License Proliferation

David Ryan david at
Mon Sep 5 07:43:34 UTC 2005

Is this discussion heading way off track?  It seems to be sliding 
towards a general GPL idealisms vs the world discussion.  I'm sure all 
these things have been discussed many times before.  Personally, I don't 
think discussing the meaning of "open" and "free" are going to get us 
very far.

This discussion I believe started because of discussions of whether a 
license should be approved based on its compatibility with other 
licenses.  You will never be able to place code from any strong 
copy-left license into BSD software. I think compatibility with other 
licenses in its class would be helpful and encouraged.  However, some 
ideals may never allow compatibility.

There seems to be two camps growing on the list.  The Darwinian camp who 
believe that aslong as a license is conformant then let it out in the 
wild and fend for itself.  If it is successful then more people will use 
it, may even improve it. If the license is not succesful it will be limp 
off into a corner of the internet and die.

The other camp believe that the OSI have a strong duty to uphold a 
higher standard and make it easier for businesses and individuals to 
understand open source licenses.  This should be achieved by raising the 
bar of what needs to be achieved to get a license approved.

My preference is the Darwinian one.  The biggest deciding factor behind 
this is that as a developer I believe it is my choice to decide how I 
will release my software.  Making my software open source is one of a 
number of options.  I can choose to keep it on my PC and not share it at 
all,  I can choose to create a commercial business and sell the software 
as closed source, or I can choose to make my software available with 
source code.  If I make it available with source code, there are plenty 
of both OSI approved and non-approved licenses to choose from.  In the 
end it is my choice.  If I make the wrong choice by picking an unpopular 
license and it effects the take up or use of my software, then it will 
be my choice to decide what to do next.

One of the common arguments for the other camp is that companies are 
going to throw their hands up and say enough.  Please, let them do it.  
The solution will likely be that only a select number of licenses will 
be chosen by them.   If my software license doesn't conform then I need 
to choose if I want to change it to meet their select license, or just 
as possible, decide I don't mind that they won't accept the software.  
Each business are also likely to have different requirements for their 
license approval.  I think the OSI performing that function is premature 
and unlikely to meet everyones goals.

A couple of cents worth,

Ben Tilly wrote:

>On 9/4/05, Russell Nelson <nelson at> wrote:
>>Matthew Seth Flaschen writes:
>> > The GPL protects what the FSF has identified as the fundamental
>> > freedoms, namely
>>None of which contradicts my point that the GPL splits the free
>>software community into users of licenses compatible with the GPL, and
>>users of licenses incompatible with the GPL.  If that's a bad thing
>>for the free software community, then we are duty bound to say so.
>I hate using the word "compatible" there.
>One would think that "compatible" indicated a reciprocal relationship.
> It does not.  "GPL compatible" means that you can be incorporated
>into GPLed software.  You generally can't incorporate GPLed software
>into anything that isn't GPLed.  The limit of compatibility is a
>one-directional relationship.
>I'm not objecting to the GPL having these characteristics.  I
>understand what it is designed to do, and some of the uses that others
>make of its properties.  I merely object to using "compatible" to
>describe such an obviously one-sided relationship.

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