License compatibility of MS-PL and MS-CL (Was: (RE: Groklaw's OSI item (was: When will CPAL actually be _used_?))

Donovan Hawkins hawkins at
Sun Aug 26 18:56:50 UTC 2007

On Sun, 26 Aug 2007, Zac Bowling wrote:

> What I'm afraid is that Microsoft would have a hard time writing up
> their intent and putting it into the license clearly. They are not
> used to it. No license except those in the F/OSS world do you see that
> all that often.

Moreover, Microsoft doesn't really want to say "The goal of this license 
is to make sure open source projects like those under the GPL can't use 
this software." FSF doesn't really mind saying the reverse, but they too 
try to sugarcoat their intentions to make them look better.

> What is odd is that in the F/OSS community, developers like you and
> me, end up worrying about software licenses on our own without the
> assistance of an attorney.

Amen. Some licenses with corporate or foundation backing get a lot of 
lawyers pouring over them, but sadly the permissive licenses are severely 
neglected in that regard. There's no advocacy group equivalent to the FSF 
who is pushing for a clear, modern permissive license to stand above the 
multitude of BSDL/MIT/X11 clones.

As an example of the problem, take a look at the "BSD-like" license used 
by Xiph for their Vorbis libraries and SDKs. What differs between the BSDL 
template with their name inserted vs. their license? One tiny phrase:

"In no event shall the FOUNDATION or contributors be liable..."

In the OSI BSDL template, "Foundation" is "copyright owner". In the 
original BSD it was "Regents". Because the template assumed that 
"copyright owner" was a suitable replacement for "Regents" and didn't 
templatize it, Vorbis uses a BSD-like license instead of the "real" BSDL. 
Such a minor, minor difference but a developer has to read the entire 
license to find out that the difference means nothing.

You'll notice that there is only one GPL v3, yet there can be many 
different additional permissions or restrictions (though it would have 
been nice if LGPL and Affero could have both been done via the same 
mechanism). There should be only one permissive license with a set of 
pre-defined restrictions for adding disclaimers, attributions, etc. That 
one license could replace all the permissive licenses and still ensure 
downstream compatibility with licenses like GPL as long as only the 
pre-approved restrictions are used.

Donovan Hawkins, PhD                 "The study of physics will always be
Software Engineer                     safer than biology, for while the
hawkins at                   hazards of physics drop off as 1/r^2,                biological ones grow exponentially."

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