For Approval: Some License Or Another

Russell Nelson nelson at
Tue Nov 30 05:34:59 UTC 2004

Lawrence Rosen writes:
 > > <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.

Oh, c'mon, Larry, maybe I'm being a law newbie here, but this seems
like an innovation to me.  The point behind an open source license is
to guarantee freedoms.  Writing a document whose translation is also
binding seems tricky.  How do you get it right so that people aren't
accidentally prohibited from doing something because of a translation

I think that what you're really objecting to are people who bring
licenses to the list that haven't been pre-vetted by someone who
understands open source principles.

 > Which brings up the larger question: Why do we keep receiving requests for
 > approval of new licenses?

Several reasons:
  o People want to reuse a license which names a specific copyright
  o People agree with all the terms of a license, but want it expressed
    in a different wording that they believe to be more defensible.
  o People don't want to compromise by adopting a license which is 95%
    identical to what they want.
  o Companies playing up their open source muscle by being able to
    display THEIR open source license.
  o NIH.  For the same reason someone will pay their programmers to
    rewrite already-existing code, they will pay a lawyer to rewrite an
    already-existing license and end up with a license which is 90%
  o Finally, OSI's failure to exert guidance in the form of license
    recommendations.  I hope to correct this soonest.

 > 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?

That's a good idea.  One hitch I can see is that someone who wants to
push through *their* license could go to the author of an
already-approved license and say "We want to pay you N kilobucks to
replace all the terms of your license with the terms of our license."

 > If we can improve existing licenses to solve these problems instead
 > of creating "Some License Or Another," we'll all be far better off.

I think we should implement this as a requirement for submittors.  We
already ask them to identify the license closest to theirs.  We can
also ask them if they have contacted the author of the license to see
if the author would be willing to accept this change.

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