Official License Anti-Proliferation policy?

Laura Majerus LMajerus at
Mon Apr 18 18:45:04 UTC 2005

Ernie,  Thanks for the question. I was wondering when to post this to
the list and not have it buried in the recent wizard-discussion emails.
We announced a license proliferation committee at Open Source business
Conference, along with several new board members (see and a couple of other committees.

I'm chair of the LP committee and we definitely want to have members
(and input) from all kinds of people - developers, end users, business
folk, non-US members, and so on.  This is an advisory committee to the
OSI board. Its charter is to think about ways to chip away at the
license proliferation issue from a variety of directions, and I'd love
to get input from people about what type of actions we should be
recommending to do that. I found the license proliferation discussion of
a couple of weeks ago very helpful. (And I'm not sure we need to repeat
that entire discussion again in response to this email.  Please.)

We are starting on a tiering project, although I personally think that
the term "deprecate" has non-techie meanings that make people
unnecessarily nervous.  What we would like to do is try to open a
discussion about what it would take to convince people use a smaller
subset of already approved licenses and to think twice before writing
more licenses. I personally don't envision that we would de-approve
previously approved licenses to the point where the license couldn't be
called Open Source.  That's a different thing from recommending that
they not be used.  The purpose of the LP committee is to chip away at
the proliferation situation from several different angles.  Tiering is
one way to do this.  The license wizard discussed earlier is another.
Hopefully the committee and this list will come up with more.

Which licenses are in which groups?  At this point, we don't know. We
would love it if more companies would follow Intel's lead when it
recently asked that OSI no longer recommend its Intel Open Source
License.  So far, no one except Intel has volunteered to have their
license be "no longer recommended." 

The general idea is that the LP committee will (in this order):

1) ask for volunteers to be on the LP committee. This committee needs to
be relatively small or we will never get anything done. I anticipate
asking for community input along the line.  Possibly we should move LP
discussion to a separate email list.

2) decide on criteria for tiering licenses.  One criterion that I know
already is that we will be looking at the size of projects using the
licenses.  Thus, my comment of a couple of days ago that we will never
"un-recommend" the GPL.  It seems self-evident that the gpl gets put in
the approved license tier based on its user base alone. I anticipate
that the committee's criteria discussion will be sprightly!

3) actually apply the criteria and tier the licenses into roughly three
buckets: a) recommended b) OK and c) no longer recommended. Being in any
of these buckets does NOT mean that a license is no longer open source
or that it is somehow no longer approved by OSI.  Once we approve a
license, it should stay approved.  We would just prefer that people use
a smaller subset of licenses going forward.  We can't MAKE people use
any specific license, of course.  People can continue to use
"non-recommended" and "OK" licenses if they want.

Again, I personally anticipate discussing with the various license
stewards what actions we want to take with their licenses.  It seems
like a bad idea to surprise people with this. No license steward should
wake up one morning to find out that his license is in the "OK" bucket.

4) Make recommendations to the OSI board about adopting the tiers we
have come up with.

Someone asked about the committee's formal charter.  I will post that to
the list in a minute.

Questions welcome, of course!

Laura Majerus
OSI, Director of Legal Affairs

-----Original Message-----
From: Ernest Prabhakar [mailto:prabhaka at]
Sent: Monday, April 11, 2005 4:06 PM
To: license-discuss at
Subject: Official License Anti-Proliferation policy?

Dear OSI,

Is this for real, or just media rumor-mongering?  Not that I
particularly mind either way, but I'd like to be sure. :-),1759,1783791,00.asp........

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