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

David Dillard david.dillard at
Wed Mar 9 17:40:59 UTC 2005


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Forrest J. Cavalier III [mailto:mibsoft at] 
> Sent: Wednesday, March 09, 2005 12:30 PM
> To: Open Source License Discussion List
> Cc: Forrest J. Cavalier III
> Subject: Re: An explanation of the difficulty of solving 
> license proliferation in one sentence
> > 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.

"Fewer" does not mean "one."

> 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,

Primarily?  No.  But if open source authors want their software to be
adopted by as wide an audience as possible, they SHOULD carefully choose
the license they use.

> and especially not primarily to the needs of 
> big corporate licensees so that "more big corps get on board 
> open-source software."

Are you against making ANY changes to help corporations use open source?
If so, why?

> 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."

It's not about "forcing," it's about "asking."  There's no way for a
licensee to force a licensor to change their license.

Open Source is supposed to be community.  People in a community
cooperate, that's what makes it a community.

> 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 itself, again.
> 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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