An explanation of the difficulty of solving licenseproliferation in one sentence

Ian Lance Taylor ian at
Wed Mar 9 19:56:38 UTC 2005

Alex Bligh <alex at> writes:

> The point here is the license is the AUTHOR's choice. Good licenses will
> thrive the same as good code thrives (viz. ESR's bazaar analogy), as if I,
> HP, Joe Blow, whoever, doesn't like the license, doesn't like the cost of
> evaluating the license, can't read the license because it's written in
> English/French/Klingon, then they have the choice of not using it, and
> using something else instead. That's "the market" / "natural selection".
> Same as closed-source, except of course they are guaranteed a full refund
> on FOSS :-)

As far as I can tell, this more or less assumes that good licenses
will somehow convert code under bad licenses to be under good
licenses.  What seems more likely to me is that code under bad
licenses will be lost forever, and/or code will survive in various
balkanized regimes under incompatible licenses.

Your selection argument is tying together two things that I don't
think should be tied together.  Natural selection of code is good.
Natural selection of licenses is good.  Code being driven extinct
because it is bad is good.  Code being driven extinct because it has a
bad license is bad.

Mind you, if all licenses were compatible, or permitted appropriate
relicensing, I would not be concerned.


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