An explanation of the difficulty of solving licenseproliferation in one sentence

David Dillard david.dillard at
Wed Mar 9 17:53:31 UTC 2005

See below... 

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Fink, Martin R [mailto:martin.fink at] 
> Sent: Wednesday, March 09, 2005 12:32 PM
> To: Evan Prodromou; Russell Nelson; Eric S. Raymond
> Cc: Open Source License Discussion List
> Subject: RE: An explanation of the difficulty of solving 
> licenseproliferation in one sentence
> Well Evan - I have to say - you made my day :)  I seriously 
> considered conjuring up a picture of me and gimp'ing it to a 
> visual representative of your comments.... I just didn't have 
> the time.
> I guess what bothers me the most as I look at the overall 
> tone of the messages that have been written on this topic is 
> one where a theme of "good vs. evil" is developing.  The 
> community being the "good", and the corporation being the 
> "evil".  I guess I just don't look at the problem that way.

I see that as well.  And another thing that bothers me is that
corporations are not considered a part of the community.  Many
corporations employ people whose primary responsibility is to contribute
to open source (e.g. me).

> In my view, the community creates loads of really cool 
> software.  I will note at this point that the community is 
> now also made up of lots of people from those evil 
> corporations.  My entire motivation is that I want that cool 
> software to be used.  I want it to continue its successful 
> path at redefining the business model of the industry.  I 
> think that the community process of developing software is a 
> really powerful one.  Now, when I think about who uses all 
> that cool software, I think of individuals, governments, 
> academia, and yes, all those evil corporations.
> This last one is the one that causes me heartache.  While you 
> might think that these corporations have unlimited funds to 
> decipher the encrypted OSI code of licensing, you're dead 
> wrong.  I fear that if the current system continues down its 
> current path of exponentially increasing complexity, the evil 
> corporations will just give up - not hire more lawyers to 
> deal with it.  You may violently disagree with this, that's 
> fine... time will tell.
> So, all my actions are motivated by trying to make sure that 
> over the long haul, open source software gets used more, and 
> more, and more.
> Now, you may not agree with my methods (I think "stupid" was 
> one reference), and that's fine.  I also understand that this 
> isn't going to get fixed overnight, and that there isn't an 
> easy magic pill that's going to make it all go away.  And 
> yes, heaven forbid, we might actually have to let a few more 
> licenses through the system in the meantime.
> So, if we can stop the "open source community vs. the big bad 
> corporate world" mindset that would be a really good start.  


> Next, if it's helpful I'd gladly spend some time going 
> through a set of reasons why an infinite number of licenses 
> will stifle open source utilization rather than foster it.  
> Finally, if you believe that an infinite number of licenses 
> is not a problem and it's all hogwash, then ignore this 
> dialog.... just let the people who care about it come up with 
> a proposal that deals with the perceived problem.  When one 
> or two proposals are put forth (maybe by OSDL, OSI, and 
> others) and if you think that those proposals are actually 
> harmful, then chime in.  The last thing I want is to change 
> the system into something that makes it worse.
> Now, if you really want to move Heaven and Earth to save me, 
> have at it, I'd love to watch :)
> Martin
> +==========================================================+
> | Martin Fink                  | Email: martin.fink at |
> | Vice-President, Linux        | Phone: (970) 898-7076     |
> | Hewlett-Packard Co.          | Fax:   (970) 898-4302     |
> | 3404 East Harmony Road, MS43 | Asst:  Ingrid Busch       |
> | Fort Collins, CO 80528       | Phone: (970) 898-0782     |
> +==========================================================+
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Evan Prodromou [mailto:evan at]
> Sent: Wednesday, March 09, 2005 7:35 AM
> To: Russell Nelson
> Cc: Open Source License Discussion List
> Subject: Re: An explanation of the difficulty of solving 
> licenseproliferation in one sentence
> 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
> --
> Evan Prodromou
> evan at

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