License Proliferation

Ian Lance Taylor ian at
Fri Sep 2 20:36:51 UTC 2005

Matthew Garrett <mjg59 at> writes:

> On Fri, Sep 02, 2005 at 09:31:33AM -0700, Ian Lance Taylor wrote:
> > I grant that for businesses that want to use open source software,
> > minimizing the number of open source licenses is best.  And in fact I
> > think that most people who release their software under an unpopular
> > license are making a mistake--and one of the mistakes is that it makes
> > it that much less likely that their software will be adopted by
> > businesses.  But from my perspective neither of those results is
> > significantly bad for the community--they are merely slightly bad.
> > They are not bad enough that I think the OSI should not approve
> > licenses merely because of proliferation.  On the other hand, they are
> > bad enough that I think it is appropriate for the OSI to reject
> > licenses which simply duplicate existing licenses, as has already been
> > done in the past.
> I don't believe that to be true. I don't think anyone would argue
> against the idea that anything that impairs code reuse between projects
> is a bad thing. License proliferation does just that, both by increasing
> the chances of license incompatibility and by increasing the number of
> licenses someone has to read and understand before knowing that they can
> make use of this code.

You're right, and I meant to mention that, but then I forgot.  Thanks
for bringing it up.  I agree that the inability to share code due to
license restrictions is a problem (although it was not the problem
that Russ mentioned in his earlier post).

The question is this: are barriers to code sharing enough of a problem
that the OSI should reject licenses that are otherwise OSD compatible?
My personal answer is no, on the argument that those projects which
choose uncommon licenses will in general not be supportive of code
sharing in any case.  I can understand people who hold a different


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