License Proliferation Dissatisfaction

Russ Nelson nelson at
Sun Apr 22 23:58:23 UTC 2007

     I can't get no satisfaction
     I can't get no satisfaction
     'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
     I can't get no, I can't get no

Like the Rolling Stones, we can't get no satisfaction with open source
licenses.  We don't have enough, then we have too many, then we don't
have enough.

The large number of open source licenses has been a problem for a long
time.  No need to explain the problem here.  We've been addressing the
problem long before anybody else saw it as a problem, trying to
encourage people to reuse existing licenses.  Most recently we
established a committee to categorize the licenses, which I
co-chaired.  The board has approved the committee's report
( and endorses the categorization

We knew that this process was going to displease some parties.  When
you set out to recommend some, the others will not be happy.  This is
the case with Larry Rosen, whose licenses, the AFL and OSL, did not
come up as top-ranked licenses.  This is unfortunate, because they are
legally robust licenses.

Larry claims that the license proliferation committee's process was
political, not legal.  We agree!  We took policy issues into account
as well as legal issues.  That is because open source licenses do not
operate in a legal vacuum. They have practical implications and our
intention was to provide practical advice. We did not consider it
practical to recommend licences that are rarely used, however sound
their legal drafting may be.

Unlike Larry, the License Proliferation Committee was not free to
focus only on "legal merit" as a criteria for categorizing open source
licenses.  We respected the communities that have grown up around
these licenses.  We looked at the number of people and projects using
a license, and gave them credit for popularity in spite of the
relative legal merit of the license.

If he can get the numbers up on his license, then we will certainly
consider moving his license(s)s to the "Strong Communities" category.

But given that we expected the process to create unhappiness, the
existance of Larry's unhappiness is not going to persuade us to
change our mind about the results of the committee's deliberation.

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