For Approval: Broad Institute Public License (BIPL)

Karin Rivard rivard at MIT.EDU
Fri Jul 14 17:43:25 UTC 2006

You ask an excellent question:  Why do we (MIT) want another OSI 
approved license?

It all starts with the NIH.  The NIH is requiring that grantees 
agree, loosely stated, to release their software via an open source 
license.  Within MIT and elsewhere, I imagine, there is some 
discussion as to the benefits of an OSI approved license to show 
compliance with the NIH funding requirements.  MIT desires that the 
BIPL be OSI approved so that we have a license for NIH funded 
software that, without question, meets NIH's requirements.

As to the patent grants, MIT included the partial protection out of a 
sense of responsibility to the community and not to game the 
system.  Though, I definitely understand how and why the approach is 
viewed as unfair.  MIT can adjust the license to agree with your 
preference for "patent-neutrality."   MIT does also want post-backs, 
but we are willing to accept the patent risk of using any such post-backs.


At 12:58 PM 7/14/2006, Ernest Prabhakar wrote:
>Hi Karin,
>On Jul 14, 2006, at 9:27 AM, Karin Rivard wrote:
>>It would be unfortunate if MIT could never receive an OSI approved 
>>open source license because of this issue, but I understand that 
>>OSI will apply its standards as it sees fit.  MIT can not change 
>>its Policy for this one license.
>Well, to be precise, MIT already has *one* OSI approved open source 
>license. :-)
>I guess the question is, why do you want another?  (yes, I realize 
>it is different a "you")
>It sounds to me as if you *like* the fact that the MPL-style 
>licenses provide i) patent protection and ii) mandatory giveback of 
>modifications, but you don't want to make similar grants to the community.
>Whether or not this violates the letter of the OSD, I think the 
>various posters are correct that this redaction would be *perceived* 
>as deliberate and suspicious by the community.  I realize that your 
>policy is the legacy of hard-earned experience, but so is our 
>paranoia!   I don't think anyone would be well-served by us 
>approving a license under such terms, regardless of the technicalities.
>Frankly, I think you would be better off with a "patent-neutral" 
>license, where you dodge the question entirely.   The problem, I 
>presume, is that you want something like the MPL/IBM licenses which 
>require postbacks.  I am not aware of any such license (except the 
>GPL, of course) which doesn't have explicit patent statements, but 
>maybe somebody here can suggest one.
>-- Ernie P.
>MIT '88
>>>As Russ Nelson suggested, maybe MIT can make a more valiant 
>>>attempt to solve this patent problem, rather than passing it on to 
>>>users to deal with in the absence of patent information that only 
>>>MIT has at its disposal.
>>>Other universities and their technology licensing departments are 
>>>trying to address this problem in a more comprehensive way. 
>>>Perhaps MIT can help us create a better solution than a license 
>>>that places risky software into the stream of commerce.
>>Agreed.  But solutions take time and policy changes.  MIT's current 
>>policy is the result of some past occurrences that were a problem 
>>for us.  To change it would mean the possibility of the past 
>>problem reoccurring.  The process for change is being looked into, 
>>but it takes time.

Karin K. Rivard, Asst. Director and Counsel
MIT Technology Licensing Office, Room NE25-230
Five Cambridge Center, Kendall Square
Cambridge, MA 02142
Phone:  (617) 253-6966; Fax: (617) 258-6790
Email:  rivard at
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