An explanation of the difficulty of solving license proliferation in one sentence
Forrest J. Cavalier III
mibsoft at mibsoftware.com
Wed Mar 9 17:30:20 UTC 2005
> Software that meets the Open Source Definition is Open Source. OSI
> should do its job and certify it.
Agreed. If the OSI wants to change its definition of its job,
then someone else will spring up to safeguard the OSD.
I've been patiently waiting for Nelson, Fink, and Raymond to come to
their senses this week.
Hasn't happened. So here's a cluestick.
If fewer and compatible licenses are needed in order to allow the
big corporate interests easy picking, then it is kind of hard to hold
a middle ground: Everyone must accept the GPL. It wins by sheer numbers.
If that is unacceptable, then someone pushing for this would be kind
to present a rational argument for allowing other licenses to exist that also
excludes new licenses.
Licenses exist to serve the needs of the SOFTWARE AUTHORS. Since there
are many, many more small organizations writing software, they deserve
preference. Licenses are not, and should not be, written primarily to
conform to the needs of the licensees, and especially not primarily
to the needs of big corporate licensees so that "more big corps get on
board open-source software."
If a project wants to use a license that is not well accepted and
not compatible with other licenses, then yes, they should be gently
reminded of that at license submission, but they must remain free to
do that and take the consequences of incompatibility.
Why should they care if their OSD-compliant vanity license conflicts
with all of HP's open source IP? They should care by natural consequences,
not artificial ones. They have incentive enough to create compatible IP,
without the OSI deciding FOR THEM.
Make no mistake, these 3 principles are not about reducing OSI workload,
it is a method that LICENSEES are attempting to force artificial
consequences onto authors who desire to release OSS software under
licenses incompatible with someone's "approved list."
That someone wants to create artificial consequences is just one of
the opening salvos in the next OSS war: locking everything into a
few licenses using patent grants and mutual termination clauses.
That will play out in our lifetimes, but it seems that HP et al
can't wait and want to shoehorn projects into a smaller subset
of licenses now.
I predict that if OSI makes the 3 new conditions part of license
approval, it will soon lose its power to influence opinion of
those who really matter: AUTHORS who are philosophically aligned with
the OSD. Some other organization will spring up to guard the OSD
which is not "serving two masters."
Actually, I don't even know why I'm writing. I'm not at all
concerned about this gambit. At worst, the OSI will marginalize
It still irks me that the people who formed the OSI really bungled
(and still bungle) the branding strategy that was going to be important
to increase FLOSS acceptance commercially. Tis a pity. How many
years did it take to get a logo? Who's enforcing its application now?
Does Raymond still think he is doing all the pushing towards commercial
OSS acceptance? High profile stories like SCO vs IBM, GNU/Linux, Firefox,
and OpenOffice have done way more than the OSI's non-attempts like
high profile open source branding.
These 3 "making it simpler for suits" principles are not going to
help as intended either. (Oh, something will CHANGE, but that isn't
the same as HELP."
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