OSI's war on corporate licenses

Claire Giordano claire.giordano at sun.com
Wed Apr 13 23:45:44 UTC 2005

I have to add myself to the list of people who feel that the criticism of the 
MPL class of licenses as a failure seems uncalled for.

I know that the OSI is trying to respond to their constituents and critics and 
address the license proliferation issue - and my understanding is that this 
document was written to stimulate discussion and seek feedback.  It's certainly 
stimulated discussion.  :-)

Some questions:

	"The class of asymmetrical corporate licenses that began with Mozilla
	was a worthy experiment that has failed. The new policy will discourage

Thanks to Danese for answering the question earlier today about what 
"asymmetrical" means.

It would also be useful if someone from the OSI Board could explain if there are 
other aspects about the Mozilla class of licenses will be discouraged in the 
future (if any.)

The following statement raises questions as well.  Danese, could you or Eric or 
another OSI Board member explain what the following statement in the OSI writeup 
means?  What is unstable about the MPL class of licenses?  What is ineffective, 

	"It is becoming increasingly clear from this and other examples that the
	"middle way" represented by Mozilla and other corporate open-source
	licenses is not a stable, effective solution even from the point of view
	of selfish corporate agents."

The MPL, CPL, CDDL and other licenses in this class are perceived by many to
provide a unique and valuable class of open source license - one which requires
source code for distributed modifications to be shared (as does GPL; BSD et al 
do not) and yet also allows their open source files to be mixed with files 
covered by other open source licenses and even mixed with proprietary source 
files (as does BSD et al; GPL does not.)

I strongly encourage the OSI to continue to support this middleground in the
spectrum of open source licensing.

I'd like to see the community of open source communities and the collection of 
open source code grow over time, and I believe the MPL class of license can play 
a significant role in that growth.  I don't believe the impact of open source 
has been fully realized yet, and I don't want to inhibit the growth and 
evolution of open source by discouraging MPL-class licensing.


Mike Milinkovich wrote:
> As much as I agree that singling out the MPL was uncalled for, this thread
> has gone off into a direction which --- for me at least --- is missing the
> point. 
> The License Proliferation document states that "The class of asymmetrical
> corporate licenses that began with Mozilla was a worthy experiment that has
> failed. The new policy will discourage them."
> Pardon my ignorance, but precisely what do the authors mean by
> "asymmetrical"? I can guess, but the term is not defined anywhere in the
> document. And why are such licenses so bad that they are suddenly going to
> be discouraged where they were previously approved? Or if the authors really
> mean just "corporate" licenses, why didn't they say that instead?
> ------
> Mike Milinkovich
> Executive Director,
> Eclipse Foundation, Inc.
> mike.milinkovich at eclipse.org
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: Joel West [mailto:svosrp at gmail.com] 
>>Sent: April 11, 2005 9:23 PM
>>To: license-discuss at opensource.org
>>Subject: OSI's war on corporate licenses
>>The list has discussed the problem of the proliferation of 
>>"vanity" licenses. But it seems the OSI board has gone far 
>>beyond license proliferation, to actively discourage 
>>firm-sponsored OSS licenses of any kind.
>>At the new policy
>>	http://opensource.org/docs/policy/licenseproliferation.php
>>I found this statement troubling:
>>>The class of asymmetrical corporate licenses that began with Mozilla 
>>>was a worthy experiment that has failed. The new policy will 
>>discourage them.
>>and particularly
>>>But seven years later, we think it is is significant that 
>>the original 
>>>corporate open-source license, the Mozilla Public License, has been 
>>>dropped by its originating organization in favor of the GPL. It is 
>>>becoming increasingly clear from this and other examples 
>>that the "middle way"
>>>represented by Mozilla and other corporate open-source 
>>licenses is not 
>>>a stable, effective solution even from the point of view of selfish 
>>>corporate agents.
>>I don't know anything more than what's on these webpages. But 
>>from reading these statements, it's not clear what planet the 
>>authors are on.
>>Mozilla is no longer a corporate-sponsored OSS project, but 
>>instead is an independent stand-alone project that in most 
>>respects is indistinguishable from projects that began as 
>>community-founded projects (e.g. Apache). So since they are 
>>organized more like Apache or Project GNU, it's not 
>>surprising that they have a community license. All it proves 
>>is that AOL gave up on selling browsers.
>>>These licenses put a hard brake on the growth of development 
>>>communities around their products without actually delivering 
>>>measurable advantages in revenue, market control, or risk 
>>>Because these licenses have largely failed to deliver,
>>Were any of these people at EclipseCon? There's a lot of 
>>development, community, revenue and adoption going on in 
>>Eclipse as the .NET alternative. It's all based on the CPL 
>>(soon to be EPL), a slightly cleaned up MPL. New strategic 
>>developers were announced including a good portion of the 
>>major ISVs in the tools area (with the notable exception of 
>>Sun and Microsoft).
>>So has Eclipse "failed to deliver"?
>>As Evan said, there is a problem with license 
>>incompatibility. This may be as much a problem with the 
>>conditions of the GPL as it is with the problem of the other 
>>licenses. And maybe Martin Fink is right, there's a problem 
>>with license proliferation.
>>But how does this lead to the conclusion that firm-sponsored 
>>OSS licenses or projects are a failure? There's a logical 
>>leap that's been left out.
>>Or is this just an attack on asymmetric open source business 
>>models? And if we're going to attack asymmetric models, why 
>>the MPL/CPL/CDDL? Why not attack the dual license GPL model? 
>>In both cases, corporations that object to viral (aka 
>>copyleft) provisions can pay to escape them. In both cases, 
>>big bad corporations own the IPR rather than the broader community.
>>We are just beginning to see a huge experimentation in open 
>>source business models. It's hard to see how OSI or the open 
>>source movement are helped if those involving dual license 
>>get to call themselves "open source" but those involving the 
>>CPL do not. For that matter, if OSI kicks out the CPL crowd 
>>(and/or GNU kicks out the dual license crowd), we might have 
>>a new movement formed with Sun, IBM, HP, Microsoft and 
>>others. And if that's where all the investment is going, it's 
>>hard to see how that helps OSS or OSI at all.
>>Disclaimer: I teach in a business school and believe in 
>>market incentives to promote maximum innovation and 
>>investment. I think the original 1998 group (immortalized by 
>>"Revolution OS") was brilliant in leveraging this principal 
>>to create the Open Source movement.
>>Joel West, Research Director
>>Silicon Valley Open Source Research Project	

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