Unique identifier for licenses

David Dillard david_dillard at symantec.com
Mon Apr 18 16:09:18 UTC 2011

You might try using the short form identifiers for licenses as found in the SPDX spec (see Appendix I).


From: Mathieu Gervais (IDEAS) [mailto:Mathieu.Gervais at morganstanley.com]
Sent: Monday, April 18, 2011 9:14 AM
To: license-discuss at opensource.org
Subject: Unique identifier for licenses


We are improving internal tooling to keep track of open source libraries licenses.
What do you recommend in order to uniquely identify licenses?

We want to leverage OSI's catalogue of licenses in order to not reinvent the wheel, but it doesn't look like a slam dunk since the naming is not that consistent.
For example, for BSD the name seen on these 2 pages is different:
(I prefer the one on the alphabetical list, since it does hint which flavor of BSD we are talking about -- "new and simplified").

So the question is, what would be the best/recommended (short) identifier that is likely to stay stable?
I see the following choices:
 a) name as listed on  http://www.opensource.org/licenses/alphabetical
 b) name as listed on the license page itself: e.g. http://www.opensource.org/licenses/bsd-license
 ( this seems a non starter given that not all page have the same format, some of them have the license name written as "Open Source Initiative OSI - license name:Licensing" (see bsd), some have just the license name (e.g. AGPL)
 c)use the short name in the url of the license itself, i.e.:
http://www.opensource.org/licenses/bsd-license   => use license name="bsd-license"
http://www.opensource.org/licenses/mit-license   => use license name="mit-license"
http://www.opensource.org/licenses/gpl-2.0    => use license name="gpl-2.0"

Although we could use full URLs, I'd prefer using a short, meaningful name. (the full URL would really amount to option c anyway).

I'm not going to hold it against you if this ever changes, but I'd like to know that I at least have a shot at using something that is likely to be relatively stable for the foreseeable future.
It also seems to me adding this to the FAQ could make sense since I'm certainly not the only one trying to refer to licenses in your catalogue.

I understand this is a bit nitpicking, but since we are doing this, we might as well try to do it right.

Let me know if my question is not clear and thanks in advance for your help.


PS: ultimately we do store and refer to the actual license txt included in the distribution of each library, but this is for the purpose of categorization in our internal repository.
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