License Proliferation

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. roddixon at
Sat Sep 3 13:33:00 UTC 2005

I agree with Chris. I am not in agreement with Dave or Ender  on how they 
define the license prolieration problem.  Not to belabor the point, but 
this lack of agreement on what the license proliferation problem really is  
ensures that the "solution" is beside the point. 

It is my impression that some view license proliferation as less about code 
sharing and more about the increasing number of licenses that exist (or 
will exist).  Of course, these folks are relying upon a tautology as a 
basis for defining a problem. I would hope we could avoid that.

In keeping with the open source goal of allowing open access to code, the 
freedom to tinker with code, it follows that there ARE going to be lots of 
licenses as long as those licenses comply with the conditions for public 
distribution of code and the OSD.  The only effective way to decrease the 
number of open source licenses for the sake of decreasing open source 
licenses (the tautology) is to stop approving licenses and mandate that one 
of five (6? 8? 10?) be used.  Is this a wise choice? The community should 
decide.  (Of course, OSI has a legal interest too, but that is another 

If burdens on code sharing is the real problem, there have to be better 
solutions than freezing the number of approved licenses.  As some have 
pointed out, the license approval process, itself, could be made more 
rigorous. That could have the indirect effect of discouraging sloppy 
license drafters who can slide through the current process and encouraging 
more folks to use licenses already approved (without mandating that this be 
done).  I also think that the approval process or the OSD standardize a 
list of terms used in open source licenses so that no matter how many 
licenses exist, all of the licenses use terms and phrases that have the 
same defined meaning.

Rod Dixon

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