Common Public License/Agreement Steward

David Croft croft at
Sat May 12 22:18:37 UTC 2001

Open Source license discussion mailing list:

Lawrence E. Rosen wrote:

> The Common Public License is the same as the IBM Public License with the
> name "IBM" removed.  IBM submitted that license directly to OSI for approval
> because it helped solve a problem that people were having -- specifically,
> the ability to use the IBM Public License without having to apply for
> modification merely to replace IBM's name with the name of the new licensor.
> We encourage other licensors to submit such "template" licenses wherever
> possible.

After just now reading the SISSL at the website, I was 
wondering whether there were another MPL-derivative license when I 
decided to check the mailing list.  Kudos to IBM for addressing the need 
for such "template" licenses!

I wonder, though, if the license could be made even more "common" by 
dropping the "Agreement Steward" clause of Version 0.5:

> The Agreement Steward reserves the right to publish new versions (including revisions) of this Agreement from time to time. No one other than the Agreement Steward has the right to modify this Agreement. IBM is the initial Agreement Steward. IBM may assign the responsibility to serve as the Agreement Steward to a suitable separate entity. Each new version of the Agreement will be given a distinguishing version number. The Program (including Contributions) may always be distributed subject to the version of the Agreement under which it was received. In addition, after a new version of the Agreement is published, Contributor may elect to distribute the Program (including its Contributions) under the new version.

As a "Contributor", whether initial or subsequent, I would prefer that I 
retain control over which version of the license is used.  This thought 
hit me most strongly when AOL assumed control over Netscape:

> 6.1. New Versions.
> Netscape Communications Corporation (''Netscape'') may publish revised and/or new versions of the License from time to time. Each version will be given a distinguishing version number.
> 6.2. Effect of New Versions.
> Once Covered Code has been published under a particular version of the License, You may always continue to use it under the terms of that version. You may also choose to use such Covered Code under the terms of any subsequent version of the License published by Netscape. No one other than Netscape has the right to modify the terms applicable to Covered Code created under this License.

The argument in favor of an Agreement Steward is diminished by noting 
that Contributors can always choose to explicitly re-release their work 
under a new license or version of a license by acting unanimously. 
Failing unanimous consent, the work can still be released under multiple 
versions of the license simultaneously by noting that the CPL is non-viral:

> Contributions do not include additions to the Program which: (i) are separate modules of software distributed in conjunction with the Program under their own license agreement, and (ii) are not derivative works of the Program.

Regardless of my reservations about placing my trust in the hands of an 
Agreement Steward, I believe that the CPL may be the best evolution of 
Open Source licenses out to date that achieves my objectives.  I intend 
to license all of my Open Source code 
( using the CPL.  Once again, kudos 
to IBM!

David Wallace Croft
(214) 533-3047 cell

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