Creative Commons style open source licenses?

Grant Robertson grantsr at
Sat Apr 21 19:47:55 UTC 2007

I have only been reading this list for a short time. However, it
really seems to me that the OSI needs to sit down and do for open
source licensing what Creative Commons has done for general copyright
licensing. The people of the OSI need to sit down and list all the
different features that people want in an open source license. All the
different rights that an original developer wants to give to users of
their code. All the different responsibilities that using such rights
will require. Then the OSI needs to create a system where an original
developer can easily just check off the rights and responsibilities
they want to confer to users of their code and quickly create just the
license they need. Each of these rights and responsibilities could be
encoded so that the full text of the license wouldn't need to be
included in each and every tiny piece of source-code that was used.
Developers could just include a URL to the OSI web site with a code
indicating the type of license. Perhaps even a snippet of XML allowing
different responsibilities to be listed for different rights. So,
in-house use could require a certain set of responsibilities,
commercial use could require a different set of responsibilities, and
open distribution could require yet a different set of
responsibilities. In essence, an XML standard for licensing, if you
The system would know which of the different licensing terms were
contradictory or incompatible and warn whoever was building the
license of this, or preferably prevent those licenses from being
generated at all. The system could also allow subsequent developers to
add or remove rights or responsibilities as long as those changes were
compatible with the original license. Rather than needing to pour over
a license to see if it were legal to add or remove a right or
responsibility and debate it endlessly in this forum, a subsequent
developer could simply go to this web site and enter the snippet of
XML given in the original source-code. The web site would then present
them with a list of what rights and responsibilities they could modify
to grant more or fewer privileges to any other developers subsequent
to them. The web site could even allow the user of any open-source
code to enter the license codes (XML snippets) of all the different
pieces or open-source software they were thinking of using for their
project and it would instantly tell them if the licenses for all those
pieces of source-code would be compatible for use within the same
derivative work.
It might even be possible for this "system" to be an XML schema
designed such that anyone could use it to build or modify a license
with basic XML editing software. Finally, an XSLT could be created
that converts the license XML "documents" into full text licenses.
This would provide consistency while preventing self-contradictory
I think this would be much better than the mish-mash of licenses that
currently exist. These first generation licenses were created in a
vacuum, so I can see why the first few of them were written as
independent works with different and contradictory wording. But it has
been 18 years since the first GNU license was released. I would think
that a community of software developers would have come up with
something more standardized than just saying "Apache + limitations" or
"MIT + BSD" or whatever, by now.
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