Three new proposed OSD terms

Joel West svosrp at
Wed Mar 2 16:11:12 UTC 2005

On 10:09 AM -0500 3/2/05, Russell Nelson doth scribe:
>11. *The license must not be duplicative.* 

This seems like an administrative detail, not a principle of the open source movement.

NY Times: Mr. Nelson, what does the open source movement stand for?"
Nelson: "We stand for free access to source code, and non-duplicative licenses".

It would be like Moses adding "thou shalt file thy taxes on time" to be the 11th commandment.

It seems like this belongs on the "Getting a License Approved" section. As in, after Bullet Point 4, say "the board reserves the right to reject any license that is similar in form or effect to an existing license".

>12. *The license must be clearly written, simple, and understandable.*
>    Open-source licenses are written to serve people who are not
>    attorneys, and they need to be comprehensible by people who are
>    not attorneys. 

Am I missing something? I though open source licenses were written to allocate the rights to a programmer's efforts in a way that is enforceable in a court of law.

I realize that Larry Rosen may today be a controversial figure here, but read his book (or that of Andrew St. Laurent) on some of the "clearly written" licenses. They may be appealing to a programmer, but who knows what a court will decide if they're ever tested? And if they make an attorney throw up his hands in despair, what company will use them?

I agree the goal is that shorter and clearer are better, but we should not sacrifice legal accuracy either.

>13. *The license must be reusable*.


> If the license contains proper
>    names of individuals, associations, or projects, these must be
>    incorporated by reference from an attachment that declares the
>    names of the issuer and any other cited parties, and which can be
>    modified without changing the terms of the license.

Incorporated by reference? Or changed within the license by template substitution. Again, the incorporated by reference may have some legal disadvantages.

> As the sole
>    exception, the license may name its owner and steward.

Define "steward". Does this mean that we encourage people to copyright their licenses? If so, I think there should be a policy as to what license should be used, because any license should be reusable (like code) to make a new license. We wouldn't have the Sleepycat license (from BSD) or the IPL/CPL (from Mozilla) without this principle.


Joel West
Silicon Valley Open Source Research Project

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