License Committee Report for September 2005

Lawrence Rosen lrosen at
Sat Sep 10 00:34:44 UTC 2005

Michael Tiemann wrote:
> Let me add my bit of history to this mix.  
> some person submitted a license to the board with the 
> express intention (I believe) of determining whether the OSI 
> would approve a trivially derivative license which I remember 
> to be called "Dave's Open Source License".  I don't remember 
> if it was BSD with BSD changed to Dave or MIT with MIT 
> changed to Dave, but by submitting a license that was 
> differentfrom a well-known OSI-approved license only in name, 
> this license determined by precedent whether the OSI should 
> potentially billions of open source licenses, each with just 
> a different name, or not.
> In that case, and this was to my recollection at least three 
> years ago, we rejected that license.  In fact, that license 
> may have been the one that planted the question "should we 
> begin to worry about license proliferation?".

Your history is mistaken, Michael.

"The Dave License" first appeared on my list of "Licenses Submitted for OSI
Approval as of September 20, 2000" along with 44 other proposed open source
licenses. This was long before you joined the OSI board, so I can appreciate
that the history you were told was apparently not quite accurate. In fact,
it was so long ago that Brian Behlendorf was still on the OSI board. My
document was OSI's first complete list of approved and pending licenses. As
of that date, OSI had already approved 19 licenses.

Over the course of the next several months, my board minutes show that
Dave's License wasn't even discussed by the board. I remember, however,
active discussion among the board and on license-discuss about the problem
with "vanity" licenses, with large companies being the most obvious in
seeking open source licenses with their names on top. 

The problem then wasn't license proliferation, it was the inability of the
volunteer OSI board to wrap its collective mind around 44 proposed licenses.
So the board focused on approving a few of the more important licenses (the
squeaky wheels got the grease). Most of them fell by the wayside in response
to critical comments on license-discuss, or sheer exhaustion waiting for OSI

Eventually, the Dave License simply disappeared. So did many of the 44
others then pending approval.

That past experience certainly shouldn't count as precedent for OSI policy.
I never met Dave, but he shouldn't be turned into the poster child for
license proliferation.


Lawrence Rosen
Rosenlaw & Einschlag, technology law offices (
3001 King Ranch Road, Ukiah, CA 95482
707-485-1242  *  fax: 707-485-1243
Author of "Open Source Licensing: Software Freedom and 
   Intellectual Property Law" (Prentice Hall 2004) 
   [Available also at]

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