An explanation of the difficulty of solving license proliferation in one sentence

Evan Prodromou evan at
Wed Mar 9 14:34:57 UTC 2005

On Tue, 2005-08-03 at 16:54 -0500, Russell Nelson wrote:
> But more than anything else, it points to the difficulty of getting to
> a world with only a handful of licenses.  If there really are to be
> fewer licenses, projects must relicense, as painful as that is.

I think that's a completely unacceptable burden on the people who put
time, money, blood, sweat, and tears into creating Open Source (but
perhaps not OSI-certified) software. There's a big difference between
asking a lawyer armada from CA, Sun, or IBM to select one of the
existing licenses when making their big PR announcement, and forcing a
12-year-old project to relicense all their software.

I realize that everyone's supposed to move Heaven and Earth to save
poor, starving Martin Fink, poster boy for license proliferation. But
relicensing a work with any but a trivial number of authors is a huge
undertaking. I bet Martin can raise his shaky, hunger-weakened hand to
rubber-stamp one more license, if we ask him nicely and give him a bowl
of millet afterwards.

I predict that a close reading of the Open Source community's
give-a-shit-o-meter for the Handful of Licenses Crusade will hover just
barely above 0.00. Keeping the books tidy is all fine, but twisting the
arms of little projects on the shaky theoretical grounds that "There
shouldn't be too many licenses! Save Martin Fink!" is wrongheaded and
boorish. Don't do that.

Software that meets the Open Source Definition is Open Source. OSI
should do its job and certify it.


Evan Prodromou
evan at
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