License Proliferation

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. roddixon at
Fri Sep 2 21:23:53 UTC 2005

A few thoughts on license proliferation...

I read the minutes of the license proliferation committee recently 
identified by Laura.  My question is would someone briefly identify how the 
use of "tiers" will resolve the license proliferation problem? Assuming that 
there is a clear answer, why is that discussion proceeding before a more 
general discussion about the nature of the problem identified as "license 

It seems to me that Larry Rosen's document on license proliferation is a 
very clear statement of what the problem really is; namely that the ease of 
code sharing among different open source projects is hindered/burdened by 
too many licenses with unclear or conflicting terms. I am not so sure that 
casting this problem as  "license proliferation" accurately captures what is 
being identified, but a concretely defined problem is certainly helpful in 
developing a solution.

Rightly, Larry points out in paragraph 9 of his document that there are 
limits to resolving this problem because an important aspect of open source 
licensing includes the promotion of diverse business models, which 
necessitates diversity in licensing (perhaps in ways that are not 
predictable).  The perception is that open source is more tolerant of 
business model diversity than free software, if this perception is 
inaccurate, then license proliferation may be more easily resolved than one 
might expect.  If, however, open source is going to continue to be open to 
diverse business models, then easing the burden on code sharing because of 
license conflicts (perceived and real) may require the type of robust 
disussion that Larry's document is intended to promote. Although there is 
great reluctance to update the OSD, doing so may also provide a viable 
solution. For example, the OSD could include a definition of terms section 
that defines words or phrases that have been the source of obstacles to code 
sharing.  In addition, drafters (licensors) of new or revised licenses could 
be required to use the terms defined in the OSD with the requirement that 
approved licenses containing such terms have the meaning identified in the 
OSD. At any rate, this is my attempt to move the discussion forward.

-Rod Dixon 

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