For Approval: Some License Or Another

Lawrence Rosen lrosen at
Mon Nov 29 23:17:29 UTC 2004

> <snip> As you
> say, you're inventing this as you go, so I'm pleased to see that
> you're willing to make changes.

I've avoided commenting on some recent licenses partly because this
"inventing as you go" experience turns me off. And from what I am told
privately, many of the lawyers on this list tend to tune out when the
discussion turns to non-lawyers debating "what if I changed X to Y and A to
B...." There are just too many open source licenses, and too little time, to
give that much attention.

Which brings up the larger question: Why do we keep receiving requests for
approval of new licenses? Does anyone seriously believe that our customers
and distributors can keep up with this barrage? 

Perhaps we ought to require license submitters to go through a private
process of requesting changes to specific already-approved licenses before
an entirely new license is proposed? If an idea is a good one, shouldn't it
be easier to get an existing licensor to adopt that provision for his
license rather than try to convince customers to adopt something entirely

As the author of a few approved licenses, I can count on the fingers of one
hand the number of times that people have come to me and said, "Your license
would work for me if only it were changed this way...." That happens
occasionally, and that's largely why the OSL/AFL licenses are at version
2.1. But far more often I'm not asked to make improvements to my licenses.
Instead, license submitters just start from scratch with something new, over
and over again. Isn't that tiresome?

Instead of submitting new licenses for approval, first try to convince
existing license stewards to change their licenses to meet your needs. I'm
sure OSI can help you contact the owners of the 50+ already approved

I'd particularly like to see that procedure followed by anyone who believes
that existing licenses are unenforceable in other countries (i.e., Germany
or Unfreedonia) or with specific types of copyrighted works (i.e., hardware
products or government works). If we can improve existing licenses to solve
these problems instead of creating "Some License Or Another," we'll all be
far better off.


Lawrence Rosen 
Rosenlaw & Einschlag, technology law offices (
Author of "Open Source Licensing: Software Freedom and 
           Intellectual Property Law" (Prentice Hall 2004)
3001 King Ranch Road, Ukiah, CA 95482 
707-485-1242 * fax: 707-485-1243 
email: lrosen at 

More information about the License-discuss mailing list