Attribution & the Adaptive Public License

Matthew Flaschen matthew.flaschen at
Mon Feb 5 21:44:13 UTC 2007

Timothy McIntyre wrote:
> As the OSI community considers approving a new "attribution" license,
> there's a key point that I think has been lost in the shuffle.  In 2005,
> the OSI approved the Adaptive Public License as satisfying all 10
> requirements of the OSD.  The APL includes a specific attribution
> provision.

Thanks for bringing this up.  I now recall the initial SocialText email
briefly mentioning it.  Interestingly, it seems APL itself was lost in
the shuffle when originally under consideration.  Russ said
"Unfortunately, even after two tries there have been insufficient
comments on the Adaptive Public License.  Maybe the third's the charm?"

Later, it was forgotten for a year or so before Russ reported that the
committee recommended approval

I may be wrong, but in all that time it never seemed that anyone
considered the OSD #10 implications, so it seems a hazardous precedent.

  It says:
> <snip text>

> This OSI-approved attribution provision is quite broad.  It can apply to
> *every* executable program that results from the Initial Work or any
> Subsequent Work, regardless of whether such work is distributed or not. 
> In addition, it can be applied to a program that is dependent upon the
> Initial or Subsequent Work.  Finally, it necessarily complies with OSD
> section 10, because the APL was approved in 2005, after section 10 was
> added to the OSD in 2002.

However, it is not so broad as GAP was in other ways.  Most importantly,
it didn't require keeping the same size.

Anyway, I'm afraid you're putting a bit too much faith in OSI.  It
necessarily was approved after OSD #10; that *should* mean it complies
but may not.  I don't think it does for much the same reasons I've
explained elsewhere.  It doesn't allow for headless applications and
presents problems with command-line applications and such.

> I bring this up because I've seen a lot of discussion / debate on this
> mailing list about which flavor(s) of attribution should be considered
> OSD-compliant

I don't know about everyone else, but I've been discussing whether GAP
*is* compliant, not whether it should be.

  To ignore the APL when deciding whether to
> approve any "attribution" license would risk muddying the water even
> further, IMHO.  What's that Bob Marley line?  "If you don't know your
> past, you don't know your future?"

A valid point, and thank you for bringing APL up.  However, OSI doesn't
have stare decisis.  It can certainly learn a lesson occasionally.


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