An explanation of the difficulty of solving licenseproliferation in one sentence

Alex Bligh alex at
Wed Mar 9 19:34:41 UTC 2005

--On 09 March 2005 14:09 -0500 Michael Poole <mdpoole at> wrote:

> The GPL incompatibilities of the OpenSSL, Apache 2, and other licenses
> are -- whether real or simply perceived -- of significant concern and
> have already prohibited some unknowable amount of code reuse.  Future
> versions of those licenses or software may resolve the
> incompatibilities, but that will only happen due to license "reform"
> or relicensing advocacy.

License changes can happen simply because the licensors wish to facilitate
code sharing. Equally, licensors may not wish to share code with projects
issued under other licensors. Seems to me that is the prerogative of
the author. Perhaps that means his/her code will be used less and
won't get integrated into other projects. I don't see why it is
necessarily a desirable goal for the OSI to engage in "re-licensing
advocacy" as opposed to
(i)  advocacy of open-source (of whatever persuasion), and
(ii) allowing original authors, contributors, and end users to make
     informed decisions about open-source (or allegedly open-source)

Educating those who chose the licenses for projects about the potential
problems of license proliferation is only ONE factor in enabling those
people to make informed decisions.

The original spirit of the OSD seemed right: "provided the license
meets this limited set of criteria, it gets our seal of approval".
That seems the right starting point. Pointing out the differences
between licenses, incompatibility problems between specific
licenses, the relative scale of deployment of licenses is something
the OSD doesn't seem to do - Forrest's tool is the most useful thing
I've seen: this would be a good innovation for the OSI. Education
and market forces are far more powerful weapons that the OSI
trying to impose ever more strict rules - that will just lead to


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