSI to hire professional attorneys to review
licenses more rapidly.

We also intend to create "ready to use" templates based upon
already-approved licenses.  Once again, it is the lack of resources and $$$$
that is slowing us down.  OSI is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.  Your
contributions to OSI are tax deductible.  You can help significantly by
contributing money to OSI.

As for "guidelines for non-lawyers," we'll try to do what we can within the
constraints that we cannot and should not give generic legal advice.  We
will, however, try to write license comparisons so that you can understand
some of the differences among the key open source licenses.

You also asked about trademarks.  Unfortunately, the term "Open Source" has
become so widely used, in so many contexts and with so many subtle meanings,
that it is useless as a trademark.  OSI has chosen to proceed with its own
certification mark (OSI Certified open source software) which can be applied
to any software that is distributed under an OSI-approved license.  This
certification mark is described more fully on the OSI website.

/Larry Rosen
Executive Director, OSI
lrosen at


- I am a bit frustrated about the process; I had to submit our suggestion
three times before receiving the first feedback.
- If you only want to deal with the Fortune 1000 - please say so.
- The current "ready to use" licenses available are inconsistent and there
is no guideline when to use what
- If you want to take the Open Source License seriously, but don't want to
deal with the "little guys", I suggest you come up with some templates - or
do something like eTrust
- I don't think that people would mind the alternative: use one of the
following templates or pay a fee for us looking at the license - assuming
that there are templates available and some guideline for non-lawyers when
to use which.

c) Open Source Trademark
- As you know, the 'characteristics' of Open Source projects are very
different.  Recently, there are quite a few companies using the Open Source
as marketing tool (in addition to the failed commercial projects)
- I think, you guys need to come up with some guidelines on 'ethical' Open
Source projects. I realize that there is a fine line ... and Tim O'Reilly
would not support an Open Book Source project similar to the original
- I suggest that you come up with some guidelines (and even approval
process) to separate the "good" from the "others".
- Some of the major points, I see:
        - Does it need to compile (out of the box in defined environment) ?
        - Does it need to be installable (out of the box in defined
environment) ?
        - Can it rely on or requite products only commercially available ?
        - Can you charge a download fee ?
        - Would you be able to use the product without paid support ?
- To test your criteria, you should have a look at - try
to install it, try to do something with it (you can't get support from if you have not paid for the estimated $100,000
implementation project)
- Another test criteria would be Compiere. Our intension is to make Compiere
THE ERP system for the little guy with 50% market share - by giving it away
and offering support for the not so technically/functionally inclined.  But,
our credo is, that it has to work out-of-the-box without limitations or
outside help - Our targeted guarantee: "up and running 2 hours after
download or shame on us". We see the main acceptance in third world
countries (who would not be able to pay anyway) resulting in an active user
and developer community.

Jorg Janke         Smart Business Management Solutions                Open Source ERP for the

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