License Proliferation

Ender Batur enderbatur at
Sat Sep 3 08:17:28 UTC 2005

A few different thoughts on license proliferation ...

A recent report says that the estimated number IT professionals at
BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) will be around 18million(!) by
2008. Take or give a million, but this is BIG. And, it is at BRIC
only. Assume half(?) of them will be dealing with OS and software with
open standards. The present 60odd number of OS licenses will provide
no service to them, and it will be a huge mess if everybody starts to
write their own OS license.

There is nothing much can be done for these 60odd licenses unless
their writers annul them voluntarily, but this expectation is no
solution to the license proliferation issue. In order to prevent any
more licenses to appear on the counter, I suggest OSI to stop license
approval now. This will prevent, at least, the proliferation of
'approved' licenses.

OSI can start to prepare OS licence templates, with blanks left to be
filled, to service OS license demands. Say, 5-6 licenses total. It is
understandable if a company wants to see their name on their license.
So, the license can be ' Charlie Company OS License based on Template
A approved by OSI'. In whatever language it is written, one can
understand that this license is Template A license when he/she can see
it and immediately know what it means. Or, who ever wants to release
his/her software under Template A license anonymously, it is fine too,
but it will be Template A license on all over the world.

License templates should be written by OS software professionals.
Lawyers will give consulting for their legal coverage, but wording
should be done by software professionals, except so called 'technical
writer' manual writers. Their wording is as complicated(confusing?) as
lawyers, and this does not help most needed clear picture of the
license. Say, with short sentences of 5-8 words each. You do not need
to write a love letter if you can express yourself with three words.
This clear and precise content will provide the needed license base
for everybody.

License templates should be prepared according to the international
treaty(ies?) that protects intellectual property rights. License
templates should be prepared according to anti-software-patterns legal
bases, such as recent EU decision on Microsoft case (there is A LOT to
be covered in this field). License templates will have version numbers
because conditions will change in time, and the templates will be
adapted to cover these changes. New templates can be added as the new
situations arise, but this should be done very conservatively because
it is real hard to annul a license once it is launched. Licenses with
only local legal coverage will address to that local reach. We are
talking for the future of the OS movement.

The present and already approved licenses can, then, be classified as
in compliance with certain License Template with clarified
shortcomings of international coverage. Every one is free to choose
whichever license he/she wants to use. License templates will need
'users manuals' as well, since they will also be evaluated the people
'other' than lawyers and software professionals, such as company
owners and financial people. What we need is clear and understandable
license definitions for everybody ( do we?).

Since the number OS licenses are reduced, hopefully, to the number of
license templates, the other 60odd OS licenses will diminish in due
time(?). Everybody is free to write his/her own OS license and claim
its compliance with OSD. But, if he/she wants OSI approval for that
special license, he/she should donate HUGE amounts of money to OSI,
because it will cost time and effort to OSI board. Since there are
free license templates, then, to choose and use, the voluntary
contribution to the special license approval procedure should not go
for free, and it is not helping to the license proliferation
prevention attempts.

So, these ideas(?) will focus the OSI efforts to standardize the OS
licenses by providing templates to the OS community worldwide, and
prevent their relatively limited resources spared for individual
license approval requests.

These are my 2 cents.


Ender Batur
enderbatur at

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