For Approval: Broad Institute Public License (BIPL)

John Cowan cowan at
Fri Jul 14 14:52:34 UTC 2006

Karin Rivard scripsit:

> I am writing on behalf of MIT.  It's not clear to me if this is how 
> the process works, but the group has raised a few issues on which I 
> would like to comment.

Be aware that there's a difference between substantive objections
and mere grousing, although it's hard to tell which is which unless
you've been on the list for a while.

> 1.  The requirements for OSI certification do not include a 
> requirement that the originator of the software offer a license to 
> originator owned patents.  As has been pointed out in the discussion 
> group, MIT's position  on not offering a patent license in the BIPL 
> is consistent with the GPL, the BSD license, the MIT license, the 
> Educational Community License, and others.

At least some of these have been interpreted to offer implicit
patent licenses (the MIT license uses the magic word "use" for
exactly that reason -- copyright-only licenses have nothing to
say about use), and the GPL explicitly says that you can't
distribute software under it if a patent forbids, which is
tantamount to saying (assuming you want to distribute at all)
that no patent of the licensor's does forbid.

> 2.  There is a lack of parity in treatment of the Originator of the 
> code and future contributors to the code.  This is true.  MIT will 
> not offer the patent license; however, the requirement on 
> contributors was an attempt to procure for users as many "freedom to 
> use" rights as possible.  If this disparity in treatment is so 
> abhorrent to OSI, it is easily remedied.  MIT will delete from the 
> BIPL all references to any patent grants from contributors.  Thus the 
> BIPL will simply be another open source license that is silent on 
> patent rights.

This is a legitimately debatable point.  We tend to be hostile to
asymmetrical licenses, though you are quite right that they have
been approved in the past.

> 3.  I do not understand the last comment from the list.  The software 
> is what is used.  The license is the mechanism by which the software 
> is used.  If no one contributes to the development of the software 
> because they do not like the license terms, that is ok.  The fact 
> remains that the software remains freely and openly available for use 
> by the public, which I thought was the goal.  Further, "use" or 
> "usability" is not one of factors that is stated as a requirement for 
> OSI approval.

We are reluctant to go through the effort of approving licenses which
no one but the drafter of the license will ever make use of.

John Cowan  cowan at
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the
continent, a part of the main.  If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a
manor of thy friends or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for
whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.  --John Donne

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