License Proliferation

Alex Bligh alex at
Mon Sep 5 09:01:55 UTC 2005

--On 04 September 2005 20:20 -0700 Michael Bernstein <webmaven at> 

>> If that's a bad thing
>> for the free software community, then we are duty bound to say so.
> By all means raise the issue of GPL-incompatibility, but don't blame the
> GPL for it. For many of the license authors who have created
> GPL-incompatible licenses, the incompatibility seems to have been a
> feature, not a bug. Please apportion the blame accordingly.

I think the other thing to bear in mind is that there are reasons for
license incompatibility (with the GPL or otherwise), that include
1. "Feature not bug"
2. Poor drafting
3. Vanity licenses
But also include:
4. License trying to do something fundamentally different which is never
   going to be compatible.
5. Honest attempt at better drafting for bona-fide reasons (e.g.
   validity / enforceability).

I am assuming (for instance) the OSL fits into (5), and various other
reciprocal licenses (MPL etc.) fall into (4).

I'd also point out (again) that we are using the word compatibility in an
asymmetric manner (can code from project A licensed under license L(A) be
used in project B licensed under license L(B)). So we say (for instance)
that the new BSD license is compatible with the GPL. We should also
stop and think and say that the GPL license is not compatible with BSD
(i.e. you can't use GPL code in a BSD project). Everyone at this point says
"yes that's a feature not a bug", but that is exactly the criticism Michael
was levying at other license authors.


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