YAPL is bad (was: Re: Backlog assistance?)

Karsten M. Self kmself at ix.netcom.com
Sat Sep 22 22:39:20 UTC 2001

on Sat, Sep 22, 2001 at 05:17:34PM -0400, Greg London (greglondon at oaktech.com) wrote:
> Alex Stewart wrote:

> > If the point is to provide a few good, clear-cut licenses for people
> > to choose from, that's one thing, and suggests the OSI should be
> > very picky.  


> > If the goal is to encourage open-source licensing terms amongst the
> > software community, that's very different, and suggests that the OSI
> > should (try to) encourage (and thus certify) anything that meats the
> > open-source requirements.

That's "meets".


Yet Another Public License (YAPL) is a bad trend.

Ceterus paribus, more licenses are bad.  As the number of licenses
increases, the disruption caused by an additional license increases.

This is because interaction effects of licenses must be considered on a
combinatorial basis.  That is, effects grow in a factorial manner.  The
terms of each license must be understood independently.  The
interactions of each license pair, *and each combination of licences*,
must be considered.

John Gilmore has said that free software reduces the opportunity costs
of cooperation.  This isn't a primary (or even an acknowledged) goal of
free software licensing.  It is a very important effect.  A world in
which free software developers know that they can pick freely from a
small set of licenses facilitates development and innovation.  Any
roadblocks to this process, however small, greatly distort development

> IANAL, but simply from a development point of view, OSI does not
> appear to be taking advantage of some of open-source's best feature:
> patches and evolution

There's some substance to this complaint.  The suggestion that standard
templetized licenses be provided which allow for modification on common
lines of variance, generally authoring/revision authority for the
license, jurisdiction, and license name, are under consideration.  These
should be capable of being handled via amendments.

> currently, all OSI certified licenses are "One-Off" applications,

This is simply not true.

Many licenses are one-offs.  In general this practice is strongly

Several licenses are in fact evolved instances of existing licenses:
the GPL v.2 is evolved from earlier versions, though it is unchanged
itself for a decade.  The MozPL is an evolution of the NPL.  IBM has put
its IBM PL through several revisions, and offered a non-specific version
of the same license.  The Artistic License has been recently revised.

> written from scratch, no reuse, no inheritance, no nothing. 

Law is not OOP.  Still, some of your concerns may be addressable.

> And their speed at which the approve licenses seems to be in line with
> that of an organization who is testing multiple, and completely
> independent, applications. 

As well it should be.  OSI blundered horribly with the APSL.  Current
thinking is that certification, once granted, cannot be undone.  With a
stable of very usable licenses, proceding with full deliberation is
*highly* preferable.  I applaud the OSI in this regard.

In recent cases presented to this list, there have been multiple
proposals for licensing schemes which do not meet the OSI Open Source
Definition or FSF Free Software definition.  There have been several
cases of proposals which were withdrawn in favor of existing licenses.
There have been several existing licenses approved after due
deliberation by the OSI.

Every organization which, on informed consideration, finds an existing
license meets their needs, is a net win for the OSI and free software

> And verification is basically what OSI does, except it's in a legal
> manner versus software manner.  The OSD is the spec, everyone sends in
> their personal interpretation of that spec, and then OSI has to verify
> the license completely meets the spec.

And, according to revised processes, that the license itself does show
innovation, and meet an otherwise unadressed need.

> in order to make it easier to create your own license, 

If you assume this is a goal, you are very, very, mistaken.

I am not a member of OSI, I don't speek for it.



Karsten M. Self <kmself at ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
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